Friday, June 1, 2018

STEM Books for the Beach

theme: beaches, animals, STEM

On Gull Beach (On Bird Hill and Beyond series)
by Jane Yolen; illustrated by Bob Marstall
36 pages; ages 4 - 10
Cornell Lab Publishing Group, 2018

As I was walking on Gull Beach,

I saw a starfish within reach

While visiting a beach in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, a boy finds a starfish. But before he can pick it up a gull snatches the sea star and flies away. The boy gives chase… will he be able to rescue the sea star before it becomes gull lunch?

What I like about this book: Gulls toss the sea star from bill to bill to bill, leading the boy on a merry chase across the dunes. Along the way, illustrator Bob Marstall makes sure readers see the shells, dune grass, crabs, and other shore birds that the boy misses – because he is so focused on his rescue quest. I also like that the boy doesn’t want to keep the starfish, and shows respect for the life on the beach.

And there is back matter, which I always like! For curious naturalists, Jane Yolen provides information on gulls, sanderlings, and more shore birds. She also clarifies the use of “starfish” and “sea star” and introduces a cast of crabs as well as the horseshoe crab (which is not a crab). Best of all, there’s a list of ways you can help make our beaches a better place for people and wildlife.

How to Code a Sandcastle (a Girls Who Code book)
by Josh Funk; illustrated by Sara Palacios
44 pages; ages 4-8
Viking, 2018

It is the last day of summer vacation. Which means today is my very last chance to build a sandcastle!

Pearl has been trying to build a sandcastle all summer long, but things keep happening to them. Today, though, she’s got the perfect plan and the perfect building partner – her trusty, rust-proof robot buddy, Pascal. All she has to do is tell Pascal what to do, and how to do it.

What I like about this book: I like the fun way Josh Funk introduces coding. When Pearl tells Pascal to build a sandcastle, he doesn’t know what to do. Pearl realizes she needs to give her robot more specific instructions, so she figures out the steps needed for castle construction and, through trial and error, creates the code that tells Pascal what to do. Then, because she is tired of repeating the same instructions, she figures out how to create a loop of code so Pascal will continue doing the same thing over and over and over again.

I like the personality illustrator Sara Palacios imbues in Pascal. It? He? is delightful! And I love the clever way Josh codes “the end” and his dedication. This book will make you want to get a bucket and plastic scoop and head to the beach to code your very own sandcastle.

Beyond the Books:

Look for gulls. We think of them as living along the coast, but you can find gulls around lakes, ponds, even farmers’ fields. Cornell Lab or Ornithology lists 15 on their All About Birds site (hit “see more birds” to see them all. Check out this video of Laughing Gulls at the beach. And learn about more shorebirds here.

Learn more about ocean habitats. The National Park Service page allows you to explore many types of ocean habitat.

Visit the GROG Blog for an interview with JoshFunk about coding and castles.

Write your own instruction for building a sandcastle. Then go build it. It doesn’t matter whether you’re building your castle in a sandbox or at the beach, just have some fun. No sand? Then code a castle for natural construction materials in your habitat: stones, hay, pinecones, twigs….

Today we're joining the STEM Friday roundup - and we're also joining others over at Perfect Picture Book Friday, an event in which bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's site. She keeps an ever-growing list of Perfect Picture Books. Review copy from publisher.


  1. Oooh! I want to read both of these!!

  2. Both books look fabulous! Jane Yolen is such an amazing author.
    I'm seeing more and more robot books these days ... sign of the times :)

  3. They are both fun books for the summer! I love it when STEM heads to the beach.

  4. Interesting books. I must check them out. Wishing summer was still here where I am. It's cold today and expecting snow further south.