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

September Non-Fiction: Engineering, Nutrition, and the Planets

Engineered! Engineering Design at Work, by Shannon Hunt/Illustrated by James Gulliver Hancock, (Sept. 2017, Kids Can Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781771385602

Recommended for readers 9-13

Nine engineering specialties -Aerospace Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Civil Engineering, Geomatics Engineering, Computer Engineering, and Environmental Engineering – in this look at engineering design, which introduces readers to the step-by-step process by using eye-catching icons and nine case studies, one for each field. Team member bios that introduce kids to new scientists and what they do; new fields of engineering, like geomatics, are explained and illustrated, as are new technologies, like the incorporation of 3-D printing into biomedical engineering. Cartoony illustrations make the science more appealing to anyone who may think they can’t *do* science. Kids will learn that engineering can be found everywhere, from sending the rover to Mars, to saving animals from extinction, to replacing a sewer system to clear pollution from a lake. A glossary helps with new engineering terms readers come across.

Engineered! is a fun introduction to the basics of engineering and can be used equally in a science class, makerspace, or on career day.

 

See What We Eat! A First Book of Healthy Eating, by Scot Ritchie, (Sept. 2017, Kids Can Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781771386180

Recommended for readers 5-8

A group of friends takes a trip to a farm, run by one girl’s aunt. They’re there for pick apples and make an apple crisp for the potluck harvest dinner. Yulee’s aunt takes them on a tour of the farm, teaching the kids about growing grains and vegetables, getting enough nutrients, dairy, and protein – and addresses food allergies and alternative methods of getting those nutrients. Kids learn about transporting food to farmer’s market, stores, and all over the world. Ritchie addresses composting and recycling, and includes a tasty Harvest Apple Crisp recipe to try. A glossary helps readers with new words like pasteurize, carbohydrate, and nutrient.

The illustrations are soft, cartoony realistic, with a multicultural group of friends coming together to learn and eat. The room where the Harvest Celebration takes place has a line of hanging global flags as the families dine on pierogies, tamales, and apple crisp. With bolded facts and questions to encourage deeper thinking, this is a fun introduction for younger learners to nutrition and sustainability.

 

When Planet Earth Was New, by James Gladstone/Illustrated by Katherine Diemert, (Sept. 2017, OwlKids Books), $18.95, ISBN: 9781771472036
Recommended for readers 4-7
Take a trip through time and space and discover how our planet – and life on our planet – evolved. Beginning billions of years ago when Earth was forming, When Planet Earth Was New follows our planet’s formation through volcanoes and comet bombardment; through the formation of the oceans and evolution of life in the oceans and on the land. Beautiful, digitally-enhanced watercolor spreads showcase colorful artwork of each moment captured, with brief descriptive text that preschool and early elementary audiences will find breathtaking. A gorgeous spread showcases life on Earth today: a blue whale, birds flying overhead, and a marching line of animals, including a human being. A section at the end of the book presents each spread in thumbnail format, with additional explanatory text, and a glossary and list of sources round out this introduction to astronomy for young readers.
My 5 year-old loves this book; the spare text is just right for him and he’s fascinated with the changes our planet went through on its journey to the present. It’s a beautiful-looking book, and a great addition to elementary nonfiction collections. I can’t wait to display a copy in my library.

 

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Posted in Uncategorized

Science Comics takes an up-close look at Plagues

Science Comics: Plagues-The Microscopic Battlefield, by Falynn Koch, (Aug. 20017, :01First Second), $12.99, ISBN: 9781626727526

Recommended for readers 8-12

The latest issue of Science Comics introduces readers to Bubonic Plague and Yellow Fever – no, really, they’re characters in this volume – a white blood cell, and a scientist charged with studying pathogens via simulation in order to “recruit” them to help fight disease. Kids learn how the body trains white blood cells – leukocytes – to fight infection and will meet the different kinds of leukocytes on the job. We also get a closer look at different germ classifications, bacteria, viruses, and fungi: it’s a biology class in the form of a graphic novel. We learn about scientists who studied germs, meet a black plague victim (yikes), and see the evolution of disease prevention from medieval times to the present.

Science Comics have been a valuable addition to my nonfiction collections since First Second introduced the series. They’re comprehensive, breaking a wealth of detailed information into readable, digestible panels. The art never disappoints, blending fun artwork like germs with personalities and detailed cross-sections and diagrams of cells, and historical representation. A fictional narrative wraps around the nonfiction information, creating a comfortable reading and learning environment for voracious and reluctant readers alike. A brief glossary provides definitions for terms that appear throughout the book, and there is a timeline outlining milestones in the fight against disease. Footnotes provide further reading for those interested in learning more.

I’m a big proponent of comics in the classroom, and books like Science Comics are why. There’s solid, scientific information presented in a way that never talks down to readers, yet manages to make complex subjects accessible to kids and adults alike. I learn something new every time I pick up a Science Comic.

Author Falynn Koch also wrote the Bats Science Comic. You can read her blog, see more of her illustration, and see a calendar of her appearances at her website.

 

Posted in Fiction, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Middle School, Non-Fiction, Non-fiction, Realistic Fiction, Tween Reads

Summer of STEAM: Girls Who Code Two-Fer!

I love coding and playing around with computer science-y type stuff. In my mind, I look like this:

When I create this.  (This is actually mine! I created it using Scratch.)

I do my best to get science in front of my own kids, and my library kids, at every opportunity. The kids here at my library are Minecrafters, so I feel like I’ve got an in and am working on building a nice, tech-friendly nonfiction section; the next additions on my list are from the organization, Girls Who Code.  If you aren’t familiar with Girls Who Code, they are a New York-based organization on a mission to close the gender gap in the tech industry and the classroom. They teach girls to embrace tech and to code, to create, and most importantly, not to fear science and math. Andrea Gonzalez and Sophie Hauser, two GWC grads, wrote Girl Code: Gaming, Going Viral, and Getting It Done, where they talk about their GWC experience.

Now, Reshma Saujani, Girls Who Code founder, is releasing her own book, Girls Who Code: Learn to Code and Change the World (Aug. 2017, Viking, $17.99, ISBN: 978-0425287538). It’s a coding beginner’s guide, a spotlight on women in the computer science industry, an empowering career guide, and introduction to STEM for girls, all rolled up into one volume. It’s fun and easy to read, with Reshma speaking to readers in a comfortable, friendly voice; she gets some help from a group of illustrated, diverse girls: Lucy, Erin, Sophia, Leila, and Maya. The illustrated group of friends (more on them later) explain concepts and act as a step-by-step example of different stages of coding and creating.

What sets Girls Who Code: Learn to Code and Change the World apart from all the other coding books out there? Glad you asked. The tone, for starters, is fun, light, and personal. Reshma and her group of illustrated friends are talking straight to readers. The two-color illustrations are fun, like those you’d find in a middle grade novel, and feature characters from different ethnicities; Leila rocks a hijab, Maya is an Asian fashionista with a sleek bob; Lucy is African-American, Sophia is Latina, and Erin is a blonde. The group of friends come together to create apps and problem solve their coding; we’re invited along for the ride. Not sure you want to go into computer science? That’s no problem, either: GWC points out how many careers and hobbies incorporate coding these days, from baking, to politics, to social justice, sports, and art.  You’ll learn new terms, like pseudocode – that’s when you write out the steps of your program in plain language, to brainstorm and go over your program before starting to code. There are further Web resources and a glossary to complete this trusty guide to STEM life. Trust me, you’ll never look at the mere making of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich again after you read this.

Also arriving the same day as Girls Who Code: Learn to Code and Change the World is the first in a new GWC series of fiction chapter books, starring the Girls Who Code we met in the previous book: Lucy, Erin, Sophia, and Maya (Leila’s arriving in the next book) come together thanks to a coding club in the new adventure, The Friendship Code, by Stacia Deutsch.

Girls Who Code: The Friendship Code, by Stacia Deutsch, (Aug. 2017, $12.99, ISBN: 9780399542510)

 

We get some background on each character: there’s been some past drama between Lucy and Sophia; Erin is an army brat who’s new in town; Maya is the fashionista who has a fashion column in the school newspaper; Sophia’s an athlete, and Lucy is fixated on learning to code so she can create an app to help her sick uncle remember to take his medicine. Thanks to the Coding Club, the girls learn that coding is more than just banging out numbers on computers (sometimes, to Lucy’s chagrin). With a fun mystery thrown in, the GWC series is like a Babysitter’s Club for a new group of tech-savvy kids. The series is great for intermediate-level readers; black and white illustrations and a quick pace make this novel a fun read that introduces younger middle graders to beginning coding terms and STEM. The mystery is even written in pseudocode – maybe a fun thing to introduce to your kids! Slip a pseudocode note into a lunchbox here, introduce a pseudocode scavenger hunt there… the possibilities stretch far and wide. Where Girls Who Code: Learn to Code, Change the World is best for your middle schoolers and upper middle graders, Girls Who Code: The Friendship Code is a great way to get younger middle graders familiar with the characters, the language of coding, and the fun of STEM.

In October, we’re getting another nonfiction/fiction GWC combo, when Code It! Create It! and Team BFF: Race to the Rescue! hit shelves. I’ll be waiting!

 

Posted in Animal Fiction, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

When Pigs Fly…

Pigs Might Fly, by Nick Abadzis/Illustrated by Jerel Dye, (July 2017, :01First Second), $9.99, ISBN: 9781250176943

Recommended for readers 9-13

Lily Leanchops is the daughter of famous inventor Hercules Fatchops, and she’s certainly inherited her father’s pioneering spirit. While the rest of the folks in Pigdom Plains scoff at the very notion of pigs flying, Lily’s been working on her own flying machine in secret. She’s seen her father’s flying machines fail, and she’s taking everything he’s doing into account as works to create her own flyer. Like her father, she embraces science, not magic (mostly), but when the dangerous Warthogs threaten to invade – flying their own machines, powered by magic, and led by someone very familiar with Lily and her dad – it’s up to Lily to save her home and her town. Even if that means pushing her experimental craft and herself to their limits.

The science versus magic dilemma takes center stage in this graphic novel, which will appeal to kids and, on a deeper level, to older readers who are aware of the science versus faith arguments that frequently occur splashed across social media. Although pigs are the main characters in the story, they are illustrated and given very humanlike qualities and dress – Lily could be another Amelia Earhart or Bessie Coleman in her pilot gear. An interesting parable for current events, with a plot that embraces diversity and working together. A good addition to middle school reading lists and libraries; invite readers to make comparisons between the story and what they see in the world around them and on the news.

Posted in Early Reader, Non-Fiction, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Cultivate your little scientist with Baby University’s books

Baby University, from Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, are a cute series of board books that break down principles of science for little ones. Written by quantum theorist and dad Chris Ferrie,  the first four books: Newtonian Physics for Babies, General Relativity for Babies, Rocket Science for Babies, and Quantum Physics for Babies all use the example of a child’s toy – a ball – to explain science to the littlest scientists in training. The covers are adorable, incorporating pacifiers into the scientific art.

newtonian

Newtonian Physics for Babies (May 2017, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, $9.99, ISBN: 9781492656203) introduces babies to a bouncy ball, explaining in short, bolded sentences how gravity affects the ball, which leads to an exploration of mass, acceleration, and force. Being Newtonian Physics, we also see the apple, and gravity’s effect on the apple and Sir Isaac Newton. The ending proudly exclaims that the reader is understands Newtonian physics.

relativity

General Relativity for Babies (May 2017, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, $9.99, ISBN: 9781492656265) uses the ball to explore mass, black holes, and gravitational waves. Babies are pronounced experts in general relativity at the end.

rocket-science

Rocket Science for Babies (May 2017, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, $9.99, ISBN: 9781492656258) looks at the ball, but changes the ball’s shape to a wing to explain air movement, lift, and thrust. From there, we learn how to put wings on a rocket to make it move, and how a rocket requires an explosion to propel it forward. Readers are affirmed rocket scientists at the book’s end.

quantum

Quantum Physics for Babies (May 2017, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, $9.99, ISBN: 9781492656227) demonstrates energy and atoms – starring the neutrons, protons, and electrons – by using the ball. Readers learn about movement within the atom, and are bestowed with the quantum phycisist title at the end.

The books are simple and fun, with clean, computer-generated art and simple explanatory text. Are my toddlers at storytime going to get this? No, but it’s not going to stop me from handing out small rubber balls to parents to let the kids play with and get a feel for as I read the books. It’s exploring scientific topics early, introducing babies to the words and letting them become household names, words that maybe won’t frighten them when they get older, if they grow up hearing them. I’d read these with preschoolers, too, when they can grasp ideas a bit more.

I love STEM, and I love helping young children fall in love with science, especially the sciences (and their accompanying mathematics) that scared me away when I was a kid. These are fun, bright books to get in front of babies, toddlers, and preschoolers now, if just to introduce exciting new words to their vocabularies. At least, your little one learns that Sir Isaac Newton was beaned on the head by an apple. At most, you get a Nobel Prize winner who thanks you in his or her speech.

Posted in Non-Fiction, Teen, Tween Reads, Young Adult/New Adult

Girl Power! Girl Code!

Girl Code: Gaming, Going Viral, and Getting It Done, by Andrea Gonzales and Sophie Houser, (March 2017, HarperCollins), $17.99, ISBN: 9780062472502

Recommended for readers 12+

Two teens attend NYC’s Girls Who Code Program, become friends, and create a viral video game that addresses the taboo of menstruation. It really happened, and they’re telling their story, hoping to inspire more girls to get involved in the tech space. More importantly, Andrea “Andy” Gonzalez and Sophie Houser talk frankly about the stress and the pressure of being in the spotlight; the sacrifices they made as they learned more about school, tech and entrepreneurship. They discuss the struggle to find a work-life balance. Girl Code is loaded with photos and includes an appendix with a glossary and coding exercises for both PC and Mac and is essential reading for anyone – particularly young women – interested in pursuing STEM careers.

I’ve been a big proponent of STEM for my library kids and for my own kids. I’ve run coding programs at my last library and am working on plans to bring one to my newest location. I urge the kids I see every day to get hands on, whether it’s toddlers playing with water tables to see what floats and what sinks, or tweens making BB-8 and R2D2 follow coding commands to move around a screen. Having two mentors like Sophie and Andy available on bookshelves is important, because they tell all: overcoming shyness and anxiety; encouraging kids to keep plugging away at code because it doesn’t always happen the first time, but perseverance gets results; and most importantly, that there are people out there that want you to succeed, but there are also people out there that will try to take the wind out of your sails once you do. Having two young women talk about their experiences is so much more important than me telling kids to stick two Scratch blocks together to run a command, because representation matters. I want readers to read these young women’s words and think, “I can do that.”

If you don’t have kids that are into code, give them this book anyway. Sophie and Andy take on the very taboo topic of being female in public. You read that right. Their game, Tampon Run, takes on the taboo of “icky girl stuff” – having periods – and puts it front and center, making it visible and real. It’s a big statement, and the thinking and reasoning behind the creation of this game is fascinating and inspiring reading.

Posted in Early Reader, Non-Fiction, Non-Fiction, Preschool Reads

Do you like to play? Animals do, too!

animals-doAnimals Do, Too!, by Etta Kaner/Illustated by Marilyn Faucher, (May 2017, Kids Can Press), $16.95, ISBN: 9781771385695

Recommended for ages 4-8

Do you like to dance? Do you like to play leapfrog? Play tag? Well, guess what: animals do, too! This fun book features pictures of families at play on one spread, and a corresponding spread on the next two pages, with a group of animals engaged in the same fun. The alternating question and answer format engages kids right away, and the activities that we humans do for fun, while animals do them to find food and care for their young will spark discussion with young learners.

Animals Do, Too! features animals that differ from the usual farm and jungle animals kids meet in their books. Sure, we’ve got bumblebees and frogs, but we also meet cattle egrets and marmosets, gazelles and leaf-cutter ants. A spread at the back of the book provides fast facts about each animal in the book.

There is some lovely watercolor work here, featuring lovely nature scenes. The families are enjoying one another, and the animals are playful while completing their everyday work. The parallels between humans and animals should engender interest and empathy in kids and will start some great conversations – ask the kids around you to think of animals they see every day: what does a cat do that a person does? (Stretching is a good one!) What does a dog do that a person does? (Jump and play!) You can create matching games that match the activity with the animal, for younger learners; bonus: they get to color.

The question and answer pattern of the text invites kids to interact with the text and gives them a chance to contribute before revealing the answer on the following spread. This is a good additional purchase for nature, life science, and animal collections.