Friday, March 29, 2019

Books Celebrating Frogs and other Living Creatures

I love frogs almost as much as I love bugs. One time I even tried to learn the languages of our local frogs. Peeper, American toad, Wood frog - I got the basics. But never enough to ask them the important questions. Here are some recent books celebrating the lives of frogs - and other animals, too.

themes: frogs, animals, conservation

The Frog Book
by Steve Jenkins & Robin Page
40 pages; ages 6-9
HMH, 2019

Frogs are creatures of two worlds - they spend part of their lives in the water and part on land.

Spread by spread we meet frogs that hop, frogs that fly, frogs bigger than your hand, and frogs smaller than your thumb. Frogs have lived on earth for millions of year. "In fact," the authors write," a frog could have been stepped on by one of the first dinosaurs."

What I like love about this book: I love that each page features a particular froggy feature, from "what is a frog?" to frog adaptations. We discover what frogs eat (and it's not all flies), frog defenses, and life in the trees. Unfortunately, one-third of all frog species are in danger of extinction due to habitat loss, climate change, pollution, and disease. Back matter includes quick facts about every frog featured in the book: size, diet, home range.

I also love the torn- and cut-paper illustrations. The detail is amazing! And I really love the end papers! They are a luscious mix of bubbly pond shades of blues and greens. If you can't wait for spring to bring frogs, this book may tide you over the next few weeks.

Readers: Tadpole to Frog
by Shira Evans
48 pages; ages 2-5
National Geographic Children's Books, 2018

Subtitled "Animals Grow Up", this book is a co-reader. The text on one side of a spread, labeled You Read,  is meant for an older reader to read aloud. The text on the other side (I Read) is meant for the beginning reader. For example, chapter one introduces the concept that babies grow up. The text for older reader is in smaller font with three lines about animals and their babies. The "I read" text is larger, and contains a single idea:  Babies change as they grow.

This book has a table of contents, so you can find frogs or butterflies. The photos are amazing. And at the end of every chapter is an activity for a child and their reading partner to do together. It could be a matching game or a challenge to act out some life cycle phases.

Little Kids First Big Book of the Rain Forest
by Moira Rose Donohue
128 pages; ages 4-8
National Geographic Children's Books, 2018

Frogs abound in the rain forest. But they aren't the only animals living there. This book contains a diversity of animals - and plants - found in the rain forest. From the ground, to the understory, and on up to the canopy, this book introduces the birds, reptiles, and mammals that inhabit the rain forest. And yes, there are frogs! Blue poison dart frogs live on the forest floor, while red-eyed tree frogs live in the canopy.

Back matter includes "10 Cool Things to remember about Rain Forests" and a spread filled with tips for how parents can extend their child's experience beyond the book.

Beyond the Books:

Learn to speak frog. One way is to listen to the frogs that live in your neighborhood. But if snow and ice are covering the ground, head over here for some frog recordings.

Sing a silly frog song. Here's a link to Five Little Speckled Frogs (still one of my all time faves).

Visit a zoo that has a rain forest exhibit. How does the air feel on your skin? Look at the animals and plants on the forest floor. Can you see what's living in the understory and canopy? While there, visit the exhibit with frogs.

Can you jump like a frog? Try it. Some frogs jump 20 times the length of their body. How far would you have to jump to be that kind of frog?

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, March 27, 2019

Wednesday Explorers Club ~ Drumming in the Spring

photo by Ken Thomas, Wikimedia Commons

Can you hear the season changing? There.... drumming, from the far side of the field. A woodpecker tapping out secret codes to anyone with the right decoder ring.

This week, find a dry place to sit outside. Close your eyes and just listen. You might hear woodpeckers drumming on dead trees (and anything else that gives them a resonant sound). You might hear birds calling. A few days ago a couple of mourning doves filled the early evening air with gentle coos. Are there other birds calling out?

Check out the woodpecker drumming on this short BirdNotes recording.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Let's talk about Climate Change

This past winter, when the polar vortex edged south and daily temperatures almost, but not quite, edged up to zero degrees (F) some folks joked that we could use some global warming. Even elected leaders seem not to understand the difference between weather and climate, and are downplaying or outright denying the emergency of our changing climate.

So I am relieved when I find books for kids that are grounded in climate science. Searchlight Books (Lerner) recently published a series on climate change. The books are each 32 pages long, and aimed for students in 3rd -5th grade.

Climate Change and Energy Technology, written by Rebecca E. Hirsch, is divided into four chapters. In the first she clarifies what climate change is. It is not the weather, which changes from day to day. Climate is the "usual weather for a place", but as we have been learning, what is "usual" has been changing over the past decade. And the warming climate has contributes to more extreme storms, including blizzards.

Hirsch devotes a chapter to energy: fossil fuels, wind, sun, geothermal, and hydro. She examines inventions that increase energy efficiency as well as create new ways to capture, store, and use energy. Think about the increasing number of electric vehicles on the road and the emerging need for quick-charging stations.

Her last chapter explores how we will energize out future. How can we build better batteries? Are there untapped renewable energy sources that we could harness?

"STEM in Depth" sidebars explain how solar panels work and how tidal power is captured. The book ends with four things anyone of any age can do to help reduce their carbon footprint. There's also a glossary and resources for further investigation.

There are five other books in the series:
Climate Change and Air Quality
Climate Change and Extreme Storms
Climate Change and Life on Earth
Climate Change and Rising Sea Levels
Climate Change and Rising Temperatures

So what can you do about Climate Change?
Here's a video that answers that very question.
Head over to the Museum of Natural History to learn more.
Head over to NASA's Climate Kids site to learn how you can help.

Today we're joining other book bloggers over at STEM Friday, where you can discover other cool STEM books. Review copy provided by publisher.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Wednesday Explorer's club ~ Spring comes to the Backyard

This afternoon, at 5:58 pm Eastern Daylight Time, the sun will pass the equator on its journey north. For those of us tired of cold and ice, this is a time of celebration. Soon buds will burst open, the air will fill with the hummmmm of bees and the sweet scent of flowers, and we can put away our thick wool socks and insulated pac-boots.

This is also the night of the Full Worm Moon, as well as the beginning of Holi and Purim. So go on a moon hike, celebrate color, and bake some hamantaschen.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Ocean books for Early Readers

I love the National Geographic Kids books for early readers. Here are three recent books that focus on the ocean, tide pools, and coral reefs.

In the Ocean (Readers)
by Jennifer Szymanski
48 pages; ages 2-5

This book is a level 1 co-reader, meaning that it's a book for a shared reading experience between a kid just learning to read and a parent or older reader. It is divided into four chapters of 6 to 10 pages: Water in the ocean; Ocean homes; Animals in the ocean; and People and the ocean.

Each spread introduces a single idea, such as what oceans are, how waves move, or what coral is.

 The left side presents text for the older reader. Text on the right side (I Read) is in larger font. Some words are bolded - words about the ocean, places, action words. After each chapter is a section called "Your Turn" - a matching game or other activity for kids to do to further explore the ocean.

Tide Pools (Readers)
by Laura Marsh
32 pages; ages 4-6

This is a book for kids who are beginning to read on their own. It opens with a color-coded table of contents. Topics are presented in yellow and orange sections, while green indicates an activity. Throughout the pages you'll find text boxes with seashell icons. Labeled "Tide Pool Talk", these highlight new words which are also featured in the photo-glossary on the last page. The Q & A boxes are fishy jokes, and others provide labels and information about the photos. It's a fun way for beginning readers to learn that information comes from text AND captions, labels, and sidebars. I love the "cool facts" about tide pool critters.

Explore My World: Coral Reefs
by Jill Esbaum
32 pages; ages 3-7

Though not a "reader", this is a perfect book to read with emerging readers. Simple text introduces each topic, in text large enough for a young kid to trace with their finger. Text is focused without being too sophisticated, and circular text "boxes" provide helpful pronunciation and intriguing facts.

Back matter includes a menu (What's for Dinner?) and a celebration of the diversity of corals. There's also a world map showing where coral reefs are found, and a hide-and-seek game.

Learn more about ocean life!

Check out the National Geographic Kids Ocean Portal. There you can dive into the deep, learn more about underwater animals, play ocean-themed games, and watch videos.Or head out to explore Tide Pools with biology students at the College of Idaho.

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

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Wednesday Explorer's Club ~ changing seasons

We are nearing the equinox, when day length will equal dark length. Which means we can have ice and snow one day and 40 degrees the next. This week the snow is melting, turning slushy. Leaves and pine needles that fell during the big wind a week ago are coming to the surface, and some create local "hot spots", melting holes into the remaining few inches of snow. And then, overnight, snow melt freezes into a thick layer of ice and we start the melting anew at mid-morning the next day.

What does the end of winter look like where you live? (Or maybe in your neck of the woods it is the end of summer)

How does the texture of the snow change over the course of a day, a week?

What unexpected treasures are you discovering as the snow melts?

Friday, March 8, 2019

Dolphins swim through these books

Like bats and cats, dolphins are mammals. And like bats, they use echolocation to hunt. Here are two books that finally swam to the top of my book basket!

themes: animals, dolphins

The Truth about Dolphins
by Maxwell Eaton III
32 pages; ages 4-8
Roaring Brook Press, 2018

This is a dolphin.

Dolphins may look like fish, but they aren't. They are mammals, just like bats, cats, and you. They talk to each other, though they don't use words. and they like to play. They even use echolocation to hunt their dinner, sort of like bats do - but in the water.

What I like about this book: I like the way Max Eaton uses dialog to embellish the text. Facts are on the page, but the dolphins talk about them! I like his excellent tutorial on how dolphins use echolocation (a full-spread illustration with labels and arrows). And I like how he includes a diversity of dolphins in the illustrations. Plus those cartoon illustrations are just plain fun.

Absolute Expert: Dolphins
by Jennifer Swanson, with Justine Jackson-Ricketts
112 pages; ages 8-12
National Geographic Kids, 2018

Justine Jackson-Ricketts is a marine biologist who loves dolphins. Good thing, because she is our guide into the world of dolphins. She does research on community ecology - that means she is learning how dolphins interact with each other and their environments.

In this book she and Jennifer Swanson team up to tell us all about dolphins, beginning with how they are related to each other and where to find them. Then we get a close-up look at dolphins, inside and out. They have streamlined heads so they can cut through water quickly, and their flippers have bones that look almost like fingers. They've got rubbery skin, layers of blubber, and a brain designed for problem-solving.

What I like about this book: The photography is gorgeous! And I really enjoy having Justine along for the read, because she (and Jennifer) explain everything in terms a non-dolphin can understand.  I love the "Deep Dives" at the end of each chapter - hands-on activities that extend your understanding of life as a dolphin. And I love the Dolphin Personality Quiz. Turns out I'm a bottlenose dolphin. Click-ck-ck! Squeeeek? Bzzzzt!

Beyond the books:

Check out these dolphin and whale activities from Whale and Dolphin Conservation's website.

Make a dolphin craft. This site has 15 different dolphin crafts, from paper plate dolphins to origami.

Watch a video about dolphins (here).

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 publishers.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Wednesday Explorers Club ~ Look Up!

"Why are you taking a picture of the sky?" a kid asked. It was blue... and after so many gray (and cold!) days I wanted to document that we actually have sunny days in upstate New York. Of course, "sunny blue sky" is a relative term. As you can see, there are clouds up there.

But there are clouds, and then there are clouds. These are the first variety: light, airy, letting the sun through... and warning of the coming storm.

This week do some daytime sky watching. Notice the texture of clouds - and their colors. Do they look heavy or light? What happens over the next 24 to 48 hours?

Friday, March 1, 2019

Cats and Bats are where it's at

themes: animals, nonfiction

The Secret Life of the Little Brown Bat
by Laurence Pringle; illus. by Kate Garchinsky
32 pages; ages 6-9
Boyds Mills Press, 2018

The sun has set. A July sky dims, then grows darker.

For most of us, that means time to sleep. But for Otis and his family it is time to WAKE UP! There's so much to do before they fly into the night. The book takes us into the family life of little brown bats, how parents know their pups, and first flight.

What I like about this book: It's such a personal look into the lives of little brown bats. I love the nearly step-by-step instructions Laurence Pringle gives us on how to hunt using echolocation - not that I'll ever use it (unless I'm hunting moths maybe). If the bat's name, Otis, seems familiar that's because it comes from the genus name Myotis, which means mouse-eared. The illustrations are perfect - with a soft feel that you almost want to snuggle up to.

Just Like Us! Cats
by Bridget Heos; illus. by David Clark
32 pages; ages 4-7
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019

Cats have retractable claws, razor-sharp teeth, and tails for balancing. Humans don't. But in some ways, cats and people are alike.

For example, cats sometimes fight other cats. Other times, cats act in diplomatic ways to reduce the chance of fighting. Cat moms don't just take care of their kittens, they homeschool them. First lesson: what to eat and how to catch it. Some cats are swimmers. Others, like the lynx, play in the snow.

What I like about this book: It's fun. The mix of photos and cartoonish elements make it a fun read, because there's always one more thing to look for. Cats have been living with humans for nearly 10,000 years, so it's time we understood them.

Beyond the books:

Learn more about little brown bats over at BioKIDS.

Could you hunt using sound waves? Gather some friends and play a game of Echo! Location! Choose one person to be the bat, and blindfold them. Everyone else stands in a circle around the bat. Have one person be the moth. When the Bat calls out "echo", the moth replies "location". As the bat continues to say echo, it moves toward the location of the prey. More bat science activities here.

Do some cat science. Test your cat, or a friend's cat, to see if it is right- or left-pawed. 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.