STEM Friday

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Books

Birds and Their Feathers

Birds and Their Feathers
by Britta Teckentrup (Author / Illustrator)

Booktalk: The feather — at once fragile and stong, versatile and beautiful — is one of nature’s most ingenious constructions. What are feathers made of? Why do birds have so many of them? How do they help birds fly? And what other purpose do they serve? Find out in this book about the wonders of “plumology,” bird feather science.

Pink Feathers
The flamingo obtains its wonderful pink colour from the food it eats — crustaceans. Without this diet, which is rich in pink carotenoid pigments, the flamingo’s feathers would be white or gray.

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

Copyright © 2018 Anastasia Suen All Rights Reserved.

Oliver’s Otter Phase

32 pages; ages 4-9. Arbordale, 2018

Oliver’s otter phase began one morning after a trip to the aquarium.

At mealtime Oliver tries to use his chest as a plate. That’s what otters do.

While shopping, he tries to get dad to tie a string to him because mama otters tie their babies to pieces of kelp so the don’t get lost.

Oliver tries out a lot of otter behaviors that don’t make sense for kids, and one that does. A fun story for any kid who’s wanted to be something more exciting than a … kid – even if they would rather be a polar bear or eagle. Back matter includes a comparison chart for otters and humans (you can make one for the animal your kid wants to be), plus more otter info and a fun game.

Head over to Archimedes Notebook for more animal books.


STEM Friday

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

Copyright © 2018 Sue Heavenrich All Rights Reserved.

Build Your Own Boats

Build Your Own Boats
by Rob Ives (Author)

Booktalk: Landlubbers can make a splash with these easy-to-make watercraft using simple, everyday items! You’ll be surprised how you can use two soft drink cans and a rubber band to make a catamaran, a plastic bottle and baking soda to make a jet boat, and more!


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

Copyright © 2018 Anastasia Suen All Rights Reserved.

Countdown: 2979 Days to the Moon

Countdown : 2979 Days to the Moon

By Suzanne Slade

Illustrated by Thomas Gonzalez

Peachtree Publishers

2,979 days after President Kennedy announced,

“I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to earth,”

this nation did just that. Not only did we achieve the goal, we did it all in the days before personal computers, cell phones, ATMs, and video games were invented. If you visit the historic Mission Control room in Johnson Space Center, you will be amazed at what was accomplished with the technology of the time.

In free verse poetry, Suzanne Slade recounts the extraordinary journey, both daring and dangerous, that culminated in the first humans to walk on the lunar surface.

“The men steal a last glance at their beautiful home,

then Borman begins the TLI countdown: “9,8,7,…”

With each passing second,

excitement builds at Mission Control.

No astronaut—American or Soviet—

has ridden a rocket beyond Earth orbit.

“3,2, light On. Ignition,” Borman announces.

“Ignition,” Lovell confirms.

The third-stage engine reignites,

sending the craft on its long trek to the Moon.

As Apollo 8 screams into space,

Borman, Lovell, and Anders

become the first humans

to fly above Earth orbit.”

The text is presented against a backdrop of illustrations in pastel, colored pencil, and airbrush.  Gonzalez has created a delicate balance of realism and magic. The artwork is recognizable as images seen in news media of the era, and yet, it is elevated with a patina of enchantment. The resulting combination is stunning.

Between chapters, there are two pages detailing each Apollo mission, which include photos,  astronaut bios, and mission statistics, e.g., dates, duration.

Extensive back matter includes more information on Apollo 11, and Author’s Note, Illustrator’s Note, Selected Bibliography, Sources for Quotations, and Photo Credits.

As the nation contemplates manned missions to Mars, it is fitting to look back on the sacrifices and triumphs of an earlier space-traveling generation.

See all my reviews at Shelf-employed.

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

A is for Astronaut

A is for Astronaut: Blasting Through the Alphabet
by Clayton Anderson (Author)and Scott Brundage (Illustrator)

Booktalk: Former astronaut Clayton Anderson takes readers on an A to Z flight through the alphabet from astronaut and blastoff to spacewalk and Zulu Time. Topics cover the history of NASA, science, and practical aspects of being an astronaut using fun poems for each letter paired with longer expository text in the sidebars.


J is for Jettison | K is for Kennedy


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

Copyright © 2018 Anastasia Suen All Rights Reserved.

The Secret of the Bird’s Smart Brain … and more!

A few months ago, Sue featured The Secret of the Scuba Diving Spider … and more! by Ana Maria Rodriguez. It looked like a great middle grade science book and today we are happy to share another in the series, The Secret of the Bird’s Smart Brain…And More! by Ana Maria Rodriguez.

Using a fun format where each chapter reveals a surprise about a different group of animals, the author has found five science stories which often turn conventional wisdom upside down. In the first chapter, the term “bird brain” has a whole new meaning when scientists find that small size has nothing to do with power. In the following chapters readers discover whether birds have a sense of smell, how and why mama bears act during different seasons, and how pig grunts and alligator bellows may have more to say more than we originally thought. The last chapter ends with a hands-on activity for kids to try.

Although it is the animals that draw young readers in (the kunekune pigs are adorable!), the true stars of each chapter are the scientists who are discovering their secrets. The book shows details of how each group of scientists studies the problems, from counting brain cells to recording pig grunts.

The Secret of the Bird’s Smart Brain…And More! is the next best thing to taking a field trip with a biologist. Check out a copy today.

And, be sure to stop by Growing with Science to learn more about those cute kunekune pigs.

Books for when kids ask How and Why

208 pages; ages 7-10. (2017)

Kids love to ask questions. Why is the sky blue? How does the car go? Here are two fun books from National Geographic Kids that help answer the plethora of questions we face every day.

How Things Work: Inside Out, by T. J. Resler

I love NGK books, but sometimes they get buried beneath a stack of other “gotta reads”. This book, published about 6 months ago, is a great place for kids to find inspiration and explanations. It features gizmos, gadgets, construction, auto engineering, and accidental inventions. Inside the pages you’ll find the inside scoop on segways, self-driving cars, and sticky situations (think gecko glue). There are bios of engineers, scientists, inventors, and architects who dreamed big and – more importantly – didn’t stop when they were told something was impossible. There are plenty of things to try, too. So make sure the kitchen junk drawer is well-stocked this summer and there’s a place to invent.

128 pages; ages 4-8. (2018)


Little Kids First Big Book of Why 2, by Jill Esbaum

Want to know why you yawn, why bubbles are round, why birds sing, or why weeds grow in gardens? Then this is the place to look. The book is divided into four sections: Me, Myself, and I; Fun and Games; Awesome Animals; and Nature. Each page features photos, easy-to-read text, fun facts, and sometimes a question. Each section contains two hands-on activities and ends with a game. Back matter includes a “Parent Tips” section with nine “beyond the book” activities to share with children. Each activity focuses on some aspect of STEM: observation, experiment, measuring – plus imagination and art. A list of resources includes books and websites for further exploration.

STEM Friday

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

Copyright © 2018 Sue Heavenrich All Rights Reserved.

Water’s Children

Water’s Children: Celebrating the Resource That Unites Us All
by Angèle Delaunois (Author), Gérard Frischeteau (Illustrator), and Erin Woods (Translator)

Booktalk: Around the world, water appears in many forms: a snowflake, an oasis, the stream from a faucet, monsoon rain. Twelve young people describe what water means to them and their descriptions are as varied as the landscapes the speakers inhabit. Each of them also expresses, in their own language, a universal truth: Water is life.

If you look carefuly and you can see the words, “Water is life” in the child’s native language in the art on each page spread.


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

Copyright © 2018 Anastasia Suen All Rights Reserved.

Rascally Rodents and other Mammals

40 pages; ages 6-9. Holiday House, 2018

Who can resist new books about animals? Not me! Here are two relatively new releases.

Rodent Rascals, by Roxie Munro

I always love opening the covers of a new Roxie Munro book because I know I’ll learn something new. Rodent Rascals lives up to that expectation. And yes, she does present them in “actual size” – from the tiniest pygmy jerboa to the sweet-looking capybara. Though, as you can understand, as the rascals get larger the illustration can only capture part of them.

“Humans are lucky to have rodents,” Roxie writes. Throughout history, humans have used them as lab rats, fur sources, pets, and food. We’ve even sent them into space.

Did you know that male house mice sing love songs to their true loves? That flying squirrels don’t really fly (they glide), and that there are more than 100 species of gerbils? And that rats have excellent memories? I’m pretty sure the mice in my house do, too, as they always seem to find my chocolate stash. Some rodents have highly developed societies, too. Back matter includes more information about the species highlighted in the book, a glossary, sources for more information, websites, and an index so you can get back to specific critters that you meant to page-mark with sticky notes but forgot.

40 pages; ages 4-8. Holiday House, 2018

A Mammal is an Animal, by Lizzy Rockwell

“A mammal is an animal,” writes Lizzy … “but is every animal a mammal? No!”

Earthworms are animals, but they aren’t mammals because they are soft and squishy. Mammals have hard parts inside (squeeze your arm – feel that bone?). So…. snails have hard parts, and so do ladybugs – does that mean they are mammals?

Nope, because their hard parts are on the outside, and mammals have have skeletons inside. Well… what about a sunfish? It has bones inside.

I LOVE the back-and-forth discussion from page to page as Lizzy narrows down the characteristics that make an animal a mammal. I also love that she includes back matter highlighting strange mammals such as those that lay eggs. (Yes! Some mammals lay eggs.) She includes a page of mammal facts and references for curious kids who want to learn more.

STEM Friday

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

Copyright © 2018 Sue Heavenrich All Rights Reserved.