STEM Friday

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Books


Two Cybils Nominees About Octopuses

Today at Growing with Science blog we have two books nominated for Cybils Awards in the Elementary/Middle Grade Nonfiction category, both of which happen to be happen to be about octopuses.

First up is the informational picture book Octopuses!: Strange and Wonderful by Laurence Pringle and illustrated by Meryl Henderson.


Octopuses! gives a wonderful overview of the biology of these fascinating creatures. The author first explains that octopuses are mollusks and discusses some other common mollusks. Then he gives a detailed description of the anatomy of a typical octopus and some of the different kinds. Other topics include what eats octopuses (predators), how they hide by changing colors (camouflage), and what octopuses eat. The author also explains the life cycle in some detail.

It is a perfect choice for young readers wanting to learn more about these amazing animals.

The second book is for slightly older readers, The Octopus Scientists:  Exploring the Mind of the Mollusk (Scientists in the Field Series) by Sy Montgomery and photographs by Keith Ellenbogen.


As with the other titles in the Scientists in the Field series, the focus is as much on the scientists who study octopuses as the animals themselves. In the first chapter we meet four scientists who have devoted their lives to researching these amazing creatures. Canadian Jennifer Mather wanted to study marine biology, but found resistance in what was perceived as a “man’s” field. Instead she became a psychology professor and then applied her studies to octopuses. American David Scheel studied lions for his doctorate degree, but when he couldn’t find a job working with lions, switched to marine biology. Tatiana Leite is a professor of marine ecology in Brazil. Keely Langford works at the Vancouver Aquarium.

The rest of the chapters document their efforts to find and study the local octopuses around the island of Moorea in the Pacific Ocean, while at the same time revealing details of octopus biology. For example, their excellent camouflage skills that protect the octopuses from predators also make them hard for scientists to track down. Often the scientists look for the shells left behind from when the octopuses feed, piles called middens, for clues of their whereabouts.

If you have ever wanted to don a wet suit and search the ocean floor for octopuses, The Octopus Scientists is the book for you. If not, reading it might just make you want to give it a try.

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.

Air Force Special Operations Command


Air Force Special Operations Command (U.S. Special Forces)
by Jim Whiting (Author)

#kidlit Review Haiku:
Special ops – ready
“Anytime, Anywhere” – in
the air, on the ground.

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

Site Meter Copyright © 2015 Anastasia Suen All Rights Reserved.

That’s Deadly ~ Fatal Facts

That's DeadlyThat’s Deadly: Fatal Facts that will Test Your Fear Factor
by Crispin Boyer
176 pages; ages 8-12
National Geographic Children’s Books, 2015

How can you resist a nonfiction book that opens with “Abandon hope, all ye who open this book”? Especially when it’s followed by, “Certain death awaits!”

Author Crispin Boyer brings us to the topic of death immediately by introducing us to our guide, none other than the scythe-wielding guy himself: Timothy. But before tossing us into deadly situations, this personable grim-reaper takes a moment to tell us how to use the book. Sorta like the intros you find in field guides.

So you’ll find the usual warnings (this stuff is deadly – don’t do it at home), a handy list of “terminal terminology”, and a Kill-o-Meter that rates the degree of deadliness from risky to run for your life.

The book is conveniently divided into chapters on the ways you may meet your end: plagues, things that bite, extreme sports, natural disasters…. too many to list, but you get the idea. Pages are filled with photos (it is, after all, National Geographic!) and there are enough sidebars and text boxes to fill a journalist’s heart with joy. Not only does Timothy include important stuff like official rules for dueling, but he sprinkles “fatal facts” throughout the chapters. Plus he answers the ultimate question: pirates or ninjas?

Tim the Grim Reaper also interviews folks, like Stephanie Davis who enjoys wingsuit skydiving. And for those of you thinking about future careers, he lists America’s most dangerous job. Then there’s killer toys, killer cars, and an entire killer continent. There is, of course, a killer “final exam” at the end, and a few Last Words uttered by famous people.

Caution: Read at your own risk!

STEM Friday

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

Site Meter Copyright © 2015 Sue Heavenrich All Rights Reserved.

Kyle Goes Alone

Kyle Goes AloneKyle Goes Alone
by Jan Thornhill; illus. by Ashley Barron
32 pages; ages 3-7
OwlKids, 2015

“I have to go,” said Kyle.

The problem is that Kyle is a three-toed sloth living high in the rainforest canopy. And he’s a slowpoke. And the “bathroom” is wa-a-a-ay down on the forest floor. And on this day, of all days, mama sloth decides that Kyle is old enough to go on his own.

What I like about this book: As Kyle descends down, down, down the tree, he is never alone. Not only does mom follow him (though she stays mostly hidden), he meets other inhabitants of the rainforest: a red-spectacled parrot, a whipsnake, a tree frog.

I also like the repetition of Kyle saying, “But I’m all alone!” followed by “No you’re not” croaked or screeched or hissed by an animal living somewhere on or near Kyle’s tree. I like that the illustrator uses the book, making us turn the book sideways for more vertical illustrations that help depict just how far down Kyle has to climb. And I like that Kyle makes it all the way down by himself… and “goes”.

Plus there’s back matter, which I love because it fills in the gaps of the story. And I love the cut-paper illustrations. This is a completely different take on your “Going to the Potty” book.

Head over to Archimedes Notebook for 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.

Animal Partners

Animal PartnersAnimal Partners
by Scotti Cohn; illus. by Shennen Bersani
32 pages; ages 4-8
Arbordale, 2015

It’s hard to choose “opening lines” in a book filled with poems about animal partnerships. But here’s an example of one:

Behold the wily crocodile.
Who will scrub his pointy smile?

This book is a collection of poems that examine partnerships between animals. Usually, animals hang out with others of their kind. But sometimes one species associates with another if there’s something to be gained. The crocodile mentioned above allows a small bird to hop into its mouth and clean between his teeth. In another poem, a sea turtle laments the barnacle attached to its shell, while another investigates a partnership between warthogs and mongooses.

What I like about this book: The poems are fun, short, and snappy. And the author explores different poetic forms. I like that there’s backmatter: the author describes different types of symbiosis and gives examples of each kind from the text. There’s a “match the animal partners” game and a “name the habitat” challenge. But I wish there was a page that described the different creatures. Especially the pseudoscorpion, a tiny arthropod I’ve come to know.

Head over to Archimedes Notebook to check out 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.

Does the Sun Sleep?

Does the Sun Sleep?
written by Martha E.H. Rustad; illustrated by Holli Conger
2016 (Millbrook Press)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

“I get it!” says Deon. “When it’s day on one side of Earth, it’s night on the other side.”

If you want the sun, the moon, and the stars, you should go to Mr. Cruz’s classroom. His class is working on making observations and noticing patterns in nature. The first pattern they notice is day and night. Mr. Cruz leads a discussion of the movement of the Earth which makes it look like the Sun is moving. Using a flashlight and a globe, he explains how the sun shines on only part of the planet at a time. Blue boxes on each spread add facts to the narrative. On this spread, readers learn that it takes the Earth 24 hours to spin around once, which is another pattern. Moving on to the moon, the class views a monthly chart of the phases of the moon. Stocked up on AA batteries, Mr. Cruz uses his flashlight, the globe, and a small model of the moon to explain how light from the Sun shines on the moon. Finally, the class discusses stars, why we can’t see them in the daylight (Except for the Sun.), and how they have patterns as well.

Does the Sun Sleep? does a great job of explaining information about space in simple language, but also doesn’t shy away from using vocabulary like horizon, waxing, and waning.  This is a good text to share with first graders who study patterns and cycles in space. The illustrations are terrific visuals that help explain the facts given in the text. First graders will especially like the phases of the moon chart. Grab your flashlight and follow Mr. Cruz’s lead!

Check out other reviews at NC Teacher Stuff.

More STEM Fiction: The Trouble With Ants

This week we have found another middle grade novel that promotes STEM, The Nora Notebooks, Book 1: The Trouble with Ants by Claudia Mills and illustrated by Katie Kath.


Nora, the main character, is a 10-year-old budding myrmecologist with an ant farm and a passion for studying ants. She records fascinating facts about ants in a journal, tidbits of which are given at the ends of chapters. Nora even does a simple experiment with ants and writes a paper about it.

In addition to information about ants, the text reveals basics of how scientists work. For example, Nora’s mother specializes in studying Saturn’s rings. In another part, Nora’s dad explains to her how scientists publish their work in scientific journals, something youngsters probably have no inkling about.

If this basic STEM theme doesn’t sound appealing, you will still want to give this book a chance. In fact this story is as rich and layered as a torte, with themes of boy versus girl, keeping pets, and even cat videos. It will find a wide audience because different readers are going to find different aspects relevant.

For more details about the layers and for using The Trouble With Ants for studying writing as well as promoting science, check our full review at Wrapped in Foil blog. Growing with Science also has related ant science activity suggestions this week.

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.

Up, Up, and Away!


Rocketry: Investigate the Science and Technology of Rockets and Ballistics
by Carla Mooney, illustrated by Caitlin Denham
128 pp.
ages 9 to 12
Nomad Press, 2014


These days it’s not unusual to turn on your television or computer and spot pictures of planet Jupiter or hear news from planet Mars. In some ways, the galaxies that surround us are closer than ever before. As our technology improves, we are able to travel closer and closer to places once though prohibitively distant.

Our first step toward the stars was taken a long time ago when an ancient Greek named Heroherodeveloped the aeolipile, a steam-powered rocket device. Fast forward to 1232 when the Chinese used the same laws of motion to launch fire arrows filled with a gunpowder mixture at their enemies. Since then, rocketry has become increasingly sophisticated and now we can send rockets to space with the most delicate of payloads—human life.

In Rocketry: Investigate the Science and Technology of Rockets and Ballistics, kids will learn how rockets work, who figured out to make them work, and what the future might hold for rockets and space travel.
Best of all, step-by-step instructions for designing and testing their own rockets are included in each chapter. Safety first! Use eye protection and adult supervision with all projects!


Kids are fascinated with stuff that flies, and Rocketry helps them connect that fascination with an exploration of this very STEM subject!


STEM Friday

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

Site Meter Copyright © 2015 Nomad Press All Rights Reserved.

Rude Bugs!

How RudeHow Rude! 10 Real Bugs Who Won’t Mind Their Manners
by Heather L. Montgomery; illus. by Howard McWilliam
32 pages; ages 6 + up
Scholastic, 2015

“Some bugs litter. Some pass gas. Others throw poop.”

This book introduces some of the rudest bugs around… although they are still young – larvae or nymphs – so we might excuse their juvenile behavior if it wasn’t SO gross!
Author Heather Montgomery introduces the bugs as contenders in a “Battle for the Grossest”- and you get to choose the winner. Each spread focuses on one insect and its uncivil behavior: mesquite bugs who pass gas, caterpillars who ooze green goo, beetle larvae who carry their poop around on their backs, and even one youngster who turns to cannibalism.
There is, of course, great back matter: some explanations about why this behavior is adaptive and not just “bad” juvenile hijinks, a handy map showing where to find these insects when traveling across the US, and a glossary.

Head over to Archimedes Notebook for an interview with the author.

STEM Friday

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

Site Meter Copyright © 2015 Sue Heavenrich All Rights Reserved.