Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Wednesday Explorers Club ~ zebra stripes on the snow

There was snow - and enough sunlight to create shadow patterns. If we look at the bigger pictures we can sometimes see patterns: tree limbs in the sky;  flocks of birds; flight pattern of woodpeckers; tracks in the snow.

What patterns do you find in the world around you this week?

Friday, February 22, 2019

Snowman - Cold = Puddle

In some places spring is already poking through. Not where I live - that won't happen for another month. Maybe more, given the unpredictable nature of this winter ... But I couldn't wait for things to totally thaw to share this book, published just a couple weeks ago.

Snowman - Cold = Puddle
By Laura Purdie Salas; illus. by Micha Archer
32 pages; ages 4-8
Charlesbridge, 2019

themes: spring, math, nature

science + poetry = surprise!

"Science is why and how a flower grows," writes Laura Purdie Salas. "Poetry is looking at that flower and seeing a firework." This book may look like math, but it is poetry in disguise. Laura takes us on a seasonal deep dive, exploring spring through a series of equations.

snowman - cold = puddle
breeze + kite = ballet
1 dandelion X 1 breath = 100 parachutes

Smaller text includes more information about these seasonal observations, along with context. For example, dandelions depend on wind to spread their seeds. And some of those seeds can travel hundreds of miles before settling down.

What I like love about this book: What a fun way to explore a season! And turning math into poetry is definitely a plus. I like that she includes a variety of math functions (addition, subtraction, multiplication) and divides her poem into three acts: early, mid-, and late spring. I like that there are two levels of reading this book, the math-poetry and the nature notes.

I love the artwork! In her notes at the back of the book, Micha Archer says that for her spring = color. She used collage to create the illustrations, layering tissue papers, using crayon-rubbing resists with watercolor washes, carving her own stamps, then snipping, slicing, and gluing down the papers. She used oil paints to add the children's faces.

But what I really, really, really love about this book is the equation she has left readers to solve on the very last page.
you + the world = ?

Beyond the Book:

Look for signs of spring in your neighborhood. When does it start? and how do you know? My calendar says spring begins March 20 (despite groundhog predictions).

Make some spring math-poetry of your own. Turn some of your observations into equations. Remember, early spring, mid-spring, late spring... it takes awhile for spring to arrive. Here's my early spring math-poem (from last year): ice - cold = mud.

Spring = color. That's what Micha says. Gather (or make) papers in the spring colors you see and create your own collage art.

Make a map of spring emerging. For a different way to experience the season, try mapping the changes. Here's one way - or come up with your own way to map the seasonal changes.

Today we're joining other book bloggers over at STEM Friday, where you can discover other cool STEM books. And we're joining Perfect Picture Book Friday, an event where bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's website . Review copy provided by publisher.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Wednesday Explorers Club ~ Nature Break

The other day I wanted to look closer at pine cones. It was pretty cold, so I brought them inside. As with the weeds, when I began drawing them I slowed down. Looked more closely at the scales. The one on top, short and rounder, was older. The scales more worn and brittle. The other had seeds tucked inside some of the scales.

Take a Nature Break for Pine Cones:

  • Grab your sketchbook and pencil (in case it's cold enough to freeze ink)
  • Find some pine cones. 
  • If it's too cold to stay outside, bring them inside.
  • Draw one or two of them
  • Jot notes about them, or write haiku, maybe lines for a song

Why don't we just take a camera, you ask?

I did... and discovered that I see more when I draw. For example, the imperfect shapes of scales, and how some of them were notched. The way the colors fade on the wing of the seed. How the spiral isn't perfect...

Friday, February 15, 2019

More Bones in Stones

Before I could read words, I "read" books by looking at pictures. My favorite book at the time was my dad's geology textbook that had an entire section on fossils and dinosaurs. That could explain my love of children's books about paleontology (the branch of science concerned with fossil animals and plants). So here are two more books about the lives of animals whose bones we find in stones...

theme: dinosaurs, fossils, whales

Dinosaurs: a shine-a-light book
by Sara Hurst; illus. by Lucy Cripps
36 pages; ages 4-8
Kane Miller, 2018

Dinosaurs were alive long before there were people.

This book provides a novel way to explore the world of dinosaurs, because part of the illustration is revealed only when you shine a flashlight behind the page.

What I like about this book: that it begins before dinosaurs, with early life that includes jellyfish and bristle worms. As you turn pages, you walk through time visiting different environments, from swamp to jungle.

I like that long, multi-syllabic names are included, because what kid doesn't want to learn how to pronounce parasaurolophus! Back matter adds some quick facts about some of the dinosaurs.

Charlotte's Bones: The Beluga whale in a farmer's field
by Erin Rounds; illus. by Alison Carver
36 pages; ages 5-9
Tilbury House, 2018

Many thousands of years ago, when a sheet of ice more than a mile thick began to let go of the land... the Atlantic Ocean flooded great valleys...

Some of those glacier-scoured valleys were in Vermont. When they became part of the sea, Charlotte and her Beluga buddies swam into the bays. They hunted salmon and raised their young. But one day Charlotte got trapped in a marshy area and her pod could not rescue her.

What I like about this book: The wonderful way that Erin Rounds shows the process of decay and sedimentation that covered her. And how, thousands of years later, in 1849, railroad workers found Charlotte's bones. A naturalist wanted to know more, so he pieced the bones together. Then he wondered, how did a whale get to a farmer's field in Vermont?

I like the extensive back matter that helps to answer the naturalist's questions. There is more information about other ice age mammals whose remains have been discovered in Vermont as well: Musk oxen, woolly mammoths, saber-toothed tigers.

Beyond the Books:
Visit a dinosaur. If there isn't a museum near you, feel free to take a virtual dinosaur field trip at the American Museum of Natural History. And if you have a chance to visit AMNH, the dino exhibit is truly awesome! Here's a list of some dinosaur museums in the US.

Learn more about the amazing Charlotte. Here's a place to start. And here's a link to a 2014 article in the Burlington Free Press: How do you get a whale in Vermont?

What is your state's fossil? Here's a helpful website - with links to your state. Draw a picture of your fossil.

Make your own dinosaur fossil out of salt dough. Or shells, other animals.... Here's how.

Today we're joining other book bloggers over at STEM Friday, where you can discover other cool STEM books. And we're joining Perfect Picture Book Friday, an event where bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's website . Review copies provided by the publishers.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Join the Great Backyard Bird Count!

Evening Grosbeak by GBBC participant Ted Schroeder, Oregon
This weekend is for the birds! The 22nd Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC)  happens Friday, February 15 through Monday, February 18. You’re invited to join me and other volunteers from around the world. It doesn’t matter whether you’re an expert birder or just beginning to watch the birds hanging around your backyard.

The GBBC mission: to count the birds you see for at least 15 minutes on one or more days of the count, then enter your checklists at You can do this by yourself or with family and friends.

This year, Cornell Lab of Ornithology says participants will probably see more finches and grosbeaks. They are moving farther south than usual in what's called an "irruption." This type of movement is often sparked by poor cone, seed, and berry crops in parts of Canada. It’s also a good year for sighting Red Crossbills, Common Redpolls, Pine Grosbeaks, Common and Hoary Redpolls, and Red-breasted Nuthatches.

 Downy Woodpecker by Charlie Prince, Alabama.
"The Great Backyard Bird Count is a great way for all bird watchers to contribute to a global database of bird populations," says Dr. Gary Langham, vice president and chief scientist for the National Audubon Society. "Participants in the Great Backyard Bird Count help scientists understand how things like climate change are impacting bird populations so we can better inform our conservation efforts."

Last year, GBBC participants submitted more than 180,000 bird checklists, reporting a record 6,456 species. That’s more than half the known bird species in the world.

How to get started:
1. Visit There you’ll find instructions, a “How To” slide show, answers to your questions, and bird lists.

2. Check out the links, where you’ll find an online Bird Guide, tips for identifying “tricky” birds, and more.

3. And head over to Audubon for a great introduction to 15 common birds.

Friday, February 8, 2019

The Dinosaur Expert

The Dinosaur Expert
by Margaret McNamara; illus. by G. Brian Karas
40 pages; ages 4-8
Schwartz & Wade, 2018

theme: dinosaurs, women in science

Kimmy collected things so she could study them. She collected rocks
and shells
and leaves and pebbles and feathers.

I love books that inspire kids to follow their passions - even when their passion seems so out of the ordinary. And I especially love books that encourage girls to explore science.

This book opens with an illustration of Kimmy examining an ammonite from her fossil collection. Yes, she collects them, too. So on the day that Kimmy's class is visiting the natural history museum, she is very excited. She knows a lot about dinosaurs and can't wait to share. But when she mentions that she wants to be a scientist, one of the kids says, "Girls aren't scientists." And Kimmy stops talking.

What I like love about this book: I love the illustrations of the various dinosaurs. And I love the expressiveness of Kimmy's face - readers will understand how she feels about the possibility that there is no place for her in paleontology. What I really love, though, is that the teacher nudges her towards an exhibit of Gasparinisaura, a dinosaur discovered by a woman.

And there is Back Matter (and you know how much I love that!). Titled "My Favorite Paleontologists by Kimmy", we discover seven women who dug and sorted and identified dino bones. Six of them are alive and working in their field right now.

Beyond the book:

Learn about different kinds of dinosaurs. Here's one website to get you started.

Visit a museum where they have dinosaur bones or skeletons. Take along your sketch pad and draw one of the dinosaurs. Then think about what this beast would have looked like with skin and muscles. Here are some photos to get you started

Learn more about women in paleontology here.

Drop by next week for more paleontology.

Today we're joining other book bloggers over at STEM Friday, where you can discover other cool STEM books. And we're joining Perfect Picture Book Friday, an event where bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's website . Review copy unearthed at the library.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Wednesday Explorers Club ~ ice

This is the season of snow and ice
when footsteps squeak
and words freeze in bubbles above your head.
Smarter beasts have found a den
cozy and warm
and are fast asleep!

Friday, February 1, 2019

Boo-Boos that Changed the World

I love stories of accidental invention. This one is particularly fun to read.
The Boo-Boos that Changed the World
by Barry Wittenstein; illus. by Chris Hsu
32 pages; ages 4-8
Charlesbridge, 2018

themes: accidents, inventions

Once upon a time, in 1917 actually, a cotton buyer named Earle Dickson married his beloved, Josephine, and they lived happily ever after.  The End.

Uh, no - that's actually the beginning. Otherwise it would be a very short story, right? It turns out that Josephine was accident prone. She cut herself on kitchen knives, grated her knuckles - whatever could happen would happen!

Earle had learned a bit about bandaging wounds from his dad, a doctor. So he tried to come up with a better way to make bandages that Josephine could use herself. Something that she could wind around a cut and that would stick on. Something easy... so he created what would eventually become Band Aids. The end. Except they weren't as easy to use as he'd hoped. So how could they be improved?

What I like about this book: I love the fun way that author Barry Wittenstein tells about the accidental invention of Band Aids. I love that he tells part of it, and it seems to be complete, The End. But no, turn the page and there's more! I like that Earle had to solve real problems, like how to make Band Aids sticky. And how to package them. And how big to make them. And how to market them. (Hint: who uses lots of Band Aids? Boy Scouts!)

And there is Back Matter (of course!). An author's note tells more about Earle and his invention, provides a timeline, and a list of other medical inventions.

Beyond the Book:
Did you know that the Band Aid is nearly 100 years old? (Band Aid celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2020). Learn about some other medical advances that happened around the same time: the use of insulin to treat diabetes, discovery of vitamins D and E, discovery of penicillin, invention of the EEG (electroencephalogram), and even invention of cotton swabs.

Design your own band aid. What shape is it? How big? Does it have designs? Have fun!

Think like an inventor. What do you see a need for? Brainstorm some solutions for the problem. Write down your ideas and draw a picture showing how it looks and how it works.

You can find more activities about Boo-Boos over at Barry's website. Click on "downloads" and look for a curriculum guide - there's a fun Band Aid experiment.

Head over to Sally's Bookshelf to read about another book by Barry - a biography about baseball player Pumpsie Green. Today we're joining other book bloggers over at STEM Friday, where you can discover other cool STEM books. And we're joining Perfect Picture Book Friday, an event where bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's website . Review copies provided by the publisher.