STEM Friday

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Books

Far Side of the Moon

Far Side of the Moon: The Story of Apollo 11’s Third Man
by Alex Irvine (Author) and Ben Bishop (Illustrator)

Booktalk: When the Earth disappears behind the moon, Collins loses contact with his fellow astronauts on the moon’s surface, with mission control at NASA, and with the entire human race, becoming more alone than any human being has ever been before. In total isolation for 21 hours, Collins awaits word that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin have managed to launch their moon lander successfully to return to the orbiter–a feat never accomplished before and rendered more problematic by the fuel burn of their difficult landing.


It’s STEM Friday! (STEM is Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics)

Copyright © 2017 Anastasia Suen All Rights Reserved.

Voyager’s Greatest Hits

Voyager’s Greatest Hits: The Epic Trek to Interstellar Space
by Alexandra Siy (Author)

Booktalk: 2017 marks the 40th anniversary of the Voyager mission as the twin space probes that traveled to Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune, now journey beyond our solar system into interstellar space, where no probe has ventured before. Learn the fascinating story of the scientists, how the Voyager probes work, where the probes have been and what they’ve seen, and what they carry on board–including the Golden Record, a recording of sounds and images about life on Earth.

Snippet: It’s 1965 and the Beach Boys are singing about California girls. Over in Pasadena a graduate student named Gary Flandro is studying aeronautics at Caltech. Gary also has a part-time job: not flipping burgers, but investigating missile trajectories at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL). This is literally rocket science.

Voyager 1 was launched on September 5, 1977, aboard a Titan III-Centaur rocket.

It’s STEM Friday! (STEM is Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics)

Copyright © 2017 Anastasia Suen All Rights Reserved.

Evelyn Cameron

Evelyn Cameron: Photographer on the Western Prairie
by Lorna Milne (Author)

Booktalk: In 1889, a young spunky British woman of genteel upbringing set sail for the United States against her family’s wishes. She traveled with a friend, Ewen Cameron, the man who later became her husband. They were bound for eastern Montana to hunt big game along the Yellowstone River, only thirteen years after the Battle of the Little Bighorn. The next fall the Camerons returned to England, packed up, and moved to Montana, where they lived for the rest of their lives.

Snippet: Evelyn and Ewen’s adventurous honeymoon–the trip that led to Montana grizzlies living out their lives in a British zoo–was the first of many long forays the Camerons took into the badlands. Sometimes they hired a cook, often they went with friends, and before long they became the guides. Evelyn waxed poetic about the sporting life:

Where the wife shows any liking at all for life in the open I consider a hunting expedition one of the most desirable ways for a couple to spend a holiday. It is wonderful what comradeship is developed between them. All sorts of cobwebs get blown away in the long days together on the windswept prairies or in the gulches and trails of the Bad Lands.

It’s STEM Friday! (STEM is Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics)

Copyright © 2017 Anastasia Suen All Rights Reserved.

National Geographic Kids Almanac 2018

National Geographic Kids Almanac 2018
2017 (National Geographic Kids)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

It’s a blob. It’s a ball. It’s a pleurobranch! A mysterious purple orb discovered in the Pacific Ocean has stumped scientists. 

This is like a candy store for informational text. Instead of the barrels being filled with chocolate and peppermints, they contain facts from around the globe and about a wide variety of subjects. You start with a preview of 2018. Did you know the Winter Olympics are coming up? In February, the quadrennial frozen sports extravaganza will be hosted by South Korea. Photos of ski cross and luge will get you ready. In the following section, Awesome Exploration, you meet adventurers who explore high and low and you can participate in the Newsmaker Challenge including choosing a shark for inclusion in next year’s almanac. The teacher in me appreciates the More for You feature at the end of each chapter. This feature focuses on activities that will help students with skills like writing an essay, a letter, and presenting an oral report. I also like the variety of chapters in this almanac. The authors are people who know what students want. A chapter about animals includes information about wild cats and dinosaurs. You can’t go wrong with a photo of a cat wearing a tiara. Kids also care about the world around them so when you have chapters about taking care of the environment, the wonders of the natural world, and space, that’s going to be a winner. Today’s students are also fascinated by technology, so why not have a chapter with robots, cars that sail, and an underwater plane. Hot topics like drones and 3-D printers are also spotlighted. It’s great that there’s also a nod, in the form of a timeline flow chart, to the life and work of George Washington Carver. My favorite part of the almanac may be the last chapter, Geography Rocks. The world map and the maps of the continents are superb. You also get brief fact overviews, complete with flags, of all 195 countries and the 50 states.

A big reason why I would want a copy of this almanac? Think about reluctant readers. The student who can’t seem to find anything to interest them. What better chances would you have to find something for them than with a book that has such a wide variety of subjects like this? Plus, it could serve as a gateway to further reading if a student finds an interest. You could also use this book to work on differentiating between fact and opinion. If you like informational text, having the Almanac 2018 is like being a kid in candy store.

Check out more stuff from Jeff.

Coding iPhone Apps for Kids

Coding iPhone Apps for Kids: A playful introduction to Swift
by Gloria Winquist (Author) and Matt McCarthy (Author)

Booktalk: Learn how to use Swift to write programs, even if you’ve never programmed before. Anyone can use Swift to make cool apps for the iPhone or iPad. Once you master the basics, you’ll build a birthday tracker app so that you won’t forget anyone’s birthday and a platform game called Schoolhouse Skateboarder with animation, jumps, and more!

You’ll work in the Xcode playground, an interactive environment where you can play with your code and see the results of your work immediately! You’ll also learn the fundamentals of programming, like how to store data in arrays, use conditional statements to make decisions, and create functions to organize your code–all with the help of clear and patient explanations.


It’s STEM Friday! (STEM is Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics)

Copyright © 2017 Anastasia Suen All Rights Reserved.

Baby’s First Book of Birds & Colors

Baby’s First Book of Birds & Colors
by Phyllis Limbacher Tildes (Author / Illustrator)

Booktalk: From the eastern bluebird and blue jay to the scarlet tanager and northern cardinal, little ones will discover the natural world and learn the names and colors of birds in their natural habitats in this board book. The color word appears large and bold, and each bird is labeled by name, as are flowers, fruits, and foliage.


It’s STEM Friday! (STEM is Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics)

Copyright © 2017 Anastasia Suen All Rights Reserved.

Up! Up! Up! Skyscraper

Up! Up! Up! Skyscraper
written by Anastasia Suen; illustrated by Ryan O’Rourke
2017 (Charlesbridge)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

Down, down, down!
Bars of steel.
A building’s bones 
Make it real.

From the ground up, this is a terrific book. It explains, in sequence, how skyscrapers are built. On each spread, there are two sets of explanations of each step. The big bold print in the upper half is a quatrain with the second and fourth lines rhyming. This will be great for shared reading for a whole K-1 class or a small group. On the bottom half, there is a smaller print that is more like an informational text for older readers.

I like how the different texts target a wide range of readers. Plus, there are labels and inserts that add details and show how pieces fit. These touches show that author Anastasia Suen is well aware of the needs of her audience. Ryan O’Rourke’s art work is eye catching with bright colors and sharp lines that add to the reader’s understanding. I love the end piece which is a foldout of the skyscraper. In addition, if you click this link, you can print pages to make a flip book of the building of the skyscraper.

Up! Up! Up! Skyscraper takes a subject that is intriguing to students yet difficult to explain and makes the explanation engaging and simple to understand. That is not easy. Did you know how skyscrapers are built? I had a general idea, but this book helped me fill in a lot of missing pieces. Kids will love sharing the details they learn with their friends and parents. For very young readers who like buildings and transportation (and there are many!), I can see the quatrains being repeated often as a bedtime read aloud. This book is also good for a social studies unit on cities and comparing them to rural areas. For the students that I work with, this is a valuable resource as most of them have never seen a skyscraper. Up! Up! Up! Skyscraper is floors and floors of fun informational text.

Find more stuff from Jeff Barger at NC Teacher Stuff.