Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

Review of A Hundred Billion Trillion Stars, by Seth Fishman

Monday, April 23rd, 2018

A Hundred Billion Trillion Stars

by Seth Fishman
illustrated by Isabel Greenberg

Greenwillow Books, 2017. 36 pages.
Starred Review

Here’s a picture book for kids about the enormous numbers in our world.

For example, there are about seven billion five hundred million (7,500,000,000) people on earth – and they weigh about the same amount as the approximately ten quadrillion (10,000,000,000,000,000) ants on earth!

There are about three hundred seventy billion billion gallons of water on earth, and about three trillion trees. In the course of an average lifetime, you might eat up to 70 pounds of bugs.

That’s the kind of statistics this book is full of. There’s a nice touch that when a big number is given in numeral form, you’ll also see it written out in words. (Our minds glaze over all those zeros.)

One truly mind-boggling part is toward the back, where it says:

By the time you’re done reading this book, almost every single number in it will have changed, getting bigger or smaller right before your eyes.

Even the number of stars.

At the very back is an Author’s Note with a nice explanation of how we can figure out these numbers without trying to count to a hundred billion trillion, which is impossible. There’s a nice explanation of estimates:

These numbers are sort-of-definitely-ALMOST true. Let me explain. Some of these numbers change so quickly that to give you an exact number would be impossible. For instance, we don’t really know if the full weight of all the ants on earth equals the full weight of humans. But we can estimate that there are 3.5 million ants per acre in the Amazon rain forest. With some serious snooping, fact-checking, and extrapolating we can estimate a very large number of ants on earth, one that means the combined weight of all these ants should be near the combined weight of all humans, or maybe dogs, or mice. And yes, you might eat some of those ants. you might eat many different types of bugs – though of course I don’t know exactly how many, or whether you’ll do it on purpose. Maybe a fly will zip into your mouth as you bike, or you’ll swallow a spider while you snore at night. But it will be near 70 pounds’ worth over the course of your life (about the total weight of a golden retriever).

Estimates can help you imagine sizes and compare one big fact to another. That is why this book is called A Hundred Billion Trillion Stars, and not One Hundred Nineteen Sextillion Fifty-Seven Quintillion Seven Hundred Thirty-Seven Quadrillion One Hundred Eighty-Three Trillion Four Hundred Sixty-Two Billion Three Hundred Seven Million Four Hundred Ninety-One Thousand Six Hundred Nine Stars. We can get very near the correct number on many things, near enough for us to understand how big they are – especially in comparison to the world around us.

Here’s a lovely way to play with the concept of great big numbers all around us.

sethasfishman.com
isabelnecessary.com
harpercollinschildrens.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of ABCs from Space, by Adam Voiland

Friday, March 23rd, 2018

ABCs from Space

A Discovered Alphabet

by Adam Voiland

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2017. 40 pages.

The author of this book is a science writer for a website called NASA Earth Observatory. He found the shapes of all the letters of the alphabet – in satellite images of the earth!

Some of the images look more like the letters than others. This would be an excellent book for a child who already knows their letters, but might be more difficult for one just learning the shapes.

But there’s more fun at the end. He gives details at the back of where and when each picture was taken and what type of image was used, whether Natural-color or false-color. A map shows the locations on earth that are covered. There are FAQs about the images and about the science (weather and geology, especially) at the back.

Mostly, I couldn’t stop looking at this book because it’s gorgeous and amazing. We have a beautiful planet!

adamvoiland.com
earthexplorer.usgs.gov
earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/FalseColor/
science.nasa.gov/ems
earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/ColorImage/
simonandschuster.com/kids

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of The Elephant Keeper, by Margriet Ruurs, illustrated by Pedro Covo

Sunday, March 4th, 2018

The Elephant Keeper

Caring for Orphaned Elephants in Zambia

by Margriet Ruurs
illustrated by Pedro Covo

Kids Can Press, 2017. 48 pages.

This fascinating true story is presented in picture book format, even though there’s a lot more text than what is usual in a picture book, so this is for upper elementary school children.

The author features an African boy named Aaron who found a baby elephant swimming in a hotel swimming pool. No other elephants were around, so his mother was probably a victim of poachers. The elephant needed to go to an elephant orphanage. Aaron was good with animals – and ended up working at the elephant orphanage himself and helping with the baby’s recovery.

The way the story is presented isn’t strictly true, as we learn from the notes in the back – Aaron wasn’t actually the one who found the elephant (named Zambezi) in the pool, but he was involved in Zambezi’s care and ended up working in an elephant orphanage.

But the story does a lovely job highlighting the plight of elephants whose families are killed by poachers. Every several pages, there’s a spread apart from the story with photos of elephants and background facts. These are inserted at a point where the reader finds them very interesting.

So this is a lovely book for teaching kids about elephants and how humans are trying to save them from extinction. As well as the story of how a life was changed and a boy’s love for animals turned into a career saving them. Notes at the back tell kids how they can adopt an elephant or help in other ways.

gamerangersinternational.org
kidscanpress.com

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Where the Animals Go, by James Cheshire and Oliver Uberti

Friday, January 12th, 2018

Where the Animals Go

Tracking Wildlife with Technology in 50 Maps and Graphics

by James Cheshire and Oliver Uberti

W. W. Norton & Company, 2017. First published in Great Britain in 2016. 174 pages.
Starred Review

This is an amazing, fascinating, and eye-catching book.

This book is a set of maps and charts showing how animals move around the world. There are migrations diagrammed and feeding patterns and responses to wind currents. There are maps for every continent and every ocean, and there are maps for land animals, creatures of the air, and creatures of the sea. The format is extra large, and some pages pull out to be even larger. All the maps and graphics are beautifully done.

I thought I could read through this book quickly, because so many of the oversize pages are covered with maps. But there’s text to go with every map, and the print is tiny! So it took me longer than I thought, and it would take some time even to read just a map or two.

Here’s how the Introduction begins:

From footprints to fallen feathers, nests to droppings, the history of where animals go has been a history of physical traces. This book is about a new era, one in which the traces we follow are imprinted not in the earth but in the silicon of computer chips. And while the maps and studies we feature rely heavily on data processing, the desire to study animal movements with new inventions long predates the Information Age. In 1803, John James Audubon was tying threads to the legs of songbirds in order to prove that the same individuals returned to his farm each spring; a map from 1892 illustrates the month-by-month migration of seals in the North Pacific; in 1907, a German apothecary equipped pigeons with automatic cameras in order to document their journeys; in 1962, three scientists from the University of Illinois taped a radio transmitter to a duck; and in 1997, two of the world’s first GPS collars confirmed that elephants from Kenya sometimes cross the border into Tanzania.

The maps in this book show things about animals such as baboon troupes in Kenya, mountain lions crossing the Alps, elk inside and outside Yellowstone, pheasants in the Himalayas, pythons in the Everglades, information flow among ants, sharks around Hawaii, sea otters in Monterey Bay, bird migration paths, and density of penguin colonies.

Each page is packed with information – so it’s no wonder it takes a long time to read – but the maps are eye-catching and communicate lots of information quickly. You’ll be pulled in, then want to know more.

This book lets you in on new discoveries scientists are making about animals all the time – now that we have more effective ways to track them and learn about their worlds.

Once you open this book, you’ll have a hard time putting it away.

wwnorton.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Grand Canyon, by Jason Chin

Saturday, January 6th, 2018

Grand Canyon

by Jason Chin

A Neal Porter Book (Roaring Brook Press), 2017. 48 pages.
Starred Review
2017 Sonderbooks Stand-out, #4 Children’s Nonfiction

Here’s a stunningly illustrated and meticulously well-presented story of the ecology, geology and history of Grand Canyon.

First, the book explains that there are different ecological communities in different levels of the canyon. Then it also talks about the many different rock layers in the canyon.

Then we’re taken with a father and daughter on a hike through the different layers and different ecological communities. All around the borders, we’ll see drawings of different animals and plants that inhabit that layer.

But the most striking part about each layer is a cut-out window showing a fossil or rock found today – and when you turn the page, you see that thing in its habitat when the fossil was formed.

For example, the girl sees a fossil of a Trilobite in a rock today, then turning the page takes her back in time, under the sea, where Trilobites roamed the sea floor. Later the girl sees fossil footprints, and then in the past, she sees a lizard walking over windswept dunes and leaving those footprints.

It’s an interesting and imaginative way of presenting the material and is striking and easy to understand. There’s a fold-out spread with a panorama of Grand Canyon, and 8 pages of more details at the back of the book.

This is a fact-filled, gorgeously illustrated book that will reward multiple rereadings.

mackids.com

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Moto and Me, by Suzi Eszterhas

Wednesday, August 9th, 2017

Moto and Me

My Year as a Wildcat’s Foster Mom

by Suzi Eszterhas

Owlkids Books, 2017. 40 pages.
Starred Review

This simple nonfiction book for kids was a big hit when I booktalked it to early elementary school grades.

The story is this: Author Suzi Eszterhas was living in Africa as a wildlife photographer. A baby serval was separated from his mother by some tourists who thought he was in distress during a fire. They took him to a ranger station. The baby needed a foster mother to take care of him and teach him how to live in the wild. Suzi stepped up for the job.

The story is illustrated with abundant photographs – and Moto is adorably cute! The author explains clearly how she fed and tended him. He learned on his own to hunt, practicing with the stuffed toy she gave him, Mr. Ducky. The pictures of him learning to hunt, climb trees, and puff himself up in defense (to look bigger) are also adorable.

The book isn’t long, but it’s packed with information and photos. I was fascinated by Moto’s story, and kids will be, too. And now I know much, much more about servals (African wildcats) than I ever did before.

suzieszterhas.com
owlkidsbooks.com

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Lesser Spotted Animals, by Martin Brown

Thursday, August 3rd, 2017

Lesser Spotted Animals

The Coolest Creatures You’ve Never Heard of

by Martin Brown

Scholastic, 2017. First published in the United Kingdom in 2016. 53 pages.
Starred Review

Martin Brown is the illustrator of the Horrible Histories books that my son loved when he was younger. And this book has the same wit and wisecracks.

The Introduction explains the philosophy of the book:

Fed up with the same old animals? Had enough of hippos? Bored with bears? Tired of tigers? Do you want animals that are fresh, new, and exciting? Try Lesser Spotted Animals, a book about the wonderfully wow wildlife we never get to see. There are thousands of different animals in the world – big and small, common and rare – but most books show you just a slender selection of those thousands. And it’s the same slender selection over and over again. It’s time for a book that’s different – without the same ho-hum, run-of-the-mill creatures we’re served day in, day out. No pandas, elephants, or zebras here – this is a book about the world’s other animals.

Everyone’s heard of the koala – so cute and gray and fluffy – a nature superstar. And if it ever became extinct we would cry and weep and wail. But what about the pika? Hmm? It’s cute and gray and fluffy, too. Would we cry and weep and wail if it vanished forever? How could we? No one’s ever heard of it. Why? Because all the books are full of koalas – and lions and tigers and all the other usual, regular celebrity creatures we always see….

Discover all the amazing beasts you never knew you needed to know about, because it’s good-bye to the gnu and cheerio to the cheetah, say hi to the hirola and nice to meet you to the numbat . . .

After that, there are descriptions of twenty-three animals you probably never heard of, including a box with information about their size, what they eat, where they live, and their endangered status, plus some bonus facts.

Most of the illustrations have humorous speech bubbles somewhere, and the whole tone is light-hearted. I think my favorite page was the “Crabeater Seal: The world’s not-rarest seal,” coming as it did after the “Hirola: The world’s rarest antelope.”

In the first paragraph, we’re told that crabeater seals don’t eat crabs, because there are none in the Antarctic where they live. (They eat krill.) Then we’re told this:

However, the really important thing about crabeater seals is that they are probably the most numerous large animal you’ve never heard of. There are something like 200,000 brown bears in the world, 600,000 bottle-nosed dolphins, and roughly 700,000 common zebras. But sitting on the ice and swimming in the cold southern sea there’s somewhere between ten and fifteen million crabeater seals. So why don’t we know about them? Because bears go RAAAH and zebras look dashing and dolphins do backflips. The poor crabeater is a dull, pale browny-gray color. It can’t jump and it doesn’t chase its prey in thrilling, TV-friendly fashion. It doesn’t even eat crabs! But there are, by far, more crabeater seals on Earth than any other large wild mammal. SO THERE.

You get the idea! If you have children who enjoy knowing obscure facts, this book is sure to win them over. Learn about such creatures as the Cuban Solenodon, the Zorilla, Speke’s Pectinator (“Little Gray Ratty Thing Is: THE PECTINATOR”), the Gaur, and the Onager.

Lots of fun, and informative, too.

scholastic.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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The Jazz of Physics, by Stephon Alexander

Monday, March 20th, 2017

The Jazz of Physics

The Secret Link Between Music and the Structure of the Universe

by Stephon Alexander

Basic Books, 2016. 239 pages.
Starred Review

I heard Stephon Alexander speak at ALA Midwinter Meeting last year. He speaks with passion about how his love of jazz gave him insights into cosmology. (Of course, I was disposed to like him, because when I got the book signed and showed him my prime factorization scarf, he liked it so much, he called over his girlfriend, an artist, from another part of the exhibits so she could see it.)

As a Black American with roots in Trinidad, Stephon Alexander knows what it’s like to be a minority in physics. This book also tells his story and how he was inspired to turn to science.

I’ll admit, I don’t understand much about the equations or the physics mentioned in this book. But the author’s excitement comes across as he explains how he discovered insights about physics in music.

During all the years of formal training as a scientist, I found myself trying to reconcile my passion for music with physics. I started to not only see how the act of doing physics research could benefit from musical analogies but how our physical world actually had a musical character. Aside from the few mentors, such as Chris Isham and Robert Brandenberger, who had encouraged me to blend the two, I felt pressure to keep these two worlds separate. Physics to some is about absolute truths encoded in rigid mathematics, and music is a language of emotion. Perhaps this tension would not have been a big deal had I known that in the early days of science, music and astronomy were inseparable. To the modern musician and scientist, this may seem preposterous, but to early people, who lacked the scientific tools we now have, music became an analogy for the ordering and structure of the cosmos.

The book talks about sound and vibration and how it relates to string theory. He talks about sonic black holes and cosmic background radiation. Especially interesting is how he arrived at a breakthrough in string theory and cosmology by thinking about jazz improvisation.

I may not understand the details presented here, but I understand passages like this:

Weaving music and physics into one avenue of thought has showed me how to use notions in music as points of access to various fields in modern physics and cosmology. Analogies have helped make the physics more accessible and stimulating.

It is wonderful to think of following the footsteps of our ancestors — the great ancient thinkers who sought to understand physics through sound, and sound through physics. Pythagoras played with hammers and strings to try to understand where the pleasures of music came from, while Kepler used his intuition that the universe was musical to make major advances in the fields of astronomy, physics, and mathematics.

He talks about how the analogies not only help explain physics, but they also help new discoveries be made.

This book is not only about the analogy between music and cosmology but also about the importance of musical and improvisational thinking in doing physics. Theoretical physicists exemplify John Coltrane’s approach to music. We use an arsenal of conceptual and mathematical tools that we practice through examples that were worked out by past masters, like Einstein and Feynman. Likewise, jazz musicians like Coltrane master their tradition throughout countless hours of practice. But for both the theoretical physicist and the jazz improviser, it is not enough to simply master the material of the past; discoveries must be made.

He ends the book by saying, “My journey to reconcile jazz with physics serves as a living example of how a small group of physicists, in the spirit of the jazz tradition, embraced me and allowed me to improvise physics with them, while challenging me to go beyond my limits.”

stephonalexander.org
basicbooks.com

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Source: This review is based on an Advance Reader Copy I got at ALA Midwinter Meeting and had signed to me by the author.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of How Much Does a Ladybug Weigh? by Alison Limentani

Saturday, March 18th, 2017

How Much Does a Ladybug Weigh?

by Alison Limentani

Boxer Books, 2016. 28 pages.
Starred Review

The more I look at this book, the more I like it. Right now, I’m planning to use it for my next Toddler and Preschool Storytimes, and even bring it to Kindergarten and first grade classes for booktalking. The idea is simple, but it’s got so much depth.

Here is the text of the first several pages:

10 ants weigh the same as 1 ladybug.

9 ladybugs weigh the same as 1 grasshopper.

8 grasshoppers weigh the same as 1 stickleback fish.

7 stickleback fish weigh the same as 1 garden snail.

You get the idea! The book progresses, counting down, through starlings, gray squirrels, rabbits, and fox cubs to 1 swan. Then, of course, to finish off, we learn:

1 swan weighs the same as 362,880 ladybugs.

The illustrations are simple and clear. This whole book could almost be thought of as an infographic, except that the animals are not icons, but detailed illustrations.

I love that the animals chosen are not your typical animal-book animals. But most of them (except maybe the stickleback fish) are ones a child is quite likely to see in their own yard or neighborhood.

The back end papers list average weights of all the animals (in a colorful diagram) with the note, “Different animals of the same species can vary in weight, just as different people do. All the weights in this book are based on animals within the average healthy weight range.”

I love the way this is a counting book, a math book (about relative weight and even multiplication), a beginning reader, and a science book (about these different species).

It’s also a beautiful picture book. The note at the front says, “The illustrations were prepared using lino cuts and litho printing with digital color.” They are set against lovely solid color backgrounds, so the animals show up nice and clear.

I have a feeling that reading this book frequently with a child will get that child noticing small animals and insects in the neighborhood and thinking about weights and differences and good things like that.

A truly brilliant choice for early math and science thinking.

boxerbooks.com

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Thunder and Lightning, by Lauren Redniss

Monday, September 19th, 2016

thunder_and_lightning_largeThunder and Lightning

Weather Past, Present, Future

by Lauren Redniss

Random House, New York, 2015. 262 pages.
Starred Review

Thunder and Lightning is another Science Picture Book for Adults by the author of Radioactive.

As with Radioactive, which is a biography of Marie Curie, Thunder and Lightning is full of facts – but the most striking thing about it is the dramatic pictures.

I can’t really describe the pictures adequately, so I’m going to focus on the words here, but be aware that if this is a book you find interesting at all, you should check it out and see for yourself.

The author explores so many aspects of weather! Mainly she tells weather-related stories, but there are also many things about the science of weather. Some of the stories told include a cemetery washed out by a flood, the secret forecasting formula used by Old Farmer’s Almanac, people struck by lightning, a ship that sunk in fog, swimming from Cuba to Florida, devastating fires in Australia, a World Seed Bank in Svalbard, the ice trade on Walden Pond, and making rain in Vietnam. This perhaps gives an idea of the wide range of topics covered here, which all relate to weather.

The author relies heavily on quotes, which bring an immediacy to each story, each exploration.

Here are some things Arctic explorer Vilhjálmur Stefánsson had to say in 1921:

The daylight is negligible; and the moonlight, which comes to you first through clouds that are high in the sky and later through an enveloping fog, is a light which enables you to see your dog team distinctly enough, or even a black rock a hundred yards away, but it is scarcely better than no light at all upon the snow at your feet.

I think my favorite chapter, though, is Chapter 7, “Sky.” After fascinating ramblings and explorations on various topics, I turned the pages on “Sky” – and discovered 16 pages of paintings of sky. Lovely.

This book is surprising and hard to describe. Check it out and see for yourself.

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?