STEM Friday

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Books

Meet my Family

Meet My Family! Animal babies and their families, by Laura Purdie Salas; illus. by Stephanie Fizer Coleman

32 pages; ages 5-9. Millbrook Press, 2018

“My parents both take care of me.”

Written from the point of view of animal babies, they introduce us to their families. The tundra swan cygnet lives with both mom and dad, while a raccoon kit has never met its father.

What I like love about this book: Large text on each page introduces the animal baby and its family. Smaller text adds detail about where they live (a den or nest), whether they have siblings, and how parents interact with the young. Wolves play, for example, while some frogs give their kids piggyback rides.

At the same time, facing pages highlight comparisons and contrasts. A foal is an only child, whereas piglets have lots of brothers and sisters. Beaver kits live in one place through their childhood, while orangutans move to a new nest each night.

Best of all ~ the large text, read by itself is a long, lyrical poem about animal families. Plus there’s back matter: a glossary of what animal babies are called in their home ranges, and a map showing where the 22 animal families live. And did I mention the awesome illustrations? I love that the cover resembles a family album.

Head over to Archimedes Notebook for another review about animal dads, and hands-on activities.


STEM Friday

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

Copyright © 2018 Sue Heavenrich All Rights Reserved.

Just Like Us! Plants

Just Like Us! Plants, by Bridget Heos; illus. by David Clark

32 pages, ages 4-7. HMH Books for Young Readers, 2018

People think, talk, and walk around. Plants do none of these things. So how can they be anything like us?

Well, writes Bridget Heos, they can communicate with each other and wear sneaky disguises. And plants even wage war. In this addition to her “Just Like Us” series, she gives us an up-close look into the secret – and not so secret – lives of plants.

What I like about this book: On each spread we get to see one specific way in which plants are similar to people. One spread focuses on what plants eat, another on the importance of drinking water. There are a couple spreads that detail how young seeds are sent on their way – some by hitching a ride, others by air or sea. David Clark’s vibrant and humorous illustrations are fun and engaging.  A glossary and bibliography provide more for the curious kid.

Check out the hands-on fall plant activities over at Archimedes Notebook

STEM Friday

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

Copyright © 2018 Sue Heavenrich All Rights Reserved.

Hawk Rising

Hawk Rising, by Maria Gianferrari; illus. by Brian Floca

40 pages; ages 4-8. Roaring Brook Press, 2018

Father Hawk stretches wide his wings. You stretch your arms as Mars rises red in the sky.

Dawn is breaking and hungry chicks are waiting for their breakfast. Father Hawk is on the hunt! But catching food is harder than we’d think – and there are other dangers facing hawks.

What I like about this book: The alternating viewpoint between the child (“you”) and the hawk. The reality of being a predator in a hawk-eat-rodent world. I love Brian Floca’s muted watercolor illustrations. I love the suspense: will the hawk nestlings get a meal?

And, of course I like that there is back matter. More details on the lives of red-tailed hawks: where they live, how they fly, what they eat (just about anything!) and tips on spotting a red-tailed hawk. Maria also includes suggestions for further reading as well as websites for learning more.

Head over to Archimedes Notebook for another book review about desert animals and some STEAM activities.

STEM Friday

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

Copyright © 2018 Sue Heavenrich All Rights Reserved.

Belle’s Journey

Belle’s Journey, An Osprey Takes Flight, by Rob Bierregaard; illustrated by Kate Garchinsky

122 pages; ages 7 – 10. Charlesbridge, 2018

The story of Belle begins with her parents, who return to their nest on Martha’s Vineyard in March (brrrr!), and the two scientists who are scouting for active nests. By the middle of July, the young ospreys are nearly as big as their parents and they’re stretching their wings. One day, while the birds are out hunting, Dr. B and his fellow researcher climb up and put a fish in the nest as bait. Then they cover the nest with wire mesh to trap the birds.

Success! They capture Belle, fit the backpack straps over her wings and sew the harness so the radio transmitter won’t fall off in flight. The transmitter will send signals so the scientists can track her migration.

So here’s the thing about a young osprey’s first migratory flight: they don’t have maps. Their parents have already gone, so there’s no flock to join. They may run into danger, such as hurricanes, eagles, or people who shoot at them. And the journey is long – three to four thousand miles.

What I like about this book: The story is written from Belle’s point of view. We see her adventures during migration through her eyes. Chapters about the scientists are written from a different point of view. I like the back matter that gives more information about ospreys, migration, and what to do if you find injured birds. There are also lots of resources.

And I love the illustrations! Full color spreads are soft and inviting. Sepia-colored vignettes give us quick glimpses into the lives of Belle and the children following her journey. There’s even a series of sketches illustrating how an osprey captures fish.

Head over to Archimedes Notebook for more about ospreys and some cool links.

STEM Friday

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

Copyright © 2018 Sue Heavenrich All Rights Reserved.

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Spooked! How a Radio Broadcast and the War of the Worlds Sparked the 1938 Invasion of America, by Gail Jarrow

144 pages; ages 10 – 12. Calkins Creek, 2018

Mischief night is October 30, the night before Halloween. It’s the night when older kids and teens head out to soap windows, TP trees, and other mischief. But on October 30, 1938, a radio theater company unwittingly perpetrated mischief on a national audience. They performed an updated production of H.G. Wells’s science fiction novel, The War of the Worlds.

The novel portrays a martian attack on Earth – unrealistic, right? And yet, people tuning in late heard breathless announcers read alerts of an invasion. Because they hadn’t heard the disclaimer at the beginning of the show, that this was an act of fiction, some people panicked. They piled in their cars and fled their homes. Others jammed phone lines, calling relatives for one last conversation. And some drove to the invasion site, hoping to get a look at the alien invaders.

How could people be so taken in by a radio show? It was the depths of the depression, Gail Jarrow writes. Hitler is rising to power, and his invasions of European countries have Americans anxious. So if a person turned on the radio after the introduction, they might believe that the “program interruptions” they heard were legitimate alerts about invasions on American soil.

Gail’s book connects history with science, technology, engineering, and math. Right now, she days, we live in a world where the technology – social media and the Internet – is way ahead of human behavior and culture. Back in 1938, that’s what was going on with radio. People got their entertainment and news from the radio. As she studied this event in history, she kept seeing parallels in the way people responded to a radio broadcast and the way people respond to social media now.

The biggest issue Gail saw is confirmation bias – that we tend to believe “news” that conforms to our ideology or politics. Not only is this a hazard when reading news presented on our social media, but it can also sway scientists, says Gail.

Hop over to Archimedes Notebook for an interview with Gail, and some beyond-the-book resources.

STEM Friday

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

Copyright © 2018 Sue Heavenrich All Rights Reserved.

Spring After Spring ~ a story about Rachel Carson

I love reading stories about real people – especially when those people use science to solve problems. Here’s a new book about Rachel Carson: Spring After Spring, How Rachel Carson Inspired the Environmental Movement, by Stephanie Roth Sisson (40 pages; ages 4-8. Roaring Brook Press, 2018).

It was dawn when the chorus began. cheerily! fee bee! jurit jeroo! Rachel didn’t want to miss a note.

Rachel Carson grew up surrounded by the sounds of nature. She paid attention to them season after season. So when spring sounded a little too quiet, she knew something was wrong. What was happening to the birds and insects who filled the air with song?

What I like LOVE about this book: I love that in the first few pages Stephanie R. Sisson has put the calls of birds and other creatures into speech bubbles. It’s fun, and helps me hear the symphony of music Rachel heard around her. There’s also a vertical illustration, so you have to hold the book a different way – which makes me take a closer look at the illustration and where the story is going.

I like the way Sisson portrays Rachel Carson – as a scientist who studied sea creatures but, when she noticed something was wrong, she used all her science skills to figure out what the problem was. She observed closely. She listened carefully. And she learned as much as she could by reading reports and articles – and then pulled the facts together into a narrative that explained how chemicals used to control insect pests were getting into the food chain and killing birds and other animals. The chemicals were making egg shells so thin that eagle eggs broke in the nest. And then Rachel did a brave thing. She wrote about it. She went to Congress and talked about it. Most of all, she inspired people to take better care of the earth.

I also like that there’s back matter. (but frequent readers already knew that!)

Head over to Archimedes Notebook for a review of Who Says Women Can’t be Computer Programmers? The Story of Ada Lovelace 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.

Extreme Survivors ~ Animals that Time Forgot

Extreme Survivors, Animals the Time Forgot (How Nature Works series)

by Kimberly Ridley

48 pages; ages 10-13. Tilbury House, 2017

They’re prowling around the planet now … prehistoric beasts whose ancestors survived the catastrophes that wiped out the dinosaurs. Don’t look now, but one might be lurking in your backyard…

That’s an introduction that grabs your attention! Prehistoric beasts in the backyard? Absolutely. Also in the ocean, on the beach, sliming across a jungle floor. In the pages of this book, Kimberly Ridley introduces readers to ten creatures that have survived the centuries: the toothy goblin shark, the spiky tuatara, horseshoe crabs, tardigrades, and more. And she reveals their survival secrets.

Running throughout the book is a conversation about evolution – the gradual change in organisms over generations. Organisms that are better adapted to their environment tend to be preserved through later generations, Ridley explains. She provides examples of natural selection in action and discusses advantages of certain adaptations. Like the comb jellies that, more than 550 million years ago, were among the first animals to evolve skin and muscles. Even more important than having a primitive “brain”, these animals had an anus – so food could go in one end of their digestive system and be excreted out their rear end. This adaptation allowed digestive tracts to develop, further allowing evolution of larger animals. Pretty cool, huh!

Of course there is Back Matter! More info on extreme discoveries, and a couple of nicely illustrated timelines plus quick facts on every animal: how big it is, what it eats, what eats it, when it appeared on earth. And for kids who want to dive deeper into the topic, Ridley provides a list of books and websites.

Want to know more? Head over to Archimedes Notebook for an interview with Kimberly Ridley.

STEM Friday

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

Copyright © 2018 Sue Heavenrich All Rights Reserved.

The Monarchs are Missing

56 pages; ages 8-12. Millbrook Press, 2018

The Monarchs are Missing: A Butterfly Mystery, by Rebecca Hirsch

One of the things we used to do with our kids was tag monarch butterflies as they began their southbound journey. In our neck of the woods that means heading out to the hayfields with net and tags in the first weeks of September.

Rebecca Hirsch begins her book with kids in the field, capturing monarchs to tag for the Monarch Watch citizen science project. The monarch butterflies they tag will head south on a journey of nearly 3,000 miles from across the eastern US and Canada to Mexico. How they do that is a mystery. What’s not a mystery: that monarchs are in danger. Every hear fewer butterflies reach the forests in Mexico where they spend the winter.

Why are the monarchs disappearing? That’s what scientists want to know, so Hirsch profiles scientists in the field. We learn how field scientists count butterflies, and how human land use affects monarch populations. Habitat loss, climate change, parasites … these are just some of the issues that monarchs face. Fortunately, there are things people can do to make the world a better – and safer – place for monarch butterflies, from creating milkweed corridors to planting native flowers in our back yards.

Yay for back matter! Hirsch provides further reading, seed sources for butterfly plants, and plenty of ways kids (and adults) can get involved as citizen scientists.Want to get started watching monarchs? Check out her website here.

Check out more books about bugs at Archimedes Notebook.

STEM Friday

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

Copyright © 2018 Sue Heavenrich All Rights Reserved.

The Lizard Lady

The Lizard Lady,  by Jennifer Keats Curtis and Dr. Nicole F. Angeli; illus. by Veronica V. Jones. 32 pages; ages 4-8.  Arbordale, 2018

If you’ve ever wanted to go on a field trip through thick Caribbean forests in search of the endangered St. Croix ground lizard, this is your ticket. The lizard doesn’t live on St. Croix anymore, because it was hunted to extinction by introduced mongooses. But the lizard does life on surrounding islands, and Dr. Nicole Angeli is on a mission to help them survive and thrive.

Dr. Angeli, known to all as the Lizard Lady, has to use all her senses to find these tiny, secretive reptiles. When she captures one, she takes it to her shack where she can weigh it and make observations. Then she carefully returns the lizard to the spot she found it.

What I like about this book: the list of things the Lizard Lady carries with her when she heads off on a hike! Waaay more than a notebook and pen. I also like the back matter. There’s information and maps showing St. Croix and the surrounding islands in the Caribbean. There’s additional information on the St. Croix lizard and its adaptation, as well as the invasive mongoose. And there’s a great bio-note on Dr. Angeli.

St. Croix lizards are just one of many threatened and endangered reptile species. Head over to Archimedes Notebook to find out more about Komodo dragons (not dragons at all) and other cool reptiles.

STEM Friday

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

Copyright © 2018 Sue Heavenrich All Rights Reserved.

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.