Friday, April 26, 2019

Books that celebrate Patterns in Nature

theme: patterns, nature, observation

Spot, Spike, Spiral (Board book)
by Sarah Grace Tuttle; illus. by Miriam Nerlove
28 pages; ages 2-4
Creative Editions, 2019 

Spot. Spike. Spiral.

This book introduces nine spotted, spiked, or spiraled creatures. The text is simple, the art vibrant and richly detailed. Pages invite you to linger and study the colors and patterns of the blue poison dart frog, the wattle cup caterpillar, the rainbow millipede.

What I like about this book: I love the vibrant watercolor illustrations. I love the way Miriam Nerlove captures texture and movement. And I like the simplicity of the text. Spot. Spike. Spiral. What I really like, though, is the last spread that shows each of the animals featured in the book.

This is a wonderful companion to their earlier book, Dot, Stripe, Squiggle, published last August. That book introduced young observers to nine sea creatures, from red-spotted blennies to zebra lionfish and sea nettles. What both books do well is to shine a light on the simple shapes and patterns that children can see in their environment. Even if they don’t remember the names of the beetles, mollusks, or fish, children will recognize spots and squiggles, spikes and spirals.

Flow, Spin, Grow: Looking for Patterns in Nature
by Patchen Barss; illus. by Todd Stewart
32 pages; ages 4 - 8
Owlkids, 2018

Look, climb, dig, flow. Breathe in deep, around you go. 
Twirl, whirl, swirl, grow….

A poetic line? Or suggestions for exploration? Each spread takes a word and expands on it. Look – for patterns. Climb – a tree. And as you do, notice how the limbs and branches split. Nature is in motion, spinning, twirling around the sun, and those whirls and swirls are echoed in the spirals we find in pine cones, sea shells, plant tendrils.

What I like about this book: It invites you to move, to observe, to participate in the world around us. The text connects and compares: winding streams to the spreading branches of a tree to the branches of the bronchi and bronchioles that carry air into our lungs.

Back matter compares patterns of a giraffe’s coat to tree bark to cracked mud. “Be watchful,” writes author Patchen Barrs. “Ask questions. Make connections.”

Beyond the Book

Go on a nature walk to find patterns in nature. This blog post has ideas of things to look for.

Have a scavenger hunt. How many of these patterns can you find?

  • star shapes
  • coils
  • round things
  • spirals
  • branching
  • cracking
  • stripes
  • spots
  • spikes
  • squiggles
  • zig-zags

Look for spikes and patterns on caterpillars and butterflies. Use this guide to help you.

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.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Full Moon and Moonflowers

To celebrate the Full Pink Moon, I bring you… The Moonflower. It’s back in print, newly revised, and as gorgeous as ever.

The Moonflower
by Peter Loewer; illus. by Jean Loewer
32 pages; ages 6-10
Peachtree, 2019

theme: flower, nature, night

When the sun has set in the West…

The Moonflower is a lyrical and accurate account of nature at night. Beginning with sunset, we meet the crickets, moths, bats, and owls that populate the night. Eventually the moonflower opens and we get an up-close look at pollination.

I grabbed a copy of the original from the library to see how the new version compares. The title page has been updated, and the pages have a crisper look to them. Sidebar material is easier to read. And new information is included. There is more information about bumble bee nests and how bees see the world around them. The original book tells how to translate cricket chirps into temperature; this new printing includes calculations for degrees Celsius. Bats get more press in this updated version, as do moths. Overall, the sidebars and back matter have more connections to math and science.

What I like about this book: I have always liked it for its language. Bats don’t just fly, they swoop and glide. The moonflowers open “like a movie in slow motion” and hawkmoth wings beat so fast they are blurred with speed.

The back matter is still there. As before, there are directions for planting and growing your own moonflower. The glossary has grown, over the years, to reflect the additional information in sidebars.

Beyond the book:

Take a moon hike. It's a bit early for moonflowers to bloom, but not too early to check out the full moon! Tonight is the "full pink moon". Is it really pink? Does it cast moon shadows? What birds, insects, and other nocturnal wildlife do you hear as you walk?

Calculate the temperature from cricket chirps. Here are directions to do that in degrees F and C. Plus additional investigations, including chirp counts for different kinds of crickets and even katydids. If it's too cold for crickets where you are, jot this on your Things to Do list for later in the summer.

Learn more about moonflowers here, and make some paper moonflowers for an inside "garden".

Do you have any night pollinators living around your area? Check out this post, and this one about how light pollution presents a challenge to the night flyers.

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, April 17, 2019

Wednesday Explorers Club ~ Nest Watching

Great Blue Heron, by Scott Kinsey

Wherever you live – city, suburbs, country – birds around you are constructing their nests and raising families. And if they’re building those nests near your home or office, or even a local park you visit, you can help scientists by reporting nests to the NestWatch project at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

NestWatchers report nest location, the species using it, and number of eggs. The nest-watching citizen scientists can also report other important milestones, too, such as times they such as observations of adult birds raising and fledging their young.

"Every year, scientists use data collected by NestWatchers in published studies," says Robyn Bailey, NestWatch project leader. "For example, in 2018, two studies examined the effects of spring temperatures on the timing of nesting activities, and showed that birds nest earlier when spring temperatures are warmer. Such studies help add to our understanding of how climate change can affect the lives of birds."

Great Horned Owl by Georgia Wilson
What do you get out of it? Besides that great feeling of being a part of scientific discovery? You get to witness the start of new life and help to preserve it with your valuable information. It doesn’t matter whether you’re reporting a massive web of sticks like the Great Blue Heron's nest, the compact twiggy cup nest of a Blue Jay, or a pair of bluebirds in a nest box – NestWatch observations are more important than ever in this changing world.

You can register for the project at and learn more about how to monitor nests without disturbing the birds. You can download the NestWatch app in the Apple App Store or from Google Play.

photos used with permission by Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Friday, April 12, 2019

The Crab Alphabet Book

The Crab Alphabet Book 
by Jerry Pallotta; illus by Tom Leonard
32 pages; ages 3-7
Charlesbridge, 2019

themes: alphabet, arthropods, diversity

A is for Arrow Crab. This skinny creature with the arrow-shaped head and body is an ocean crab.

This book is filled with crabs: skinny crabs and fat crabs, red crabs and blue crabs. Some crabs are huge – measuring 13 feet from toe to toe – and others are tiny. There are fiddler crabs that don’t play the fiddle, and crabs that look like they’re wearing mittens.

They may look very different from each other, but all crabs have ten legs – even though the front two end in claws.

What I like love about this book: I like the note from the crabs at the beginning of the book: “We crabs are tired of books about cute penguins, proud tigers, colorful butterflies, and other favorite animals…”

I like the note from the crabs at the end of the book which explains that the horseshoe crab may have “crab” in its name, but it’s not a crab! “We didn’t want our own book because we’re selfish,” the crabs write. “We’re shellfish!”

And I really like the notes the crabs write throughout the book – tidbits of information about regeneration of lost limbs, molting, and blood color. Bluish-green, if you must know. Great illustrations paired with fun and breezy text makes you want to linger over each page.

Beyond the Book:

Crabs are crustaceans. They’re related to lobsters, shrimp, and barnacles. You can learn more at this website. 

Walk like a crab. You need to walk on your hands and feet, but not the way you think. Crab-walking improves your health and strength. Here’s how to do it.

Make a paper plate crab. You’ll find directions 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 websiteReview copy provided by the publisher.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Wednesday Explorers Club ~ Project Budburst

Buds are swelling, opening, flowering... providing the first pollen of the year for bees.

One way to get to know the signs of spring in your area is to "adopt" a tree in your back yard. Observe it over the next few weeks and jot notes about what's happening - or draw pictures of what the buds look like.

Some things you'll want to pay attention to include:

  • What sort of flowers does it have? 
  • When do they open?
  • What do the flowers look like close-up?
  • How long do they last?
  • When do the leaves burst out?

Become  a "citizen scientist" for Project BudBurst and share data with others.

Friday, April 5, 2019

Seashells, More than a Home

I could not wait to get this book in my hands!!! Opening it is like taking a field trip to the beach.

Seashells: More Than A Home
by Melissa Stewart; illustrated by Sarah S. Brannen
32 pages; ages 6-9
Charlesbridge, 2019

Topics: ocean animals, adaptation

Every day, seashells wash up on beaches all over Earth, like treasures from a secret world beneath the waves.

They come in all sizes, colors, and shapes. That's because they have so many different jobs to do. In this book Melissa Stewart explains how some shells function to allow the mollusk to dive deeper into the water, or tunnel into the seabed to hide from a predator. Some shells blend in with their background, while others light up.

What I like LOVE about this book: I always learn something new when I read one of Melissa's books. This time I learned about a clusterwink snail that produces light! I also like that the text is written for two reading levels. For example, large text on the second spread reads, "Seashells can rise and sink like a submarine..." The smaller text adds details to how the nautilus pumps water into the shell to sink.

I love Sarah Brannen's watercolors. Not only does she show amazing details about the shells, but she includes children drawing shells, and journal sketches with notes. And the colors are so warm and soft I just want to take off my shoes and socks and stick my feet in a sandbox.

I love the end pages that show the mollusk habitats and ranges. And the wonderful spread at the back where you can learn more about the five largest groups of mollusks. One thing Sarah writes in her illustrator's note sticks with me: "You never see something as clearly as when you try to draw it." That's why I try to sketch things I see when I head outside. Drawing what you see in nature makes you slow down and look more closely at the details.

Beyond the Books:

Draw a shell. Visit a museum or nature center or other place that has shells. (You might find shells in a store!) Find one that you like and draw it. Remember what Sarah says: drawing helps you see the details. Write down some of the things you notice.

If you had a shell, what kind would it be? How would you move from one place to another?

Next time you're at a beach, go on a seashell scavenger hunt. Look for:

  • a shell with a pointy end
  • a shell that curls around itself
  • a shell that looks like a fan
  • a shell with ripples
  • a shell that's smooth
  • a shell that's broken
  • a shell that's spotted or checkered
  • a shell with spikes

You can download a teacher’s guide for this book from Charlesbridge.

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 publishers.