STEM Friday

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Books

Diet for a Changing Climate

Have you seen Christy Mihaly and Sue Heavenrich’s wonderful new book, Diet for a Changing Planet:  Food for Thought?

We all know the food we eat can determine our health, but what about change the health of our planet? Mihaly and Heavenrich make a case that eating certain plants and animals — a few that are not normally on the menu — might do just that.

The authors start by revealing some of the plants we think of as weeds were brought to North America from Europe on purpose as food and/or herbal remedies. Dandelions and purslane, for example, are thought to have been been imported and grown intentionally before they escaped from gardens and were labeled as weeds. Perhaps it is time to turn back the clock. What could be more local than eating plants that grow readily in almost any yard? To entice the reader to try them, the authors offer recipes, such as for dandelion flower pancakes.

The next step is to consider eating some of the species that have become invasive, for example Asian carp or garlic mustard, which is a weed. They also suggest eating insects and other invertebrates as alternative protein sources.

The authors have thought this through because they offer plenty of cautions. For example, people who are allergic to shellfish may also be allergic to insects. Although kudsu is edible, the plant is a three-leaved vine that closely resembles and grows in the same locales as poison ivy. The ability to identify these plants and animals accurately is critical.

The book has a modern look sure to entice young people. The art director writes about decisions about the cover design on the Lerner blog might interest future artists. Inside a number of color stock photographs catch the eye.

Diet for a Changing Planet is definitely “Food for Thought.” Given that some young people think meals arise spontaneously and have trouble telling a turnip from a red onion in the grocery store (true story), the idea of foraging for food outdoors and preparing it themselves may be a hard sell. Even so, reading this book may plant some seeds of ideas that will come to fruition later on.

Curious about how the book came about? Check out Writing as a Team at GROG.

Original review and some activity suggestions at Growing with Science.


Baby Loves Gravity (Baby Loves Science series)

At Wrapped in Foil blog this morning, I am taking a look at the latest edition from the Baby loves Science series:  Baby Loves Gravity by Ruth Spiro and illustrated by Irene Chan .

Using short sentences, age-appropriate examples, and colorful illustrations the book will entice babies, toddlers and preschoolers to explore their world.

“Gravity is even at the park!
Baby climbs up…
…and gravity helps him down.
Whee! Baby loves gravity.

Some question the validity of introducing high-level science concepts to toddlers whose brains aren’t fully developed yet (for example, Kirkus). On the other hand, it is easy to underestimate children. I’ve had a four year old explain to me that he didn’t want to go faster than the speed of light because he wouldn’t be able to see where he was going. My feeling is that if they are interested in gravity, you will know. If they aren’t, go on to something that does interest them.

Give Baby Loves Gravity a try. If nothing else, you will learn the correct vocabulary to use and be prepared to answer all the non-stop why questions you are going to get when your child is a bit older.

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.

What Do They Do With All That Poo?

At Growing with Science today we are highlighting the new picture book What Do They Do With All That Poo? by Jane Kurtz and illustrated by Allison Black.

Kids of a certain age love these topics.

For the text, Jane Kurtz uses a two level approach. Across the top of the pages is a bouncy rhyme, which is fantastic for educators who want to read the book aloud to young children. Across the bottom of the pages are denser sentences geared for older readers who want to find out more information.

Using twelve animal examples, — from bats to rhinos — Kurtz explains how the variation in their poo results from differences in the animals’ nutrition and digestion. For example, panda poo is mostly undigested bamboo, so it is green and not smelly at all. On the other hand, penguin poo is fishy.

The author also includes information about how zoos handle the disposal of animal wastes, including composting. There’s even a surprise or two at the end.

What Do They Do With All That Poo? is a perfect book to accompany a trip to the zoo, farm, or wildlife habitat. Check out a copy today!

See the rest of the review and more stuff at the blog.


We have a space theme going on here at STEM Friday today. At Growing with Science blog we are featuring Astronaut-Aquanaut: How Space Science and Sea Science Interact (National Geographic Kids) by Jennifer Swanson.

At first the link between exploring the oceans and exploring space might not seem obvious, but the pioneering men and women who add to our understanding of both regions face similar challenges. Lack of oxygen, cold, darkness, and pressure extremes are just some of the trials they have to overcome.

In addition to loads of information about what exploring space and the deep oceans is all about, the book also explains some of the key science concepts.

Chapter 3 compares living inside a space habitat like the International Space Station (ISS) and and underwater habitat. Readers learn the two intersect because astronauts get ready for space by training underwater at Aquarius, an underwater research center off the coast of Florida.

Chapter 4 asks and attempts to answer why do humans explore. Why would someone want to become an astronaut or aquanaut? The final chapter wraps up with what some of the discoveries have been in these two areas.

Scattered throughout the book are three hands-on activities:

  • Sink or Float
  • Docking the ISS
  • Design Your Own Space Suit

The back matter includes brief bios of ten astronauts and aquanauts, including their training and current positions, which is a great resource for children who might be interested in similar careers.

Astronaut-Aquanaut is a must have for future explorers. It also shows where a career in STEM might lead. Explore a copy today!

If you’d like to see the full review and some activity suggestions, be sure to visit Growing with Science.

There’s also more about the book and an interview with the author at Nonfiction Monday blog.

Try This! Extreme Hands-On Experiment Collection

Experiment collection books can be lifesavers for parents and educators. Try This Extreme: 50 Fun & Safe Experiments for the Mad Scientist in You by Karen Romano Young and photographs by Matthew Rakola is a new collection that will be sure to excite young scientists.


What is extreme about this book? It explores extreme temperatures (for example, the effect of cold on glow sticks), extreme environments (test survival skills) , and extreme animal abilities (for example, exploring the insulating power of whale blubber). It is also extremely engaging.

As we’ve come to expect from National Geographic Kids, the book is illustrated with fantastic color photographs. What makes it stand out is that it features real kids performing the experiments, and includes some of their comments, plus readers gets to meet all the kid scientists on pages 10 and 11. Seeing their peers doing the experiments draws kids in and empowers them to try some themselves.

In fact, you will want to try out this 2018 AAAS Subaru Children’s Science Book Prize Finalist today!

For a full review plus a hands-on experiment suggestion, visit Growing with Science blog.

Woodpeckers: Drilling Holes and Bagging Bugs

Nature lovers are going to adore this new middle grade title, Woodpeckers: Drilling Holes and Bagging Bugs by Sneed B. Collard III.

An overview of the twenty-two different species of woodpeckers found in North America, it covers what woodpeckers eat, where they live, and reveals many of their unique behaviors.

If you’ve never read a book by acclaimed science author Sneed B. Collard III, reading Woodpeckers will send you searching for more of his titles. First of all, he and his son (at fourteen years old!) traveled around North America and took the majority of the stunning color photographs in the book. That alone shows their knowledge about and passion for their subjects. Add the fun, conversational tone of the text, sprinkled with quotes from woodpecker experts and you have one amazing book!

See more information and activity suggestions to accompany Woodpeckers at Growing With Science blog.


On Gull Beach

Let’s take a look at On Gull Beach by Jane Yolen and illustrated by Bob Marstall, a beautiful picture book that came out this week.

The story follows a young boy as he explores a Massachusetts beach. Along the way, he spots a sea star. Before he can reach it, however, a seagull picks it up and flies away. Find out what he discovers as he chases the gull along the beach.

Jane Yolen’s simple, but expertly-crafted rhyming text and Bob Marstall’s exceptional illustrations make a delightful combination. Plus, you can’t go wrong with a bird book published by the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology.

Young birdwatchers will love On Gull Beach. It would also be a great choice for a trip to the beach, either in real life or in the reader’s imagination. Enjoy a copy today!

Visit Growing With Science blog for the complete review and related activity suggestions.

Two New National Geographic Books About Dogs

In time for National Puppy Day (March 23) and to celebrate the Year of the Dog, National Geographic is publishing not one, but two great nonfiction children’s books about dogs.

It’s a Puppy’s Life by photographer Seth Casteel is a picture book with an irresistible combination of adorable photographs of puppies and romping, bouncy partially-rhyming text.

As we would expect from National Geographic, the photographs are fantastic, funny and cute. We see puppies playing, sniffing, making a mess, and sleeping.

Where’s the science? In the back matter are 32 thumbnails of the photographs used in the book with captions that identify each by breed. The puppies range from basset hounds to Yorkshire terriers, allowing readers to explore the concept of inheritance and variation of traits, a Next Generation Science standard.

Even the most reluctant reader is going to enjoy It’s a Puppy’s Life. It is an obvious choice for anyone who is a dog enthusiast, plus would be a great choice to share for National Puppy Day, March 23.


The second book is the middle grade title Dog Days of HistoryThe Incredible Story of Our Best Friends by Sarah Albee.


In this title, Albee starts out with a discussion of where dogs come from. The scientific name for dogs is Canis lupus familiaris, which indicates it is a subspecies of wolf (Canis lupus). In fact, dogs share most of their DNA with wolves, but show incredible variation in appearances.

The remainder of the book progresses in chronological order, with chapters exploring the relations of people and dogs in the ancient world, middle ages, etc., through modern times. Albee features famous dogs through history, like Lewis and Clark’s dog, Seaman. The final chapter wraps up with the role of dogs in modern culture and a glimpse of the future of dogs.

It’s a great reference for dog lovers that they will return to again and again.

See Growing with Science blog for the rest of the review, plus suggested science activities to accompany the books.

Rocket Shoes Fiction Inspires STEAM Activities

Generally we feature nonfiction books here at STEM Friday, but that doesn’t mean a good fiction picture book can’t be used to promote STEM.

Take Rocket Shoes by Sharon Skinner and illustrated by Ward Jenkins.

José works hard to buy a pair of special rocket shoes. They are a blast. His neighbor thinks they are too dangerous, however, and talks the mayor into banning them. When the same neighbor gets into trouble during a snow storm, will José break the rules and put on his shoes to save the day?

This book has it all. It features diverse characters, text full of action verbs and catchy rhymes, just the right touch of humor, plus readers learn about conflict resolution in a lighthearted way (not at all pedantic). What more could you ask for?

How about plenty of potential to tie-in STEAM activities?  Check out Wrapped in Foil blog for suggestions for just a few of the many STEAM activities that could be inspired by the book. It is sure to fire up a child’s imagination.

Rocket Shoes is such a fun book that it will fly off the bookshelf. Share a copy with a young reader today!