STEM Friday

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Books


The Secret Galaxy

The-secret-galaxyThe Secret Galaxy
by Fran Hodgkins; photos by Mike Taylor
32 pages; ages 6-11
Tilbury House, 2014

“You might not know I’m here…. but if you look when the night is deep you’ll see me stretched across the sky.”

Fran Hodgkins tells the story of the sky from the galaxy’s point of view, starting with the Greeks. To them, the night sky looked as though someone had spilled milk.

What they didn’t see is how our galaxy whirls in a spiral. We are on one arm. “But don’t worry,” says the galaxy in a soothing voice. “Gravity holds everything together.” So we won’t go spinning off into the void.

Hodgkins combines lyrical prose with fact-filled sidebars that, combined with Mike Taylor’s gorgeous photos, take us out of this world. We learn how stars are born and how they die. We meet a black hole and contemplate dark matter. There are a few answers and a lot of questions and in the end you’ll want to head outside and look at the sky.

Fortunately, winter is a good time for galaxy-viewing – at least here in the northeast. The crisp night air makes the stars stand out brighter, especially on moonless nights. Best of all, hot cocoa tastes twice as good after a short star hike.

STEM Friday

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100 Ways to Celebrate 100 Days

100 Ways to Celebrate 100 Days
by Bruce Goldstone (Author, Illustrator)

Booktalk: It’s the 100th day of school–what can you do to celebrate?

Here are 100 different ideas for celebrating this fun and important day.

Snippet:

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Tiny Creatures: The World of Microbes

Tiny Creatures: The World of Microbes

written by Nicola Davies; illustrated by Emily Sutton

2014 (Candlewick Press)

Source: Orange County Public Library

Right now there are more microbes living on your skin than there are people on Earth, and there are ten or even a hundred times as many as that in your stomach. 

Here’s why I really admire this book. The subject of microbes is not something that is easily explained to elementary-age students, yet is incredibly important in their daily lives. Nicola Davies and Emily Sutton are able to teach young readers what microbes do and why they are important. In one spread, they show how things decompose because of microbes. There is an illustration of food and a compost pile with an arrow in between. Below is a group of milk bottles and a tub of yogurt. On the opposite page is a pile of rocks on top of soil with worms wriggling beneath. The point made is that microbes break down and transform things. Another section of the book shows how microbes (germs) make you sick. Davies writes just enough text to explain how the germs can get inside you and multiply, but she doesn’t over explain. It’s what I would call a Goldilocks text: Not too much, not too little, but just the right amount. And this is a mighty fine porridge of nonfiction text and illustrations. One of the beauties of this book is that everyone can make a connection with it. We’ve all been sick and come equipped with fun stories of projectile vomit and blob like snot coming out of our noses. After reading Tiny Creatures, students will better understand perhaps the most important of all living things.

If you want to read more of Jeff’s reviews (or better yet, warn your friends away from them) check out NC Teacher Stuff.


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Big Red Kangaroo

big red kangarooBig Red Kangaroo
By Claire Saxby; illus. by Graham Byrne
32 pages; ages 5-8
Candlewick Press, 2014

It’s cold here in upstate New York. Cold enough to have me dreaming of earth-baked sand and warm breezes. Which makes this book a perfect choice for today – especially as the illustrations are rendered in warm oranges, yellows, and reds.

Red kangaroo lives in the center of Australia, where it’s summer now. He is the leader of a mob – that’s what you call a group a females, joeys, and young males. As dusk falls, Red leads his mob in search of breakfast.

Author Claire Saxby takes us into a day with Red and his mob. Along the way she offers insights into kangaroo culture. We learn that kangaroo tails aid balance – but also act as rudders when you’re hopping full speed ahead. We meet wallaroos, thorny devils, and large lizards called goannas. We avoid dingoes and watch Red fight off a male who challenges his dominance.

This is a great book to pair with Winnie-the-Pooh – especially when you read about Kanga and Roo. For one thing, kids will discover that there are more than 60 different species of kangaroo. Even cooler: their family name is macropod, which means “big foot”. Back matter includes an author’s note and an index.

STEM Friday

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