Tag Archives: science

Giant Squid













Giant Squid

by Candace Fleming, illustrated by Eric Rohmann
Neal Porter Book, 2016

The giant squid is an animal rarely seen and how it lives and survives is mostly unknown.  In this book, writer and illustrator work together to shroud the giant squid in its mystery, so much so that the story appears on the first five pages before readers reach the title page and all readers see are bits of the squid, just as in real life.  Each part of the squid is described in detail and slowly, ever so slowly we see each part until we reach the eye, which boldly takes up one whole page spread.  Readers learn babies are two inches long and hatch from eggs, but no one knows where the female squid lays them.  The story ends with a spectacular four page fold-out featuring the squid, then on the next page it’s gone.  Masterly written and masterly illustrated in tune with the creature itself.  A brilliant book.

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One North Star, A Counting Book













One North Star, A Counting Book

by Phyllis Root, illustrated by Beckie Prange and Betsy Bowen
University of Minnesota Press, 2016

One North Star is ever so much more than a ‘counting’ book.  Its wood carvings and rich color illustrations pulled me into this wonderful poetic recounting that explores Minnesota’s North Star country.  We begin in the forest, move into bluffs, marshes, rivers, bogs, and prairies to cover the many terrains.  And in each, we are introduced to animals, birds, insects, and plants found there.  So much to explore.  Yet it is a counting book and in each terrain we enjoy identifying and counting as we learn more about each item featured.  Each page, rich in details, is a beauty to feast upon; one can almost breathe in the smells of each terrain. Fortunately, the book includes a directory of each terrain and each item mentioned, as well as how to find the North Star.

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Raindrops Roll













Raindrops Roll

by April Pulley Sayre
Beach Lane Books, 2015

Introducing creatures in their natural habitat, Raindrops Roll engages children to wonder what it might be like to live in the rain.  Photographer/Artist April Pulley Sayre blends loosely rhyming word descriptions with richly detailed photos to show nature’s experience of rain.  We see mini-showcases of grasshoppers, fireflies, leaves, birds, and lizards glistening in the beauty of wetness.

I don’t have many words for this book, but I am so attracted to it; I had to write a review.  Perhaps it’s because I’m from Seattle where rain is familiar and I want to savor each photo.  My imagination wonders how the author came to choose the minimal words used and what words would I have chosen.  It’s a great book to dwell upon on a rainy day.

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The Inventor’s Secret, What Thomas Edison Told Henry Ford

inventors secret












The Inventor’s Secret, What Thomas Edison Told Henry Ford
by Suzanne Slade, illustrated by Jennifer Black Reinhardt
Charlesbridge, 2015
NSTA 2016 Outstanding Science Trade Book for Students K-12

Who knew that two famous inventors, Thomas Edison and Henry Ford, were friends?  And what was Thomas Edison’s secret for his many, many inventions?

This delightful story starts when both were curious boys who spent most of their time running experiments—and getting into trouble!  Thomas made explosions with chemistry experiments and was especially curious about electricity.  Henry was curious about the energy in a river and when he built a dam and waterwheel to catch the river’s energy, he flooded a neighbor’s field.  Mostly he was curious about engines.  When he built his first steam engine, it exploded and set his school’s fence on fire!

Thomas made many inventions, which everyone heard about.  Henry made a quadricycle that everyone laughed at.  What was Thomas’ secret, he wondered.  Then one day he decided to meet Thomas and find out his secret.  He talked his way into a dinner and waited and waited, until finally he had a chance to talk to Thomas.  Thomas lit up like a light blub when Henry told him about his four-cycle engine.  Henry sketched his invention and Thomas asked question after question.  And then it happened.  Thomas banged his fist on the table, and shared his secret!

This book is filled with history nuggets and an afterward sharing Thomas and Henry’s special friendship, how the author came to write the book and the challenges the illustrator had to accurately illustrate the book.  It also includes snippets of information on several inventions of both Thomas and Henry.  A great introduction to two twentieth century men who changed the world.  The Inventor’s Secret was awarded the NSTA 2016 Outstanding Science Trade Book for Students K-12.

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Author Interview: Patricia M. Newman

Patricia NewmanI caught Patricia Newman’s presentation at a local library and was I impressed!  When I arrived, I found a very large vase of water with pictures taped to it and many vials of interesting stuff.  She opened her talk discussing the benefits the ocean provides people, from swimming, to fishing, to providing us clean air.

She then moved into a history of the ocean during the past 300 years and how the introduction of plastics and their accumulation is impacting ocean life, air and people. Using the large vase as the ‘ocean’, clothes pins clipped to the vase to represent the earth’s growing population, and pouring into the vase  more than a dozen vials of ‘toxins’, trash, ‘fishing nets’, etc., the audience got to (almost) experience what happens in the ocean.  If you are unable to catch her in person, check out her book, Plastic, Ahoy! Investigating the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the winner of The Green Earth Book Award.

PlasticAhoyQuestion:  How did you come to research and write Plastic, Ahoy!?  How long did it take?
I wrote Plastic, Ahoy! because of an article I read in the Sacramento Bee about a group of graduate student scientists who mounted an expedition to the North Pacific Central Gyre . The expedition had all the makings of a great book that might in fact become a call to action for future ocean stewards, e. g.  students who were themselves scientists, the scientific method, and, what was at the time, the mystery of how plastic trash affected marine life. The Plastic, Ahoy! scientists were among the first to study the floating garbage.

I first wrote a book proposal, which took about 18 months to be accepted. After I received a contract, I had about a year to write the book. The last few months of that time, I worked with my editor to make the book as perfect as we could.

Q:   How did you develop the presentation?
I wish I could say I created this presentation, but I didn’t. I found it in the December 2014 issue of POPULATION CONNECTION. I wrote to the editors to ask if I could use it during school and library visits. Luckily they said yes! Originally, the presentation was written for high school students, but I’ve modified it for middle-grade audiences.

Q:  One of my favorite parts of the presentation was when you identified little changes we can make to reduce our plastic use.  Can you share the top 3 that kids can do?
I’ll share five:

  1. SKIP THE STRAW. When you order a drink in a restaurant, tell your server you don’t need a straw, and be sure to say you’re saving the ocean! Better yet, speak to the manager and ask him/her to consider ditching straws altogether.
  2. SAY NO TO PLASTIC TO-GO BOXES. If you take food home from a restaurant, politely refuse Styrofroam to-go containers. Ask for a cardboard box or a piece of aluminum foil instead.
  3. REMIND YOUR PARENTS TO BRING REUSABLE BAGS INTO THE GROCERY STORE. A simple “fix” for our oceans. If you forget your bags in the car, ask your check-out person to load your groceries back in your cart and pack them in your bags when you get to the parking lot.
  4. BRING A REUSABLE WATER BOTTLE TO SCHOOL instead of opening a fresh plastic water bottle every day. If you have events at school, such as concerts or festivals, consider a giant urn of water where people can refill their water bottles or buy water in cartons rather than plastic bottles. Here’s a link: http://www.boxedwaterisfbetter.com/
  5. Did you know that most plastics are recyclable? In Sacramento County (where I live) we can recycle the following items to make sure they never wind up in the ocean:
  • All CRV containers
  • Containers with numbers 1 – 7 in the triangle symbol
  • Soda bottles, milk jugs, shampoo bottles, etc.
  • Tubs and containers (i.e. yogurt, margarine)
  • Plastic bags (stuff several bags inside each other)
  • Buckets, pails and crates
  • Toys (i.e. plastic tricycles)
  • Clamshell trays and deli containers
  • Plant pots
  • Laundry baskets
  • Polystyrene (Styrofoam®)

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Q:  Your book won the Green Earth Book Award.  Tell us what that experience was like for you.
The award was announced on Earth Day 2015, and Annie Crawley (the book’s fantastic photographer) and I were so excited we screamed at each other on the phone! We are going to Washington, D.C. for an October 1 ceremony. Can’t wait!

Q:  You have 14 books, most non-fiction.  You seem to have many interests.  How did you come to write on so many different topics?
I often ask myself the same question. I guess I go where my curiosity takes me (although sometimes book topics are also suggested by editors). You never know where I’ll turn up to ask questions for research.

Q:  Have you always wanted to be a writer?  How did you get into writing children’s books?
I never thought about being any kind of writer—although I was always the go-to person in my other jobs for written materials. Somehow it just worked out that way. After my kids were born and I started reading children’s books again, I knew I wanted to give it a try. It’s rewarding, but it’s also the hardest job I’ve ever had.

Q:  What’s the hardest part of writing for children?
To paraphrase Eudora Welty, each book teaches me to write itself but no other. My biggest challenge is finding my way into a new book. How will the story start? What do I want to say with this book?

Q:  The past 5 ½ years you’ve been a Regional Adviser (RA)
for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI)?  Tell us about SCBWI and share with us how you find time to write.
SCBWI is the only professional organization dedicated to people who create content for children. It provides craft instruction and entrée to the editors and agents who buy our work. I loved my time as a volunteer RA for SCBWI, and mostly through the help of an exceptional team who worked with me, was able to continue writing while organizing events. I stepped down in January 2015 so someone else could experience the camaraderie of the organization.

Q:  You have a new book coming out October 1, 2015.  Tell us about it and how it came to be.
Ebola Fears and Facts cover (1)EBOLA: FEARS AND FACTS is the brainchild of my brilliant editor, Carol Hinz, at Millbrook Press. At first I wasn’t sure if I wanted to write a “disease” book, but the opportunity to work with Carol made the decision an easy one. I’m especially fond of the way the School Library Journal reviewer describes the book, “Breaking new ground, Newman has written a truly excellent book for middle grade students that tackles the terrifying specter of Ebola. As the title suggests, readers will come away with more facts and less fears.”

For more information about Patricia Newman, visit her website: http://patriciamnewman.com


by Lola M. Schaefer, illustrated by Gabi Swiatkowska
Henry Holt and Company, 2004
Outstanding Science Trade Books for Students K-12

Illustrator Gabi Swiatkowska and writer Lola M Schaefer bring alive a true story about a hawk that was wounded by and lived with an arrow running through its body for several months.

When Hawk takes an arrow in his side, he learns he can fly and gets him to the top of a Red Oak tree where he can rest.  He cares for his wound as best he can.  But after two days he is hungry and set off to find what he can.  He learns to negotiate with the arrow and goes after easier food to catch.  One day Hawks gets the arrow tangled in tree branches and snaps off part of the arrow.  Life is a bit easier.  One day he spots a field of mice, easy prey, and when he drops down to feast, his claws become entangled in a netting.  Rescuers remove the arrow and care for Hawk until he is fully healed.  They return him to his home and release him.

An afterword shares details of the Hawk’s story.  Geared more for the reader 6-11 years old.

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Star Stuff, Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos

Star Stuff, Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos
by Stephanie Roth Sisson
Roaring Book Press, 2014

Geared for 4-8 year olds, this biography introduces Carl Sagan, the man that brought ‘Star Stuff’ to television and helped open American hearts into the mysteries of space.

The opening illustration features the Milky Way Galaxy, with an arrow pointing to our galaxy’s sun.  Then the reader sees the planet earth, the America continents, a city, and an apartment in which lived a boy named Carl,  a boy fascinated with the world around him.  In 1939 his parents take him to the world’s fair where his imagination explodes with possibilities and he focuses on space.  Starting at his local library, he satiates himself with knowledge about the stars and his dreams take shape.  The story follows Carl’s life until a small bit of Carl’s enthusiasm is shown in space.

The story shows how dreams, and a lot of hard work, can change the world.  A must read for future astronauts!

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Song of the Water Boatman and Other Pond Poems

Song of the Water Boatman and Other Pond Poems
by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Beckie Prange
Houghton Mifflin Company, 2005
Caldecott Medal Winner

When I picked up Song of the Water Boatman, I knew I had something special.  The exquisite art lured me in with its intriguing perspectives of a common, yet unknown world.  Then I discovered it wasn’t a story, it was a book of poetry about pond animals and insects.  I was fascinated.  Where was this taking me?  The first page was an open page with no words, featuring the pond.  I turned the page again for the first poem.  Its first stanza had me.

Listen for Me
Listen for me on a spring night,
on a wet night,
on a rainy night.
Listen for me on a still night,
for in the night, I sing.

Each tightly-written poem and detailed illustration introduced me to a new pond creature.  Then, to expand my experience, a short paragraph was written on each creature capturing its unique qualities.  I felt grateful to receive a brief education of this wonderful creature I just learned about.  I discovered wood ducks in Spring Splashdown, and greedy diving beetles, or “water tigers”, fierce hunters of the pond.  Each page-turn had an up-close illustration of a new creature.  For awhile, I went to another world, learning how pond creatures live.  Some pages I had to study carefully to fully understand each creature.  Then, as the illustrator brought me into the book, the illustrator led me away.  I sat with a new understanding of ponds swirling within me.  I could not move.  I actually began to tear up.  The whole experience was breath-taking.  Sometimes I wonder why certain Caldecott Medal winners are chosen, but this one I understood.  Illustrator Beckie Prange is a printmaker and naturalist with a graduate certificate in natural science illustration.  This book is perfect for any child to expand their experience of the world.

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Dark Emporer & Other Poems of the Night

Dark Emporer & Other Poems of the Night
By Joyce Sidman, Illustrated by Rick Allen
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010
Newbery Honor Book

Written by scientist and poet Joyce Sidman, readers are introduced to the creatures of night.  From the better known Raccoon, Porcupettes (infant porcupines) and spiders, to the lesser known Primrose Moth, efts and snails.  Readers learn how and why these creatures prefer the night and thrive in the darkness.  Readers even learn how the moon makes it light to shine at night and how trees use the night to recover and repair themselves, growing new roots and distributing water to nourish itself through its complex system of “veins”.  Told in a poetic voice, readers “experience” the night in a way no science book can.  Beautifully written, blending science of nature with the art of nature.

Each poem has an illustration and a few words in prose, further enhancing the poem’s subject.  Discover other science/poetry books by Joyce Sidman, including Song of the Waterboatman and other Pond Poems (Caldecott Honor Book, BCCB Blue Ribbon Nonfiction Book Award) (See review by Susan), Butterfly Eyes and other Secrets of the Meadow, and Winter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold.

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