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!

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Count along with Annie Aardvark, Mathematician!

Annie Aardvark, Mathematician, by Suzie Olsen/Illustrated by Davina “Viv” Kinney, (Jan. 2017, STEAM Publishing), $9.99, ISBN: 9780998433707

Recommended for readers 3-6

This cute counting book stars Annie, an aardvark mathematician. She loves math! She decides to count everything she finds, and takes readers on a 1-10 feast for the senses where she enjoys sniffing and tasting cucumbers, rocks, assorted bugs, berries, and plants. Each spread features a white page with black text for easy storytime reading, and a full-color page featuring Annie and her latest discovery. Kids can count along with the repetitive text, which features written numbers, illustrated things to count, and – most fun – the sounds Annie makes as she explores and investigates each treasure. She gulp, gulp, gulps beetles, slurp, slurp, slurp, slurps sticks, and has a whole bunch of snorts for leaves!

This is a cute concept book that would work really well with flannels – nature flannels are easy enough to make or find. It fits in well with a nature storytime; I’d pair this with Sue Williams’ I Went Walking. Make fun sound effects to get the kiddies giggling! The art is cute; Annie has a friendly smile and expressive eyes that will draw readers’ attention. Explain what an aardvark is, and more importantly, what a mathematician is. Pronounce the kids mathematicians and have them count!

Posted in professional development

Professional Development Reading: Exploring the Science of Sounds

My latest professional development read is Exploring the Science of Sounds: 100 Music Activities for Young Children, by Abigail Flesch Connors. Since I enjoy singing songs and teaching my storytime kids fingerplays, I wanted to see how else I could bring music into my programs. Two of my colleagues have done great programs with musical instruments and musical play, so I want to get in on the fun!

Exploring the Science of Sounds: 100 Musical Activities for Young Children, by Abigail Flesch Connors,
(October 2017, Gryphon House), $16.95, ISBN: 9780876597316

Although aimed at professionals that work with kids from preschool to age 7, many of these activities are easily adaptable to toddlers. We get an explanation of the science behind sounds – pitch, tempo, musical instruments and how they make the sounds they make – and activities that translate to teachable moments for kids (and caregivers!). Teach kids to make their own guitar/harp/stringed instruments using a tissue box and rubber bands! Use different surfaces to understand how sound travels with different thicknesses! Every single activity in here will enrich a storytime or form the groundwork for a STEAM/STEM music program that kids will love. I’m putting this one in my professional development budget; I can see myself referring to this book again and again.

Posted in Fiction, geek, Guide, Non-Fiction, Non-fiction, Tween Reads

Holiday Book Shopping: Science and Tech

Books make fantastic holiday gifts! Need a stocking stuffer or are stumped by a kid who has seemingly everything? Try one of these!

I am guilty of favoring books in the STEM/STEAM areas, because that’s what I love evangelizing to my own kids and the kids at my libraries. Take a look – you don’t need to be a Stephen Hawking-in-the-making to enjoy these.

scratch-playgroundScratch Programming Playground, by Al Sweigart, (Oct. 2016, No Starch Press), $24.95, ISBN: 978-1593277628

Recommended for Ages 8-12

I love working with Scratch for young coders. It’s all about teaching kids how to computer code using interconnecting blocks of code, and the Scratch program, developed at MIT, is free and available online. Scratch Programming Playground walks kids (and grownups – I used this book extensively while putting together programs for this coming winter) through the process of learning Scratch by making cool games, like Fruit Slicer (a Fruit Ninja clone), Brick Breaker (where my ’80s friends at?), and Asteroid Breaker (Asteroids! Remember that one?). There are tons of full-color visuals and step-by-step breakdowns that will have kids programming in no time. I buy No Starch books for my libraries all the time – they’re great to have on hand.


how-things-workHow Things Work, by T.J Resler (Oct. 2016, National Geographic Kids), $19.99, ISBN: 978-1-4263-2555-7

Recommended for ages 7-12

Know a kid who’s constantly taking everything apart to see how it works? This is the book for her or him. It’s loaded with gadgets and how they work; fun facts; in-depth pieces on technology and how it works; profiles of scientists and innovators, and yes, experiments that are totally safe to try at home (with adult supervision, please). Learn how a tablet really works, how an aquarium works to keep fish healthy and happy, even how a toilet works, complete with diagram. Design a roller coaster with your kids – it’s easier than you think! Because it’s a NatGeo Kids book, you know the writing is great; it speaks to kids in easy, clear, fun language that educates and never talks over their heads or down to them. The photos are amazing, and the dog on a surfboard (page 131) is worth the cost of the book all on its own.

science-encyclopediaScience Encyclopedia: Atom Smashing, Food Chemistry, Animals, Space, and More!, by National Geographic Kids, (Oct. 2016, National Geographic Kids), $24.99, ISBN: 978-1-4263-2543-4

Recommended for ages 8-13

I know, it’s a NatGeo Kids lovefest right now, but it’s well-deserved. The Science Encyclopedia is info-packed with everything kids need to know about physical and life sciences, covering matter, energy, electronics, the universe, and more. There are record breakers, key dates in atomic science, and activities to try at home. Information is presented in 2-page spreads broken out into subject-specific blocks, with stunning photos, fun facts, and hilariously bad jokes (Where does bad light go? A prism!) A glossary, index, and additional resources round this volume out. Fantastic gift for any tween who wants to know more about everything.


These are all available now, either in your local bookstore or online through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-a-Million, or IndieBound.

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

Create and learn with Maker Lab

maker lab_covMaker Lab – 28 Super Cool Projects: Build * Invent * Create * Discover, by  Jack Challoner, (July 2016, DK Publishing), $19.99, ISBN: 9781465451354

Recommended for ages 8-12

I saw a mockup copy of this book at PLA earlier this year, and stopped dead in my tracks, for two reasons: I LOVE DK books, and anything Maker or STEM grabs my attention, because I have kids at home and at work, so I’m always on the lookout for projects to bring to them. When an e-ARC was available on Edelweiss, I jumped at it.

There are 28 projects in here, 90% of which you probably have the  materials for in your home or can easily get to. The book is divided into four sections: Food for Thought (kitchen science); Around the Home (pretty self-explanatory); Water World (projects working with water); and the Great Outdoors (stuff you can do outside). Each project is beautifully photographed and step-by-step instructions and photos take burgeoning scientists through each experiment/project/activity. Each project has a notation of approximate time the activity will take, difficulty (easy-medium-hard), and adult supervision is always encouraged, particularly when using sharps, like scissors, or hot liquids. A “How it Works” section explains the science behind each project, adding some nice science inquiry. A glossary and index complete the book.

Maker Lab is created in association with the Smithsonian Institution and supports STEAM education initiatives, and it’s just fun. I want to add this book to my two science clubs at work, and get my little guy making a rubber band solar system with me at home. I know I’m a DK fangirl, but with good reason: they create great material for anyone who wants to learn.

This book will be a big help during science fair season, so maybe get an extra copy. Take a look at some of the pages, right here.

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Posted in Adventure, Fiction, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

STEM Siblings: Nick and Tesla are back!

nick and teslaNick and Tesla’s Solar-Powered Showdown, by “Science Bob” Pflugfelder and Steve Hocksmith/Illustrated by Scott Garrett (May 2016, Quirk Books), $12.95, ISBN: 978-1-59474-866-0

Recommended for ages 8-12

Super smart siblings Nick (short for Nicolas) and Tesla are back, and so is Uncle Newt, plus friends Silas, and DeMarco! Nick and Tesla are having a heck of a summer: their parents are still missing, and all signs point to them being kidnapped, possibly by an evil mastermind. This latest installment in the popular middle grade mystery series has brother and sister working together to create all sorts of solar-powered gadgets that will get the attention of their government contact, distract the bad guys, and save the day. Let’s hope it’s enough!

This is such a fun series for middle graders, because it puts the power in their hands. Nick and Tesla are competent, smart kids that aren’t middle school pariahs; they have fun, wacky friends, and they have a strong, supportive – if eccentric – family. They can MacGuyver a solution to seemingly every problem: from getting a secret agent’s attention, to cooking hot dogs using a Pringles container and solar power. The best part? The kids can recreate the experiments! As with the other books in the Nick and Tesla series, Solar-Powered Showdown features five projects readers can make along with the twins: a a hot dog cooker, listening device, nighttime LED signal cannon, range rover, and alarm bell. All solar-powered, and all easy to make (with adult supervision).

You don’t need to be intimately familiar with the series to pick this one up – this is the first book I’ve read in the series; it’s been on my “to get to” list for a while – because the text will fill you in, usually via humorous footnotes, on what’s happened in the previous books. A note at the beginning of the book lets parents and kids alike know that project instructions should be reviewed by an adult, and that adults should supervise and assist on each project. The instructions are detailed, numbered, and illustrated, really encouraging kids to go for it and create exciting, sustainable things!

The Nick and Tesla website has videos, educator guides, book excerpts, and downloadable shopping lists, by book, for each of the projects featured in the novels. You can submit your own work for them to check out, too.

I’m working on a lot of STEM/STEAM ideas for Summer Reading, so this series will be on display, along with Gene Luen Yang’s Secret Coders and HowToons graphic novels (the second Secret Coders book is due out in August!), and Jon Sciezska’s Frank Einstein series of novels. Get kids thinking and creating this summer!

Need more ideas? Science Bob has tons of them on his own website, and his Instagram has some very cool science facts and videos, like Tesla coils at work and BB8 droids under construction.