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 Kerasco√ęt 
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.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Explore Outdoors ~ a Bug's Eye View of the World


Sometimes I need to see the world from a different perspective. Like... how a beetle might see things. So I look at it from ground-level. This mushroom was one among many that had fruited at a highway rest stop after a week of unrelenting rain. I love how the gills look like pages of a book.

On the other hand, if I were a bird, this is what I'd see:

 This week, look at nature in and around you from a different point of view.

Friday, August 13, 2021

Explore the World of Birds


Birds: Explore Their Extraordinary World
by Miranda Krestovnikoff; illus by Angela Harding
64 pages; ages 6 and up
Bloomsbury Children's Books, 2021

Birds have conquered every continent on Earth, making homes in almost every habitat, from the freezing-cold polar regions to the lush tropics.

Chapters introduce readers to groups of birds, from Birds of Prey (eagles, owls, hawks) to sea birds – waders, soarers, and those that live in extreme climates. There’s a chapter about flightless birds, one focusing on tree dwellers, and one on passerines (perching birds). There’s even a nod to garden birds.

Other chapters focus on specific adaptations: feathers, beaks, nests, song, and migration. The book ends with what I think is a too-short section on urban birds, since those are some of the birds many of us see out and about the city.

What I like about this book: Though it’s filled with facts and makes an excellent reference, this book doesn’t feel encyclopedic. And the illustrations – linocuts – are stunning. This is a book that will inspire some kids to dive into learning more about birds. I suggest you pop this book in a bag along with the National Geographic Kids Ultimate Explorer Field Guide: Birds and a pair of binoculars. Then head out for an hour of birding at the park.

Beyond the Book:

Get to know the birds that live in your neighborhood. Early morning is a good time to watch and listen. Keep a notebook nearby so you can jot down notes about what birds you see – or, if you’re like me, what they look like (so you can look for them in a field guide later).

Check out this great resource for learning about birds: All About Birds. It’s got info on how to identify birds, where they nest, their songs and calls, what they eat, and more.

Build a bird bath with author Miranda Krestovnikoff. This video shows how.

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, August 11, 2021

Explore Outdoors ~ a Bee Beetle


This beetle sorta, kinda, maybe if you aren't looking too closely, looks like a bee. The stripes and fuzzy butt do mimic a bee. Look closely at the antennae, and you see that it's a scarab beetle. I found it hanging out on Queen Anne's lace, stuffing its face with blossoms. Queen Anne's lace is a great flower for pollinator habitat - wasps and flies and bees of all types visit.

This week, look for Queen Anne's lace along the roadside, at the edges of mowed areas in parks, in your back yard, or wherever you find weedy patches. Check out the insects gathering on top - and beneath the umbel (some like the shade).

Friday, August 6, 2021

Stop - hey, What's That Sound?


Sounds All Around: The Science of How Sound Works 
by Susan Hughes; illus by Ellen Rooney 
32 pages; ages 5-8
‎ Kids Can Press, 2021

theme: sounds, STEM, nonfiction

Summer, sunlight, a gentle breeze blowing the clouds. It’s so quiet, then 
A honeybee!

From bee wings to thunder to school bells clanging, this book explores how sounds are made – and how we hear them.

What I like about this book: There’s lots to explore, with examples of sounds children will be able to identify with. Take a guitar string, for example. If you pluck it, it vibrates. Those vibrations make the air vibrate and, eventually, the tiny hairs in your ears – which turn that sound energy into signals that “travel straight to your brain,” writes Susan Hughes. She discusses how to measure loudness, compares sounds from a diversity of sources (natural and man-made) and reminds young readers to keep their ears safe.

Back matter includes a hands-on activity and a glossary.

Beyond the Books:

Explore sounds by creating noisemakers. Here’s a bunch of ideas.

Sound waves are like ripples in a puddle. Fill up a bucket or tub – or find a puddle – and drop a stone in it. Watch the waves ripple outward from the stone. 

Check out these simple science activities for exploring sound.

For sounds in nature, try this activity from Project Learning Tree: making fox ears from a pair of paper cups. Directions here.

Susan Hughes is a member of #STEAMTeam2021. You can find out more about her and her books at her website

We’ll join Perfect Picture Book Friday when it returns. Every Friday, bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's website. Review copy provided by the publisher.

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Explore Outdoors ~ Drama in the Milkweed Plants

 So there I was, out in the garden counting pollinators when I saw this cute little crab spider hanging out on a milkweed leaf.

It's easy to miss if you're not looking closely. Anyway, I get back to counting bees flocking to the monarda. A few minutes later, I go to check on my spider friend, only to find... 

... that it's snagged some fast food in the meantime.

Look how the spider has dug its fangs into the back of that fly.

poor fly!

Apparently flies are like tacos - equally tasty from either end!

So... What's going on under the leaves of plants in your neighborhood?