Friday, March 27, 2020


It's spring. Tree frogs are peeping and quacking. Soon toads will be trilling. So it's a perfect time to dive into books about frogs! I know, I started the year off with a book about amphibian science, but one can never have too many books about frogs, toads, newts...  So here's one more to add to your "Got Frogs?" reading list:

Amphibian Acrobats
by Leslie Bulion; illus by Robert Meganck
60 pages; ages 8 - 12 years
Peachtree Publishing, 2020

We’re amphibians! We breathe through our skin,
We drink the same way: we soak water in….

Leslie Bulion, who has penned poetic descriptions of leaf litter critters and birds, now turns her attention to amphibians. She introduces us to Olympic jumpers – Fiji frogs that can twist in midair and land backwards to escape predators. She shares the secrets of deep-freeze artists, salamander wrestlers, and marathon walkers that migrate to their puddle home to lay eggs every spring.

What I like about this book: Let me count the ways! First, the science – on each page Bulion introduces one or two amphibians and their amazing behavior. She accompanies each poem with science notes about the frogs, salamanders, caecilians ... and Robert Meganck teams up with scientifically accurate illustrations.

Back matter includes poetry notes. For each poem, Bulion includes notes about the poetic structure and rhymes – a terrific resource for anyone who wants to experiment with different styles of writing.

But what I really like is that she invites readers to help protect amphibians. Her final poem focuses on the importance of protecting habitat. She adds notes in the back matter with specific steps kids – and their adults – can take to help conserve our amphibian neighbors.

Animal Skins
by Mary Holland
32 pages; ages 5-9
Arbordale, 2019

I’m including Animal Skins because Mary Holland provides more information about the skins of frogs, toads, and red efts (newts). She details how frogs shed their skin and why some amphibians have poisonous skins. And she clarifies that, though toads will make some animals sick if eaten, they will not give you warts. And that’s just the amphibians. Holland also shows how feathers and scales protect creatures and provides activities at the back.

Thanks for dropping by today. On Monday we'll be hanging out at Marvelous Middle Grade Monday with other  bloggers. It's over at Greg Pattridge's blog, Always in the Middle, so hop over to see what other people are reading. Review copies provided by the publishers.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Explore Outdoors ~ Seasonal BINGO

Exploring nature is essential to my being, whether it is my backyard or what I can see and hear from my open window. So, keeping in mind the restrictions we face these days, I offer some SPRING activities that you can download....
OR use as inspiration to create your own.

Today it's BINGO.

The Outdoor Classroom folks at the Minna Anthony Common (MAC) Nature Center in Fineview, NY have created a wonderful Bird Bingo challenge. This is great for a walk along your rural road, or sitting on a balcony in your city, or wherever you might be - though the birds are seasonal for our NY neck of the woods. You can download a Bingo Card here.

If you live elsewhere, you may have different birds. So create your own Bingo card by using a bird field guide for your region. Draw your own pictures or download photos.

If you aren't sure what birds sound like, check out Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Bird Song Hero. It's about 7 minutes long, but by the end you'll be on your way to knowing who's singing up in that tree.

Mass. Audubon provides a series of seasonal Nature Bingo games for folks exploring their sanctuaries. But you can use them for exploring your backyard, local greenspace, or even the bit of nature you can see from a window. Feel free to substitute plants, animals, or other natural things found in your area. Download Nature Bingo cards here.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Not a Bean

Not a Bean 
by Claudia Guadalupe Martinez; illus. by Laura Gonzalez
32 pages; ages 3-7
Charlesbridge, 2019 

theme: nature, caterpillars, plants

Next to the arroyo a seedpod grows on the yerba de la fleche, a desert shrub.

This is no ordinary seedpod, for when it hardens and falls to the ground it begins to jump. It rocks and rolls right into the shade. That’s because there’s a caterpillar inside – a caterpillar that doesn’t want to get too hot

What I like about this book: It’s a counting book! As the jumping bean moves through the landscape, it passes two saguaros, three snakes, four coyotes. But wait! it gets better porque algunas palabras son espaƱolas. So it’s partly a language book. Hay dos saguaros, cuatro coyotes… and, after a bit of not-a-bean adventure, siete amigos who play a traditional bean game. And it’s very much a nature book about the life of a caterpillar that lives inside this special seed.

I also like the back matter, where author Claudia Martinez provides a glossary of words in Spanish, a counting lesson, and more information on the jumping bean moths. And Laura Gonzalez's illustrations which bring the desert to life.

Beyond the Books:

Get a hold of some jumping beans (maybe you can find them in a toy store) and try a couple experiments. Shine a light on one part of a plate and create shade on another. Where do the beans go? What if you put a hot water bottle under half of a plate? Or put an ice pack under it?

What happens to jumping beans when no one is watching? Here’s one videographer’s imaginative take.

Learn to count to ten in Spanish. Here’s a fun kid’s song to help you along.

Today 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, March 18, 2020

Explore Outdoors ~ leaves spear through the grass

The whole world changes
when you lay on your belly 
and look through the grass.

Whose leaves are these?
Hint: the flowers will be yellow.

What will you see this week
if you lay on the grass?

Friday, March 13, 2020

Get Ready for Nesting Time!

Spring is on its way, and that means songbirds will be winging their way back to their favorite nest-building sites. To celebrate that, I'm sharing Randi's newly-hatched book:

The Nest That Wren Built  
by Randi Sonenshine; illus. by Anne Hunter
32 pages; ages 4 - 8
Candlewick, 2020

theme: birds, animal families, homes

These are the twigs, dried in the sun, that Papa collected one by one to cradle the nest that Wren built.

Page-by-page, verse-by-verse we watch Wren and her mate make their nest from things found in the forest. Twigs, moss, feathers, thread – all used to make the nest. And then… there are eggs and, soon, a family safely together in the homey nest.

What I like love about this book: The text is rhythmic, patterned on “The House that Jack Built” and fun to read. It’s clear that author, Randi Sonenshine has closely studied what goes into a wren nest, and reveals each treasure in such a delightful way.  Anne Hunter’s ink-and-colored pencil illustrations bring softness and warmth to each page.

And there is Back Matter! Wren facts for curious readers and a brief glossary that clarifies words used in the text – perfect for kids who want to know the difference between a hatchling, a nestling, and a fledgling.

Does Randi love wrens? I caught up with her the other week to ask her that Exact Question!

Randi: As you can probably guess, I love birds! They are such fascinating, entertaining creatures. I love photographing them, listening to them, and watching all their avian drama unfold at my feeder and in my yard. I hate to say I have favorites, but, alas, I do! Carolina wrens have captured my heart. They are tiny, but sassy, smart, and steady; they are always nearby. Even if I don't see them, I hear them... singing, scolding, and sometimes warning each other.

One spring, a pair of them built a nest inside a bike helmet in my garage. Later that season, they built one inside a cloth grocery bag on a shelf in the garage. This astounded me. Later, when I looked at the abandoned nests, I was intrigued and impressed by the ingenious design and the assortment of nesting materials they used, so I started to research (a little obsessively, actually!). I discovered the most amazing details in my research, particularly the scientific facts and theories regarding their choice of nesting materials. I knew this had to be a subject of a picture book, but I wasn't sure how to frame it. Then one morning I woke up with the title in my head, and that was it!

Beyond the Books:

Get to know the wrens who live in your neighborhood. What they lack in size and flashiness, they make up for with their big personalities. Check out this article by Audubon, and this page from Cornell.

Listen for wren calls. Here’s a house wren, and here’s a Carolina wren.

If you were a bird, what kind of nest would you build? Collect some materials and build a nest.

Want to help nesting birds? Here’s how.

Randi Sonenshine is a member of #STEAMTeam2020. You can find out more about her at her website.

Today 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, March 11, 2020

Friday, March 6, 2020

Numbers in Motion

Numbers In Motion: Sophie Kowalevski, Queen of Mathematics 
 by Laurie Wallmark; illus. by Yevgenia Nayberg
32 pages; ages 8-12
Creston Books, 2020

themes: biography, math, women in history

Sophie carefully pulled the string, and the top spun across her desk.

But Sophie’s not a kid playing with the top. She is a mathematics professor and she is trying to describe the tops rotation in an equation. It’s a difficult problem, and many others have tried – and failed. But Sophie won’t give up. If she succeeds, “her math might help scientists calculate the path of planets,” writes author Laurie Wallmark.

What I like about this book: The minute you open the cover, you know you’re in “mathland” – the end page (also serving as title page) is graph paper. I like that Laurie introduces me to a woman in math who is not well-known. And she doesn’t make light of the challenges Sophie faced, wanting to attend college at a time when women were not allowed in the lecture rooms. And I like the message of hope this book gives to girls interested in numbers.

Laurie ends with an author’s note about Sophie, and more about her math (partial differential equations). There’s also a cool bit about the many spellings of Sophie’s name due to transliterating names from the Cryllic alphabet to Roman alphabet.

This is Laurie's fourth book about a Woman in STEM, so I had to ask her One Question ~

Archimedes:  How did you come to choose Sophie as a subject for a book?

Laurie: I've loved math ever since I was a kid, so I wanted to write about someone who was known for her mathematical discoveries, not just computer scientists who were also mathematicians. I had never heard of Sophie before, but I came across her when researching possible subjects. I chose her for two reasons: First, her work on the rotation of solid bodies--like planets, footballs, and tops--was something kids could relate to. Second, the problem she solved was called a mathematical mermaid, and I thought kids would find that fun.

Beyond the Books:

Learn more about Sophie Kowalevski here.

Make your own spinners! Try turning an old CD and a marker into a simple spinner - here's how.
Or construct a top using Lego pieces. For a real challenge, fold a spinning top out of a piece of origami paper. Here’s a video showing how.

Laurie Wallmark is a member of #STEAMTeam2020. You can find out more about her at her website.  Today 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, March 4, 2020

Explore Outdoors ~ early buds


A couple weeks ago I went for a hike. Snow was melting, I could hear the tiny stream gurgling with meltwater, and the smell of spring was in the air. Tree buds are already fattening up, preparing for spring. And while most deciduous trees let go of all their leaves in the fall, beech hang on through the winter. I'm wondering if these paper-thin, tattered and faded leaves will still be clinging to the branches when the buds open and new leaves unfurl.

Looking up, I noticed buds on the ends of thin twigs on some of the maples. It will be fun to watch how spring emerges, flower by flower, leaf by leaf.

What do your trees look like? Go out and get to know them during this changing season.