STEM Friday

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Books

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Parrots Over Puerto Rico

Parrots-over-Puerto-Rico1Parrots Over Puerto Rico, by Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trumbore, is everything good about picture books. The book is unique and colorful and had me reacting with grins and smiles and gasps.

A few of the newest picture books I’ve read have had some novel approaches to the genre. This 2014 publication from Lee & Low Books is one of them. It is aligned sideways. or rather, longways. Meaning, when you open the book you have to turn it so you are flipping pages up, rather than to the left. This format is necessary to accommodate Susan L. Roth’s stunning collage illustrations, which show the height of the trees, and the birds far up in them. The collages are intricately detailed and vibrant; they are simply gorgeous.

The story of the Puerto Rican Parrots is also the history of the island. It walks through people’s habitation and use of the island, the wars and changes in nationality that washed over those shores. We learn how this once prolific species of native parrots was slowly hunted and captured, their forests cuts, and their nesting trees overtaken by invasive species. As per usual with humans, it wasn’t until there were only twenty-four parrots counted in the wild, that people finally decided to turn things around. The last third of the book shows the process that scientists took, and are taking, to build safe aviaries, hatch eggs in captivity, and protect the wild population.

Most awe-inspiring to me was that scientists taught the captive raised parrots how to avoid raptors on the hunt. They made a little leather protection vest to put on a parrot, then set a hawk loose on it, to demonstrate to the other parrots what an attack looked like. The parrot with the leather vest was protected, and the other parrots got a good show. Predator-aversion training, they called it. Who knew?

Parrots Over Puerto Rico, though non-traditional in some ways, still has the requisite last pages of actual photos and more detailed information about the scientists’ work with the parrots, a timeline of parrot life on the island, and a final hopeful attitude about what’s next for these birds. The goal remains that by 2020 the parrots will no longer be listed as endangered. It’s books like this that make me think we just might get there.

STEM Friday

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

 Copyright © 2014 Amanda K. Jaros All Rights Reserved.

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Butterfly Counting

butterfly countingButterfly Counting
by Jerry Pallotta; illus by Shennen Bersani
32 pages; ages 3-7
Charlesbridge, 2015

Zero. That’s how many butterflies an Emperor penguin sees over his entire lifetime. That’s because there are no butterflies on Antarctica.

All we have to do to find butterflies is open this book – even on the coldest, rainiest, wind-howliest day. From one to twenty-five we’ll be counting butterflies, beginning with one red Zarinda and two Holly Blue butterflies. If you’re a fan of Jerry Pallotta bug alphabet books, then you’ll have a lot of fun with this one.

What I like love about this book: Each page features a different kind of butterfly PLUS a cool butterfly fact. So by the time you get to the end you know about butterfly mouths and antennae that smell and feet that taste and what the word for butterfly poop is. It’s “frass” in case you are wondering.

Pallotta also includes a whole bunch of names for butterflies in foreign languages, like parpar (Hebrew) and kelebek (Turkish). I love it when Pallotta surprises us with different life stages of the butterfly: on one page we’re counting eggs, on another we’re counting caterpillars, and yet another we’re counting chrysalises.

The illustrations are marvelous, giving us so much to see on each page – especially the page filled with caterpillars of all types. And there are even some practical jokes tossed in: a page of moths, a grasshopper, and that penguin.

Head over to Archimedes Notebook for some beyond-the-book butterfly activities.

STEM Friday

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

Site Meter Copyright © 2015 Sue Heavenrich All Rights Reserved.

Pollinator books for emerging readers

pollinators insect Since it’s the end of Earth Week (Earth Day was Wednesday), I thought I’d feature a new series of nonfiction for emergent readers. The new series focuses on pollination, and is a “First Step Nonfiction” series published by Lerner just this year. The author is Jennifer Boothroyd, and titles in the series include: Insect Pollinators, Animal Pollinators, Cross-Pollination, Self- Pollination, and Parts of a Flower.

opening (from Insect Pollinators): “This bee is busy. It is gathering food.”

The books in this series show the connections between plants and animals as they depend on each other for survival. Insects and animals need the pollen and nectar from plants, and the plants depend on the animals to move pollen from one plant to another.

What I like: The photography is awesome. The text is just right for kids beginning to read, and text boxes include simple explanations. For example: on one page the main text says that an insect crawls on a flower and pollen sticks to the insect. The photo shows a monarch butterfly on a milkweed flower, but we can’t see the pollen. So in a text box we read this: “Pollen often sticks to an insect’s back, legs, or head.”

Lest you think bees and butterflies are the only insects pollinating flowers, there are pages showing beetles, moths, and even a fly. Animal pollinators show bats, birds, and even lizards moving pollen.

These books are short – 24 pages – and small enough to tuck inside a folder or pocket of a kid’s backpack. The close-up photos are bright and colorful, sure to engage a kid’s attention and imagination. And there’s even one section that shows humans pollinating plants – something an adventurous kid might try. (hint: it’s not as hard as you might think)

Head over to Sally’s Bookshelf for Beyond-the-Book activities.

Wild Ideas: Let Nature Inspire Your Thinking

Wild Ideas: Let Nature Inspire Your Thinking
by Elin Kelsey (Author) and Soyeon Kim (Illustrator)

Booktalk: Look deep into the forests, skies, and oceans to explore how animals solve problems . . .

Problems are like sticker burrs.
They poke.
They prick.
They nag.

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

Site Meter Copyright © 2015 Anastasia Suen All Rights Reserved.

Two Children’s Books for Arbor Day

Arbor Day is next Friday, April 24, 2015. To prepare, we have gathered some “tree-rific” books about trees for children.


First up is Branching Out: How Trees Are Part of Our World by Joan Marie Galat and illustrated by Wendy Ding. A title for middle grade readers, it investigates 11 special kinds of trees from around the world. Using four-page spreads, the author describes a particular species of tree, how it used by humans, and what animals depend on that particular kind of tree. The trees included range from red maples to pau brasil trees.

Filled with color photographs and sidebars, this title takes a serious and scientific tone. The introduction about why trees are important is particularly well done.


Our second title is a slightly older one. Celebritrees: Historic and Famous Trees of the World (2011) by Margi Preus and illustrated by Rebecca Gibbon tells the stories of 14 famous, tall and exceptionally-old trees.

Interestingly, Celebritrees is as much a discourse about human history and behavior as it is about trees. We humans are attracted to big and old trees, as well as those with unique stories or features. In fact, sometimes humans are so attracted to certain trees that by sheer numbers visitors have damaged and sometimes killed the very trees they revere. The author notes that the exact identities and locations of some of the trees has been hidden so the trees are left alone to continue their lives.

Rebecca Gibbon has created lighthearted, fun illustrations using a mix of acrylic ink, colored pencils and watercolor. The illustrations allow for a more coherent look and also incorporate details of the text in ingenious ways. The look would definitely appeal to young readers who prefer fiction.

Even though they have a different look and voice, both these books celebrate the importance of trees, looking at the role of trees ecologically and in the context of human society. Both have suggestions for what children can do to help trees in the back matter. Both are also sure to inspire young readers to appreciate trees!

See a longer review and a book trailer at Wrapped in Foil blog.

Want more choices for Arbor Day reading? Check out our giant list of children’s books about trees at Science Books for Kids.


STEM Friday

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

Site Meter Copyright © 2015 Roberta Gibson at Growing with Science All Rights Reserved.

Climate Change

ClimateChange_CoverClimate Change: discover how it impacts spaceship Earth, with 25 projects
by Joshua Sneideman & Erin Twamley; illus. by Mike Crosier
122 pages; ages 9-12
Nomad Press, 2015

Released just in time for Earth Day (which is Wednesday) – this newest book on Climate Change. Like others in the “Build it yourself” series, this one comes packed with hands-on activities to explore the concepts being discussed. For example: a balance board to help illustrate the idea that keeping gases in Earth’s atmosphere balanced is harder to do than to say.

Readers will learn about burps, farts, and other greenhouse gases, why ice cores and paleontology are important, and read about cool biofuels like algae. Throughout the book there are lots of short introductions to scientists who did research in energy, oceanography, geology, climate science and more. Plus there are those 25 hands-on, do-it-yourself activities that require the sorts of things you might find in the kitchen cupboards or at the drug store. Who knows ~ maybe you’ll be inspired to build something useful and simple, like the solar powered water purifying system invented by a high school student, or the water-filled plastic bottle “light bulbs”.

To help make information easier to find (especially for browsers) the book has:

  • “words to know” sidebars
  • cool concepts (like atmospheric pressure on other planets)
  • essential questions
  • primary source icon with QR code link for smartphones or tablets
  • index, glossary, and page of resources at the back

STEM Friday

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

Site Meter Copyright © 2015 Sue Heavenrich All Rights Reserved.

Steampunk LEGO

Steampunk LEGO
by Guy Himber (Author)

Booktalk: Grab your brass goggles and join fictional explorer Sir Herbert Jobson as he travels the world cataloguing its technological wonders for Queen Victoria.


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

Site Meter Copyright © 2015 Anastasia Suen All Rights Reserved.

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Kangaroo to the Rescue

Kangaroo to the rescueKangaroo to the Rescue
by Moira Rose Donohue
112 pages; ages 7-10 years
National Geographic, 2015

This book features stories about one kangaroo, two dogs, and three pigs. Lulu the kangaroo was a rescue animal. There are great descriptions of how her adoptive family raised her from a cat-sized joey to an adult. They made Lulu a pouch, figured out how to feed her, and helped her regain strength. Later, they encouraged her to go free, but she stayed close to the family. Good thing, too – because she ends up saving someone’s life.

Maggie and Pilot were two labs: one black, one blonde. They played chase, fetched balls, and served as mentors for young pups in training to be guide dogs. Later, when Maggie went blind, Pilot acted as her guide, sticking close and nudging her out of trouble.

The last section tells stories of three not-so-little pigs who were brave and strong and helped people out of predicaments. One even received a gold medal from the ASPCA for saving her human companion’s life.

Salted in with the tales of animal bravery are sidebars and fact-boxes about the animals themselves. We learn about marsupials and why tails are important to kangaroos. There’s information about guide dogs and therapy dogs, and pig social life. Did you know pigs can make over 20 different oinks, grunts, and squeals? And that pig mamas sing to their piglets? Review copy provided by publisher.

If you’re looking for a fiction book to pair up with this, head over to Sally’s Bookshelf and check out the second review of an early chapter book.

STEM Friday

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

Site Meter Copyright © 2015 Sue Heavenrich All Rights Reserved.

Dirty Rats?

dirty ratsDirty Rats?
by Darrin Lunde; illus. by Adam Gustavson
32 pages; ages 3-7
Charlesbridge, 2015

Rats are dirty, right? They scurry about in the night, eating garbage. Plus there’s the naked tail and beady eyes thing they’ve got going on…. it’s enough to make you grab a broom and give ’em a swat.

But wait…. writes Lunde. Not all rats eat garbage. Long-tailed marmoset rats living in Thailand eat bamboo flowers. Some rats hop, and other rats have bushy tails. Linde introduces readers to rat-diversity, including “lab rats” used by medical researchers. We learn how rats fit into the ecosystem (food for carnivores) and, near the end, he includes a chart of different kinds of rats. There are pack rats and sand rats, wooly rats and pouched rats, and even crested rats that look as though they had a bad hair day.

Regardless of what you think about rats, this book will have you looking at them with new eyes.

STEM Friday

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

Site Meter Copyright © 2015 Sue Heavenrich All Rights Reserved.

Salamander Season

Salamander SeasonSalamander Season
by Jennifer Keats Curtis & J. Adam Frederick; illus. by Shennen Bersani
32 pages; ages 4-8
Arbordale, 2015

This is a story about salamanders, told from the perspective of a girl who goes into the woods with her dad. They find a vernal pool and check out the salamanders marching from the woods to the water. Later, she finds eggs (“small mushy cases… as big as softballs and as firm as Jell-O”). When the salamanders hatch, her dad takes two back to his lab to study. He’s an environmental scientist, so he knows how to keep baby salamanders safe.

What I like about this book: It gives a real up-close-and-personal view of salamander life. We see hungry predators and the young salamanders taking action to avoid becoming salamander snacks. The book is laid out like a journal, with entries describing what happens throughout the salamander season. It’s illustrated with a combination of child-like drawings and photos … very much like what you’d find in your kid’s nature journal.

Head over to Archimedes Notebook for beyond-the-book salamander activities.

STEM Friday

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

Site Meter Copyright © 2015 Sue Heavenrich All Rights Reserved.