Posted in Intermediate, Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Non-Fiction

Epic Fails! New series nonfiction looks at the not-so-great moments in history

The Wright Brothers: Nose-Diving into History (Epic Fails #1), by Erik Slader & Ben Thompson/Illustrated by Tim Foley, (July 2018, Roaring Brook Press), $6.99, ISBN: 978-1-250-15056-1

Recommended for readers 7-11

Say the names Orville and Wilbur Wright, and people automatically think of airplanes. They were the first self-taught engineers, after all, to achieve flight. But success didn’t come easy, and there were a lot of fails before their 12-second success. Epic Fails is a new non-fiction series for intermediate and middle grade readers that details some of history’s biggest successes – and the failures that went hand-in-hand with them.

Written with a humorous tone, readers will learn about the previous attempts made before the Wright Brothers were even born; the nosedives and crashes, and the lessons learned from each misstep that led to success. Filled with black-and-white illustrations and photos, a timeline of flight, a bibliography, and an index, this is a handy additional resource for schoolwork, and a fun read that delivers the message that it’s okay if that science project, that school paper, or that great model rocket you were building doesn’t work the first time. Or the second time. Or multiple times. It’s okay to not be perfect, because it really is part of the learning process. That’s a pretty great message to communicate to our kids, isn’t it?

Add to your STEM/STEAM reading lists, and display with the Science Comics volume on Flying Machines, and maybe some instructions for paper airplanes. Fold ‘N Fly is a searchable database of free paper airplane designs, filtered by difficulty, type, and whether or not you want to use scissors to cut them, manipulating air flow. Sweet!

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Posted in History, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Non-Fiction

Welcome to the #Dinosaurium!

Dinosaurium, by Lily Murray/Illustrated by Chris Wormell, (April 2018, Candlewick), $35.00, ISBN: 9780763699000

Recommended for readers 7-12

This gorgeous volume from Candlewick imprint Big Picture Press’ “Welcome to the Museum” series is part museum, part archive. Dinosaurium gives readers a tour of the prehistoric world, from the breakup of Pangea, through the dinosaur/prehistoric non-dino eras, to the mass extinction and the survivors.

Dinosaurium presents readers with six galleries and a library (whoo hoo!). Laid out like a museum plan, we enter the book and see a two-page spread of the dinosaur family tree, illustrating how various dinosaurs are related; maps present us with views of the world through each era, and dinosaur exhibits – the artwork – are breathtaking color illustrations, with a view of the dinosaur as it looked when it roamed the earth, and, where applicable, fossil artwork.

I’ve been a Christopher Wormell fan for a while: his Teeth, Tails & Tentacles was on the heavy duty reading rotation when my now 14-year-old was a toddler and preschooler, and I fell in love with his woodcut artwork. Here, his digital engravings lend a museum-like quality to the work; paired with author Lily Murray’s kid-friendly, detailed text, Dinosaurium becomes a book that dino fans will return to again and again. It’s an oversized book, really allowing the illustrations to breathe and take up the space we expect from dinosaurs. The forest-like endpapers give you that “stepping into a primeval forest” feel that comes with walking into a museum exhibit. There’s an index, a word on the curators of this project (author Lily Murray, illustrator Christopher Wormell, and consultant Dr. Jonathan Tennant), and a list of resources for further research and reading.

Dinosaurium is a great gift for dino fans, and a nice add to dinosaur collections. It was originally released in the UK in 2017.

Posted in Middle Grade, Non-fiction

Get Ready for STEM Summer!

Sure, many libraries are doing the “Libraries Rock!” theme for Summer Reading, but that’s no reason to leave science out of the fun! I’ve got a bunch of STEM books that you’ll want to get in front of (or create programs using) your readers to have fun with this summer. Careers, facts, bios, and, most fun of all, experiments, await!

Architecture: Cool Women Who Design Structures (Girls in Science series), by Elizabeth Schmermund/Illustrated by Lena Chandhok, (Aug. 2017, Nomad Press), $9.95, ISBN: 9781619305465

Recommended for readers 9-13

I’m always looking for good career books, because I weeded my current section when I first got to my library. I really liked this book, and I’m looking forward to reading and putting more of the Girls in Science series in my book cart for future purchases. Architecture is divided into four color-coded sections: the first, a general overview of architecture; the history, styles, what the profession is like today and how to prepare for study in architecture, and women in the profession. The next three sections are devoted to profiles of a diverse group of women architects: Patricia Galván, a Project Manager; Farida Abu-Bakare, an intern architect who’s in the process of writing her exams and works with science and technology; and Maia Small, who owns and operates her own small architecture firm. In addition to the profiled female architects, there are brief bios on other women in the field. Ask & Answer sections provide thought-provoking questions, many beyond the basic material, for readers to consider. QR codes in callout sections provide links to more information. The overall narrative, and each profiled professional, addresses the gender gap and even larger diversity gap in the industry. Back matter includes a timeline of the profession, all the Ask & Answer questions in one place, a glossary, further resources, including written-out links to the QR code sections, and an index.

Try This! Extreme: 50 Fun & Safe Experiments for the Mad Scientist in You, by Karen Romano Young/Photographs by Matthew Rakola, (Sept. 2017, National Geographic Kids), $16.99, ISBN: 9781426328633

Recommended for readers 8+

The best part about science, I tell the kids in my programs and class visits, is making a mess, yet, no one gets mad at you (mostly). What better time to be a mad scientist than in the summer, when it’s beautiful out and you can open those windows to offset any stinky experiements? The book starts off with safety instructions and photos of the kid (and dog) scientists who tested out the 50 experiments waiting to be discovered in Try This! Extreme. Each experiment has a safety rating, a who you need rating (i.e., an adult, just you, or maybe grab a friend), and supervision rating; each experiment also lays out concepts explored, approximately how long it will take, what you need, and a step-by-step guide through the process, accompanied by full-color photos. There are callout facts, questions to ask yourself, and key terms defined throughout. Conduct a bioblitz (exploration) in your yard or a park, learn physics using marshmallow Peeps, or check the weather forecast and aim for a game of masking tape hopscotch when there’s rain predicted. There are bonus mini-experiements, Science Fair experiment prompts and guidance, K-12 science standards and how each experiment corresponds to them, an index, and metric conversion tables. Enjoy!

The STEM Quest Series from Barron’s Educational is a brand new series broken out into four books, loaded with facts and experiments:

STEM Quest Science: Astonishing Atoms and Matter Mayhem, by Colin Stuart/Illustrated by Annika Brandow, (May 2018, Barron’s Educational), $10.99, ISBN: 9781438011363

Recommended for readers 8+

This volume looks at the organic side of things: biology, chemistry, physics, earth and space sciences, biochemistry, biomedicine, and biotechnology. Each section guides readers through full-color illustrated discussions on each area and includes experiments to ramp up the fun. Kids will LOVE the Marshmallow Molecules – you need a bag of marshmallows, a box of toothpicks or wooden skewers (me? I’d go with the toothpicks, but I’m in a public library), and some compound formulas. Let kids make their own formulas up and watch the fun begin! I’ll save you the search: this is where you can find the chemical compounds for farts. It’s the American Council on Science and Health’s website, so they did this for science. You’re welcome. Littler ones can make their own sundial, or spot a constellation. There are scientist profiles and fantastic facts throughout, plus a glossary and an index.

 

STEM Quest Technology: Tools, Robotics, and Gadgets Galore, by Nick Arnold/Illustrated by Kristyna Baczynski, (May 2018, Barron’s Educational), $10.99, ISBN: 9781438011370

Recommended for readers 8+

This volume looks at the techy side of life: construction, power and energy, agriculture and biotechnology, manufacturing, information and communication, medical and biomedical, and transportation. Learn about the evolution of tools, from the earliest hand tools to robots and space suits. Learn how a blast furnace works, and make your own plastic (adult helpers necessary), and learn how it works. Get your Project Runway on, with a section on textiles: you’ll learn to weave, tie dye, and ink print. For your more tech-inspired readers, there’s an easy Try This at Home experiment that teaches (with adult help) how to build a circuit, or how to magnetize a nail. There are great programming ideas in here: I think I’m going to look into building a planet and designing a space station, all of which can be done on a shoestring and with adult help. And since I’m the closest thing resembling an adult in the room… well, I guess that falls to me. The same format applies here (and to all of the STEM Quest books): bios on prominent scientists, loads of facts and illustrations, a glossary, and an index.

 

STEM Quest Engineering: Fantastic Forces and Incredible Machines, by Nick Arnold/Illustrated by Kristyna Baczynski, (May 2018, Barron’s Educational), $10.99, ISBN: 9781438011349

Recommended for readers 8+

Next up, engineering: systems and mechanics; materials and processes; biology, medical, agriculture and chemistry; structures; and sustainability engineering. Get the kids learning about forces and energy with experiments like Superhero Paper Clips, where they’ll make a paper clip float; a material scavenger hunt, inviting them to look around for everyday items made out of different materials; get out the old reliable straws and pipe cleaners and let them create 3-D shapes to see how they hold up under pressure, or that summer staple, the pinwheel. (The book suggests dowels; I’m here to tell you that chopsticks are a lot cheaper and just as easy to use.) There’s a great section on environmental engineering that will have you and your readers figuring out how to clean up our environment and a nuclear power lesson that has the simplest of experiments: use the sun’s nuclear energy to test your sunscreen on a piece of construction paper.

 

STEM Quest Math: Fabulous Figures and Cool Calcuations, by Colin Stuart/Illustrated by Annika Brandow, (May 2018, Barron’s Educational), $10.99, ISBN: 9781438011356

Recommended for readers 8+

I’m trying to get more math-related fun in front of my library kids, because it scares the bejesus out of me and I don’t want to pass that on. The parents love a good math program, too, so I know I’ll get buy-in from the community on this one. Here, we’ve got numbers and operations; measurement; problem-solving, logic and reasoning; geometry; algebra; advanced math; data, analysis and probability; and communication. I will admit that just looking at that section scared the life out of me, but once I started reading, I quickly warmed up. There are great explanations of each concept in here, addressing the quick and easy stuff like place value and column addition and subtraction, and heading all the way into bigger ideas like proofs and binary. Fun experiments and activities include a pirate treasure challenge, where, as a pirate captain, you need to use math to calculate the best place to bury your treasure; creating 3-D art and making pyramids, and averaging Olympic judge scores.

That’s a start for some STEM summer fun, but make sure to get your STEM sections and displays up and running to give readers readalikes and ways to expand on what they’re learning. The Secret Coders graphic novel series by Gene Luen Yang and Mike Holmes is great for Math and Tech fans, who want to play with coding. Science Comics has books about rockets and robots that will fit nicely with STEM displays, and I’m a big fan of the Junk Drawer Science series by Bobby Mercer. There are tons of fun STEM-related books out there!

Posted in Graphic Novels, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Non-Fiction

Join Elise Gravel’s Mushroom Fan Club!

The Mushroom Fan Club, by Elise Gravel, (May 2018, Drawn & Quarterly), $17.95, ISBN: 978-1-77046-322-6

Recommended for readers 6-12

Artist and author Elise Gravel’s newest book, The Mushroom Fan Club, is its own little science comic! Elise Gravel and her family love going mushroom hunting, and The Mushroom Fan Club shares that sense of fun and adventure with readers. Beginning with an illustration of Gravel, her daughters, and cats heading out to explore, Gravel narrates why she’s fascinated with mushrooms: they look like aliens from outer space! They come in all different sizes and shapes! She proceeds to teach readers what she’s learned about mushrooms, from biology (parts, reproduction, environment) to the different types of mushrooms. She exercises caution, exhorting readers NOT TO EAT mushrooms they may encounter on their own, as many are poisonous; even illustrating mushrooms warning readers that they can “make you very, very sick! And even worse!” The Mushroom Fan Club is loaded with fun facts, bright illustrations in Elise Gravel’s immediately recognizable style, and fun mushroom-related art activities.

I’m a big Elise Gravel fan, so if she illustrated a box of cereal, I’d eat it and suggest it for literary honors. I love this fun twist on earth science nonfiction; she makes graphic nonfiction interesting and memorable. If you haven’t read her biography on The Great Antonio, I highly recommend it. Check out an excerpt of The Mushroom Fan Club on the Drawn and Quarterly website, and visit Elise Gravel’s author webpage for free printables of all sorts. Read The Mushroom Fan Club in a science program, read it at dinner time, just read it and have fun with it!

Posted in Graphic Novels, Non-fiction

Two more Science Comics coming your way this Summer!

Science Comics is adding two more titles to their line this summer, just in time for Summer Reading!

Science Comics: Rockets – Defying Gravity, by Anne Drozd & Jerzy Drozd, (June 2018, First Second), $12.99, ISBN: 9781626728257

Recommended for readers 8-12

In June, we get a deeper look at Rockets. Readers get a guided tour by an early rocket prototype in the form of a pigeon (nope, no joke) and take a trip through the history of gravity, force, acceleration, Newton’s Laws of Motion, and the history of rockets past, present, and possible future. Readers are going to love seeing the evolution of rockets from steam-powered to jet-fueled and beyond. The many animals that have been part of our space programs get their say, here, too: from bears, to chimpanzees, to dogs, and more, there are full-color spreads loaded with colorful illustrations and packed with information. Resources at the end of the book are ready to guide interested readers.

If you haven’t enjoyed Jerzy Drozd’s comics before, you are in for a treat. His work for the Marvel Superhero Squad game is great, and he’s got a kid-friendly webcomic, Boulder and Fleet, on his page. Anne Drozd is a librarian and space enthusiast, so you know she’s got the goods.

 

Science Comics: Trees, by Andy Hirsch, (Aug. 2018, First Second), $12.99, ISBN: 9781250143105

Recommended for readers 8-12

In August, we meet a little acorn on his journey to become a mighty oak in Trees. Kids interested in nature and ecology will love this brightly illustrated, fact-filled journey through nature, learning about different types of trees and how they are living, breathing beings that work with and contribute to their environment. This volume has a fun sense of play about it, with a spunky little friend to follow through nature. I just wish this one were out earlier, so I could feature it when I start my planting program in a few weeks – the illustration and discussion on how seeds always know which way to grow is amazing!

If you enjoyed the Dogs Science Comic, or read Varmints, you may recognize Andy Hirsch’s work. You can also visit his website, A for Andy, for more illustrations.

 

Posted in Intermediate, Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Non-Fiction, picture books

Inspector Croc helps kids manage their emotions

Inspector Croc’s Emotion-O-Meter, by Susanna Isern/Illustrated by Mónica Carretero, (May 2018, NubeOCHO), $22.95, ISBN: 9788417123079

Recommended for readers 7-10

Inspector Croc, the great emotion inspector, is here to help kids identify and manage their emotions in this entertaining and insightful book from NubeOCHO. Accompanied by Yippee, an Emi (emotion) from a large family of emotions, kids will learn what an emotion is, how to identify behaviors associated with emotions, and read through Inspector Croc’s case files; 10 cases where emotions came into play. He introduces his Emotion-O-Meter, allowing kids to identify whether they are feeling emotions on a low, medium, or high level of intensity, and gives kids the ability to put their feelings into words. Finally, we get “recipes” for working with both good and bad emotions, and the Inspector explains that sometimes, emotions like sadness are good and right for us to feel, but that we also have to learn how to let them go when it’s time.

It’s a smart book that addresses ideas that can be tough for kids to identify and express; author Susanna Isern respectfully talks to readers and uses empowering language to promote understanding and courtesy. Mónica Carretero’s animal artwork is cartoony and light, but don’t dismiss that: she illustrates, in detail, various emotions and uses facial expressions to illuminate the physical changes our emotions bring about. It’s a very mindful book, and encourages self-exploration. The book has a dust jacket with an emotion-o-meter on the back cover, but if this book is used in a classroom or library setting, it’s not going to last: do yourselves a favor, and make this a great class project/library program. This would go wonderfully with a viewing of Pixar’s Inside Out (2015).

Inspector Croc’s Emotion-O-Meter is also available in Spanish.

Posted in Non-fiction, picture books

Nature is the artwork in Drawn from Nature

I think I can finally put away my winter coat, which has me embracing Spring and Spring-like books! I think I’ll devote today’s posts to nature-related artwork and storytelling.

Drawn from Nature, by Helen Ahpornsiri, (March 2018, Candlewick), $22.00, ISBN: 9780763698980

Recommended for readers 6-10

This look at the seasons is just stunning. The artwork is created using hand-pressed flowers and foliage (responsibly grown or foraged in the wild, as the artist/author’s note takes care to mention). Flowers and leaves create bird feathers and beaks; eggs and nests, ladybugs and butterflies. Helen Ahpornsiri takes readers through each season, making sure we notice the beautiful little notes from nature; from building a nest in Spring, to swooping swallows and chirping crickets in the Summer; from the fragile dandelion puffs of Autumn to the bare branches of Winter, each season reveals itself through delicate and exquisite art.

The endpapers delight with colorful garden scenes and each season’s nature maintains its color palette: Spring is verdant and green, bright and bold; Summer is deeper, vibrant, with an emphasis on fireflies and nocturnal animals who hunt by night; Autumn colors become more yellow and red, crisping at the edges, and Winter is spare, fragile, with clustered and hibernating animals and bare branches; evergreen leaves holding onto their leaves.

As Booklist notes, Drawn from Nature is a beautiful blend of art and science and is a wonderful inspiration for art classes as well as nature and earth science classes. A glossary includes terms mentioned throughout the book. Get those leaves, twigs, and stones for the kids, then let them have at it! Drawn from Nature has a starred from Kirkus.