Friday, April 24, 2020

Books that encourage nature exploration

I thought it would be fun to end Earth Day week with these two books that celebrate inter-generational exploration of the natural world  - and encourage children and the adults they love to get out and explore nature where they are.

theme: observation, nature, language

The Keeper of Wild Words
by Brooke Smith; illus. by Madeline Kloepper
62 pages; ages 5 - 8
Chronicle Books, 2020

 At the end of a long cinder lane, surrounded by meadows and pine trees and sky that wrapped around and back again…

Brook runs to her grandma’s door. Summer is almost over and Brook wants something to remember. Grandma Mimi is looking for something, too. Wild Words. Words that, when not used, disappear. Words like acorn and dandelion…. So Brook and Mimi go off on a walk to collect wild words. And they take readers with them through blackberry brambles, to the pond, and up to the top of the meadow. All along the way Brook is collecting words to keep and to share with her friends.

What I like about this book: I love that Grandma Mimi crowns Brook with flowers and bestows upon her the office of The Keeper of Wild Words. And the importance of protecting and celebrating the natural world through language. And the very real loss of words that are disappearing from the English language: apricot, buttercup, drake…

And yes, there is back matter: a note in which the author explains how she noticed that words about nature were being replaced in the dictionary by other words such as “database” and “voicemail.” Brooke Smith wrote this book to share her love of nature and the need to sustain the language of the natural world. She challenges everyone to become a Keeper of Wild Words and there’s an envelope bound into the back of the book where kids (and their adults) can collect words from the nature surrounding them.

Under My Tree 
by Muriel Tallandier; illus. by Mizuho Fujisawa; translation by Sarah Klinger
32 pages; ages 3 - 8
Blue Dot Kids Press, 2020

There once was a tree different from all the rest.

So, maybe all trees look the same to you: trunk, branches, leaves. But every now and then you run into that special tree. Suzanne discovered her favorite tree while visiting her grandparents for the summer. One day, walking through the forest with her grandmother it began to rain. They took shelter beneath a tree, and when Suzanne heard noises from an owl and her babies, she knew this tree would be a safe place.

Over the summer Suzanne visits the tree and notices how its leaves blow in the wind, and the insects that live on and around it. She and a friend build a tree fort. And  before she leaves to go home, Suzanne gives her tree a hug.

What I like about this book: As Suzanne learns about her tree, readers are challenged to discover more about the trees in their neighborhood. Sprinkled throughout the pages are text boxes filled with tree facts (Did You Know?) and hands-on activities (Try This!). It’s a fun introduction to conservation for young children.

Beyond the Books:

Did the Oxford Junior Dictionary really dump nature words? Yes. Check out this article to see some of the words deleted from the dictionary and the tech-oriented words put in their place. Which of those "lost" words do you want to keep?

Become a Keeper of Wild Words. All you need is paper, something to write with, and an envelope or tin to keep them in. If you can go outside, do so, or open your window. What words about nature do you see? Hear? Smell? Feel? My words from today are: phoebe, acorn, and daffodil.

Go Hug a Tree. No, really – it will make you feel better (check out this article). And while you’re hugging your tree, notice the texture of its trunk, and whether it has leaves or buds, and what insects, birds, or other animals are using the tree.

Find a way to show how your tree changes over the summer. Will you write haiku? Create collage art? What will you do to show what is different about your tree after each visit?

Today 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, April 22, 2020

Earth Day ~ recycling in practice and song

Here in Upstate NY I'm planting seeds for Lemon Queen sunflower.

 I'm planting them indoors so that they'll be ready to transplant into my garden by our last frost date (usually end of May, but given the snow blowing around outside it's hard to say what this year will be like!). My goal this year is to have my sunflowers blooming in time to collect bee counts for the Great Sunflower Project ~ a citizen science project that collects data on pollinators in your garden.

All you need to plant a flower seed is the seed, some potting soil, and a container to put the soil into. I like to recycle containers as pots, so you might find me poking holes into the bottom of cleaned yogurt containers. But sometimes I run out, so I've taken to making seedling pots out of newspapers.

I start with a newspaper. Depending on how big the paper is, I might use a full sheet (it it's my hometown weekly) or just one page (if it's a big paper like the New York Times).

I fold the paper in half length-wise.
Then I find a can from the pantry. Soup cans are great for small pots, but for something like a sunflower I want a bit bigger pot. So a can of tomatoes or pasta sauce (not sure how long that's been on the shelf....)

Put the can on the paper so the newspaper extends beyond the can on one end - that will be the bottom of your pot. Then start rolling the can until you've got it all rolled up. The paper should go around three times or so.

Starting at the seam- that's the edge where you stopped rolling - fold the bottom ends in. Keep doing this all the way around until you've got a nice bottom. Then I turn the can over and give it a nice push to squash the base flat.
Take the can out and you've got a seedling pot.
I like to fold the top down because it strengthens the pot, but you don't have to.

Now you've got some seedling pots that can go right into the ground! And you've recycled newspapers. And you're growing plants for the bees.

Speaking of recycling, I'd like to introduce you to Hobo Frog, an advocate for recycling and conservation. Check out this song about Hobo Frog's adventures, written by my back-beyond-the-hayfield neighbor, Trish Engelhard. (really. go to the end of the hayfield, walk down the dirt road, take a left, then a right, go past the pond where Hobo Frog lives and you're practically to her house!)

Friday, April 17, 2020

Rachel Carson and Ecology for Kids

Rachel Carson and Ecology for Kids: Her Life and Ideas, with 21 Activities and Experiments 
by Rowena Rae
144 pages; ages 9 - 12
Chicago Review Press, 2020

With Earth Day coming ‘round the bend, I couldn’t help but grab this new book about Rachel Carson out of my book basket. It’s part of the For Kids series, fun books that feature hands-on activities and experiments.

About 100 years ago, a 14-year-old girl grabbed her notebook, camera, and lunch and headed off to the woods with her dog. That girl was Rachel Carson, a curious kid who wanted to know the names of all the trees and discover which birds were nesting in them. Rachel wanted to pursue science, not an easy path for a woman in the 1920s. But she persisted, doing research at Woods Hole and eventually working with the Bureau of Fisheries – not as a biologist, but writing radio scripts for a series called “seven-minute fish tales.” She kept writing, and eventually got hired as an aquatic biologist, writing and editing reports and information sheets.

Carson loved the sea and was lucky enough to get a grant allowing her to do research and work on her book, The Sea Around Us. After the war, technology brought many new inventions to the market, from kitty litter to bug sprays. Rachel became worried about one widely used chemical, dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT). She was interested in how the pesticide affected wildlife, and learned that the poison accumulated in birds and other animals.

When Rachel began writing Silent Spring, she used metaphors and anecdotes to connect the important findings from chemistry, biology, and statistics to readers’ emotions. She wanted readers to understand that people depend on things that nature provides, such as pollinators, water filtration, and other “ecosystem services” and need to protect it. Her writing inspired a generation of women scientists and environmental writers; you can meet one, Rebecca E. Hirsch, over at the Grog Blog on Wednesday.

The hands-on activities range from writing nature-inspired haiku to examining food webs, making a worm farm to identifying the ecological services of a tree. Back matter includes a glossary, resources to explore – including places to visit – and chapter notes.

If you're looking for picture books about Rachel Carson, check out these posts here and here.

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 copy provided by the publisher.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Explore Outdoors ~ a rainy day nature walk

April is a rainy month - but you can still explore nature. Whether it's your backyard or front walk, or even plants growing on your balcony, you're sure to see some beauty in nature. Here's my backyard rainy day nature break...

Friday, April 10, 2020

You're Invited to a Moth Ball!

You're Invited to a Moth Ball: A Nighttime Insect Celebration 
by Loree Burns; illus by Ellen Harasimowicz
40 pages; ages 5 - 8
Charlesbridge, 2020

theme: insects, STEAM, summer

You don’t know what a moth ball is? Please come anyway! You can learn as we go.

A moth ball, it turns out, isn’t a dance with tuxedos and long gowns. It’s a night-time party that celebrates moths! And this newest book by Loree Burns shows how you can get involved. You don’t need much: a light source, some moth food, and about a ton of curiosity. Ellen Harasimowicz provides wonderful photos of kids searching for moths and a moth-collecting station.

What I like about this book: It’s about bugs! I love the title page, designed as an invitation with an RSVP at the bottom. I love the playful approach: we’re going to have a ball! And I like the back matter where you can find out more about moths, how to set up your very own moth ball, and a recipe for moth bait. Loree includes an author’s note about raising moth eggs, and Ellen shares some notes about photographing moths.

Loree graciously answered One Question by email earlier this week:

Archimedes: Of all the moths you've met during your evening "Moth Balls", do you have any favorites? And what is it about them that you find so fascinating?

Loree: It's truly hard to pick a favorite moth, partly because there are so many fascinating and unexpected species and partly because I've only seen a tiny subset of the ones I know are out there. I am sure I'll have a different answer to this question at the end of the summer moth-watching season.

rosy maple moth ~ cute, fuzzy guy!
That said, I have a special affection for the rosy maple moth. It's the moth that first surprised me, because I stumbled on one during the day (it was resting on a daisy stem, and I happened to be in the garden cutting daisies) and because it is gorgeous. I've heard people call them cotton candy moths, and I think it's an appropriate moniker for a creature so yellow and pink! The other appealing characteristic of the rosy maple moth is that they're super common. Now that I routinely have lights on in my yard at night, I see them all the time. So it's a moth beginners can expect to see, too.

Beyond the Books:

Check out the differences between moths and butterflies at this page hosted by the Australian Museum.

Young moth-watchers can collect important data to help scientists understand more about moths. Here’s one study done by Grant, and here’s how you can get involved as a citizen scientist during National Moth Week.

Go mothing! Here’s tips to get you started from Science Friday.

Loree 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, April 8, 2020

Explore Outdoors ~ checking the floral "wildlife"

Early spring brings yellow flowers to our neck of the woods. The first ones, shaggy and looking like dandelions, are called "Coltsfoot" for the shape of the leaves that will eventually emerge. And of course there are the soft, gray "wildcats" clinging to branches of trees. As spring progresses, they begin to open.

Friday, April 3, 2020

Play Like an Animal!

Play Like an Animal!: Why Critters Splash, Race, Twirl, and Chase 
by Maria Gianferrari; illus. by Mia Powell
32 pages; ages 5 - 9
Millbrook Press, 2020

theme: animal behavior, play

Dash! Hide! Splash! Ride! 

Do you like to play? Animals do, too. When animals play, they might be practicing how to hunt, how to fight, or how to escape from predators. Or – they might just be having fun. From mud-splashing peccaries to a wolf pup tug-of-war, Marie Gianferrari shows thirteen different animals at play.

What I like love about this book: I love the VERBS! These animals plonk, chase, slide and glide. They dunk and punch, bound and wrestle. So much action happens on these pages that you just want to get up and move!

And I love the Back Matter! This is where we learn whether animals play by the rules and why play is so important to animals – and humans. And there are plenty of fun facts about each of the animals featured in the book.

I caught up with Maria by email to ask her One Question ~

Archimedes: Do you think it's important for grown-ups to play?

Maria: I don't play enough, but I'm about to start another jigsaw puzzle. They're so meditative! And play is the perfect stress reliever, so my motto is #playeveryday, for both kids and adults. I hope that staying at home is leading to playing at home!

Beyond the Books:

Find out more about the games animals play. You can read an article here, and watch some wolf pups playing here.

Modify your favorite games to play indoors. We played sock-hockey in the kitchen, using rolled newspapers as hockey sticks. How about balloon volleyball? Tape mazes? Duck-duck-goose or hide-and-seek? Here are some ideas for active indoor play – and here’s more.

Make up some active games to play when you are stuck inside your house for a month. And share your list with your friends.

Write a list of VERBS that describe the ways you play. Do you squirm? Chase? Tumble? Race?

Maria 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, April 1, 2020

Explore Outdoors ~ Fooling around with Acorn Caps

I am finding all sorts of things in the yard: bark bits covered with lichen, pine cones, and lots of acorn caps left behind when squirrels took off with the nuts. They may look like nature's debris to us, but did you know that acorn caps make the perfect hats for finger puppets? Or dishes for clothespin dolls?

 Acorn caps also make fantastic fairy castles. Balance one on top of the other and ~ voila!

Or make a Bug Village. Directions here.

Paint numbers on them, put in a cup, give a shake, and pour 'em out to create a game. What are the rules? Not to worry, you'll make 'em up as you go.

If you've got ends of candles, melt the wax and fill up the acorn caps - add a short wick to each - and you've got tiny candle boats.

And if things are too quiet, try making an acorn cap into a whistle. Directions here.(full disclosure: I have yet to get my acorn caps to whistle)