STEM Friday

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Books


You’ve heard the term mesmerized before, and you’ve likely heard of a blind study in medical research.  But do you know what these two terms have in common?  Benjamin Franklin!

Mesmerized: How Ben Franklin Solved a Mystery that Baffled all of France by Mara Rockliff. Illustrated by Iacopo Bruno. 2015, Candlewick.

When Benjamin Franklin arrived in France seeking support for the American cause, Paris was all abuzz about recent advances in science. One man in particular was drawing much attention – Dr. Franz Mesmer.  Like the invisible gas that was recently proven to buoy giant passenger-carrying balloons when burned, Dr. Mesmer claimed that he, too, had discovered a powerful new invisible force.

Dr. Mesmer said this forced streamed from the stars and flowed into his wand.  When he stared into his patients’ eyes and waved the wand, things happened.

Women swooned.

Men sobbed.

Children fell down in fits.

Mesmer and his practitioners claimed to cure illnesses in this manner, but was is true?  Or was it quackery?  King Louis XVI wanted to know, and Benjamin Franklin was sent to find out.

Mesmerized is one of those wonderful books that combines science with history and humor.  Using the scientific method, Benjamin Franklin was able to deduce that Dr. Mesmer had indeed discovered something, but not the something he had claimed!

Delightfully humorous and informative illustrations, a section on the scientific method (Oh La La … La Science!). and a list of source books and articles make Mesmerized a triple-play – science, humor, and history.  Go ahead, read it. Be mesmerized.

STEM Friday

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

Copyright © 2015 L Taylor  Shelf-employed All Rights Reserved.

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High Tide for Horseshoe Crabs

high tide 1High Tide for Horseshoe Crabs
by Lisa Kahn Schnell; illus by Alan Marks
40 pages; ages 3-7
Charlesbridge, 2015

I love this book beginning with the endpages – which are scientific illustrations (with labels) of the dorsal and ventral side of a horseshoe crab (plus pedipalp details).

And then the title page, where you see a horseshoe crab scuttling up a beach. And then…

“It’s starting. One spring night, the first horseshoe crab lunges onto shore.”
Then… “They’re arriving.”
Later, “They’re laying.”
Until, finished, “They’re leaving.”

Who are “they”? Horseshoe crabs. Gulls and other shorebirds. Researchers and citizen scientists who’ve come to tag and count the crabs. And they’re all converging on one beach in Delaware, on the day of high tide.

What I like about this book – besides the endpages and awesome illustrations – is the way author Lisa K. Schnell layers the story. You can see it on the page below:

HighTide 2

“They’re arriving.” Simple. Bold. Easy to read. Then a more detailed paragraph about how the crabs “crawl from the muck of their winter homes” and head toward Delaware Bay, where high tides will carry them far up the beach where their eggs will develop.

Another thing I love about this book is the back matter – and there’s a lot. One page tells more about horseshoe crabs; another goes into detail about how the blue blood of horseshoe crabs is used by the medical industry to test for harmful bacteria on needles, pacemakers, and even in vaccines. There’s a map, some resources for further investigation, and advice for where to find horseshoe crabs – and even how to get involved in crab counts.

Head over to Archimedes Notebook for some beyond-the-book activities and an interview with author Lisa K. Schnell.

STEM Friday

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

Site Meter Copyright © 2015 Sue Heavenrich All Rights Reserved.

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Toad Weather

toad weatherToad Weather
by Sandra Markle; illus. by Thomas Gonzalez
32 pages; ages 4-8
Peachtree, 2015

OK, I’ll admit it… I chose this book by the cover. I mean, how can anyone resist those boots? Or a toad?

In the gloomy gray
of a March day
the spring rain keeps falling.

Ally wants to go outside but it’s wet out there. Umbrella and boot weather. But Mama has seen something important, so off they go, splish-splashing their way down the city sidewalks. There are reflections in the puddles, colors swirling on the water, and the sound of raindrops drumming on their slickers. And a surprise: a sign that says TOAD DETOUR.

It’s not March, but there’s still rain, and the toads in my neck of the woods are barely waking up.

What I like about this book are the sounds. There are lots of sounds. And rain. And TOADS! Everywhere! Hopping, plopping, trying to make their way to their pond. Which means crossing the road. Will people help them?

For hands-on beyond-the-book activities, head over to Sally’s Bookshelf.


A Nest is Noisy Sets the Tone

At Wrapped in Foil blog we are featuring the gorgeous new children’s picture book, A Nest is Noisy by Dianna Hutts Aston and illustrated by Sylvia Long.




A nest is noisy.
It is a nursery of chirp-chirping…
bubbling babies.

These babies aren’t just chicks, like the hummingbirds on the cover, but also baby insects, alligators, frogs and even orangutans. Learn all about all the different animals that make nests and what they are like.

The team of Aston and Long have already written and illustrated several award-winning books, including An Egg is Quiet, A Butterfly Is Patient, A Seed is Sleepy, and A Rock is Lively. Because this book follows a similar format, some people might dismiss it with, “Oh, I’ve seen that.” Passing it over would be a mistake, however, because even though it is part of a series with a predictable format, it is still gorgeous and rises heads above many other nonfiction picture books out there.

See the rest of the review at Wrapped in Foil (with a link to a teacher’s guide) and see related activities for children inspired by the book at Growing with Science.


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.

Spectacular Spots

Spectacular SpotsSpectacular Spots
by Susan Stockdale
32 pages; ages 4-8
Peachtree Publisher, 2015

Spots on creatures all around,
way up high and on the ground.

In simple and engaging rhyming text, Susan Stockdale explores where – in the animal world – we can find spots.

I really like the way Stockdale emphasizes action words. She points out gliding snails, swimming turtles, crawling crabs and charging cheetahs. This is a fun book to read just for the language. I also love the illustrations… my favorites are the sea slugs and the spotted owls that you see on the cover.

I also like the back matter. There are two pages filled with additional information about the animals she includes, plus a “Find the Spot” challenge.

Head over to Sally’s Bookshelf for beyond-the-book activities.

STEM Friday

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

Site Meter Copyright © 2015 Sue Heavenrich All Rights Reserved.

The Sky Painter ~ Louis Fuertes

Sky PainterThe Sky Painter: Louis Fuertes, Bird Artist
by Margarita Engle; illus. by Aliona Bereghici
40 pages; ages 6-8
Two Lions, 2015

This book opens with these lines:

I love the bright wings of birds
as they fly, wild and free,
high above me.

Louis loves to watch birds. His father wants him to study to become an engineer, but Louis dreams of being an artist. A bird artist. But instead of killing birds and painting from skins, he wants to paint living, flying birds in their habitat.

Ever since I moved to my home not-too-far from Ithaca, I have heard of the famous Louis Agassiz Fuertes. So I was doubly interested in reading Margarita Engle’s new book. I wanted to learn more about this local art & bird hero.

I like the way the story is written – in verse – and that each page or two is headed by a title: “Bird Art”; “Learning”; “Letting Birds Live”. Fuertes went on field expeditions to paint birds, so there is Alaska, the Caribbean, South America. And there are the gorgeous illustrations of parrots and waterfowl and more! This book makes me want to head outside with a sketchbook and crayons and look more closely at the birds in my habitat.

Head over to Archimedes Notebook for an interview with Margarita Engle and some beyond-the-book activities.

STEM Friday

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

Site Meter Copyright © 2015 Sue Heavenrich All Rights Reserved.