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.
For a long time we’ve really focused on the books that J has enjoyed reading. Now that E is in kindergarten and her reading has grown by leaps and bounds, I felt like I should include some of the items that she is picking out and bringing home.
In E’s class they are allowed to pick a book for whatever level they are at and we are supposed to read it together. After she can read it with me or her father, she brings it back to class, reads it with her teacher and picks out another book. What I have been fascinated by is that the last number of books that she has chosen have all been non-fiction texts about animals. We had dolphins, sharks and the latest was polar bears.
Getting kids hooked on non-fiction at an early age is really important. We start them out on all kinds of stories, but as they grow and start to develop their own passions, non-fiction texts get them more involved with the subjects that intrigue them. We’ve always known that E had a love of all things fashion, music, and art, but I was actually shocked when she started bringing home books about wild animals.
Follow the Polar Bears was one of our books from last week. This is a simple story that talks about two polar bear cubs and things they do as they are just starting out in life. The pictures are the main focus, but there are simple words with rhymes that help it move along.
Some of the words were challenging for E, but she learned a lot about the polar bear and enjoyed watching the cubs grow.
These books along with the Step into Reading non-fiction titles are a great jumping off point for young readers. I didn’t get my post up on Wednesday, but I’m still going to include this in the non-fiction picture book challenge. Check out Kid Lit Frenzy for more outstanding titles!
Many kids are fascinated by space and space travel. Even though we are not pushing a huge amount of space exploration at the moment, NASA is busy working on the notion of sending people to Mars and other cool projects. So it is quite possible that today’s children could be the next people to man a space mission. Of all the questions astronauts are asked by kids, the most frequent one is “How do you go to the toilet in space?”
Now there is a fun and informative book all about the way space impacts bodily functions. NASA astronaut Dr. Dave Williams and children’s writer Loredana Cunti offer an entertaining and educational look at the weird, wild, and wonderful ways the human body copes with zero gravity for aspiring astronauts ages 7-10. This book not only answers that question, but many others about the effect of zero gravity on the human body: How do you brush your hair in space? What happens when you sweat? What does food taste like? The best thing is that the answers are provided by Dr. Dave Williams, a NASA astronaut who speaks from first-hand experience.
This fun book is separated into six sections
- The “Number One” question – or everything you wanted to know about going to the bathroom in space.
- Clean and Neat – all about personal grooming.
- All Dressed Up – clothing inside and out of the space-craft.
- Antigravity Appetite – how to eat, what to eat, and why burping isn’t such a good idea.
- Body Basics – how your body responds to being in space.
- Sleeping in Space – no pillows, no beds, no lying down.
Using age-appropriate language and a sense of humor, Dr. Dave explains the different phenomena that astronauts encounter during a mission. The bright, colorful pages, short blocks of text accompanied by photos and humorous illustrations make this a very attractive choice for young readers.
As mentioned, kids are fascinated by the notion of how you go to the bathroom in space. Dr. Dave gives them all of the necessary information. From needing a special vacuum to suction the waste away from the body, foot restraints to hold you in place and how constipation is a real issue in space, you learn everything you want to know, and probably some thing you didn’t want to know, about human waste in space.
There are also other issues that most of us have never thought about. You can’t take a shower in space. Cutting your hair can be a challenge as the hair would just float away. Even brushing your teeth requires special techniques! If your curious child hasn’t already thought about these things, this book will really make them consider how life without gravity is completely different than life on earth.
Of course, the book is called To Burp or Not to Burp and the would be remiss if that wasn’t something that was fully covered. I learned things about why you burp and how that I never would have thought of without this book.
For any aspiring astronaut, or just kids who are curious about how things work, this is a great addition to any library!
This is part of my attempt to stay engaged with the non-fiction picture book challenge hosted by Alyson Beecher of Kid Lit Frenzy. This is a weekly link-up of amazing non-fiction picture books for kids. I’ve learned about a ton of great books by checking out these great posts. Click here for this week’s selection.
Ada Marie Twist, named after Ada Lovelace and Marie Curie, is a precocious little girl who doesn’t speak until she is 3 when she comes right out with full sentences. I actually grew up with a young boy like that, and it is amazing how some children just observe the world around them and hold off on speaking until they really have something to say. For Ada Marie, she had a scientific mind from an early age and when she started talking, it was to ask “Why” everything around her worked the way that it did.
With brilliant rhymes that keep the story flowing in a sing-song manner, Ada discovers the world around her. When she is confronted by a horrific smell one day, which happens to come from her brother’s sweaty socks, she feels a compelling need to understand what the source of the smell was and how our sense of smell even worked. “A mystery! A riddle! A puzzle! A quest! This was the moment that Ada loved best.” Whether working through the problem by experimenting on things around her or writing out questions that led to other questions and possibilities, Ada scientifically explores the things that intrigue her.
This books is loved in our house by our soon to be 6 year old as well as our 9 year old. Heck, this 40-something momma loves it! This book champions girl power and exploration. It supports women in scientific roles. It supports the idea of never giving up and finding new ways to problem solve. Many also love the fact that Ada is a girl of color. Ada may never find the source of the stink, but her family supports her efforts and she continues to discover new things. Whatever your reasons for loving it, this is a book to be enjoyed over and over again!
It’s Wednesday and that means non-fiction picture book day. When I manage to get myself organized, I try to participate in this great link-up of resources organized by Alyson Beecher of Kid Lit Freenzy.
This week, I’m sharing the book How the Dinosaur Got to the Museum. In this book, acclaimed author/illustrator Jessie Hartland presents the fascinating 145-million-year journey of a dinsoaur: a Diplodocus longus, from its discovery in 1923 in Utah to its arrival in the hallowed halls of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.
Many of us have been to large science museums and seen dinosaur bones taking up large spaces. But how did they get there? That’s what this book aims to explain to children in a style that is similar to “this is the house that Jack built.” This allows Hartland to take a very complicated process and makes it simple for a child to understand.
Hartland starts the book out with a lot of factual information about the mighty Diplodocus who lived millions of years ago. The dinosaurs died during torrential flooding and their bones were buried deeper and deeper under layers of sand and silt. The world continues to move around them and 145 million years later, the diplodocus and the ancient river bed is finally exposed.
After the initial information dump, we then get into the story of how the dinosaur’s bones were found. First the Dinosaur Hunter got involved, then he called the Paleontologist, who brought in the Excavators and so on and so forth until the skeleton is put together back at the museum and put on display so that people can come and visit it and learn about animals that lived so many years ago.
I thought this was a great way to explain something to children that seems so complicated. Now, whenever we see a dinosaur skeleton at a museum, we will have a much better idea of all of the steps involved to bring it there and all of the people involved.
Like many great non-fiction picture books, this book also features a great spread of dinosaur information at the back of the book for young minds who want to delve a little deeper.
J has long had a fascination with astronomy and studying planets. This year, it turns out that they are also studying planets a ton in school. So when I was offered a copy of Buzz Aldrin’s new book from National Geographic Kids called Welcome to Mars: Making a Home on the Red Planet, I jumped at the chance to add it to our library. Then I was at the library yesterday and found the book You are the First Kid on Mars, by Patrick O’Brien. It is amazing that they are really taking it to the next level with these books and allowing people to truly consider what life would be like on another planet.
In Welcome to Mars, Buzz Aldrin challenges curious kids — who he refers to as “Generation Mars” — to think about the faraway red planet as a possible future home for humans (National Geographic Children’s Books, September 2015, ages 8-12). What will your new home look like? How will you get there? What will you eat for breakfast? Buzz is passionate about making traveling to and living on Mars a reality and encourages young scientists, engineers and astronauts to not just reach for the stars, but to join him on this journey to build a permanent home on Mars.
Aldrin manages to write the book in a way that is really accessible to young scientists. With bright graphics, hands-on science experiments, handy timelines and content that showcases the history of inter-planet travel as well as the future, this book is a must for kids who want to know more.
The first half of the book focuses on the history of space travel and knowledge. Aldrin of course has a large amount of experience with space travel, and he talks about what it is like to travel in space and the costs involved. Young scientists learn the history about how people have studied space over the years and how they managed to make maps of distant planets. Aldrin explains who major players were in Mars discoveries and how the various forms of exploration have happened.
The second half of the book becomes the “what it” portion. Aldrin discuss how long it would take to travel there, the difficulties of landing and the challenges to going back to Earth. Throughout this section, kids are also presented with the real life issues of what life on Mars entails, such as the need for space suits, but also talks about how to turn some of the challenges into benefits – like turning sunlight into electricity.
J has really enjoyed reading this book and brought it in to school when they were working on planets.
In Patrick O’Brien’s book, You are the First Kid on Mars, he takes a lot of the same information and puts it into a different package. While Aldrin’s book is a great resource for older kids who are able to read through a lot of details, O’Brien’s book shortens the information down to a really cool picture book.
In First Kid on Mars, you get to imagine yourself actually flying to Mars from a space station. It takes a really long time to get there, so the ship has rooms with everything you need and it spins to make it feel like you have gravity. Once you’ve landed, the book takes you through a wide variety of aspects of what life on Mars would be like and what kind of scientists would be doing work there. A big job is searching for Martian life, but not the little green men kind, more the kind of microscopic life that would require a microscope to see.
The book also touches on a number of aspects of the history of getting to Mars. For example, in the picture below, the Mars explorers find the remains of the Pathfinder named Soujourner Truth that landed on Mars in July 1997 and communicated information back to Earth until September 1997 when the batteries failed.
In beautiful pictures, that are often a rusty tint due to the dust you would find on Mars, you can imagine what life would be like. From the whirlwinds to greenhouses and the robots that help do a variety of jobs on the planet.
Both of these books are an excellent way to get kids excited by the notion of space travel and exploration. There are also a number of really wonderful quotes about science and imagination that encourage kids to use their imaginations and make the discoveries of the future.
This post is part of my contribution to the Kid Lit Frenzy Non-Fiction Picture Book Challenge. We’ve really been getting into non-fiction books and I love challenging myself to write about them more frequently. Check out the link for some other truly amazing non-fiction picture books.