Friday, April 30, 2021

So You Want to be a Cyberspy?

Cyberspies: Inside the World of Hacking, Online Privacy, and Cyberterrorism 
by Michael Miller 
120 pages; ages 11-18
Twenty-First Century Books/Lerner, 2021

In this book, Michael Miller provides a primer on cyberspying. He shows how digital threats are used against individuals, businesses, and entire governments. Each chapter focuses on a specific aspect of cyber threats, and includes steps you can take to protect yourself.

The first chapter takes readers into the world of cyberintelligence – and yes, there are jobs for those who are interested.  He gives a glimpse into cyber command at NSA. From there, he shows how people can use computers to legally search government records, news archives, and more. He contrasts that with a chapter describing how people use computers to obtain private – and in some cases secret – information. They often employ phishing emails to obtain access to business and government secrets.

A pair of chapters take a close look at cyberspying and politics. Miller shows how individuals and government entities have used digital technologies to hack elections. He pays particular attention to the 2016 election in the United States, the fake twitter accounts and propaganda spread through social media. And he answers the question: Which is more hackable – voting machines or mail-in ballots? He also defines the difference between real “fake news” (propaganda and outright lies) versus the tendency for some people to label real news as “fake” when they don’t like it. And he discusses why some people are more prone to fall for fake news/propaganda than others. Miller knows his stuff, because a couple years ago he published an entire book about Fake News, reviewed here.

Miller discusses cyberattacks against businesses and governments. Hospitals have lost access to their computers, tying up admissions and patient care for hours. Towns, school districts, and library systems have been held hostage to ransomware attacks. The perpetrators are usually criminals extorting victims for money.

Cyberterrorism is a broader attack on a country or region’s systems and infrastructure. These attacks, backed by governments, tend to go after power grids, telecommunication systems, financial institutions, and other systems. The goal is to destabilize the society and create chaos. Miller documents cases of cyberwarfare.

The need for cybersecurity has skyrocketed leading Miller to close with a chapter on career advice for potential cyberspies.

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 28, 2021

Explore Outdoors ~ Sit and Listen


There is so much happening during this season. Forsythia blooming, dandelions and violets popping up all over my yard. And birds everywhere: drumming on dead trees, calling from the hayfield, honking overhead. So about ten days ago I stood outside my house, in a nice sunny spot, and just listened. 

And I made a sound map. (here's how)

Notice - this time I jotted down the date, and even the time and temperature. And there'e even a minute flying insect squashed on the page (top left) - not that I intended the little guy any harm... just meant to brush it away.

This week take a listening break. What do you hear?

Friday, April 23, 2021

Chilling Out on Hot Summer Days

 SummerTime Sleepers 
by Melissa Stewart; illus. by Sarah Brannen 
40 pages; ages 6-9
Charlesbridge, 2021

theme: animals, adaptations, summer

Yawn, stretch, blink!
As warm weather spreads across the land, hibernating animals spring to life.

But not these animals! When it gets hot, they look for cool spots to sleep away the summer. It’s like hibernation, but it’s called estivation. Spread by spread, Melissa Stewart and Sarah Brannen show how different animals – from insects to herps* to fish to mammals – snuggle up for a cool summer nap.
(*"herp" is a collective term for amphibians and reptiles.)

What I like about this book: I love the compare/contrast structure: some animals slumber together, others alone. Some go high, others burrow underground. I also like the diversity, across different classes of animals. Of course, I love that there are ladybugs and butterflies, but I’m also a big fan of spotted turtles and – until now – I did not know they estivated. I love Sarah Brannen’s artwork, and how she adds the “nature field sketches” to the spreads. She brings these animals to life – er, to sleep! And of course there is back matter. Melissa includes more details about the personal lives of each animal, plus an explanation about how estivation and hibernation are similar.

Melissa edited Nonfiction Writers Dig Deep, and throughout that book she emphasized the connections nonfiction writers make with their topics. So I only had One Question for her:

me: What was the emotional connection that supplied the creative spark to bring Summertime Sleepers to life? 

this is Emile!
: Summertime Sleepers: Animals that Estivate was 10 years in the making, and if it weren’t for the enthusiasm of my nephew, Emile, I might have given up long ago. When I began writing the book, Emile had a beloved pet leopard gecko. When I told him that, in the wild, leopard geckos estivate, he was fascinated. He couldn’t wait to see his favorite animal featured in a book. Back then, neither of us realized how long it would take. For all those years, he kept me personally invested.

Beyond the Books:

Find out more about estivation. Here's an article about animals that estivate, and here's another one.

Learn more about an animal that snoozes away the hottest parts of summer – and where they shelter. If you live in the northeast, check out mourning cloak butterflies and spotted turtles. If you live in the arid part of the US check out yellow-bellied marmots, California tiger salamanders, and ladybugs.

Build your own summertime snoozing shelter for really hot days. Would it be a burrow? a lean-to shaded by a tree? Or maybe a sunflower house that you grow – here’s how.

Melissa is a member of #STEAMTeam2021. She’s an award-winning author with more than 180 books to her credit. 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 21, 2021

Explore Outdoors ~ spring trees


Tomorrow is Earth Day. Traditionally, it's a day set aside for environmental clean-ups, hikes, recycling awareness, and tree hugging. So I headed outside to hug my trees - and get some photos of them nearly one month into "official" spring (last week's snow aside..)

This is a good week to check on what the trees are up to in your neighborhood. Are they leafing out? Flowering? Are birds nesting in them? Have their twig-ends been nibbled by hungry deer? 

Give them a hug and wish them Happy Earth Day.

Friday, April 16, 2021

Birds Show Off Their Finery

Bird Show
by Susan Stockdale
32 pages; ages 2-6
Peachtree Publishing Company, 2021

theme: birds, art

I soar through the sky and like birds everywhere, I’m decked out in feathers and wear them with flair.

Welcome to the plumage fashion show! In this book, 18 brilliantly dressed birds show off their jackets, skirts, aprons, and headdresses. Well … at least they show off their wing bars, frilly feathers, long tails, and feathery crowns.

What I like about this book: The lyrical, rhyming text is fun to read aloud and emphasizes the “clothing-like” aspects of birds’ coloration. Susan’s paintings are bold and highlight texture and structure of the feather features. Through it all, she shows that birds, like people, are a vibrant and diverse lot.

And there is back matter! After explaining that birds are the only animals with feathers, she provides additional information about each bird featured in the book. She also includes a “match the pattern to the bird” activity.

Beyond the Books:

Author-illustrator Susan Stockdale gives a peek into her illustration process for Bird Show. Watch here. 

Head outside to watch the Bird Show in your neighborhood or local park. What birds do you see? What “fashions” are they showing off?

Draw and color in your own “showy” bird. It can be a real bird or you can create your own. Here are some ideas to get you going. Find showy tail feathers here.  Here’s a post at Cornell’s All About Birds showing feather colors.

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 14, 2021

Explore Outdoors ~ Trees that Bark!


A few weeks ago we hiked at a local nature preserve. I enjoyed comparing some of the bark textures. This looks like difficult terrain for an ant to navigate...

This week, pay attention to trees that live around you. Get to know their bark. Look up and see what their world looks like above.

Friday, April 9, 2021

Itsy-Bitsy Spiders....

April is national poetry month, so it’s only appropriate that I feature a book written in poetry. Or maybe it’s required… I seem to have misplaced my “rules for reviewing kid’s books”. And because I love critters with multiple jointed appendages, I present:

Spi-ku: A Clutter of Short Verse on Eight Legs
by Leslie Bulion; illus. by Robert Meganck 
48 pages; ages 8-12 
Peachtree Publishing Company, 2021  

“From leafy treetop to forest floor …” and places in between and beyond, We Spy Spiders! Some are busy weaving webs, others riding silk balloons through the air, and yet others on the prowl. There are happy spiders, diving spiders, dancing spiders, and social spiders. 

So Many Spiders to love! Each spread features poems and information about the spiders. Things like how they kill and digest their prey, engage in foolery – and even how they become prey themselves. (I have not eaten any spiders so I cannot speak to how they taste…)

Leslie includes lots of wonderful Back Matter (and you know how I love back matter!). There’s a glossary, some spider identification notes and suggestions for further study. She also includes an activity: how to hunt for spiders at night. And she provides some notes on the poetic forms she uses. Here are four she highlights, with links so you can try writing some poems about spiders – or anything you want to write about – yourself:
A couple weeks ago Leslie and a bunch of us hung out at the GROG Blog to talk about why we love bugs. You can read what she said here. And you can learn more about Leslie and the fun books she writes at her website 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 7, 2021

Explore Outdoors ~ Flowers!


I love how daffodils look like sunbursts popping out of our front yard. When you get close enough to look at them face-to-face, you realize they have a sunny personality as well!

Take a close look at an early spring flower this week. What do you notice? What sort of personality does your flower exude?

Friday, April 2, 2021

Build Your Own Bug!


How to Build an Insect 
by Roberta Gibson; illus. by Anne Lambelet 
32 pages; ages 5-9
Millbrook Press, 2021 

theme: nature, insects, art

Let’s build an insect. Where should we start?

That is a good question! And entomologist, Roberta Gibson starts at a most logical place: the head. After all, every insect needs a head…and then a thorax (like your chest) … and then an abdomen. Instead of a skeleton like us, insects wear their skeletons on the outside, like armor. After we get the body parts put together, it’s time to add the fun stuff: wings, legs, mouthparts, and eyes.

What I like about this book: Page-by-page, as we put an insect together, Roberta adds fun details. Like special feet that allow an insect to walk upside down, or eye types, or details about antennae. And the illustrations are spot-on! Of course there’s back matter (and you know by now that’s the first thing I look for)! Roberta provides more details about insect body parts and a STEAM activity.

I’ve known Roberta for a number of years; we both review STEM books and are passionate about insects. Turns out we have both done our share of ant-watching, and she has a blog devoted entirely to ants, appropriately named Wild About Ants.

So I had to ask her One Question … OK, two:

me: What has insect-watching taught you about life or writing?

Roberta: Probably the best lesson I’ve learned from insects is that they don’t look like us or act like us, but we should appreciate them. They are unusual, and beautiful, and – under a microscope – particularly amazing. Magnified, they look like art with their colors, designs, and textures.

me: So what inspired a book about building your own insect?

Roberta: My entomology professor would sometimes prank us by creating a “franken-insect” for us to identify on a test. He once glued a praying mantis head on a beetle’s body. I’ve built my own share of insects from recycled materials and even from fruit. I hope my book will encourage readers to use their creativity.

To find out more about how Roberta wrote her book, check out this post on “First Draft to Final Book”
And then hop over to the GROG Blog where she and I and a bunch of other arthropod-loving writers chat about why we love to write about bugs.

Beyond the Books:

Fold a milkweed bug . Instructions for folding an origami (or mostly origami) bug here.

Build a Bug. You'll find tons of insect craft ideas from paper-chain caterpillars to clothespin bugs here. Just ignore the snail – snails aren’t insects! 

For a closer look at insects, you need a bug box. You can make one from recycled containers with lids (yogurt or cottage-cheese containers, clear plastic bottles, carboard or plastic milk cartons). Here’s the instructions. They list “wire mesh” – but think: old window screen instead. You can substitute netting if you have that. 

Make your own edible insect! Here’s a few ideas for using fruits and veggies to make bug-snacks.

Roberta is a member of #STEAMTeam2021. You can find out more about her at her website.  She's written a few scientific papers - you can find them here.

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