Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, Non-Fiction, picture books

Science for Kindergarteners!

I’m always looking for ways to get more science in my kids’ days: my QBH Kids and my own Kindergartener alike. I’ve had some great successes and some that fell a little flat. At my previous library, I had a phenomenal early learning assistant who helped create amazing Science Storytimes, using popular storybooks to demonstrate simple science concepts for little ones: using Ellen Stoll Walsh’s Balancing Act to teach balance, while showing them a simple balance board that kids were invited to place small objects on and discover what balanced, and what tipped the sides.

I also look to fellow librarian and teacher bloggers for hints. Pinterest is a great resources, as is Education.com and Teachers Pay Teachers. Science In Storytime is one of my more recent go-tos, with loads a great book and activity ideas, and The Show Me Librarian has some fantastic programming for Pre-K and elementary programs.

I’ve just received some new books from Nomad Press’ Picture Book Science series, too. These are a lot of fun: color artwork on every page, a fun poem to kick off each book, and my favorite part: an explanation of the scientific term, with all the uses of the term. Take, for instance, the book Waves: it starts off with the simplest interpretation of the word; a way to say hello. The book goes on to include ocean waves in that explanation, then the motion of a wave, and finally, a discussion of waves: energy, light, sound, all using questions to provoke thought, discussion, and understanding. Each book “Try This!” boxes, with simple activities kids can easily do at home or in the classroom (or during Science Storytime). Glossaries are handy to define terms that come up. There are currently four books in the Picture Book Science series: Waves, Forces, Matter, and Energy, all written by Andi Diehn and illustrated by Shululu; at $9.95 each, it’s a good and reasonable investment for our home, school, and public shelves. (Waves: 978-1-61930-635-6; Forces: 978-1-61930-638-7; Matter: 978-1-61930-644-8; Energy: 978-1-61930-641-7)

   

 

Rosen Classroom has a new series of easy readers called Computer Science for the Real World. They’re not attempting to teach Python or Scratch to the little ones (yet): these readers break the concepts needed to study computer science down for beginning readers. The three readers I received use everyday concepts – morning routines, alphabetizing books, building a birdhouse – to introduce activities that will help learn computer science; in this case, repetition and doing things step by step.

 

The books are leveled and contain instructional guides with include new vocabulary words, background knowledge for the specified concept, and text-dependent questions. There are independent and class activities to help kids learn through experience, and are available in English and Spanish. I really like these readers; there aren’t that many “just right books” (as my son’s school calls them) explaining science like this, and I’d love to have them in my library, but this is more of a Central library purchase, at least in my system, because you’re going to want to buy these by the collection; you can certainly buy them as single books, but having a whole set will better benefit your readers. The pricing is pretty reasonable, so I’ll be slipping this into an interoffice envelope bound for my collection development department tomorrow morning.

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Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Explore the Starry Skies!

Starry Skies: Learn About the Constellations Above Us, by Samantha Chagollan/Illustrated by Nila Aye, (April 2018, Walter Foster Jr.), $16.95, ISBN: 9781633225091

Recommended for readers 4-6

I remember my first book on constellations. It’s still around today: Find the Constellations, by H.A. Rey (the Curious George author!); and it endures because it’s diligently updated (5 updates, including a 2017 version) and because constellations are fascinating. They’re pictures in the sky; they’re maps in the sky; they’re stories, waiting to be revealed. Starry Skies is a great companion – an introduction to constellations for the preschool set – to the well-loved Rey book.

Beginning with the sentence, “Every night, the sky is filled with stars that tell a thousand stories,” Starry Skies launches into spreads features a different individual starring in his or her own story: a boy battles a dragon (Draco); a cat sees herself as Leo, the lion; a girl gets ready to fly on Pegasus. Each spread features a black sky, dotted with stars, and a white line drawings of the dreamers and their constellations. It’s a preschool-friendly entry to stargazing, astronomy, and mythology. Readers enjoy 14 constellations in all, plus a star map of the for the Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter seasons.

 

Posted in Non-Fiction

Poems celebrate creatures who build in A Place to Start a Family

A Place to Start a Family: Poems About Creatures That Build, by David L. Harrison/Illustrated by Giles Laroche, (Jan. 2018, Charlesbridge), $17.99, ISBN: 9781580897488
Recommended for readers ages 5-9
A nice meeting of prose and science, A Place to Start a Family includes 12 poems about creatures that build homes to house their families. Organized into poems for animals who build underground, like prairie dogs and moles; on land, like the cobra or termite; in water, like the beaver or pufferfish; in the air, like storks and wasps, each poem is illustrated with attractive, textured mixed media artwork. Poems are brief, factual, and some bring a tongue-in-cheek sense of humor to nature. Witness the poem in praise of the White-Spotted Pufferfish: With tail and fin/hoping he/will soon charm/a willing she/he works hard/day and night/Will he win a mate?/He might. More information about each animal, including scientific names, descriptive paragraphs, and further resources, are available at the end. Thanks to the authors and editors for recommending readers visit the library to learn more! A nice additional resource for animal and poetry collections.
Posted in Intermediate, Middle Grade, Non-Fiction, Non-fiction, Non-Fiction, Tween Reads

Out-There Nonfiction

There is such great nonfiction being published these days. Nonfiction used to conjure pictures of boring textbooks with walls of words, with a handful of old black and white photos. Today? Nonfiction includes video game guides, crazy stories about our bodies, animals, planets, and the freaky ways famous people died. And that’s just scratching the surface. Kids’ nonfiction sports full-color illustration or photographs, text that understands how kids read and learn, and takes all interests into consideration. Series nonfiction, like the Who Was/What Was series from Penguin makes history compulsive readable, and No Starch Press has full-color STEM and tech books that teach kids everything from coding in Scratch to explaining the sciences using manga comics. I love building a good nonfiction section; these are a few of the books on my current shopping list.

Behind the Legend series, by Erin Peabody/Illustrated by Victor Rivas and Jomike Tejido, little bee books
Good for readers 9-12

 

This series is so good. I’ve read Werewolves and Zombies, and love the way Erin Peabody weaves history with pop culture to present a paranormal guide that kids will love reading and learn from. There are black and white illustrations throughout; cartoony, bordering on downright freaky. Zombies delves deeply into the history of slavery and its ties to the rise of the zombie legend and the practice of voudou; Peabody also talks about the walking dead being very old news; they were showing up in Mesopotamia long before Robert Kirkman ever thought up Rick Grimes and his band of survivors. Werewolves talks about the history of animal lore and famous “were-beasts” in history, like the Gandillon siblings – a French brother and sister who were convinced they were wolves and acted accordingly. Harry Potter, Scooby-Doo, and Twilight all get a shout-out in this fun look at werewolves. There are further sources for kids who want to read further. Other Behind the Legend books include Dragons, the Loch Ness Monster, and Bigfoot. This is an absolute must-add set for kids who love themselves some pop culture paranormal reading (and half the price of most series nonfiction, library-bound books).

 

Don’t Read This Book Before Bed, by Anna Claybourne, (Aug. 2017, National Geographic Kids),
$14.99, ISBN: 978-1-4263-2841-1
Good for readers 9-12

The kids in my library love creepy. Most kids do, right? It’s that safe scare, the adrenaline rush, the squeal of the “eeeeeewwwwwww!” that you can make while safely in your seat, surrounded by family, friends, or your stuffed animals or action figures. It’s being able to turn to your friend and say, “Look at this!” and watching your friend freak out, too. NatGeo knows this, and Don’t Read This Book Before Bed (which is exactly what kids will do) is chock full of freaky stories that will keep them reading and saying, “NO WAY!” Think of it as the Lore podcast, for kids. Haunted castles? Check. Freaky dolls? (Robert the Doll, profiled in here, actually has both a podcast and episode of Lore dedicated to him.) Check. Aliens and fish people? Right this way. Each story has a “fright-o-meter” to let readers know how scary this is going to get, and quizzes help readers figure out their phobias (I love a good flow chart), test whether or he or should would be a good ghostbuster, or take apart the mysteries of science. My library’s copy is rarely on the shelf.

 

50 Wacky Things Humans Do: Weird & Amazing Facts About the Human Body, by the Walter Foster Jr. Creative Team/Illustrated by Lisa Perrett,
(Dec. 2017, Walter Foster Jr.), $14.95, ISBN: 9781633223967
Good for readers 7-10

Our bodies do some wild stuff. A sneeze moves at about 100 miles per hour. (Think about that, next time someone doesn’t cover their nose and mouth when they sneeze near you.) If someone tickles you and you put your hand on theirs, it’ll send a message to the brain that stops the tickling sensation. Wrinkly bathtub fingers help us grip things better. Readers will learn all of this and more in 50 Wacky Things Humans Do, written in a similar vein to the chunky, digest-sized NatGeo Kids fun fact books. Wacky Things features one fact per spread and one colorful, fun illustrations; good for intermediate-level readers.

 

Evolution: How Life Adapts to a Changing Environment, by Carla Mooney/Illustrated by Alexis Cornell,
(Nov. 2017, Nomad Press), $17.95, ISBN: 978-1-61930-601-1
Good for readers 9-12

Nomad Press has enjoyed shelf space in my library for a while. They have great science project books and consistently win awards because they blend hands-on projects with text readability. Evolution is a great update to Nomad’s collection and my science projects shelf. First of all, the book is in color; my Nomad books have normally been black and white, and this is as eye-catching on the inside as it is on the cover. The book progresses from a basic overview of evolution and how it works, through natural selection, species and speciation, through to classification and human evolution. Twenty-five projects allow kids to map early human migration; find sidewalk fossils (awesome for my urban library kiddos), and research an endangered species and create a plan to save it. There’s a glossary, lists of resources, and an index. I love this new direction Nomad seems to be taking and want to see more! Great for library shelves.

 

 

Posted in Graphic Novels, Non-Fiction, Non-fiction, Tween Reads

Secret Coders and Science Comics – Comics that help kids love learning!

There are two more Science Comics coming your way from First Second, along with another Secret Coders volume. Let’s jump in and see what’s good!

 

Science Comics: Robots & Drones – Past, Present, & Future, by Mairghread Scott/Illustrated by Jacob Chabot, (March 2018, First Second), $19.99, ISBN: 9781626727939
Recommended for readers 9-13

The latest volume of Science Comics takes a deeper look at robots. With Poulli, a birdlike robot that’s also the first machine to ever fly through the sky (back in 350 BCE!), as our guide, readers get a guided tour through the history of robotics, and learn what is versus what isn’t a robot. New, programmable coffeemakers? Robots! Remote-controlled cars – not really. Kids get a refresher on simple machines (levels and pulleys) and how those simple concepts formed the building blocks for more complex machines, eventually leading to modern technology, robots, and drones. There’s a focus on the good robots and drones can accomplish (for those techno-phobes who see The Terminator as our eventual future) and the human component of computer programming. Isaac Asimov, legendary scientist and science fiction writer who gave us the Three Laws of Robotics, gets some recognition here, too.

There’s a nice shout-out to libraries and after-school programs as places to go to learn more about getting into programming and robotics, and some cool pop culture nods that parents will recognize (Star Trek and KITT from Knight Rider, to name a couple). The artwork features diverse characters putting their learning into practice, and the history of robotics covers diverse areas of the world. Poulli is a friendly, cute guide that will appeal to readers, and the language – as with all Science Comics – is easy to understand but never dumbs down information.

There’s a Hall of Awesome Robots, spotlighting 25 robots from history; a closer look at how drones work, and a glossary of new terms to finish up the volume.

Me? I immediately add the newest Science Comics to my shopping cart ; they’re a great add for my “True Story” nonfiction section, where I put books that may get lost on the actual nonfiction shelves, but will grab attention on their own. Plus, my True Story section is next to my Graphic Novels shelf, so it’s a win all around.

 

Secret Coders: Potions and Parameters, by Gene Luen Yang and Mike Holmes,
(March 2018, First Second), $10.99, ISBN: 9781626726079
Recommended for readers 8-12

While we’re talking about robots and programming, there’s a new volume of Secret Coders coming at you. The fifth installment of the series sees Hopper, Eni, and Josh going up against Professor One-Zero and his evil Green Pop. The stakes are high, especially now that Hopper’s dad’s fate lies in the balance! We get a lot more of Professor Bee’s origin, and the fight for the mystical Turtle of Light will keep you turning pages. Yang and Holmes challenge readers with more logic puzzles and codes to work through, and provide detailed explanation through their characters.

Science Comics: Sharks – Nature’s Perfect Hunter, by Joe Flood,
(Apr. 2018, First Second), $12.99, ISBN: 9781626727885
Recommended for readers 8-13

Science Comics has a one-two punch in March and April, first with Robots & Drones, next with Sharks. Kids LOVE sharks. The introduction nails it with its opening line: “Lots of kids, including many of you who are reading this book, go through an ‘I love sharks’ phase.” Shark books move off my shelves faster than just about any animal, tied only by dinosaurs (and we’ve already got a Science Comic on them), so this book should be going in your cart, sight unseen. But since that’s not what I do – and because I still do love sharks – here’s a bit more to whet your shark appetites.

 

The nonfiction narrative is tied together with a story about a fictional group of shark seekers, which leads into a discussion about the bad rap sharks have gotten over the years. The classic movie Jaws kicked off shark paranoia back in the mid-1970s, and that’s explored here, as is the fact that Jaws author Peter Benchley became a passionate shark conservationist in the aftermath of his book and subsequent movie.

Readers get a history of sharks from the prehistoric era until the present, with a look at shark physiology. migration patterns, variety, and eating habits. Spoiler alert: we don’t taste very good to them, and any biting is purely accidental.  We also get a peek at the one sea animal that can take down even a great white… and it ain’t man. A shark family tree, glossary of terms, and a more accurate clarification of how to phrase shark incidents (the section’s called “Don’t Say ‘Shark Attack'”).

As I was writing this review up, one of my library kids peeked over my shoulder and saw the page scans. When I told him Sharks was coming out in April, he yelped, “Are you kidding me?!” which just goes to show you, Science Comics: Sharks is going to be a hit. I may have to order two copies.

Posted in Fiction, Intermediate, Realistic Fiction

In Lucy’s Lab, science is everywhere!

Sky Pony has a new series for intermediate readers that incorporates a fun science component into each tale. Lucy’s Lab is a series about a second grader named Lucy, and she loves science! Her cousin and best friend, Cora, is in class with her, and is more of the purple and pink princess type, but she’s always up for a stint in Lucy’s Lab. Now, if only she could get that annoying classmate Stewart Swinefest, to behave himself…

Lucy’s Lab: Nuts About Science, by Michelle Houts/Illustrated by Elizabeth Zechel,
(Sept. 2017, Sky Pony Press), $13.99, ISBN: 978-1510710641
Recommended for readers 7-10

In Lucy’s first science adventure, Nuts About Science, we meet the science-loving second grader at the beginning of her school year. She likes her new teacher, Miss Flippo, and she really likes that there’s a science lab in her classroom! Miss Flippo even has lab coats and goggles for the students to wear in the lab! One thing doesn’t sit so well with Lucy this school year, though: the big oak tree outside her classroom is gone, and Lucy’s worried that the squirrels that lived there will have nowhere to go! She and her friends manage to find out what happened, and lobby the principal and the PTA for a new tree. In the meantime, Lucy turns an old playhouse her father built in the backyard into her very own lab!

 

Lucy’s Lab: Nuts About Science, by Michelle Houts/Illustrated by Elizabeth Zechel,
(Sept. 2017, Sky Pony Press), $13.99, ISBN: 978-1510710672
Recommended for readers 7-10

Lucy and her classmates learn about the states of matter in Solids, Liquids, Guess Who’s Got Gas, which may be the best Intermediate book title ever. Miss Flippo believes in science being fun, and teaches them about solids, liquids, and gases by using balloons, frozen water, and a school trip to the apple orchard! Kudos to author Michelle Houts for slipping the fourth state of matter – plasma – into the story, as well as its recent inclusion into science textbooks. Lucy discovers a new science hero in this story, and Stewart Swinefest gets some payback for being obnoxious.

The Lucy’s Lab series is easy reading, with bite-sized information slipped into the narrative. Lucy has her own lab time in each book, and we return to Room 2-C for adventures in the science lab during school hours; we also get interesting tidbits throughout each story, whether it’s about the origin of some last names, tree diseases, or the scientist who studied plasma. There’s always something interesting happening in Lucy’s world, and we’re invited to come along. Black and white illustrations keep the reader’s interest and keep the pace moving for readers transitioning from beginner chapter books to intermediate novels.

This is a nice series to give to your readers who like exploring the world around them. I’d display this with the Girls Who Code chapter books and Jon Scieszka’s Frank Einstein books to give kids a nice introduction to STEM fiction.

 

Posted in Preschool Reads

Wanda’s Better Way – good STEM reading!

Wanda’s Better Way, by Laura Pedersen/Illustrated by Penny Weber, (July 2017, Fulcrum Publishing), $17.95, ISBN: 978-1-68275-014-8

Recommended for readers 4-8

A young girl finds a better way to do things as she goes through her day. The grownups around her think she’s not interested in the task at hand, but she’s really at work observing problems and creating workarounds – and then goes on to engineer them. When Wanda’s dance teacher suggests she consider gymnastics because she doesn’t appear interested in dance, we discover that she’s engineering a solution to the cluttered and messy dressing room. When she offers to help her landscape designer mother, she finds a solution that will keep squirrels out of a bird feeder. When she helps her chef father in the kitchen, she finds an easier way to separate eggs – and makes that her science fair project!

With short, easy to read and understand sentences and realistic illustrations, Wanda’s Better Way is a nice way to introduce STEM concepts and the scientific method to younger budding scientists and readers. Wanda’s ideas come to her in step-by-step thought bubbles and she’s illustrated with a light bulb going off over her head when solutions to come her. It’s a time-honored and effective way to communicate ideas! Kids will see how Wanda works out the problem and can discuss how she implements her solutions. Wanda tries on different career ideas while talking to her mother and father; something many kids will be familiar with. We’re often our kids’ first exposure to careers, so why wouldn’t they consider doing what we do? Wanda ultimately decides that she wants to be a scientist, which offers a nice topic for discussion: Wanda wants to be a scientist because she realizes her strength in figuring out problems. What are you really good at, and what can you do with your talent?

Wanda and her brother are biracial, with an African-American mother and white father. It sends a positive message about girls of color taking an interest in STEM! There is a two-page, age-appropriate explanation of the scientific method.

I’d put this with my Andrea Beaty books – Ada Twist, Scientist, Rosie Revere, Engineer, and Iggy Peck, Architect – and my other STEM picture books, like Ashley Spires’ The Most Magnificent Thing and Kobi Yamada’s What Do You Do With a Problem? and What Do You Do With an Idea? Great for STEM storytimes, and if you have blocks or other maker goodies handy, you can let the kiddos play for a little while and work up their own engineering challenges.

Laura Pedersen is an author, humorist, and playwright. Her website offers more information about her books and theater projects. Illustrator Penny Weber’s website has a gallery of her artwork.