STEM Friday

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Books

Nothing says summer like mosquito bites

Itch! Everything you didn’t want to know about what makes you scratch

by Anita Sanchez; illus. by Gilbert Ford

80 pages; ages 7-10. HMH books for Young Reader, 2018

“You probably never give skin a thought,” writes Anita Sanchez, “until it gets itchy.” And then you can’t stop scratching. But to understand why things itch, we need to understand how skin works and how our body reacts to stings and bites.

In the following chapters, we are introduced to things that make us itch: lice! fleas! mosquitoes! bedbugs! fungi! and plants with spines, needles, and poisons. Yes – there are things lurking and growing in our backyards that will make us itch.

What I like about this book: it’s fun to read and full of unexpected (and cool) facts.  Even as she describes the pesky plants and bugs that bother us, Anita offers cool insights into their lives. We learn how fleas leap, how burrs inspired velcro, and how bedbugs talk to each other. Even better, she provides plenty  non-toxic alternatives for treatment. Did you know that a dab of minty toothpaste can soothe an itchy bug bite? She’s even got a recipe for de-skunking!

The writing is clear, and the illustrations engaging and sometimes humorous. I like the back matter, too: an author’s note about the inspiration for this book plus the usual glossary, bibliography, and an index that’s like having a quick-link to info.

STEM Friday

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

Copyright © 2018 Sue Heavenrich All Rights Reserved.


Terrific Tongues!

ages 4-8; Boyds Mills Press, 2018

Animals are amazingly adapted to live in different habitats. Fish use fins and tails to move, birds fly, and cats pounce and bound on four feet. Here’s a book that takes a closer look at animal adaptations.

Terrific Tongues, by Marie Gianferrari; illus. by Jia Liu

You use your tongue for a lot of things: licking ice cream cones, tasting food, and helping shape the words you speak.

But can you use your tongue like a straw? Moths do. They have long, tubelike tongues that roll up like garden hoses! Moths use their tongues to reach down into tubular flowers to sip nectar – I’ve watched them do this in my garden! Some animals have tongues like swords, or windshield wipers.

What I like about this book: On one page, Marie sets up a situation. For example, “If you had a tongue like a washcloth, you might be a….” Turn the page and you discover what sort of creature has such a strange and useful tongue. I’m pretty sure our tongues seem strange to moths. Or frogs.

I love the bright, playful illustrations. I also like the back matter: one spread provides lists of things tongues do, and another tells more information about each of the animal tongues featured in the book, from forked snake tongues to radulas.

Head over to Archimedes Notebook where you’ll find a couple more books about animal adaptations.

STEM Friday

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

Copyright © 2018 Sue Heavenrich 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.

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.

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.

Back from the Brink ~ Saving Animals from Extinction

Back from the Brink: Saving animals from extinction, by Nancy F. Castaldo

176 pages; ages 10-12. HMH Books for Young Readers, 2018

“We are not alone on this great spinning planet,” writes Nancy Castaldo. “Alongside us are countless creatures with whom we share the earth’s space and resources. Sometimes we collide, and when we do, it’s usually the animals that lose out.”

In the introduction, Nancy discusses preservation, the Endangered Species Act, and how humans can work together to help repair some of the damage done to wildlife populations. Individual chapters highlight whooping cranes, gray wolves, bald eagles, the giant Galapagos tortoises, American alligators, California condors, and American bison.

Having never had the opportunity to visit the Galapagos, I was intrigued to learn about the tortoises. They are big – weighing 500 or more pounds – and live a long time. One tortoise, owned by Charles Darwin in 1835, died in 2006! These tortoises are crucial member of their ecosystems, Nancy writes. They help distribute seed for plants that, in turn, provide food for birds and lizards.

The problem: goats. Goats introduced to the islands have destroyed the forests that provide important shade and moisture for the tortoises. People brought goats to the island; people can help remove them so the island ecosystem can recover and provide a safe home for the tortoises. Nancy shows how that is happening on one of the island, allowing tortoises to come back from the brink of extinction.

I love the way Nancy ends with a Call to Action. There are specific things that people – even kids – can do to help preserve wildlife. For example, planting native plants could help save endangered butterflies. Making sure your microtrash (bottle caps and other small plastic bits) ends up in the trash bin keeps plastic out of the mouths of wildlife. Preserving wetlands in your area will help the birds and other wildlife that depend on those habitats. Reducing the use of herbicides and other pesticides will keep birds – and humans – healthier.

STEM Friday

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

Copyright © 2018 Sue Heavenrich All Rights Reserved.


Summer officially begins next week! Here’s a fun pop-up book to kick off vacation:

Summer, by David A. Carter

12 pages; ages 3-5. Abrams Appleseed, 2018

The summer day is long and warm…

Each spread in this book features brief text and depicts plants and animals that children might see during the summer.

What I like about this book: It’s fun! When you turn the page, a plant or tree pops up (plus the squash that vines from one side of the spread to the other). Birds, animals, fruits, and the occasional feature are labeled, and there is plenty of detail to explore on the page. It almost begs kids to get up and head outside to explore summer. My recommendation: tuck this one in your picnic basket.


Head over to Archimedes Notebook for more books and some hands-on explorations.

STEM Friday

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

Copyright © 2018 Sue Heavenrich All Rights Reserved.