Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Explore Outsoors ~ Golden Leaves


October leaves
turn sunlight into gold ~
This week, go leaf-looking. Some trees may be turning brilliant colors; others may not change colors until later in the fall. 
  • Collect leaves of different colors.
  • Notice their shapes.
  • Look at their edges. Are they smooth? Jagged?
  • Grab a crayon and piece of paper and make a leaf rubbing. 
  • Press some leaves. 
  • Write a haiku or other poem about leaves you see.

Friday, October 15, 2021

Nature is Always Changing

Night Becomes Day: Changes in Nature 
by Cynthia Argentine 
32 pages; ages 5-8 
Millbrook Press, 2021

theme: change, nature

Night becomes day / Flower becomes fruit. Nature is always at work, transforming.

Some changes are small. Some are big, like the creation of a canyon from years of river erosion. Some changes take place quickly, while others take weeks, months, or years. Some changes bring about a burst of color; other changes happen deep within the earth, but no matter where they happen or how long they take, they transform our environment.

What I like about this book: I like how Cynthia gently invites readers to think about change, and leads them to notice the changes that are taking place in the world around them. I like how she compares and contrasts change, using opposites and plenty of verbs. Colorful photos highlight the beauty and transformative power of the changes she writes about. And There Is Back Matter! Curious naturalists of all ages can dive deeper into the beaches and canyons, deserts and forests, and even snowflakes that Cynthia introduces in the text.

Cynthia was kind enough to answer One Question about her book:

Me: This book is about how things in nature are transformed over time. Can you tell us how your book transformed over time, from initial draft to final copy?

Cynthia: Right from the beginning, I structured the book around six pairs of opposite changes—small/big, quick/slow, hot/cold, and so on—choosing examples for each pair from the same branch of science. I used a beach as my first example of change, since beaches were a favorite place for me as a child, and a bit magical. I wanted to end the book with something else that seems magical, so I chose the imagery of a delicate, starry snowflake drifting down. Over time, the book transformed and half of the pairs of opposites changed! My editor at Millbrook Press, Carol Hinz, suggested I use “science-y” terms for all the pairs. This would make them more consistent and allow tighter curricular connections. My original “familiar/mysterious” became “above/below,” while still describing the same transformations—clouds and caves. 

The story’s opening also changed. Originally, I had: “Every morning, we wake to a world of change, where nature is the hidden transformer.” As I experimented with different ways into the story, I latched onto the cyclical quality of change. I thought of the rhythm of day and night, and of the life cycles of common plants. I liked that I could describe both of those with very few words: “Night becomes day. Flower becomes fruit. Nature is always at work, transforming.” Once I had that opening, I knew I wanted to reverse the order to close the book, mimicking the cycles themselves. The book ends as fruit becomes flower, and day becomes night. And I nodded to my original lead in my final line: “What wonders will tomorrow bring?”

Beyond the Books:
As we head toward winter (here in the northern hemisphere) there are many changes in nature surrounding us. This week, take time to notice some of those changes. What do you notice about:
  • plants growing in your neighborhood
  • clouds and weather
  • rocks, sidewalks, and roads
  • places where water collects
  • raindrops and snowflakes
  • the kinds of birds and insects you see
Check out Cynthia’s interview with Susanna Leonard Hill to learn more about how she wrote this book. Here’s the link.

Cynthia is a member of #STEAMTeam2021. 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, October 13, 2021

Explore Outdoors ~ Woolly Bear Behavior

Broly0, Wikimedia Commons
Woolly bears ~ the fuzzy black and brown caterpillars of the Isabella Tiger moth ~ are on the move. As the days grow shorter and cooler, the fuzzy caterpillars are searching for a place to curl up and hibernate.

My friend, Colleen, is passionate about all things lepidoptera. She stops to help woolly bears across roads whenever she comes upon them. She picks them up and carries them to the other side, in the direction they were headed. And over the past few years, she’s noticed something interesting about the woolly bears in our part of upstate New York.

“Normally, when you pick up a woolly bear, it curls up in your hand,” says Colleen. This is its defense: hide the tasty soft parts of its body and look like a prickly hedgehog to potential predators. “But some of them thrash back and forth.”

Curious, she decided to raise some “thrashers”. She put them in a container with food – pilewort and dandelion leaves – and put a screen on top. Later, she noticed some bullet-shaped pupae. Tachinid flies, perhaps?

Tachinid flies parasitize other caterpillars. The female fly lays an egg on the unsuspecting insect and the larvae grow inside - eating their host from the inside out. Then they drop to the earth and pupate in the soil. Colleen wonders whether tachinid fly parasites might cause the thrashing behavior of the woolly bears.

photo by Colleen Wolpert

A Backyard Citizen Science Project:

You can help collect data. Just pick up any woolly  bear caterpillars you come across and make a few notes:

  • do they curl or thrash?
  • when did you observe this (date)?
  • where were you? 
  • Put your observations in the comments below.

Then, if they were crossing the road, put them on the side where they were headed. 

You don't have to raise any of the "thrashers", but if you want to, make sure to give them fresh food every day – they love nibbling on dandelions and pilewort (shown in the photo). Also put some grass and fall leaves in for them to hide under. Clean out the woolly bear home daily, so moisture doesn't build up and cause mold - and keep a tight cover on the bear cage. You don't want them to escape!

Friday, October 8, 2021

Get a Peek at These Beaks!

A Peek at Beaks: Tools Birds Use 
by Sara Levine; illus. by Kate Slater
32 pages; ages 5-9
Millbrook Press, 2021

theme: birds, adaptation, science

Have you ever imagined you were a bird?

Wings would be cool, for sure. But, as Sara shows, beaks are even more cool because they are built-in tools that can help comb your feathers, scoop up food, and even show how you feel. A puzzle or mystery is presented as a question: What kind of bird has a beak that works as a strainer (or a straw or a net or….)? Take a guess, then flip the page to find out whether you are right.

What I like about this book: I like the Q & A format. And when you flip the page and discover the bird that has the beak that serves that particular purpose, Sara has another surprise. An * that highlights a text box with a list of other birds with that sort of beak. So there are more than one answer! I also like that the last question is what kind of bird uses its beak to show some love… And how you can show some love for the birds – and their amazing beaks. And there is Back Matter! A wonderful explanation of how bird beaks change (evolve) over time, plus some extra reading for kids with birds on the brain.

After peeking at all these beaks I knew I had to ask Sara One Question:

Me: If you were a bird, what kind of beaky tool would you want - and how would you use it?

Sara: What a fun question! My first thought is that I’d want the type of beak that could be used to type, as I have a lot of writing to do. But, on second thought, maybe it’s better to stick with a “realistic” response – one covered in the book. And also a response that is more true for me. So, what I’d want is a beak that can be used to show some love. Readers who want to know which birds have this sort of beak will have to read the book to find out.

Beyond the Books:

What kinds of beaks do birds have in your neighborhood or local park? Sit quietly and watch some birds. Do they have thick beaks? Thin beaks? Long, hooked beaks? Flat spoon-shaped beaks? Draw some of the bird beaks you see.

Eat like a bird. Here’s a fun activity to test different beak types and food. You can add a straw and something slurpy.

Sara is a member of #STEAMTeam2021. 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, October 6, 2021

Explore Outdoors ~ Collect some seeds


This week look for flowers that are going to seed. Seeds come in all kinds of sizes and shapes and textures. Some are tiny and round. Some, like this calendula, look like they have spiky mohawks. Sunflower seeds look like teardrops, while milkweed seeds have silky parachutes. Lupine flowers produce pods that look like tiny, furry bean pods, while poppies make seedheads that look like salt-shakers.

Today, go on a seed-looking walk. If you want to, pull a pair of wool socks over your shoes to collect seeds that cling and hitchhike on animal fur. Collect a few seeds into paper bags. Then, when you get home, plant a few in a garden space where they can grow next spring. 

Friday, October 1, 2021

It's a Bird! It's a Dinosaur! It's Chicken Frank!

 I love dinosaurs - who doesn't! And I love chicken, especially when it's seasoned with .... I mean, I love the diversity of chickens and their personalities, and the cool way they chuckle and talk to each other. So of course I love this brand new out-in-the-world today book: 

Chicken Frank, Dinosaur! 
by S. K. Wenger; illus. by Jojo Ensslin 
32 pages; ages 4-7
Albert Whitman & Company, 2021 

theme: birds, dinosaurs, science

"What’s That?”
“A DNA test. To find another dinosaur, like me!”

Frank is not an ordinary chicken. He’s a chicken who knows his ancestors. And by ancestors, he means dinosaurs. More precisely, theropods – though Frank is pretty sure T. rex is one of his parent’s parent’s parent’s ….. parent. His evidence: three-toed feet, feathers that are modified scales, and an embryonic tail. 

What I like about this book: It is told in dialog, accompanied by chicken-scratched diagrams in the dirt and the occasional ultrasound or chalkboard chart. While it is true that chickens don’t talk (or at least speak English) or lecture on evolution, this book is filled with facts, and it is very, very funny. Also, there is back matter ~ with a discussion of similarities between dinos and chickens as well as some frank facts about evolution and a glossary of Frank’s favorite animal groups (which includes Lepidosaurs! one of my faves, too!).

This book was SO much fun to read that I just had to ask the author, Shaunda Two Questions:

Me: You don’t describe evolution in the text, so our understanding of how birds are related to dinosaurs (and their kin) relies on illustrations. What sort of art notes did you include?

Shaunda: I included three art notes with the original manuscript, and they were very brief and hinted at images the illustrator might draw, like [uses hand lens] to help convey the scale of the content. I wanted the editor to have room to form her own images in her head, rather than try to insert my own ideas which would take her out of the flow of the story. I suspected the editor had a background in science (since she edited these types of books), so I trusted that and kept the art notes to a bare minimum. I wanted the editor to fall in love with the characters first. Any supporting content could be provided as needed. And it was—after the illustrator began his work and the editors began looking more closely at the text. Eventually, they asked for backmatter and a glossary.

Me: What challenges did you face writing a book entirely in dialogue?

Shaunda: It took a “hard push” in the form of a rejection letter from the publisher to get me to write Chicken Frank, Dinosaur! in dialogue. The original manuscript was conceived and drafted in traditional narrative prose with a character arc. However, the publisher wanted the story to move more quickly with snappy dialogue. Through the revise and resubmit process, inserting more dialogue and trimming the narrative with the editor’s guidance didn’t quite mesh with the publisher’s vision. In the end, the original manuscript was scrapped with a rejection. 

I suppose sometimes we creatives need that kind of “hard push.” And it worked for me, because writing the straight dialogue happened in a 3-am wake-up call from my muse shortly thereafter. The dialogue-only draft was written by hand in speedy-fashion in an hour. After some feedback from my critique group, it was ready to go back to the same publisher (although it took me a few months to find courage to do this). But I really believed my new version was exactly what the publisher had been asking for, so I sent it for consideration since we had worked so hard on the original story together. The rest is wonderful history!

For dialogue-only stories, my advice is to write a solid story in narrative-form first. Shape up the character development, arc, and emotional layers with your critique partners. Then transform it into comic-book/graphic novel style. By this stage, you’ll know what definitely needs to be seen in the text and what can be supported by illustrations.

Shaunda is a member of #STEAMTeam2021. You can find out more about her at her website.

Beyond the Books:

Find similarities between a chicken and a dinosaur. Materials needed: a book (or books) showing dinosaurs, and a chicken. If you don’t have a chicken hanging around your house, a good photo will do. Look at their feet and their arms/wings. If you have chicken parts remaining from a meal, look at the bones. Are they hollow inside?

Learn more about how chickens are related to dinos. Here's one place to check out.

Make some dinosaur print cookies with Shaunda! Here’s a video showing how. If you don’t have a dino-foodpring cookie cutter, you can draw one on a cereal box. Then put it on the rolled out cookie dough and cut around the shape with a sharp knife.

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

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Explore Outdoors ~ Goodbye Summer


Last week was the official beginning of fall ~ but sometimes it doesn't feel like fall until we're raking the leaves and pulling our sweaters out from the storage bin.

Signs that summer is over:

  • flowers going to seed
  • petals drying and curling
  • leaves blowing in the wind
  • woolly bears hiking across the sidewalk
  • sun rises later and sets earlier

What are the signs of fall you see in your neighborhood?

Friday, September 24, 2021

What's in Your Pocket?

 My dad is a rock collector. I remember so many summer outings spent at a fossil dig or hiking up a mountain to find one particular kind of stone. Camping adventures were involved. And once home, the rocks were put in boxes or jars and stacked on shelves in his study. So when I heard about this book, I knew I had to check it out. 

What's in Your Pocket?: Collecting Nature's Treasures
by Heather L. Montgomery; illus. by Maribel Lechuga 
48 pages; ages 4-8
Charlesbridge, 2021

theme: curiosity, STEM, biography

When you explore the great outdoors and find something strange and wonderful, do you put it in your pocket?

Scientists do. Scientists collect things so they can observe them more closely. They sort and classify their collections ~ and some of continue collecting through their adult live, haring off on expeditions to add to their – and our - knowledge. In this book, Heather Montgomery shares the stories of nine scientists who, as kids, explored the great outdoors and collected all sorts of treasures, from seedpods to fossils to worms and more!

We meet George Washington Carver, William Beebe, Jane Goodall, and Charles Darwin. We explore alongside a canopy scientist, a herpetologist, an entomologist. Remember Mary Anning? She’s in this book, as is Bonnie Lei, possibly the youngest of the contemporary scientists included.

What I like about this book: I like how Heather begins with something we all have done as kids ~ put something in our pocket to bring home. A treasure to remind us of our day at the beach, a pinecone, nut, stone, flower ... a mouse skull that we want to learn more about. I like how she expands that into a collection, showing how scientists learn through studying collections. And how collecting something might inspire questions that lead to discovery.

I also like the back matter. Maribel Lechuga shares the importance of observation for both scientists and illustrators. And Heather explains more about collecting and offers some guidelines on how to respect nature while collecting samples to study. 

It’s always fun to talk to Heather. But this time I had only One Question for her:

me: What sorts of things have you been carrying about in your pockets lately?

Heather: These are things I've carried in my pockets most recently: 
Twisty twigs
Squishy seed pods
Rocks that roll

It might not be easy to see a pattern in those objects until you learn that I have four young cats. My eyes are seeking things to keep curious cats busy.

I’m also collecting photos and journal drawings of figs and forests and waterfalls. And every once in a while, there’s a bizarre body part that I just have to harvest from a poor animal who lost its life on the side of the road.

Beyond the Books:

What sorts of things from nature do you bring home in your pockets

Do you have a collection of shells or rocks or leaves or insects? How might you go about sorting them? Here’s something Heather wrote about creating a sorting key.

Here are some other ways of “collecting” things from nature without bringing them home:
taking photos
drawing pictures
writing detailed notes
making a recording of sounds 

 You can find out more about Heather  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, September 22, 2021

Explore Outdoors ~ Who is Hiding in the Bok Choy?



A couple weeks ago I was weeding the garden and I noticed a web across the top of the bok choy. A funnel web - you can see the opening of the web forming a funnel down the curvature of the leaf. The spider hides inside the funnel. When an insect lands on the web, the spider will run out and check to see if it's prey. If it is, the spider bites it and the fast-acting venom kills the insect within a couple seconds. Then the spider drags the prey down the funnel before eating. Not only does the funnel affords protection for the spider, but dining indoors prevents other insects from recognizing potential danger.

Funnel spiders are shy, so if you want to get a good look here's how: stand so that the sun is in front of you - you don't want your shadow to scare the spider; and look closely without touching the web.

You can find out more about funnel web weavers here at the Bug Guide. You can find their webs on grass, along hedges, and in the garden. Do you have any in your neighborhood?

Friday, September 17, 2021

Let's Do the Robo-Motion!

Robo-Motion: Robots That Move Like Animals 
by Linda Zajac 
32 pages; ages 4-9
Millbrook Press, 2021

theme: Engineering, animals, STEM

Animals are motion masters. They skitter, scuttle, grip, glide, spring, cling, and more.

In this book, Linda Zajac shows a diversity of robots that mimic animal movements. Octopus-inspired arms could help doctors perform surgeries, hummingbird robots are perfect for spy missions in cities, and the sticky feet of a gecko-bot make it perfect for repairing a spacecraft.

What I like about this book: I like the way each spread begins with motion. For example: “Swoop like a bat, flapping webbed wings.” Verbs highlight the actions that we will see the robot perform. In this case it’s a drone with flexible bat-inspired wings that allow it to dart and turn in flight. I like that there is a photo of the creature on one page, and the facing page has a photo of the robot – so readers can compare the two. And I really like that Linda ends with a challenge for young readers to take a close look at animals around them because the next discovery could be … YOURS! Back matter includes notes about “blueprints from nature” and a glossary.

This book pares down the technical stuff to the basics so well that I knew I just had to ask Linda One Question:

me: Can you share how you came to the structure for this book, presenting the movements of the animal and then how the robot uses those traits to do work for people?

Linda: That’s a great question. Since I was writing about biomimicry, specifically animal locomotion, I knew I wanted the book to include animals, robots, and motion. I considered different structures. I tried to turn it into a counting book and an alphabet book, but it felt like I was forcing the information into a format that didn’t quite work. Since both robots and animals are high-interest subjects, I liked the idea of giving them equal weight. To do this, I needed a line that worked for both, like Hannah Holt's text in The Diamond and the Boy. My first draft was verbose. I eventually pared those lines down to be the simple ones that appear in the book.

When I first sent it out, all the robot information was in the back matter. I was fortunate that my first editorial contact gave me a personal response. She thought the text was too sparse. It was a simple matter to move the robot info out of the back matter and into the main text.

Thanks, Linda! . 

Beyond the Books:

Observe an animal for a few minutes. Make a list of words that describe how it moves. Try moving like the animal moves. Then design a robot that could make those kinds of motions.

Build a scribble bot. All you need are some markers, a cup, and a motor – and lots of tape. Here's how to make it.

Check out these other books about robots and biomimicry here: two books about engineering and biomimicryEverything Robotics, and Cool Robots series

Linda is a member of #STEAMTeam2021. You can find out more about her at her blog.

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, September 15, 2021

Explore Outdoors ~ at night


This week, explore your backyard at night. Or, if you are able to, take a walk around a park after the sun sets. The world is different. It sounds different, it feels different - it even smells different. Quiet rustles in the grass sound louder. Different animals are out and about: bats, moths, and around here, coyotes.

Write down the things you notice at night. Then, if you have the opportunity, go back in the daytime and write down what you notice. 

Need inspiration? Check out this post by my friend and colleague, Leslie Collin Tribble.

Friday, September 10, 2021

Armchair Space Camp

 Here are three books that will take you out of your daily orbit and send you on an adventure. And over at Sally's Bookshelf, I'm sharing a fun picture book about one of the rovers: Good Night, Oppy!

themes: nonfiction, space, Mars

Mars Is: Stark Slopes, Silvery Snow, and Startling Surprises 
by Suzanne Slade 
48 pages; ages 6-10 
‎Peachtree, 2021

People have wondered about the mysterious planet of Mars for centuries.

Scientists built a powerful camera and sent it on a journey to take photos of Mars. The photos it sent back to Earth showed us that Mars is buried bedrock, bubbling gas, and mighty mesas. But it is so much more. 

What I like about this book: Each page highlights a feature of the Martian landscape, with a stunning photo spread and details about the landscape feature. Readers are treated to diverse and astonishing landscapes, from sandy, windswept dunes to steep cliffs and canyons. But on Mars, the landscape isn’t static. It is shifting, rearranging, and constantly changing.

Back matter explains the HiRISE camera mission, a sophisticated bit of technology that is still orbiting Mars and sending back photos. This is a perfect book for young people who are following NASA’s Mars Exploration Program and awaiting further discoveries on the Red Planet.

Beyond: Discoveries from the Outer Reaches of Space 
by Miranda Paul; illus. by Sija Hong 
32 pages; ages 5-9
Millbrook Press, 2021

We know much about the mountains and oceans of Earth, spinning with us around the flaring Sun.

We know some things about the moon and asteroids, and we’ve swooped by Jupiter and Neptune. But we don’t know much about the outer reaches of space. In this book, Miranda Paul pulls us out of our comfy orbit, past the Kuiper belt, through the icy, comet-throwing Oort cloud and into “dark realms where gemstones fall from the sky.”

Along the way we pass dying nebulae, skirt the dangers of a black hole, and maybe, just maybe reach the edge of our known, observable universe

What I like about this book:
The poetic language on each page just draws you into the sense of exploration. In the back matter, Miranda explains the science behind each poem. She also provides an extended return address for anyone who would mail a letter to another world (in this or any other universe), and tells how long it would take for that letter to be delivered at the speed of light. Though, she warns, Space Mail does not guarantee delivery.

Rocket Science: A Beginner’s Guide to the Fundamentals of Spaceflight 
by Andrew Rader; illus. by Galen Frazer 
64 pages; ages 10 - 14
‎Candlewick, 2020

Author Andrew Rader is an aerospace engineer, so he knows his rocket science. He opens the book with an explanation of gravity – which is good, because so many of us depend on gravity to keep our planet orbiting around the sun. After a quick introduction to the solar system, it dives into the meat of the material: how rocket engines work, orbits, guidance and navigation. We learn how to get to the moon – and to Mars – and then look at some of the space vehicles headed out beyond the asteroid belt. A fun map at the back shows where “selected spacecraft” are located in our Solar System. A great reference so we don’t crash into them as we blast towards the outer reaches of space… There’s also a glossary and some websites for further exploration.

Beyond the Books:

Write a poem about a planet or something else in space. Or write about living on an alien planet. If you need inspiration, here’s photos of places on Earth that look otherworldly.

Check out images from Mars  at the NASA website.

Try one of the activities posted at the NASA Space Place for kids

Head over to Sally's Bookshelf for a fun new book about the Mars rover, Opportunity ~ and lots more activities. Today we're joining Perfect Picture Book Friday. It’s a wonderful gathering where bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's website. Review copies provided by the publishers.

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Explore Outdoors ~ Watching the Season Change


Last week I noticed a splash of red on my lawn (well, the mix of plantain and clovers and grass that pass for a lawn). It was ... gasp! a RED leaf!

Wait! It's too early for fall to come! And then I looked up at the trees. This was not the only leaf shedding its summer greens. The next morning a flock of geese honked loudly as they flew overhead, further punctuating the certain demise of summer.

Over the next two weeks, take a moment to notice what changes are happening in nature around you as Earth tilts towards the autumnal equinox.

  • have the daytime and night temperatures changed?
  • what do you notice about the bird songs you're hearing?
  • what color are the flowers along roadsides and edges of parks?
  • does the air smell different?
  • check for a new constellation in the sky.
  • do you see flocks of birds or butterflies heading south?

Friday, September 3, 2021

Mary Anning's Curiosities

I love fossils! I have an ammonite on my desk, and I think my first book was my dad’s geology textbook – it was filled with black-and-white photos and drawings fossils and dinosaurs. So I’ve been wanting to read this book a long, long time.

Dinosaur Lady: The Daring Discoveries of Mary Anning, the First Paleontologist 
by Linda Skeers; illus. by Marta Álvarez Miguéns 
40 pages; ages 4-8
Sourcebooks Explore, 2020

theme: fossils, biography, nonfiction

Mary Anning dodged high tides and crashing waves to scout the beach near her hometown of Lyme Regis, England.

Basket in hand, Mary is searching for fossils ~ “curiosities” that people will pay money for. Then one morning, she and her brother saw bone with an eye socket. They chiseled away dirt and stone, exposing a skull! Mary wanted to find the creature’s body so she continued searching. Day after day. Week after week. Month after month.

What I like about this book: Mary Anning is curious about her curiosities. She wants to know more, so she studies papers, draws the fossils she finds, and even cuts some open. People think these fossils are of Monsters! But Mary isn’t afraid – she keeps hunting for more. 
I like how author Linda Skeers depicts Mary and the society she lives in. Even as scientists study her fossils, they refuse to admit her to the Geological Society of London. Women are NOT ALLOWED. 

There is great back matter, too. “Bone Bits and Fossil Facts” is filled with tidbits of info and definitions of some of the words in the book. And there’s a wonderful timeline

Beyond the Books:

Find out more about Mary Anning at the Natural History Museum in London.

Make your own fossils. Here’s how (from PBS). And here’s 25 more fun fossil activities.

Learn more about ichthyosaurs in this National Geographic video.

Today we're joining Perfect Picture Book Friday, an event where bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's website. Review from library copy.

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Explore Outdoors ~ Water Droplet Magnifier


Yesterday morning I was out in the garden watching bees, and I happened to notice water droplets clinging to the hairy lupine leaves. When I looked closer, I could see how the droplet in the center worked as a magnifier. Got me thinking about times when I've dripped water onto a page of the New Yorker, and how the print was magnified.

Water droplets make fine magnifiers - and if you took a trip in the Way-Back machine you would find some scientists using water droplets as microscopes. So why not make your own water-droplet magnifier? All you need is water and some plastic. You can use clear plastic from an old soda bottle or even hard plastic that was used in packaging for batteries or something.

Here's some fun experiments from Scientific American.

And here's a video, with an idea of how to use a water droplet to turn your cell phone camera into a macro lens.

Have fun!

Friday, August 27, 2021

Two Great Bug Books

Over on my Facebook page I’ve been posting photos of flies every week – for Happy Fly Day! So how did I get to the end of summer having posted only one book about insects? Well, I shall rectify the situation immediately! Here are two very fun-to-read books from my library system.

theme: insects, nature, STEM

The Bug Girl: A True Story 
by Sophia Spencer with Margaret McNamara; illus. by Kerascoët 
44 pages; ages 4-8
Schwartz & Wade, 2020

The first time I made friends with a bug, I was two and a half years old.

Turns out, kids think bugs are cool. Until someone tells them they aren’t. Sophie was one of those kids who thinks bugs are the best thing this side of a popsicle on a hot August afternoon. She read bug books like other kids read story books. While her friends watched cat videos, Sophie watched bug videos. And all was well until first grade… when some big kids told her she was weird and stomped on her grasshopper.

OK – let’s take a break here. Stomping on somebody’s friend is not cool, no matter how many legs they have.

What I like about this book: I love how Sophie’s mom supports her arthropod-passion. Mom connects with entomologists by email, asking for one of them to be a “bug pal”. I love the enthusiastic responses from entomologists – because, really, we are all eager to share our love of bugs with anyone! And I love the back matter! Sophie explains bugs and arthropods, provides some cool bug facts, shares her top four bugs, and gives a bunch of tips for how to study bugs in the wild.

I give this book 5 fireflies – which look kind of like stars (at night. Otherwise they look just like beetles. Which they are.).

The Bug Book
by Sue Fliess 
32 pages; ages 3-5
‎Grosset & Dunlap, 2016

Grab your bucket. Check your guide. Let’s go find some bugs outside.

Using rhyme, this book introduces a diversity of insects, worms, spiders, and other “bugs.”

What I like about this book: It’s fun to read. It’s filled with gorgeous photos of bugs. And it has a “don’t squish bugs” message.

Beyond the Books:

What’s your favorite bug? Draw a picture of it.

Go on a bug hike. Take along a hand lens, a camera, or just your curiosity. Look for bugs that hang out in yards, on or near trees, on flowers, in sidewalk cracks, at the park, in a stream. Write a poem about one of the bugs you find. Or write a letter to your bug.

Print out a Bug Bingo card and go for a walk. Take a pencil or crayon to check off the bugs you find. You can find a simple bingo card at Mass Audubon, or a bigger one at the Ann Arbor Hands-on Museum.

We’ll join Perfect Picture Book Friday once they resume. It’s a wonderful gathering where bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's website. Review from books checked out at my library.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Explore Outdoors ~ Early morning spiderwebs

 The best time to find spiderwebs is early morning. Especially on foggy days! On this day grass spider webs filled neighborhood lawns like patchwork squares on a quilt, and orb webs filled spaces between plants, fence posts, even the railings on the bridge. What kinds of spiderwebs do you find in your neighborhood?

Friday, August 20, 2021

Books that explore Math

Warning: School days are closer than they look on the calendar! So today I’m sharing two books that brush up on math concepts in a fun way. The first takes us deep into the rainforest.

theme: math, biodiversity, comparisons

Tree of Wonder: The Many Marvelous Lives of a Rainforest Tree
by Kate Messner; illus by Simona Mulazzani
pages 36 ; ages 5-8
Chronicle Books, paperback edition, 2020

Deep in the forest, in the warm-wet green, ONE ALMENDRO TREE grows, stretching its branches toward sun.

Flip a page and it’s two macaws, then four toucans, then eight howler monkeys. Can you see a pattern here? There are snakes, frogs, butterflies, and ants! So many cool animals to look at and count.

What I like about this book: Three-quarters of the spread is given to lyrical text and detailed illustrations of the tree and the animals that live in and around it. Then a panel shows the number (four), the correct number of animals (four toucan icons), and an additional layer of text providing more facts about the animal. I love how the last page brings it all back together: 

Life multiplies again and again … in this ONE ALMENDRO TREE.

Back matter provides more information about the Almendro tree, more playing around with math, and resources to read, watch, and explore for kids who want to know more about the rainforest.

Comparisons Big and Small
by Clive Gifford; illus. by Ana Seixas
48 pages; ages 5 and up
Kane Miller, 2020

 Did you know that a spinner dolphin can jump higher than a double-decker bus?

If you’re looking for a fun way to introduce comparisons, this book is filled with ‘em. Each spread focuses on one type of comparison: length, speed, weight. What I like about this book is that it is browseable – perfect for the kid who wants to dive in at random and explore a page. Vertical spreads offer interactive ways to interact with the book. And there are plenty of “quick quizzes” scattered throughout. Some of my favorite sections are about bugs, comparing countries, being a dino detective, and space stuff. For sports buffs there’s a section about record-breaking throws, and lots of comparisons on how fast animals can run and how high they can jump.

Beyond the Books:

How fast can you run?
Mark a starting place on the sidewalk or playground, then have a friend with a watch time you for 10 seconds. Measure the distance you covered. Then compare how far you went in that time to how far other animals can go: a caterpillar? your cat or dog? a beetle?

Compare the heights of people in your home or classroom. Compare how far people can throw a tennis ball. What other things can you compare?

Try some doubling math. Get one hundred things to use as counters: dry beans, pennies, macaroni elbows, beads, legos. Then line up five or six bowls. Put two counters in the first bowl. Then put four in the next. Double that number for bowl # 3. When do you run out of counters? Bonus: if you got a penny on the first day of September, and every day after that you got double the number of pennies (day 2 = 2 pennies, day 3 = 4 and so on) how much money would you have by the end of the month?

We’ll join Perfect Picture Book Friday once they resume. It’s a wonderful gathering where bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's website. Review copies provided by the publishers.