Wednesday, December 20, 2023

 Merry Solstice & Happy New Year

'Tis the Season to:

Slide on ice
Tromp through the snow
Sled down a hill
Build a snow fort
Save a snowball in your freezer (for July)

I'm taking a winter break. See you in mid-January!

Friday, December 15, 2023

How to Be an Earth-keeper

Caring for Earth (Ultimate Spotlight)
by Sandra Laboucarie and Sarah Reynard; illus. by Julie Mercier
12 pages; ages 5 & up
Twirl, 2023

theme: ecology, nature, environmental protection

Nature is all around. We can learn a lot from nature by observing how plants and animals interact in the wild.

The environment we live in is full of complexity, and this book shows five detailed views of the nature around us. It’s an interactive book with flaps to open, wheels to turn, tabs to pull, and pop-ups. It is also written with a permaculture sensibility, showing how families could create a forest garden as well as develop a fruit and vegetable garden. One spread focuses on a house built with nature in mind, and the book ends with suggestions for how people can create an environment that is good for the earth in their neighborhood and at school

What I like about this book: As a gardener, there are things I definitely liked in this book. For example, showing how to create a raised bed using straw bales. There’s a family in our town who started their gardens this way a few years ago, and now they have deliciously rich soil in their beds. I also like the multi-layered pop-up showing a forest garden and the layers of fruit trees, fruiting shrubs, and flowers that could grow with taller trees in your backyard, local park, or schoolyard.

 And I like that, in the "natural house" they included a composting toilet. If nothing else, this book will provide openings for questions and may inspire you to grow a small fruit tree in your yard for the birds!

Beyond the Books:

Explore nature right out your front (or back) door. What kinds of trees and shrubs live around you? What do you notice about them right now? Draw a picture of your favorite tree and save it where you can look at it later. Try drawing a picture of your tree each month and see what changes you notice.

What kinds of wildlife shares your neighborhood? Maybe you see squirrels, birds, insects. Maybe you hear coyotes howling at night …. Get to know some of your wild neighbors.

Think of three things you can do to make the Earth a better place for all the plants and animals (including people). Write down one of the things – then go do it.

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.

Book reviews are taking a winter break ~ I'll be back with more book talk in mid-January.

Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Explore Outdoors ~ in a new place

 Most of my exploring outdoors happens right outside my back door: in the garden or along roadsides I ramble. Usually within a three-mile radius of my home. My goal is to find something of beauty each day. Then last month I had the opportunity to travel somewhere new...

I boarded a train and headed out west. On the trip out, it was fall. A couple weeks later, on my return trip, we were treated to a dusting of snow on the red rocked landscape of southern Utah. 

If you have the opportunity to travel this winter, take some time to sit with the landscape. And look for some of the earth's beauty surrounding you.

Friday, December 8, 2023

Earth Out of Balance

 Themes: climate, environment, immigration

A couple years ago I put this book aside to review for an Earth Day post. Then things piled up… after this summer of disasters – wildfires, floods, storms – it’s abundantly clear that our Earth is out of balance.

Our World Out of Balance: Understanding Climate Change and What We Can Do
by Andrea Minoglio; illus. by Laura Fanelli
72 pages; ages 8-12
Blue Dot Kids Press, 2021

The book opens with an explanation of global warming and why we should stop it. So many reasons! Among them: rising sea levels that threaten communities, loss of forested land, urban heat islands, displaced wildlife, and extreme weather events. The book is broken down into 15 chapters, each one explaining a specific environmental problem related to climate chaos. Included in each chapter is a “how you can help” section and one on “how people are helping.” The book ends by focusing on actions readers can take and how they can be part of the solution. One person seems so small when you’re looking at a huge problem. But every small action you and your friends take adds up to make a difference. There’s also a list of community science projects kids and their families can get involved with.
Where Can We Go? A Tale of Four Bears
By Dai Yun; illus. by Igor Oleynikov
40 pages; ages 4-8
Greystone Books, 2023

One orange and purple evening, Papa comes home with only one small fish in his paws. He says, “We are moving tomorrow.”

Papa isn’t sure where they are going, but it will be a place where seals abound. Except … when they get to a place with food, it’s not seals they end up eating. It’s scraps from the garbage dump. And when they get tired, Papa looks for a place to sleep.

Have you ever wondered what would happen if the three bears had invaded Goldilocks’s house? Only, in this story it’s not curiosity that drives them to try out the beds, the chairs, the bowls of food. It’s climate change.

What I like about this book: I like how the illustrator brings us right into bear culture. Papa and Mama wear necklaces of bones and Mama has ear piercings. I like how the bears explore the house, find a bed that is “just right,” and later decide they need to find something more suitable for bears. It has a wee feeling of cynicism – perhaps something lost in translation? – but it is a good book for opening a discussion about climate change, refugees, immigration, or even sparking ideas for putting a new spin on an old story.

Beyond the Books:

Think of three things you can do to make the Earth a better place for trees and animals. If you live in a drought-stricken area, you might think of ways to cut wasteful use of water. If you’re concerned about melting sea ice (which makes it hard for polar bears to hunt) you might come up with ways you can get from one place to another without using a car.

Do you know of any animals in your area that are being forced out of their home by climate change or habitat loss? Where do they go?

If you had to leave Right Now, what would you grab to take with you? If you live in an area where you might have to evacuate due to flooding or fire, you may want to make a “grab-and-go” bag. Here’s some advice from a place that’s seen its share of wild fires.

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. 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, December 6, 2023

Explore Outdoors ~ Leaves are Habitat


I did not rake my leaves this year. I know! How slothful of me! But here's the thing: fallen leaves create habitat for any number of tiny creatures. Those leaves provide a winter home for butterfly and moth caterpillars and pupae. Even adults! Here's what Justin Wheeler says on the  XERCES Society blog:

Great spangled fritillary and wooly bear caterpillars tuck themselves into a pile of leaves for protection from cold weather and predators. Red-banded hairstreaks lay their eggs on fallen oak leaves, which become the first food of the caterpillars when they emerge. Luna moths and swallowtail butterflies disguise their cocoons and chrysalises as dried leaves, blending in with the “real” leaves.

Leaves also provide homes for spiders and snails, worms, beetles, and other tiny critters that provide meals for chipmunks, birds, and amphibians. Sure, amphibians aren't fans of frozen dinners, but they appreciate the plump insects that take flight in spring.

Friday, December 1, 2023

Life on a Very Small Scale

We are made of cells, and cells are made of smaller parts, and those smaller parts are made of things we can’t even see. Today’s books explore the microcosm of life.

theme: life, cells, atoms
Happy one-year anniversary to Jason Chin’s book, The Universe in You: A Microscopic Journey (Neal Porter Books, 2022). This is one of those picture books that I think is a perfect crossover for the 8-12 crowd. As I recall, my biggest desire when I was in fourth grade was to have a microscope so I could see really tiny things.

The Calliope Hummingbird is the smallest bird in the United States.

It measures 8 centimeters (just over 3 inches) from beak tip to tail. “Small enough to fit in your hand,” writes Jason Chin. The Western Pygmy Blue butterfly is smaller than a penny, the smallest bee is 2 millimeters long (that’s the height of two pennies stacked together). And even that isn’t as small as…. A hair, a skin cell, a strand of DNA. This book takes us on a tour of very small things.

What I like about this book: What a great way to explore cells and molecules and atoms and elementary particles without needing to own your own microscope, electron-scanning microscope, and particle accelerator. I like how Jason gets to the building blocks of life, the universe, and everything page by page. And he does it using beautiful language that pulls you along, and some comparisons that make you want to turn the page. Plus there is smaller text that explains stuff, like showing how big a millimeter is, and explaining why dead cells are important. In the end those particles and atoms and molecules are arranged into cells that form you … “a singular person who can think and feel and discover the universe within.”

Back matter includes a spread on the building blocks of matter, with more information about elementary particles (quarks and nutrinos and gluons and more!), atoms, and elements. Another spread focuses on the building blocks of life: cells, genes, single-celled life, and more. This is a great companion to his earlier book, Your Place in the Universe. [review copy provided by the publisher]

If you’re looking for a book for slightly younger kids, and one that focuses on cells, here’s one. I checked it out of the library before the pandemic, and am finally getting around to sharing it!
Cells: An Owner's Handbook
by Carolyn Fisher
48 pages; ages 3 - 8
Beach Lane Books, 2019

Hi! I’m Ellie. No, not the dog. Follow the arrow. I’m a cell!

Ellie is a skin cell who lives on the “derriere of a Boston terrier”. You can’t see her because she is very, very, very small – but she has all the working parts of an animal cell: nucleus, ribosomes, mitochondria – the works. Cells make up all sorts of living things: plants, whales, people. Yes, you are the owner of 37 trillion cells (give or take a few). And this handy guide book will help you take care of them so that they last you a lifetime.

What I like about this book: I love the breezy, sassy attitude of Ellie the cell. She is a fun guide to the world of the microscopically small. She shows unicellular (one-celled) organisms, multicellular (many-celled) organisms, and things that don’t have cells at all. I love how she makes complex ideas easier to comprehend (blood cells make blood; bone cells make bone) and how the food we eat and exercise we do are essential to our cells’ health. Ellie takes a cell-fie, explains the small print in the lifetime guarantee, and even tells jokes. Back matter includes blueprints for cells (and jokes).

Beyond the Books:

Look at some things around your house using a microscope (if you have one) or a magnifying lens. Here’s a short list of fun stuff to look at: Velcro, sand, yarn, leaf, tree bark, onion skin, insect wings, moldy bread, a feather, fabric, stamp, snowflakes, and rocks.

Draw a picture of what you see when you look at something under a magnifying lens or microscope.

Write a story about what the world would be like for you if you were the size of a sunflower seed or a grain of sand.

If you want to get a microscope for your kids, Popular Science magazine has a review here. There are even some portable scopes to carry on walks.

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. Publishers. 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.