Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Wednesday Explorers Club ~ city tree, country tree

Take a walk to meet the winter trees in your neighborhood. Are they decked with lights? Do bright red and blue birds brighten their boughs?

Do your trees have needles or leaves? Or have they gone bare for the season? Do they sport lichens and shelf fungi? Is their bark rough and scabby or smooth and papery?

Happy Solstice and a Merry New Year!

 Archimedes is taking a winter holiday - I'll be back at the beginning of January with lots of new activities and reviews!

Friday, December 13, 2019

Real Science about Farts & Superpowers

People ask scientists all kinds of questions, but one of the most frequent is whether a certain animal farts. Which, believe it or not, scientists collect data about – because sometimes science is funny. And it’s part of the information they collect when studying what an animal eats and how it digests food. And – as in the case of some insects – passing gas can be an insect’s superpower!

themes: animal adaptations, insects, nonfiction humor

Does It Fart? A Kid's Guide to the Gas Animals Pass
by Nick Caruso and Dani Rabaiotti; illus. by Alex G. Griffiths
48 pages; ages 6 - 9
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2019

This is a book about farts.

They may make you laugh and they may be really stinky, but the fact is that everybody farts. Well, almost everybody. Some animals don’t. Scientists Nick Caruso and Dani Rabiaotti present what could be a silly topic in a straight-forward manner. Their mission: to help young readers understand some of the basic chemistry behind toots and butt burps. They analyze how 20 different animals digest their food, and whether gas is produced.
What I like about this book: The format is fun. On one page is a cartoon representation of an animal with a statement and a question. For example: “This is a horse. Does it fart?” Turn the page and you get the answer – plus an explanation of how its digestive system works. Horses, it turns out, do fart. But parrots? Nope. And some animals have weaponized their gas. Beaded lacewing larvae expel gas to stun their termite prey, putting new meaning into “silent but deadly”.

Like other nonfiction, this book grew from a question. Dani’s teenage brother asked her if snakes farted. She knew from her own research that wild dogs of Africa farted, and so did gray seals. But she wasn’t sure about snakes, so she contacted a snake expert. And you know, when a scientist gets curious about something, they begin talking to others, and before long researchers all over the world were creating an animal fart database.

As a bug-lover, I was intrigued by the beaded lacewings and wanted to know if other insects farted. Which leads to our second book of the day….

Insect Superpowers
by Kate Messner; illus. by Jillian Nickell
80 pages; ages 8 - 12
Chronicle Books, 2019

The book’s subtitle describes what’s between the covers: 18 Real Bugs that Smash, Zap, Hypnotize, Sting, and Devour! So I could not wait to get my hands on a copy (it was released just a few weeks ago).

Sure enough, Kate Messner devotes an entire chapter to the “Masters of Chemical Weaponry”. This chapter features termites, the bombardier beetle and lubber grasshoppers. Good thing these insects are small, because their superpowers make them mighty.  “Imagine a human-size termite with a goo gun for a face,” writes Messner, “or a beetle the size of a bear that shoots a hot toxic chemical mist from its bottom!”

The African bombardier beetle sprays a hot chemical mist from its rear end when threatened. It actually sprays a series of superfast pulses – about 500 per second – so it’s like a chemical machine gun, Messner points out. That’s enough to make birds back off.

In six chapters, Messner presents a diversity of insect superpowers that rival any comic book hero: speed, mimicry, strength, defensive engineering, and the “Jaws of Doom”.

What I like about this book: I like graphic-novel style. It’s filled with action: swoops! sluuurps! Chomp! Smack! Slash! Crunch! Pfffr-ffft! 

I like the way Messner begins each chapter with an introduction of the insect: common name, scientific name, identification features, size, and superpower. Throughout the short chapter, she presents information in text boxes. She also includes an icon illustrating an arch-enemy for each insect. Total fun!

Beyond the Books:

Do you know what animals fart? Take a quiz here at Science Friday.

You’ve already met two bugs that fart. Meet one more here.

If you had a superpower, what would it be? Create a short comic showing how you would use your superpower to help others or defend yourself. You can download a free comic template 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.
I borrowed Does it Fart? from the library; A review copy of Insect Superpowers provided by the publisher.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Wednesday Explorers Club ~ Winter Berries

This is the time of year when  tree trunks bare against a cloudy sky just emphasize the grayness of the season. And then - a bit of brilliant red against a snowy backdrop. Rosehips! Not only do they add a splash of color, but they also provide food for winter wildlife. If you've got rose bushes nearby, watch to see what birds and animals nibble the fruits.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Growing Up Gorilla ~ Blog Tour Stop

Growing Up Gorilla
by Clare Hodgson Meeker
48 pages; ages 8-12
Millbrook Press, 2019

The subtitle says it all; this is a book about “how a zoo baby brought her family together.”  As the book opens, we meet Nadiri, a 19-year old gorilla preparing to give birth. She’s gathered a thick nest of hay around her, but when her baby is born she has no idea of how to respond and care for a tiny baby.

The keepers and staff at the Woodland Park Zoo were committed to having Nadiri raise her baby. But they were also ready for the possibility that she might not embrace motherhood immediately, because Nadiri had been rejected by her own mother and was hand-raised. So while they began caring for the new baby gorilla, they were determined to help Nadiri bond with baby Yola in a safe, non-threatening environment.

What I like about this book: Reading this book gives you a front row seat into what goes on behind the scenes in a zoo. Author, Clare Meeker takes us into the gorilla dens, introduces us to the other gorillas that become family, and shows us the love and dedication of the zoo staff. There’s also plenty of back matter so kids can see how humans compare with gorillas (we share 97.7% of the same genes), and some of the ways people are working to protect gorillas and their habitat.

Clare graciously shared her thoughts during a phone conversation a couple weeks ago. She admits to having a deep love for animal stories. Clare has written a passel of books, including one about an otter and another about rhino rescues. She’s also written a number of animal stories for magazines. Some stories, she said, take longer than others, and this one has been simmering on the back burner of her mind for the past twenty years.

Archimedes: That seems like a long germination time for a story.

Clare: I was working on another book, Hansa, about a baby elephant, and met Harmony Frazier, who has been caring for baby Nadiri at the time. When I saw a photo of the two of them, I thought it would make a great story. But it would have focused on hand-raising a baby gorilla. Fast-forward twenty years and times have changed. Now the Harmony and the team of keepers had a plan. Nadiri had practiced mothering skills with a burlap doll. Still, she was so nervous when faced with caring for her actual baby. Even though the keepers stepped in to begin baby care, they knew that they wanted to raise this baby, Yola, in a gorilla-centered environment. And the beauty of this book is that I could talk about how things had changed for the good, as the keepers focused on helping Nadiri and Yola bond.

Archimedes: It feels like you were right in the cage with Yola. What sort of research did you do?

Clare: Yola was born in November of 2015, and I began doing research not even knowing if she would stay at the Woodland Park Zoo. I’d read a book about the Columbus zoo’s surrogacy program, and asked if I could talk with Barbara Jones and Maureen Casale, the coordinators of that program. They graciously answered all my questions about baby gorilla care without the certainty of knowing whether I would have a book. I spent time at the zoo, watching the gorillas, watching them make nests and engage in outdoor activities. And numerous interviews [note: nearly two-years-worth!] One thing I’ve noticed about the gorilla keepers is that they truly love their animals and are totally dedicated to their care.

Before disconnecting, she talked a bit about where she gets her ideas. Often they come from a chance meeting. One day, driving through Seattle, Clare saw a billboard that inspired her first book, A Tale of Two Rice Birds. Her advice: be open to ideas no matter where they come from.

Thank you for joining us today, Clare. You can find out more about Clare Meeker and her books at her website. If you missed any of the stops on her blog tour, here’s the schedule.

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

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Wednesday Explorers Club ~ Plant defense against invaders

Sweet potato. photo by Anja Meents, Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology

If a hungry predator threatens you, you can run away. You can also yell at your friends to warn them to run away too.

But what about plants? They can't run anywhere. But they have a lot of ways to defend themselves. Think: thorny roses, needle-sharp cactus spines, stinging nettle hairs. When I was writing Are Ants Like Plants, I learned how some plants can even warn their neighbors by sending a chemical message. Yesterday scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Jena, Germany, and at the National Taiwan University released a study about how a sweet potato uses a single odor to warn its neighbors of insect attack.

First the researchers wanted to know what happened in a particular variety of sweet potato after it was attacked by leaf-munching bugs. That's because the variety was more resistant to insect attacks than other varieties. The resistant sweet potato plants produced a plant hormone in the damaged leaves - and emitted odors.

Cool thing #1: Leaves that weren't attacked by the insects also produced the same hormone - a protein that made the attacking insects lose their appetite (it affected the insects' digestive system).

Cool thing #2: Plants growing nearby that hadn't been attacked by the insects also produced the anti-herbivore protein.

Turns out, the neighboring plants could detect the odor emitted by the insect-nibbled plants, allowing them to prepare their defense against invading leaf-munchers. Pretty nifty trick for plants, right? Makes you wonder what else we can learn by studying plants.

You can learn more about this study here and about another study (at Cornell University) here. Check out this earlier article in the Scientist.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Books for Bird Lovers

Winter is coming and it’s the perfect time to watch birds ~ birds at the feeder, birds hanging around the park, birds creeping up and down trees as they hunt for insects hiding in bark crevices, and birds gleaning seeds from the garden flowers we never trimmed.

So today I’m sharing books about birds ~  here on Archimedes and also over at Sally’s Bookshelf. Theme for the day: birds, citizen science

Bird Count
by Susan Edwards Richmond; illus. by Stephanie Fizer Coleman
32 pages; ages 4-8
Peachtree Publishing, 2019

I shake Mom in the dark. “Wake up, sleepy head! It’s Bird Count Day!”

Ava is excited because this year she gets to keep tally of the birds “her” crew finds during the annual Christmas Bird Count. She’s dressed for the weather, and has the tools she needs: a notebook, a pencil, and most importantly, her eyes and her ears.

What I like about this book: We get to go along on the bird-finding field trip without leaving the warmth of our cozy home. Bird-by-bird we meet (and count) owls, chickadees, catbirds and geese. It’s a great way to become familiar with how the bird count works, in case we want to join a local census circle. Back matter tells more about each species featured in the book as well as additional information about the Christmas Bird Count. 

The Puffins Are Back (New & Updated)
by Gail Gibbons
32 pages; ages 4-8
Holiday House, 2019

A small boat comes close to an island of the coast of Maine.

Scientists have returned to study a puffin colony. Concerned about the population decline, they built burrows and brought chicks to the island. Now, years later, the scientists continue to observe the colony, learning more about the bird’s behavior.

What I like about this book: The illustrations are so inviting, and make me want to linger on the page. And the text tells a wonderful story of determination to save these iconic birds.

Beyond the Books:

If you have a bird feeder, you can become a Citizen Scientist by collecting data for Feeder Watch. Learn more at Feeder Watch.

Create your own back yard bird count. Keep track of all the birds you see during a 15-minute period of time. If you do that every month, you can get an idea of how bird populations change with the season. All you need are a notebook, pencil, and a bird guide (or two). You can also use  Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s online bird fieldguide and Audubon’s online bird guide.

Make a paper-plate puffin. Here's how. While the glue dries, learn more about the puffinresearch at Matinicus Rock.

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, November 27, 2019

Wednesday Explorers Club ~ Reflecting on Fall

The other day we took lots of photos of the river. It was a calm place, and the reflections were wonderful. These two photos are taken from the same rock, one looking upstream, one looking down. It's amazing how different a river can look depending on the light.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

We LOVE Animal Books!

Who doesn't love a new book about animals? Here's a bunch just out that will inspire you to look closer at footprints, animal babies, and the news.

theme: animals, adaptations, animal families

Whose Footprint Is That?
By Darrin Lunde; illus. by Kelsey Oseid
32 pages; ages 3-7
Charlesbridge, 2019

Whose footprint is that?

We see a print made by two pointy toes – pointy toes belonging to a mountain goat. Later, prints left by flamingos, dinosaurs, a snake. Wait! Snakes don’t have feet!

What I like about this book: It’s a simple, straightforward introduction to the kinds of footprints animals leave behind – along with more information about why the footprint looks the way it does. I like the “who left this footprint” mystery before the animal reveal. And I really like the kinds of footprints people can leave, depending on their footwear.

We Love Babies!
by  Jill Esbaum
40 pages; ages 2-5
National Geographic Children’s Books, 2019

Big or tiny, fast or s-l-o-w…..

It doesn’t matter whether the animal baby is striped, spotted, hard-shelled, or featherless – this photo-packed book captures the cuteness of baby animals.

What I like about this book: If you read the text without stopping to – wait! isn’t that just the cutest little jerboa? Ok, back to the words: if you read the text all the way through you realize it’s a fun poem about fur, feathers, beaks and bills. There are plenty of action words, and plenty of photos showing babies climbing and hanging and bouncing around. Every now and then the cheerleading squad shows up to lead a chant (we love babies! yes, we do!). I also like that the back spread identifies each animal baby and provides a special name that the baby is called. Did you know that a baby alpaca is called a cria?

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

Koalas may look like teddy bears, but they aren’t bears. They are marsupials that live in Australia and spend their days in the treetops, grazing on eucalyptus leaves.

What I like about this book: This book is brimming with cuteness, from the engaging photos to the breezy text that describes koala lives. There are text-boxes with lots of extra info, such as the one that tells what koalas do when a forest fire burns their habitat.

Beyond the Books:

Go on a Footprint Hike. The best places to find footprints are on fresh snow or in mud. You might find some familiar animal tracks (cats, dogs, squirrels, birds) and some interesting human tracks. Check out this guide for help, or pick up a copy of a field guide to animal tracks.

What makes baby animals so cute? Look at these photos of baby animals and see if you can find some common features that make baby animal faces so appealing.

Koalas are in danger from the wildfires in Australia, and rescuers are using specially trained “sniffer dogs” to help rescue koalas trapped by the fires. Read more here and here.

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

Friday, November 15, 2019

Books that celebrate our Connections with Nature

theme: environment, poetry, art

This week’s books are about the environment ~ what’s in a wetlands, and the environment around us ~ but they’re also about poetry, art, and hope.

Otters, Snails and Tadpole Tails 
by Eric Ode; illus by  Ruth Harper
32 pages; all ages
Kane Miller Books / EDC Publishing, 2019

Will I find you here
where cedar wears her mossy shawl ….

With an otter as our guide, we meet the amphibians, mollusks, birds, mammals, insects, reptiles, and plants that inhabit a wetland.

What I like about this book: I love that the otter shows up in most of the spreads – as though they’re our tour guide. It reminds me of the time my youngest insisted there “might be otters” in our little stream and so we hiked the length of it – finding crayfish, insects, mammal tracks, birds … but no otter! And there’s a wonderful poem about the heron that “measures the morning in slow, perfect strides” – which perfectly captures the heron that stalks the river’s edge nearby.

I love Ruth Harper’s artwork. Can’t think of a medium more perfect for capturing the feel of wetlands than watercolors!

You Are Never Alone 
by Elin Kelsey; illus by Soyeon Kim
32 pages; ages 4 - 6
Owlkids, 2019

Every moment
   this beautiful planet
        showers you with gifts

From the rain that provides our water, to the trees that give us oxygen to breathe, Elin Kelsey celebrates our connections with nature. We are a part of nature, and nature is part of us.

What I like about this book: Hope permeates this book. When coral reefs break, they can heal. When animals get sick, there is an entire pharmacy in the soil and plants. I like how Elin shows our wild connections, emphasizing that when we are in nature we are not alone. And I like how she brings in fun and interesting science: that mud is good for us.

I’m always intrigurd by Soyeon’s illustrations. She builds intricate dioramas and then uses sections of them to illustrate the spreads. What’s cool about this book: unfold the cover and you’ll find all of Soyeon’s  dioramas. If you look closely, you can see how they are connected.

Beyond the Books:

When something in nature sparks your curiosity, find out more about it. Maybe it’s something you read about or observed. So investigate. Write a story or poem about it. Make a diorama or painting about it. And share it with your friends.
This teaching guide has tips for poetry and line breaks

Wetlands are special - and important - places. Learn more about them in this short video by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and on the World Wildlife Fund page (tons of cool resources).

Head behind the scenes with author Elin and illustrator Soyeon at Owlkids. Videos and a teacher's guide 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 and galleys provided by the publishers.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Wednesday Explorers Club ~ Where the Snow flies

The other day I went for a walk and discovered that weather can be very local. Heading down one road, we were buffeted by cold wind and snow falling around us. But - turn a corner and walk a few hundred steps - and we're surrounded by sunshine. And it's ten degrees warmer (no wind!). Taking a look back, I could see the flurry - a faint cloud hugging the trees and road we'd just walked.

Likewise, in the summer we get local rain showers. It can be pouring buckets in the village, but turn onto our road and it's dry. There's often a clear division showing where the cloud sat. On that side: rain. On this: nothing.

How's the local weather where you live?

Friday, November 8, 2019

What's Up? The Sky!

Today's themes are: space, stars, scientists

Always Looking Up: Nancy Grace Roman, Astronomer 
by Laura Gehl  ; illus by Louise Pigott and Alex Oxton
32 pages; ages  5-7
Albert Whitman & Company, 2019

Young Nancy Grace loved to look up at the endless night sky.

Her dad’s job kept the family moving from place to place, but Nancy knew it was the same night sky that extended across the country, no matter where they moved. Nancy loved the sky so much that, as a kid, she started an astronomy club. She and her friends mapped the stars. But Nancy wanted to learn more. She challenged the notion that science was a subject meant for men, and went on to college. As an astronomer she worked with radio telescopes, became NASAs chief of astronomy, and dreamed of building a telescope that could float above earth, capturing images of black holes and galaxies far, far away. Her work and vision – the Hubble telescope – is still orbiting above, sending gorgeous images from space to this day.

What I like about this book: I love the beautiful images of space that Hubble has been beaming to Earth over the past 29 years – nearly twice Hubble’s expected life-span. But I never thought about who had the vision for such a telescope. “Many people over many decades worked to make the Hubble Space Telescope a reality,” writes Laura Gehl. But Nancy Grace earned the nickname “Mother of Hubble”. And yes, there is indeed back matter: more about Nancy Grace in the author’s note and a timeline of her life.

One North Star: A Counting Book
by Phyllis Root; illus by Beckie Prange and Betsy Bowen
36 pages; ages 8-12
Univ Of Minnesota Press, 2016

Who lives here under one north star?

One by one, we meet the plants and animals that share the land beneath the star. Phyllis Root takes readers on a field trip through bog and marsh, along river and around lake, across prairie and into the woods, counting flora and fauna as we go. The woodcut and water illustrations by Beckie Prange and Betsy Bowen provide additional opportunities to explore diverse habitats and plants and animals living there.

What I like about this book: Each page introduces different species. For example, One moose… but on the next page it’s two bats and one hawk. By the end of the book we’ve met 55 different plants, birds, fish, insects, mammals, and herps. I also like that Root includes the reader in her book. “You live here, too,” she writes. “We all live together under one north star.” Nine pages of back matter provide further opportunity for curious young naturalists to explore each habitat and the wild things living there. And (very important) – how to locate the north star in the sky above you. I give this book a constellation’s worth of stars, and One Big North Star.

I confess that I, too, love watching stars. Those that remain in their proper constellations ... and those that fall from the sky (not really stars, but meteors). My mom would take us outside and tell us star stories, and I remain convinced there is a dragon in the sky – if only I can find it. So I truly enjoyed writing about things in space for the Super Science series (Rourke Educational Media). My book, Sky Spies, came out this fall.

Beyond the Books:

Look at the stars. All you need is a dark place and a thermos of hot cocoa – and a cloud-free sky. If you have binoculars, take ‘em along. A star chart helps – here’s one (you can change the location for where you’re watching – click on the wrench icon)

Who watches the stars with you? While you’re out gazing at the sky, keep your ears – and eyes (and possibly your nose) – open for clues about who else shares the stars with you.

Want your own telescope? Here’s directions on how to make one with a few items you might find around your home.

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 and ARCs provided by the publishers.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Wednesday Explorers Club ~ Woolly Bears!

Why did the Woolly Bear Cross the Road? To find a good spot to sleep!

They may not predict how long, or how cold, winter will be, but woolly bear caterpillars can make their own antifreeze so they can survive the winter. We, on the other hand, have to rely on multiple layers of sweaters and copious amounts of hot cocoa!

Friday, November 1, 2019

Snack, Snooze, Skedaddle

Snack, Snooze, Skedaddle: How Animals Get Ready for Winter 
by Laura Purdie Salas; illus by Claudine Gévry 
32 pages; ages 5-9
Millbrook Press, 2019

theme: winter, animals, nature

Soak up the sun, breathe in the breeze, munch crunchy apples that fall from the trees.

Because nights are growing longer, days are getting colder, and soon snow and ice will cover the landscape. Laura Purdie Salas shows how different animals prepare to survive the winter. Some, such as hummingbirds and butterflies, migrate. Others store up nuts and seeds, or build layers of fat, and spend the winter napping. And others grow extra layers of hair so they can keep warm.

What I like about this book: Rhyming text reveals survival secrets of twelve different animals, from worms to mammals. And yes, humans are counted amongst those mammals. A line of smaller text, offset by squiggly lines, offers additional details. Claudine Gévry’s illustrations are filled with details inviting readers to explore the spreads that show animals across the two seasons of autumn and winter.

And there is back matter! Salas provides more information about the three basic winter survival strategies: migrate, hibernate, or tolerate. Following pages tell more about the migrators, hibernators, and tolerators, and end with a glossary.

Beyond the Books:

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is a great resource for learning more about bird migration. Here’s an article about bird migration basics, and here’s the migration forecast map.

Spend a month watching the wild animals and birds in your yard, neighborhood, parks, or nearby fields and woods. Jot down the dates when you see (or hear) geese flying overhead, or other birds. Make a list of animals you see staying. Are the birds that hang out in winter the same ones you saw in the summer?

If you live in a place of winter snow and ice, what do you do to adapt to the colder temperatures? Put on extra layers? Build snow forts and glide on ice? Do you eat different kinds of food than you do in the summer?

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 the publisher.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Wednesday Explorers Club ~ Ways of Looking at a Tree

Usually when we look at trees we notice the leaves, or the pattern on the bark. But what about the things that cling to trees? This month I've shared my Five Ways of Looking at a Tree. What ways have you discovered to look at the trees around you?


Friday, October 25, 2019


Biodiversity: Explore the Diversity of Life on Earth (Build It Yourself series)
by Laura Perdew; illus by Tom Casteel
128 pages; ages 9-12
Nomad Press, 2019

We share our planet with millions of other species – from bacteria to plants to fungi and animals. This tremendous variety of life on Earth is called “biodiversity”, a shortened way of saying “biological diversity.”  In six chapters, author Laura Perdew introduces biodiversity, why it’s important, threats to biodiversity, and how we can protect it.

In discussing climate change, Perdew discusses human activities that contribute to a warming planet, such as burning fossil fuels and deforestation.  The warming planet is melting polar ice, causing sea levels to rise and flood coastal habitats.  The increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reacts with ocean water to create acidic ocean water which, in turn threatens coral reefs and clams. Perdew also delves into pollution, habitat loss, invasive species, and over-exploitation of resources. Fortunately, there are things people can do, from implementing conservation policies to developing new energy technologies to taking personal actions.

In addition to informative text and photos, each chapter contains a comic strip, text-boxes of “words to know”, quick facts, sidebars, and primary source links with QR codes (urls listed at the back). There are more than twenty hands-on STEM activities, from field trips to making things. Want to make bio-gas? You’ll need some help from microbes, but all you need are a plastic bottle, an uninflated balloon, and some dead leaves. There are directions for making a water filter and even instructions for making your own smartphone-microscope.

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

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Wednesday Explorers Club ~ Ways of Looking at a Tree

Usually when we look at trees we notice the leaves, or the pattern on the bark. But what about looking inside a tree? Or through a tree? This month I'm sharing Five Ways of Looking at a Tree. Head out and look at some trees in your neighborhood, a local park or wherever you wander this week.


Friday, October 18, 2019

I See Sea Books!

This week we’re heading beneath the surface of the ocean. Our mission: to discover weird creatures that resemble food, and to explore the ocean floor (if we can reach it).

This week’s theme: animal adaptations, ocean. exploration

I See Sea Food
by Jenna Grodzicki
32 pages; ages 4-9
Millbrook Press, 2019

Pineapples, pancakes, and chocolate chip cookies are tasty treats. But did you know they all live in the ocean?

Wait! Really? Chocolate chip cookies? Ok, maybe not cookies, but chocolate chip sea stars live in the ocean. So do pineapple fish, pancake batfish, and pizza crust sea slugs! Excuse me – I’ve got to grab a snack now, but I’ll be right back…

… OK, where was I? <brushing cookie crumbs off keyboard>

Oh yes, What I like love about this book:

  • the mouthwatering names of sea creatures. In addition to pizza and cookies, there are fruits (sea apples and banana wrasse) and vegetables (cauliflower jellyfish and lettuce sea slugs). So it’s a well-balanced menu – er, book;
  • the delicious photos of the fish and sea slugs and sea stars;
  • the “fast facts” sidebars for every creature, providing species name, size, range and habitat, and what eats it;
  • and the breezy, fun way Jenna Groszicki introduces each creature. For example, when discussing egg yolk jellyfish she subtitles her text “sunny-side up”. How imaginative!

Plus, dare I say it, Back Matter! In addition to a glossary and further reading, there’s a “Sea Food or Me Food?” quiz.

Exploring the Deep, Dark Sea (new and updated)
by Gail Gibbons
32 pages; ages 4-8
Holiday House, 2019

A large ship has reached its destination far out to sea.

This story begins even before we reach the title page. A ship anchors stops somewhere mid-ocean, and the scientists get ready to … explore the deep, dark sea. They stow gear and board the submersible. From there it’s
down through he sunlight zone.....
down through the twilight zone....
down into the dark zone until they reach the ocean floor.

What I like about this book: I always relish a dive into any book by Gail Gibbons. In addition to explaining things in clear and inviting language,  her illustrations provide room for the reader to explore. For example, as the submersible sinks through each zone, the spreads are filled with ocean life – each labeled. Sometimes there’s a line of explanatory text, such as when she explains how the Tripod Fish props itself on its fins.

And there is Back Matter! One spread presents a timeline of diving “past and present”, from the first diving bell (1250) to the unmanned REMUS currently mapping the ocean floor. There is also a bit more about the “deep, dark sea”.

Beyond the Books:

Read more about Chocolate Chip sea stars (and their weird relatives) in National Geographic's "weird animals" column. (You can sign up for four free articles/month)

Learn more about ocean exploration in this National Geographic video (about 7 minutes long)

Check out ocean exploration technologies at this NOAA site.

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, October 16, 2019

Wednesday Explorers Club ~ Ways of Looking at a Tree

Do you need to look at trees to see them? This month I'm sharing Five Ways of Looking at a Tree. Head out and look at some trees in your neighborhood, a local park or wherever you wander this week.


Friday, October 11, 2019

This Math is For the Birds

Today's books play around with math. But before I get to them, I want to announce a fun costume contest - with PRIZES!

You can find rules for the contest here. Get creative! Have fun!
and now, for the books....

Don’t call these mathematicians “bird brains” – because they are busy solving problems.
theme: math, birds, imagination

Arithmechicks Add Up: A Math Story
by Ann Marie Stephens; illus. by Jia Liu
32 pages; ages 4-8
Boyds Mills Press, 2019

10 chicks head off to play.

Cheeping and chattering, they count rocks, flowers, and how many steps it takes to reach the park. Once there, they play – and add. With three chicks swinging high into the air, and six more at the lowest vertex of the arc, there are nine in all, swooshing through the air – while one holds up a scorecard so we can keep count.

What I like about this book: This is a great resource for teachers, homeschoolers, and parents who are looking for a fun way to introduce the idea of addition. Each spread shows a different way to add up the chicks – and back matter explains the different ways that you can use to represent addition. Most of us are familiar with basic equations and tally marks, but this book includes number bonds, counting on fingers (or feathers, depending on your species), number lines, and more.

Pigeon Math
by Asia Citro; illus. by Richard Watson
40 pages; ages 5-10
The Innovation Press, 2019

One bright and sunny morning, ten pigeons…

… well, there were ten pigeons sitting on the line until they got distracted by some bees – or maybe wasps – flying by. Still, some return to the line so the narrator continues the story. But this time he begins with four pigeons…

Wait! Pigeons are coming back! Now the narrator has to begin all over again. I’m sure the poor narrator has a story to tell, but with pigeons coming and going, will we ever get past the first line? Before pigeon bedtime? Meanwhile, there’s addition and subtraction happening all over the place.

What I like about this book: It’s funny, and fun to read out loud because every time you get settled and think the story will start there’s a …
           Hey! Wait! What do you think you’re doing?
….interruption. A great interactive read-aloud that offers plenty of opportunities to ask: how many flew away? How many came back? How many are there now?

Beyond the Books:

Make up your own story that involves some math – with or without birds. It could be about things you find outside, a tree losing its leaves, or anything that strikes your fancy. But definitely have some fun with it! Draw some pictures to go with it. Then share it with a friend.

Pigeons can count! Yes, scientists have really studied this, and counting might come in handy if you wanted to, for example, know how many eggs you had in your nest. Here’s an article about the pigeon study.

Birds can solve problems. You’ve probably heard about crows figuring out how to open containers or use hooks to get food. This National Geographic video shows a grackle solving problems.

Bird smarts are as much nature as nurture. Sure, your parents can teach you basic stuff like how to sing a tune. But city birds seem to learn more than their country cousins. Or maybe they just have more problems to deal with…

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.