With all of the hurricanes swirling around the east coast, my girls and I were curious about weather, so we of course checked our local library. One series that we found does a really amazing job of taking complex weather systems and breaking them down in a way that any child can understand – Bel the Weather Girl.
This creative series was written by Belinda Jensen, a meteorologist based in Minnesota. Believing that knowledge is power, Belinda developed a series of engaging and enlightening presentations that reveal the science behind weather, and discovered, just as she hoped, that children aren’t nearly as frightened when they are informed. We managed to get our hands on 4 of the 6 books in the series. They are a great way to educate children about big weather concepts and hopefully help them have less fears about harsh weather patterns. Continue reading →
I am in the midst of getting ready for a book fair so I have been going through all of my books for Usborne Books and More (disclaimer – I am an Independent Consultant with UBAM). Because I’ve been making piles and packing up all of my baby and toddler books, E has been able to go through some of the other ones that she had sort of forgotten about. Her discovery of our Lift-the-flap series is an example of why these books simply rock.
Our Lift-the-Flap books are a great way to teach children factual information while completely engaging them. E discovered two of the Questions and Answers series books and first read through them completely and then felt the need to ask us all of the questions. She got me last night with the book on time and sat at the table this morning quizzing her father on science knowledge.
There is such a wealth of information in these books and it is presented in such a marvelous way. What is also cool is that when kids get excited enough to share these books with their parents we often learn things ourselves!
The funny thing is that there is a definite push to have kids be reading informative texts, but in kindergarten and first grade they really still have to be lured into the subjects. There are times when they are going to gravitate to a specific non-fiction topic and might want to read a full book on it, but when they are just discovering all that there is to know, these books are a wonderful overview filled with amazing knowledge.
So starts the comical book “Sticks ‘N’ Stone ‘N’ Dinosaur Bones” written by Ted Enik and illustrated by G.F. Newland. This unusual book looks at the actual Bone Wars that took place in the late 1800s between O. Charles Marsh and Edward D. Cope.
I had no idea that there was such a competitive nature between paleontologists, but apparently it was quite a big deal. With a hats off to Dr. Seuss, Enik tells the story of how these men used any means necessary to have the biggest discoveries in finding dinosaur fossils and even resorted to crime and outright lies.
I would have loved to see more talked about the actual dinosaurs and discoveries they found, but this book was about the ridiculous desire to one-up the other. The two men got so caught up in their desire to be famous that they forgot about the science of what they were supposed to be doing. As a media student, it quickly reminded me of yellow journalism, and my husband pointed out that it was fake news.
This book is a must for the dinosaur lover and a great read-aloud. I could definitely see how this would get a classroom of kids talking about fact and fiction, competition, and the importance of fair play.
*** I read a digital copy of this from NetGalley in return for my honest review. All opinions are my own.
Thank you so much to the author for providing #KidLitExchange with a finished copy of this book for review purposes! All opinions are my own (as always).
Back in April I discovered the Branches books published by Scholastic. These great books are a way to bridge the gap between leveled readers and chapter books. Or as my new 1st grader likes to say, these books are like picture books and chapter books smashed together! So when author Amy Marie Stadelmann sent copies of her series Olive & Beatrix to the KidLitExchange I jumped at the opportunity to check them out.
The Olive & Beatrix books focus on twin sisters Olive & Beatrix. Olive is “ordinary” and loves science, nature, and exploring. Her sister, Beatrix, is less than ordinary as she was born at midnight on a full moon and is therefore a witch. She has a brain full of tricks and uses her magical powers to play pranks on Olive and her best friend, Eddie.
These books arrived at our house on Saturday and by Sunday evening, E had read them both at least 2 times. Olive & Beatrix is a really fun series. There is a touch of mischievousness, a dash of science, and a balance of true sisterhood battles and friendship. Beatrix tends to take the easy way out by using her magic, but in the end, it is usually a combination of magic and science needed to solve the problem at hand. Even though the sisters look at life differently, they have to work together to make things work.
Book #1 is “The Not-So Itty-Bitty Spiders” in which Olive and Eddie attempt to prank Beatrix with a bucket of spiders and it back-fires on them when the spiders get into her growing potion. When the spiders escape out of their house, the three friends have to figure out what to do. When their first plans don’t work, some scientific thinking helps solve the problem.
Book #2 is “The Super-Smelly Moldy Blob.” In this book, Olive is tired of Beatrix always managing to win the science fair due to an unfair use of magic. She and Eddie come up with great entries, but a battle between the twins over which table to set up on ends in both of their projects falling to the floor and turning into a super-smelly moldy blob that starts oozing through the school swallowing up everything in its path. Once again, the twins and Eddie use a combination of magic and scientific know-how to stop the blob and get everything back in order.
These books are perfect for emerging readers, specifically those in kindergarten through 2nd grade. By combining a slightly longer story with a load of really fun pictures, kids just want to read them. There is a real sense of accomplishment for struggling readers and a lot of color and action for reluctant readers. As with all Branches books, there is also a page in the back with comprehension questions to help they understand what they are reading and to start talking points for parents. Our school and public libraries need to have more of these books available for our emerging readers.
Our earth’s surface is about 71% water and 29% land, yet much of our seas have barely been explored. Life in the Ocean is the true story of Sylvia Earle, an oceanographer and activist. While the book is about how she fell in love with the sea at an early age, it is also a message that we need to take better care of our oceans.
The start of the book tells of Earle’s early life in New Jersey and her natural curiosity that developed while she was living on an old farm. Earle investigated the world around her and studied nature and animals. A move to Florida and a pair of swim goggles showed her the amazing life that lived in the ocean and would forever change her life.
The book then takes a quick turn by briefly describing Earle’s achievements. Between being the only woman doing the kind of research that she was involved in to developing equipment that would allow her to dive deeper in the water, she was obviously an important force in her field. I would have liked to have seen this developed more, but that is where the book becomes less of a biography and more of a book about the ocean and its future. Continue reading →
Earth day is this Saturday and it is such an important time to make sure that you are educating your children about the world that we live in and how to keep that world around for the future generations. This is our time to take care of our environment and to remind our kids that it is our job to heal the world.
One great way to reduce the amount of trash going into landfills is to compost. Compost is a great way to feed our earth and take pressure off of our landfills. Not everyone has the ability to have a compost pile, but for those that do, Compost Stew, by Mary McKenna Siddals, is a great way to encourage kids to get involved. Siddals does a great job of simplifying the process in a fun A-Z manner. In her author’s note at the beginning and “chef’s note” at the end, she also gives kids some great facts and ways to get started. Continue reading →
There is a strong movement to encourage young girls to pursue careers in science and technology. While we are pushing our next generation of great thinkers, some picture book authors are putting together absolutely brilliant biographies of women who were ahead of their time and who made great advances in their individual fields. One of the books in this category is The Shark Lady – The True Story of How Eugenie Clark Became the Ocean’s Most Fearless Scientist by Jess Keating and illustrated by Marta Álvarez Miguéns. (June 2017, Sourebooks).
From a very young age, Eugenie Clark was fascinated with sharks. She longed to swim with them and see the world through their eyes. She also wanted to show people that they were beautiful. Eugenie read book after book on sharks and filled many notebooks. Continue reading →
When children are starting to learn about the sun, moon and planets, there are not a ton of books that really engage them. So I was very excited when I was able to get a hold of an advance copy of If You Were the Moon by Laura Purdie Salas and illustrated by Jaime Kim.
At first glance, this book looks like a simple bedtime story in fiction format. But once you get past the first spread the entire book is filled with fascinating facts about the moon! A little girl looks up at the moon one night and wishes that she could “do exactly nothing, just like you.”
The moon responds by telling her all of the various things he does. Each page has a really basic explanation of the moon’s role with supplementary blocks of text in a different font that give the reader detailed facts.
So between the text and the outstanding illustrations, a young mind will understand that the moon impacts Earth’s balance, that while it appears to glow it is really “catching” and “throwing” light from the sun, and that its gravity is what creates the tides in our oceans.
The moon also is important to a lot of different animals and cultures. Nocturnal animals use the moon as an alarm clock. Sea turtle hatchlings need the light of the moon to guide them to the ocean. In terms of people, not only has the moon inspired great works of art, but farmers across the globe have used moon phases to guide their seasons and the race to put a man on the moon challenged our space program.
There are also silly items like the fact that the moon spins like a ballerina making a full turn every 27 days or that it wouldn’t be very good at playing dodgeball because it never gets out of the way of meteorites that crash into it.
This is a really wonderful book to share with a young child to get them more interested in astronomy and science. It is also still good for an older child to comprehend some of the more confusing aspects of the moon. There really are not a wealth of great books that engage children on this subject, so this is a welcome addition.
Every Wednesday I try to post a non-fiction picture book as part of the Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy. There are truly so many amazing nonfiction picture books being published these days, it can be hard to contain myself sometimes. Make sure to check out Kid Lit Frenzy and the linked blogs to find some more fabulous books!
Every week I volunteer in one of our local elementary school’s libraries. It is fascinating to see what the kids check out and which books get taken over and over again. One section of the library that is in constant rotation are books about animals. Kids are absolutely fascinated by them and each child has their own particular favorites. My own daughters, who are not huge non-fiction fans, both love reading about animals. J has had a long fascination with dolphins and both girls enjoy animals that live in the water. So it isn’t surprising that National Geographic Kids has combined that pure love with a natural curiosity about oceans in their latest book – The Ultimate Oceanpedia.
This gorgeous book is broken down into seven sections – Oceans, Ocean Life, Ocean in Motion, Wild Weather, Underwater Exploration, Along the Coast, and When People and Oceans Meet. The information itself has large chunks about main topics and then fills in holes with lots of little details, so while it is an encyclopedia, it could be read like a book – which is what fascinated kids like to do.
What is great is that this is a book that can grow with your kids. Younger kids will love looking at the pictures and maybe checking out information on their favorite animal. Older kids can get a ton of information about oceans and ocean life without turning to google. There are amazing pages about the different ocean layers and who lives there as well as impressive explanations about waves and tides.
As kids start to get older and have more appreciation not only for nature but for their place in it, there is a ton of information about the impact of humans on the ocean and things we can do to help it.
I was fortunate enough to grow up on the west coast and able to explore the ocean and shore line on vacations as well as part of my education with field trips to various locations, but my kids are not quite as lucky. For the many children in this country and all over who can’t experience what a tide-pool is like, this book is a great resource.
There are many wonderful things that I can say about this book, but the best is the knowledge that it will be used time and time again over the years as a valuable source of trusted information.
**Note – I received a copy of this from the publisher but all comments and reviews are completely my own.
There was a time when we had no technology and people had more time to explore the world around them. That’s when some of our most amazing scientific discoveries occurred. What is amazing is that many of these discoveries were made by women and young girls. I love the notion of encouraging our boys and girls to explore the world around them. I have watched as my younger daughter is fascinated with the natural world around her. Until they started building on the lot across the street from us, she was known to spend large chunks of time making up her own world and seeing what there was to see in her own personal forest. Much of our focus these days seems to be about encouraging children to create the next computer breakthrough, but there is still a world of nature around us for them to explore.
Maria Merian was one of the first naturalists to study animals that underwent metamorphoses. One that she was particularly taken with was the butterfly. In Margarita Engle’s beautiful book, Summer Birds: The Butterflies of Maria Merian, children can learn about the work she did to advance our knowledge of the life cycle of the butterfly. At the time that she lived (late 1600s), it was the common belief that insects like butterflies came from mud, as if by magic, and were therefore also seen as evil. At the tender age of 13 Maria secretly studied caterpillars and butterflies. She watched as caterpillars were born from eggs laid by butterflies, that each caterpillar ate specific types of leaves, and that after creating and resting in a chrysalis they would emerge as butterflies. She documented everything that she saw and wanted to publish her findings so that people would stop calling them evil. The book is quite simple in its story, but astonishing in all that this young girl accomplished at a time when it was possible to think that butterflies were something to fear.
Another woman who made a huge difference in how we consider our environment was Rachel Carson. In Rachel Carson and Her Book that Changed the World, by Laurie Lawlor, we are introduced to young Rachel and her passion for studying wildlife. Rachel Carson once wrote,”Once you are aware of the wonder and beauty of earth, you will want to learn about it.” From a very early age, she loved being exploring the outdoors and while at college preferred the local natural history museum to parties and dances. While at college she also came home to rural Pennsylvania and saw pollution impacting her once pristine landscape and wound up studying biology to learn all that she could about plants and animals. She had great struggles being a female scientist during the Depression, but she always found a way to persevere. Her biggest contribution to our society was in the publication of “Silent Spring,” a book that made specialists and the layperson more aware of the dangers of chemicals on our natural surroundings, and how the pervasive use of chemicals could pollute our environment. This book does an awesome job of showing how she got to the point of writing that book and encouraging kids to be aware of the world around them and protect it.
Kate Sessions was also a woman who loved natural science in a time when that was highly unusual. Her story gets told in The Tree Lady: The True Story of How One Tree-Loving Woman Changed a City Forever, by H. Joseph Hopkins. The Tree Lady tells the story of how Kate Sessions always loved getting her hands dirty, studying science, and from a very young age was completely enamored with trees. Kate was the first woman to ever graduate from the University of California (my alma mater) with a science degree in 1881. She had grown up in Northern California surrounded by trees and lush nature, but after college moved to San Diego, which was void of trees. She left her job as a teacher and became a tree hunter trying to find trees that could grow and thrive in San Diego’s dry climate. She not only discovered trees and brought them to San Diego, but she helped encourage those living in the area to plant the trees themselves. Her biggest achievement was the work that she did in the City Park.
All along, Kate Sessions believed that San Diego had the potential to become a beautiful desert oasis. She believed in herself and in her dreams and through hard work and determination, her dreams became reality. The illustrations in this book are the perfect companion to the moving story.
I love finding new non-fiction picture books to encourage my girls to learn and grow. I find a number of them as part of the non-fiction picture book challenge hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy. I haven’t done a great job of staying on top of this challenge, but that doesn’t keep me from trying to be a part of it. Check out the posts on her site.