Friday, May 31, 2019

Flower Talk

Do flowers talk? And if they do, can we hear them? Sara Levine addresses these - and more questions - in her new book.

Flower Talk: How plants use color to communicate
by Sara Levine; illus. by Masha D'yans
32 pages; ages 7-11
Millbrook, 2019

themes: plants, pollination

Hey, You! PSSST! Down here! That's right - I'm a plant, and I'm talking to you!

Plants don't make a habit of talking to humans, but they do in this book because the plants want to clear up some crazy human ideas about what their colors mean. Red roses do not - at least according to the plants - stand for love. That is, our plant-land guide says, "a load of fertilizer!"

Plants use their flowers to talk to animals. They need bees or birds or bats to carry their pollen from one plant to another so they can make seeds. In exchange, they offer sweet rewards - nectar.

What I like about this book: I love the conversational way it's written, with the plants speaking directly to the reader. Who knew plants could talk? I mean, with words, not color or scent.

I like that pages are color-coordinated: yellow pages for discussing yellow plants.

I like how the plant, at the end, tells the reader to go take a hike. "I'm pretty busy," says the plant. "I'm making a new flower."

And I like the back matter: more details about pollination, things kids can do to protect pollinators, and suggested reading.

Beyond the Book:

Go on a flower color safari. You can make up your own list of things to look for, or use this one. 

Plant a garden for pollinators. You can find out how, here. Want to know what to plant? Check 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 SusannaLeonard Hill's website . Review copy provided by publisher.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Wednesday Explorers Club ~ Flower Safari

Spring is a time of growth and flowers are everywhere I look. So this week let's grab our cameras and go on a Flower Safari. It's like a scavenger hunt, but all you leave are your footprints and all you bring back are the pictures. And maybe the memory of a scent, the scratch of a thorn, the song of birds and insects humming through your brain...

Find as many of these as you can:

  • Red flowers
  • Yellow flowers
  • Tall flowers
  • Flowers blooming close to the ground
  • Nearly hidden flowers
  • Huge flowers
  • Very tiny flowers
  • Flowers with four petals
  • Blue or violet flowers
  • Flowers that have faces
  • Flowers with yellow centers
  • Orange flowers
  • Flowers with fat petals
  • Flowers on trees

When you've collected lots of photos, think about things to do with them. You could:

  • make a photo collage
  • create a flower bingo game
  • make flower identification cards (or a booklet)
  • and .... stuff that only you will dream up.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Insects and people who love them

Dragonflies and butterflies will soon fill our summer skies... so here are two books for curious entomologists and artists.

theme: insects, nature, art

Soar High, Dragonfly
by Sheri M. Bestor; illus. by Jonny Lambert
32 pages; ages 5 - 8
Sleeping Bear Press, 2019

Spring sun warms the earth. Seeds sprout. Birds build nests. High above, tiny wings hum like wind through the leaves.

This book introduces readers to the life of a green darner dragonfly. Green darners are one of the species that migrate, flying north in spring and south in fall.

What I like about this book: There are three layers of text. Large text tells the story of a dragonfly’s life, from egg to adult. Even larger text provides sound effects, such as the “Pop. Pop. Pop” of eggs landing on the surface of the pond – or the exclamations of “Oh my, dragonfly!”  Sidebars, in smaller text, add more details about the natural history of these amazing insects. The illustrations, bright and marbled and reminiscent of Eric Carle, invite you to explore the scenes spread across the pages. Even the end papers offer plenty to see. I would have liked some back matter offering more information, such as how the nymphs breathe underwater and whether climate change is affecting their migration.

The Bug Girl: Maria Merian's Scientific Vision 
by Sarah Glenn Marsh; illus. by Filippo Vanzo
32 pages; ages 5 - 7
Albert Whitman & Company, 2019

As  a young girl growing up in the 1650s, Maria Merian was curious about everything…

… especially the creatures that crawled, flew, and scuttled. Especially butterflies. Once her stepfather taught her to paint, Maria wanted to paint those tiny critters that crawled and flew and scuttled. But she had to study them in secret because people thought that insects were shapeshifters – and anyone studying them would be considered a witch. And witches were put on trial and punished.

What I like about this book: I like the way author Sarah Glenn Marsh introduces us to Maria: we learn about silkworms as Maria studies them. Maria may have wanted to learn more in order to paint her butterflies, but she also did science as well. She learned what foods her silkworms preferred, and she observed adults chewing their way through cocoons. After silkworms, Maria wanted to know more about other kinds of butterflies and moths, so she studied them, too. I especially like that we see her teaching her daughters to observe and ask questions. Back matter goes into detail about the time Maria lived.

Beyond the Books:

Learn more about dragonflies! Here's one resource, and here's a bunch of fun facts from Smithsonian.

Go on a caterpillar hunt - look for different kinds of caterpillars in your yard, in gardens, or in weeds growing at the edges of a park. Draw some of the caterpillars you find. Here's a handy caterpillar guide. 

Make some butterfly art- if you need some ideas, here is a source for art activities.

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, May 22, 2019

Wednesday Explorers Club ~ tulips

If you are lucky enough to find tulips growing near you, spend some time admiring their colors and designs. Take a sketchpad and colored pencils with you and draw some of the different designs you find.

Did you know that tulips are related to garlic? Check out these weird tulip facts.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Animals Living Near and Far

themes: animals, nature, ecology

Aha! I have chiseled my way to the layer of animal books in my “to review” basket. These books illustrate different ways writers approach the topic: using poetry, focusing on ecology, and highlighting a specific kind of animal.

Hidden City: Poems of Urban Wildlife
by Sarah Grace Tuttle; illus. by Amy Schimler-Safford
48 pages; ages 4-8
Eerdman’s Books for Young Readers, 2018

In the night
under the table
a mother mouse
scurries back and forth…

From the mouse in the house to weeds in sidewalk cracks, Sarah Tuttle offers a close look at the wildlife sharing our cities. There are birds – lots of birds, snails, and insects galore. Bats, cats, and sign of skunk. All shown through the lens of poetry.

What I like about this book: I like that Sarah uses poetry to give us a way into observing the lives of our wild urban neighbors. There’s a fun poem about the courtship dance of pigeons – I can almost see them strut, turn, and dip as they try to gain the attention of the ladies. I like that the poems take us through the seasons of city living. And I really like that Sarah has included back matter – more facts about the wildlife that she’s introduced in the poems. I also like the artwork: collage landscapes and garden scenes.

Beastly Biomes
by Carly Allen-Fletcher
32 pages; ages 7-11
Creston Books (Lerner), 2019

Wherever you go on our planet, you will find animals living in many different types of places. Scientists call these places BIOMES. Each biome has its own special properties.

There are many small biomes, but the five main types are: aquatic, forest, grassland, desert, and tundra. Carly Allen-Fletcher takes us on a tour of these biomes, introducing us to the animals that live there. We meet wobbegongs and xingu rays in the ocean. We look for ovenbirds and cassowaries in forests. While visiting tundra, we find pikas and skuas.

What I like about this book: It would be impossible to show all of the animals living in a particular biome, so I appreciate Carly’s focus on a few of the iconic beasts that inhabit those areas. I also like how she shows the diversity of a particular biome. For example, a desert is defined by the amount of rainfall it gets. Less than 10 inches a year and you’ve got a desert. We may think of deserts as hot places, with scorching sun, abounding with snakes and lizards. But there are cold deserts, too – and even polar deserts! Antarctica has so little rain it qualifies as a desert.  I like that the back end pages are a map that shows where the different biomes are around the world.

Carly has another book about animals, too, Animal Antipodes (Creston Books, 2018). In that book she explores the question: if you could dig to the other side of the world, what animals would you find living there? Many of us already know that polar bears live in and around the north pole and penguins inhabit the south pole. But if you’re hanging out with pandas in the forested valleys of Xi’an, China the other side of the planet is the sprawling city of Santiago, Chile. What lives there? Condors!

So Cute! Pandas
by Crispin Boyer
32 pages; ages 3-7
National Geographic Children’s Books, 2019

Psssst. Panda! Wale up!

Pandas have such big round eyes. They have fluffy ears and a squishy tummy! They are…SO CUTE! This book is just one in the new “So Cute” series that incorporates cute photos of animals with silly text. I think the idea is to inspire kids to learn about these cuddly beasts by laughing. Except for the shark. Sharks are not cute and cuddly – they are So Cool!

What I like about this book: I like the fun and breezy text, and the way panda talks back. Additional information is included in text boxes, such as those comparing pandas to other bears: grizzlies, brown, and polar. Along the way we learn fun facts – did you know that a panda eats about 30 pounds of bamboo a day? I like that there is information about panda conservation, too.

Beyond the Books:

Create a collage to show a scene from your yard or street. Include a wild animal that you have observed in that habitat: a bird, bug, mammal, or reptile perhaps?

Try your hand at writing a poem about a wild animal who shares your town or city with the human residents. Perhaps ladybugs clinging to your window screens, a deer nibbling the roses in a neighbor’s garden, or a bear wandering down Main Street.

What animals live across the world from you? Use a globe to find where you’d end up if you dug to the opposite side of the earth (your antipode) – and then find out what animals live there.

Pandas are black and white bears. Are there any black and white animals living in your neighborhood?

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, May 15, 2019

Wednesday Explorers Club ~ flowers in the grass

Violets grow all over my lawn, poking their happy purple faces up between the blades of grass and dandelion leaves. We have two colors of violets ~ one patch is a pinker shade. But there are some characteristics all violets share: they have five petals and heart-shaped leaves.

Take a close look at violets growing in your neighborhood. Where do you find them growing? Do some have hairy leaves? What colors are the petals?

Find out more about violets here. Did you know that you can eat them? I often sprinkle violet flowers on top of our salads. Find out more about what parts are edible here.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Books for Space Cadets!

theme: space, astronauts, adventure

NGK Little Kid’s First Board Book: Space
by Ruth A. Musgrave
26 pages; ages pre-K
National Geographic Children’s Books, 2019  (releasing this month!)

We live on Earth. 
Earth is a planet in space.

It's never too early for nonfiction, as this photo-rich board book proves. Each spread introduces basic facts of space in simple, bold text. Additional facts are presented in round, planet-like text boxes. Things like: “Earth spins around and around as it circles the sun.” Every now and then a planet makes some side comments, captured in speech balloons.

What I like about this book: It’s fun! It’s bright and filled with colorful images. And the back spread is all about activities: trace the shape of the moon, and more. Wonderfully sharable with lap-readers.

Dogs in Space
by Vix Southgate; illus. by Iris Deppe
32 pages; ages 5-7
Kane Miller, 2019

It was a cold, gloomy night in the backstreets of Moscow.

The year is 1951. Belka and Strelka are among the strays living on the streets. They rummage through trash cans, scrounging for any food they can find. One night they smell fresh meat. While other strays cower in the shadows, Belka and Strelka approach the man, begging for more food.

That man was Oleg, a scientist, and he was searching for two dogs brave enough for an important space mission.

What I like about this book: We learn about the space race through the story of Oleg and these dogs. Even though their mission is simple – orbit the earth – these canine cosmonauts need special training. They need to be able to stay calm when loud noises happen around them. They need to be able to stand on a vibrating platform.

Belka and Strelka pass the tests and earn their very own space suits. In 1960 they launch into space, blazing a trail for human astronauts to follow.

Of course there’s back matter! One spread explains the space race, and another gives a timeline of space exploration from 1960 to 1998. What’s next? Possibly a trip to Mars.

Beyond the Books:

Make space slime, galaxy pinwheels, and more! Just head over to NASA's Space Place to explore space fun.

Dogs weren't the only non-humans to fly into space. Here are some other animals that have traveled to space. 

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, May 3, 2019

You can be an Entomologist!

You can be an Entomologist
by Dino Martins, PhD
32 Pages; ages 4-8
National Geographic Children’s Books, 2019

theme: insects, ecology, nature

Hi! My name is Dino Martins, and I’m an entomologist.

Dino grew up loving insects, so he became a scientist who studies insects. All you need to be an insect water is curiosity and patience. Curiosity because once you start watching insects you’ll be asking tons of questions about what they’re doing, why they look the way they look, and how can they fly backwards? Patience because you have to watch quietly and wait for insects to arrive.

What I like about this book: Dino explains why scientists study insects and how the research he and other entomologists do helps farmers and other people. Some insects pollinate food crops; others eat leaves or fruits. In one chapter he describes how entomologists do their research. If you guessed that they use insect nets and record observations in notebooks, you are correct!

I especially like that Dino includes a section on how insects help people – and that he thinks there are plenty more insects waiting to be discovered. Full disclosure: I love bugs!

Beyond the Book:

Find out more about insects. Look through field guides, books, or check out this DK website.

Want to learn more about butterflies? Go to Butterfly School.

Become an entomologist! Join a citizen science project and help scientists learn more about the bugs around your neighborhood.

Learn how to walk an ant, and find more buggy things to do over at Sally's Bookshelf today!

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, May 1, 2019

Wednesday Explorers Club ~ Dandelions

This is the month that dandelions begin to grow. At first you'll just find leaves - but give them a few sunny days and - boom! the world explodes in yellow blossoms!

Dandelions are the first flowers that feed the bees. Bumble bees and other bees are looking for pollen, and dandelions have it, in abundance. Bees aren't the only animals to eat dandelions - people do too! From salad greens to pizza to cookies, dandelions provide tasty treats. I like to toss dandelion greens into quiche and sprinkle the yellow flowers into pancake batter.

You can find more dandelion activities here, and my recipes - and more wild and weedy recipes in Christy Mihaly's and my book, Diet for a Changing Climate.