Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Wednesday Explorers Club ~ Orange things

Leaves changing color on trees!
Lichen on a rock!
Pumpkins in the garden!

What kinds of orange things do you find as you explore your neighborhood or park?

Take along a camera or sketchbook and capture the colors of orange you find this month.

Here are a few that I've seen:

Friday, October 26, 2018

Something's Rotten!

Something Rotten, A Fresh Look at Roadkill
by Heather L. Montgomery; illus. by Kevin O'Malley
176 pages; ages 9-11
Bloomsbury Children's Books, 2018

This week and next I'm highlighting the scary and gross in science. After all - it's Halloween season! A perfect time to read about what scientists are learning from roadkill.

Author, Heather Montgomery warns that her book is not for squeamish souls; this book is full of parasites, intestines, and bloody bodies. It's not for reckless readers either, because it's filled with things you shouldn't do unless (and until) you are an "authorized, bona fide, certified expert." And it's definitely not for the tenderhearted because it's full of death and tragedy.

But it is one of the most entertaining - and informative - books about roadkill that I've read.

Every book has a starting point. For Heather it was a squashed snake. With tire tracks. A rattlesnake. She started asking questions that led her to David Laurencio, the archivist of the DOR (Dead on Road) collection at the Auburn University Museum of Natural History. Every specimen bears a toe tag with an identification number that references a file. A file filled with notes about where the animal was found, when, how it was killed, its gender, and DNA information.

Turns out, scientists can learn a lot from dead animals. By mapping where animals are killed, they get a better idea of where the animals live. Are they migrating as climate change affects their traditional range? Analysis of stomach contents reveals what the animals are eating. This is important information for conservation scientists.

Throughout her book, Heather introduces us to many scientists - a snake scientist, a scientist studying genetics of coyotes and wolves, a roadkill ecologist - as well as people who salvage roadkill for the meat. Some folks use roadkill to feed animals, others grind it up for burger and slap it on the grill.

What I like most about this book: that there are things we can do to decrease death-by-car. As Heather notes: if we can wage huge campaigns to save sea animals from plastic straws, we can take positive action to reduce animal deaths on our highways. One thing everyone can do - starting now - stop throwing food out your window. It's like baiting the road.

Things I love about this book: Footnotes! At the bottom of most pages are extra notes that, in other books, would have been text boxes and sidebars. This is fun. Back Matter! There are lists of books, videos, other resources. There are directions for how to do your own bugsplat windshield bug count. There is a list of citizen science projects, like this one.

Today we're joining other book bloggers over at STEM Friday, where you can discover other cool STEM books. Review ARC from the publisher.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Pipsqueaks, Slowpokes, and Stinkers

Today's books celebrate the small, the slow, and the really, really stinky!
Themes: animals, adaptation, nonfiction

Pipsqueaks, Slowpokes, and Stinkers: Celebrating Animal Underdogs
by Melissa Stewart; illus. by Stephanie Laberis
32 pages; ages 4-8
Peachtree Publishers, 2018

Everyone loves elephants. They're so big and strong. Everyone respects cheetahs. They're so fast and fierce. 

But this book isn't about those guys. It's about animals that people tend to overlook. The tiny animals. The slo-o-o-ow ones. The stinky critters we'd rather not get too close to.

What I like about this book: The language is fun: "puny peewees"! Lively verbs like skedaddle and skitter. I like that some of the animals featured are clumsy - like the western fence lizard that sometimes falls off a tree branch. The animals too tiny to capture for supper. And that characteristics we might think of as weaknesses are actually adaptations for survival.

I also like the illustrations - the animals retain their factual appearances but Stephanie Laberis endows them with expressive faces. And there's back matter - a spread with more information about each animal.

Stinkiest! 20 Smelly Animals (Extreme Animals series)
by Steve Jenkins
40 pages; ages 6-9
HMH Books for Young Readers, 2018

Whew! Some animals produce strong smells...

 They put stinky liquid on rocks or branches to mark their territories. They use odors to defend themselves. And some are smellier than a skunk!

What I like about this book: We get to meet twenty different animals that embrace bad odor, from stink bombs to smelly threads to yukky slime and smelly bird farts. Each page introduces one or two stinky critters and shows where in the world they live.

Back matter includes a glossary and bibliography.

Beyond the Books:

Make a list of the animals (pets included) that live in your neighborhood, local parks, or city zoo. What are the tiniest ones you've seen? Which are the slowest movers? Are any of them stinky?

Could any of the underdog adaptations (smell, slowness, small size) be useful to a superhero? Create a superhero with an unexpected superpower and tell how they use it.

Check out some of the activities in the teacher's guide - and the map - at the Peachtree website.

Today we're joining the STEM Friday roundup - and we're also joining other reviewers 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 copies from the publishers.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Wednesday Explorers Club ~ late bumblers

With all the rain we've had into fall, my cosmos keep on blooming. And blooming. Good thing, too, because there are a couple of bumble bees that hang out in the garden. Last week they were stuffing their faces with pollen - and getting it all over their legs, too.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Books about Animal Families

Two recent books reveal family life among the animals. Themes for the day: animals, families, nonfiction.

Meet My Family! Animal babies and their families
by Laura Purdie Salas; illus. by Stephanie Fizer Coleman
32 pages; ages 5-9
Millbrook Press, 2018

My parents both take care of me. 

Written from the point of view of animal babies, they introduce us to their families. The tundra swan cygnet lives with both mom and dad, while a raccoon kit has never met its father.

What I like love about this book: Large text on each page introduces the animal baby and its family. Smaller text adds detail about where they live (a den or nest), whether they have siblings, and how parents interact with the young. Wolves play, for example, while some frogs give their kids piggyback rides.

At the same time, facing pages highlight comparisons and contrasts. A foal is an only child, whereas piglets have lots of brothers and sisters. Beaver kits live in one place through their childhood, while orangutans move to a new nest each night.

Best of all ~ the large text, read by itself is a long, lyrical poem about animal families. Plus there's back matter: a glossary of what animal babies are called in their home ranges, and a map showing where the 22 animal families live. And did I mention the awesome illustrations? I love that the cover resembles a family album.

He's Your Daddy: Ducklings, Joeys, Kits, and More
by Charline Profiri; illus. by Andrea Gabriel
32 pages; ages 3-8
Dawn Publications, 2018

Baby animals, wild or tame,
Don't always have their daddy's name.

For example, a puppy's father is called a dog, while a kit's dad might be a beaver. 

What I like about this book: Rhyming couplets describe animal characteristics. The illustrations portray the habitats that provide homes for each animal family. In addition, illustrations show the range of jobs animal dads do - from bringing worms to nestlings to romping through the backyard. My favorite, though - the green frog dad leaping from a log. Back matter includes more information about each animal plus activities to engage curious young minds.

Beyond the books:
Compare baby animals to their adult parents. Find photos of animal babies and adults. How are they alike? And how are they different? (For example, Bird babies and parents have beaks and wings. But hatchlings don't have all their feathers...)

What would it be like to live in an animal family?  Choose a favorite animal and imagine you are one of the young. Draw a family portrait. Describe what your day would be like. Would you go to school? What would you eat?

Does your family keep albums of family photos? If so, spend some time looking at them. Do children and parents look similar? If you have a camera, take photos of your family and make an album.

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 ARC's from publishers.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Wednesday Explorers Club ~ Bird activities

photo from NPS
Depending on where you live, birds may be gathering into flocks and heading toward warmer climes, or they may be arriving from parts north. So this is a good time to be watching the sky.
  • What birds do you see around your neighborhood this week?
  • What bird sounds are you hearing?
  • What are the birds doing?

By watching birds, and keeping track of their behaviors, you can help scientists collect important information. One fun way to keep track of birds visiting your neighborhood is to take part in FeederWatch. As a "feeder-watcher" you count birds for science! Feeder Watch runs from Nov. 10 - April 3 this year.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Plants ~ Just like us!

Just Like Us! Plants
by Bridget Heos; illus. by David Clark
32 pages, ages 4-7
HMH Books for Young Readers, 2018

 Themes: plants, ecology, nonfiction

People think, talk, and walk around. Plants do none of these things. So how can they be anything like us?

Well, writes Bridget Heos, they can communicate with each other and wear sneaky disguises. And plants even wage war. In this addition to her "Just Like Us" series, she gives us an up-close look into the secret - and not so secret - lives of plants.

What I like about this book: On each spread we get to see one specific way in which plants are similar to people. One spread focuses on what plants eat, another on the importance of drinking water. There are a couple spreads that detail how young seeds are sent on their way - some by hitching a ride, others by air or sea. David Clark's vibrant and humorous illustrations are fun and engaging.  A glossary and bibliography provide more for the curious kid.

Beyond the Book:
Plant some garlic. Believe it or not, most gardeners plant garlic cloves in the fall, before the soil freezes. That gives them a head start so they can produce nice heads of garlic ready to harvest in the fall.

separating leaf pigments, Playdough to Plato
Sow wildflower seeds. If you take a look at garden flowers, many have gone to seed. In fall, wind and rain knock seeds to the ground and, come spring, they'll be first to start growing. Some gardeners take advantage of this and shake their plants to spread seeds for spring flowers.

Separate pigments from fall leaves. Collect leaves of different colors: orange, reds, yellows, green. You'll also need some glasses (or jelly jars), coffee filters (cut into strips), rubbing alcohol and a few other items. Directions for doing leaf chromatography are at Playdough to Plato and you can watch a video here.

Hint: tape your filter paper strips to pencils that sit across the top of the jars.

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 publishers.


Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Wednesday Explorers Club ~ Leaf peeping

In some place the leaves have begun to turn. It's like a cosmic switch has flipped, and the green goes off and a leaf's true colors are revealed.

So this month - become a Leaf Peeper. Find a tree, or group of trees to watch. Make sure to take your journal/notebook/sketchbook with you and see what you can discover.

  1. Do all the leaves on a tree turn the same color?
  2. Do all the leaves on a tree turn color at the same time? If not, where does color begin?
  3. How do your leaves fall? Are they the kind that fluttery-flap to the ground? Or do they whirl and twirk?
  4. Somewhere I read that each leaf is unique, and those lower on a tree are a different size than those above. Try to collect lots of leaves from the same tree and compare them.
  5. Make leaf rubbings, prints, tracings - a good way to collect data!
  6. What stories do your leaves tell? Look at their scars, holes, nibbles.