STEM Friday

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Books


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.


Just Like Us! Ants

Just Like Us! Ants

by Bridget Heos ; illustrated by David Clark

32  pages; ages 4-7

HMH Books for Young Readers, 2017

Did you know that ants have been farming for longer than humans? And that in addition to raising crops, they herd (and milk) animals? Ants also build roads, sew, and construct rafts to survive floods.

What I like about this book: On each spread, Bridget Heos introduces a different way in which ants are like us. She uses plain language, tinged with humor, to show how ants live in communities, delegate chores, and deal with traffic. An ant’s first job is often that of a babysitter – just like us! Babysitter ants feed their young charges, and give them baths. They’d probably raid the fridge if ant nests had refrigerators. Another thing ants do is wage war on other colonies. Meanwhile, the queen and loyal helpers carry the larvae and flee to safety.

I also like the artwork. David Clark’s cartoonish illustrations add a touch of humor while showing the details we need to know. Occasionally he integrates photos of real ants doing real work.

Head over to Archimedes Notebook for a review of Spiders! Strange and Wonderful, plus some hands-on activities.

STEM Friday

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

Copyright © 2018 Sue Heavenrich All Rights Reserved.

How to Code a Sandcastle

How to Code a Sandcastle (a Girls Who Code book), by Josh Funk; illustrated by Sara Palacios.

44 pages; ages 4-8. Viking, 2018

It is the last day of summer vacation. Which means today is my very last chance to build a sandcastle!

Pearl has been trying to build a sandcastle all summer long, but things keep happening to them. Today, though, she’s got the perfect plan and the perfect building partner – her trusty, rust-proof robot buddy, Pascal. All she has to do is tell Pascal what to do, and how to do it.

What I like about this book: I like the fun way Josh Funk introduces coding. When Pearl tells Pascal to build a sandcastle, he doesn’t know what to do. Pearl realizes she needs to give her robot more specific instructions, so she figures out the steps needed for castle construction and, through trial and error, creates the code that tells Pascal what to do. Then, because she is tired of repeating the same instructions, she figures out how to create a loop of code so Pascal will continue doing the same thing over and over and over again.

I like the personality illustrator Sara Palacios imbues in Pascal. He is delightful! And I love the clever way Josh codes “the end” and his dedication. This book will make you want to get a bucket and plastic scoop and head to the beach to code your very own sandcastle.

Check out my interview with Josh Funk on the GROG Blog. And head over to Archimedes Notebook for some more beach reading and hands-on activities.


STEM Friday

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

Copyright © 2018 Sue Heavenrich All Rights Reserved.

A Seed is the Start

A Seed is the Start, by Melissa Stewart

32 pages; ages 6-9. National Geographic Children’s Books, 2018

A seed is the start of a new plant life. Bury it in the soil and watch it grow, grow, grow.

But plants need room to grow. Good thing seeds have many ways of traveling to new places. In the pages of this book, Melissa Stewart explores the different ways seeds get from one place to another. Some fly, some float. Some travel inside animals, some hitch a ride on the outside. In clear, not-too-complex language, and with an abundance of photographs, she brings readers into the world of seeds.

What I like about this book: I like how each spread celebrates a method of seed travel. I love the photos. And I really like the front-matter: the first page lists six “words to know” that will help readers gain more from the book. Plus there’s an index of plants at the back – so kids who want to know about a particular plant can go directly to that page. And there’s a list of books and websites for further information.

Head over to Archimedes Notebook for more books that celebrate spring – plus lots of hands-on activities.

STEM Friday

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

Copyright © 2018 Sue Heavenrich All Rights Reserved.

Boy Bites Bug

Boy Bites Bug, By Rebecca Petruck

272 pages; ages 8 and up. Amulet Books, 2018

I love finding STEM-related fiction – especially when it involves insects. So I could not wait to read Rebecca Petruck’s newest book! Boy Bites Bug is about middle school and growing up, discovering who you are who your friends are. It’s also about wrestling, racism, and respect. And, of course, bugs – some swallowed by accident, some on purpose.

This was the winter of the stinkbug invasion in our house, so I particularly loved the opening lines of the book: The intrusion of stinkbugs clumped on the ceiling in a back corner of the library, a splotch like crusty dried mud.

Of course one of those bugs ends up in Will’s mouth! But instead of becoming an outcast, he becomes “bug boy”, and kids good-naturedly tease him by making up names for lunch items in the school cafeteria: French flies; maggot-aroni and fleas.

Turns out that people all around the world eat bugs as part of their meals. They’re a great source of protein. So Will decides to do a class project on eating insects, and enlists the aid of Eloy Herrera. Eloy agrees, in exchange for Will’s help with wrestling. As their friendship grows, Will’s friendship with Darryl cools. Darryl had called Eloy a racial slur, and seems jealous of the time Will spends with his new friend. Meanwhile there’s wrestling practices and… where did that box of live crickets come from?

I love that this book has back matter: a guide to eating bugs, and a few recipes. Author Rebecca Petruck even rustled up some grubs to taste test: waxworms in cookies, crickets in tacos, and earthworm jerky.

Head over to Archimedes Notebook for an interview with Rebecca and more.

STEM Friday

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

Copyright © 2018 Sue Heavenrich All Rights Reserved.

Flying Deep

Flying Deep

by Michelle Cusolito; illustrated by Nicole Wong

32 pages; ages 5-9. Charlesbridge, 2018

Imagine you’re the pilot of Alvin, a deep-sea submersible barely big enough for three.

This book takes you on an adventure down, down, down to investigate a site where underwater volcanoes erupted. Two miles below the surface of the ocean, scientist are studying the living things taking hold near the hydrothermal vents. Getting there is a bit tricky, because you could get trapped in nets – and you only have three days of air – and who would come and rescue you?

What I like love about this book: The adventure of a day in Alvin! The cool creatures that scientists discover in the deep, deep sea! There are ghost crabs, six-foot tall tube worms, and dinner plate-sized clams. I love the language Michelle Cusolito uses to describe fish – an elusive eelpout – and the technology – they toggle the slurp gun into position. Slurp Gun! How can you not love science when you’ve got a slurp gun?

And of course, the back matter – and there is plenty for everyone. Michelle writes about underwater food webs at hydrothermal vents. Too deep for sunlight and photosynthesis, the creatures of the deep depend on bacteria and microbes to convert chemicals vented from inside the earth into food. Those microorganisms are in turn eaten by bigger animals. She also writes about her sources: Don Collasius, a former Alvin pilot, and Bruce Strickrott, a current Alvin pilot. Illustrator Nicole Wong writes about her research to get the illustrations correct – from the technology to how it moves underwater. There are Alvin Facts, a glossary, and a guide to the organisms Alvin scientists have found, along with sources for further exploration.

Head over to Archimedes Notebook for an interview with Michelle and Beyond the Book activities.

STEM Friday

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

Copyright © 2018 Sue Heavenrich All Rights Reserved.

This week we’re going to Mars!

Mission to Mars, by Mary Kay Carson

Sterling Children’s Books, 2018

In your lifetime people could be headed to Mars. So author Mary Kay Carson begins her book by comparing Mars to Earth. Both planets are tilted, so Mars has seasons just like Earth does. And both have days that are similar in length – Mars days are 37 minutes longer than Earth days. But a Mars year lasts 687 days, and it’s a lot colder. Think Antarctica. Now think even colder!

What I like about this book: Carson shares history of Mars exploration, from telescope to landers, orbiters, and the more recent rovers that roll across the desert-like landscape. The rovers send images back to earth, as well as data from their onboard labs that can detect bacteria and other signs of life. Carson goes into detail about what sort of evidence for life one might hope to find on the dry, cold planet.

Scientists continue discovering new information from the red planet. Just a couple years ago an orbiting satellite found evidence of water on Mars. And sometime in the next weeks, NASA plans to launch a new mission to Mars – perhaps as early as tomorrow (May 5) called InSight.

“NASA scientists want to know if Mars has a hot, liquid center like Earth, and how thick its outer crust layer is,” writes Carson. As for future manned missions to Mars, humans will go there someday, she says. “We already have a lot of the technology and know-how.” And should you think you might want to be one of the astronauts heading to Mars, there’s a checklist at the end so you can determine if you’re “mission ready”.

Curiosity: the Story of a Mars Rover, by Markus Motum

Candlewick Press, 2018

Wherever you are in the world right now, I’m a very long way away. I’m not even on the same planet as you.

On August 6, 2012, the rover Curiosity touched down on the surface of Mars. This book is the story about her mission: to discover more about Mars and search for evidence of life.

What I like about this book: Curiosity tells her story in first person. How often do you get to read a story told by a Mars rover? First she tells why she was sent to Mars. It’s a hostile environment for humans, so she and her rover sisters and orbiter buddies can send lots of good information back home to help humans get ready for a voyage. Curiosity takes us on a field trip to the lab where she was built and gives us the inside scoop on the tools she carries and her power source (plutonium).Then – her trip to Mars, and the tension-filled deployment from orbit to the surface. Of course she took a selfie!

Head over to Archimedes Notebook for Beyond the Book links and activities.

STEM Friday

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

Copyright © 2018 Sue Heavenrich All Rights Reserved.