Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

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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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 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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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 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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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 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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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/thunder_and_lightning.html

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?

Review of What in the World? Numbers in Nature, by Nancy Raines Day and Kurt Cyrus

Friday, September 9th, 2016

what_in_the_world_largeWhat in the World?

Numbers in Nature

by Nancy Raines Day
illustrated by Kurt Cyrus

Beach Lane Books, New York, 2015. 32 pages.

This is a simple picture book introducing a little bit of counting and a little bit of science to young readers.

Each number is introduced by a question, “What in the world comes . . .” and gentle pictures by the seaside illustrate each set.

Here’s an example from the middle:

What in the world comes four by four?

Petals of poppies, hooves – and more.

What in the world comes five by five?

The arms of sea stars, all alive.

There are only two lines per double-page spread, and plenty of open space in each painting, so this is for young readers who can handle the gentle pace. It would make a nice bedtime book, since the book finishes up with “sets too big to count.” The final two spreads show us a darkening sky with the words

Stars in the sky –

a vast amount!

You can hear from these examples that the rhyming isn’t stellar, but it’s doesn’t quite cross the line into bad. One other quibble I have is that on the sets of ten page with “Fingers and toes that wiggle and bend,” the picture of the boy does show his fingers and toes (in the water), but his arms are crossed with one thumb hidden – so you can’t use the picture to count ten fingers and ten toes.

However the simple idea – a counting book based on nature – is a lovely one. This is a gentle book that naturally leads into counting with children things in the world around them. A great way to practice counting and a great way to open their eyes to nature.

NancyRainesDay.com
KurtCyrus.com
KIDS.SimonandSchuster.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.

What did you think of this book?

Review of Butterfly Counting, by Jerry Pallotta

Saturday, July 2nd, 2016

butterfly_counting_largeButterfly Counting

by Jerry Pallotta
and Shennen Bersani

Charlesbridge, 2015. 32 pages.
Starred Review

I’ll admit, I am already a huge Jerry Pallotta fan. Why? Because 27 years ago, The Bird Alphabet Book was one of the very first books my child loved. We read it so often, she could recite whole paragraphs from the book with her cute toddler voice. Phooey, 27 years later, I can recite whole paragraphs from the book. (I especially remember, “Wait a minute, bats are not birds! Although they have wings and can fly, bats are mammals…. Get out of this book, you bats!”)

This book does a little of that playing with the reader as well. It starts with a spread of 20 moths. After counting them,

But wait . . . these are not butterflies! These are all moths. We tricked you! Moths can be very colorful.

Then it goes on to count butterflies of different varieties. The first ten butterflies are red, blue, green, purple, orange, black, white, pink, yellow, and brown. The next nine are multicolored and patterned butterflies. Then for 20 to 25, they look at the lifecycle of the butterfly, beginning with twenty Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly eggs.

Each page tells us the word for butterfly in another language. And the book is full of facts about the different varieties of butterflies.

And the book is so beautiful! The illustrator has made stunning paintings of each variety of butterfly (or moth).

It’s so easy for me to imagine a small child, like young Jade, avidly learning and reciting these facts.

The last page shows a lovely creature with wings that go from yellow to bright pink.

A butterfly in Great Britain is called a butterfly. But don’t be silly! This is not a butterfly. It is a grasshopper. Should we write a grasshopper book next?

jerrypallotta.com
shennenbersani.com
charlesbridge.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 Traveling Butterflies, by Susumu Shingu

Saturday, July 2nd, 2016

traveling_butterflies_largeTraveling Butterflies

by Susumu Shingu

Owlkids Books, 2015. First published in Japan in 2012. 42 pages.
Starred Review

Here’s a children’s nonfiction picture book that is simple enough for preschoolers. Yet it’s interesting enough for older readers, and the pictures are stunningly beautiful.

The story is of the migration of monarch butterflies. It shows their life cycle, then how very far they travel.

There’s a fascinating author’s note at the back. I didn’t realize that most monarch butterflies live only two to six weeks. But the generation of monarchs that migrates south, traveling nearly 2,500 miles, lives six to eight months. Interestingly, the butterflies that fly back north from Mexico to Canada don’t live any longer than the others — so it takes three to four generations of monarchs to fly back north.

This is a wonderful introduction to the story of these butterflies. I couldn’t stop looking at the beautiful and vivid paintings.

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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?

Review of Pink Is for Blobfish, by Jess Keating

Tuesday, June 21st, 2016

pink_is_for_blobfish_largePink Is for Blobfish

Discovering the World’s Perfectly Pink Animals

by Jess Keating
with illustrations by David DeGrand

Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2016.
Starred Review

Here’s a book that simply begs to be booktalked in the schools. All I will have to do is show some pictures. I don’t know if I’ll be able to attract kids who normally like pink, but I’m sure I’ll be able to attract those who enjoy unusual animals or like reading about disgusting ways of getting a meal.

As the book begins, “Think you know pink?”

It proceeds to feature sixteen bizarre animals — that happen to be colored pink. It gives the general information about the creature along with some of the more notable facts. All the animals have a photograph — the more cartoony illustrations go with the information about the animal.

The book begins with the blobfish, which was voted the ugliest animal in the world in a poll taken by the Ugly Animal Preservation Society. It continues through such animals as pinktoe tarantulas, pygmy seahorses, and Amazon river dolphins.

Did you know that orchid mantises look so much like flowers, insects will land on them more often than on actual flowers, when given a choice in a lab? Or that pink fairy armadillos have a special “butt plate” to compact the dirt when they dig tunnels? Or that hippopotamuses ooze a thick pink oil all over their skin to protect themselves from sunburn? Or that hairy squat lobsters catch their food in their hair?

This is a strange-animals book with one amusing characteristic in common. All of the strange animals in these pages are pink!

JessKeating.com
DeGrandLand.com
randomhousekids.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 The Great Monkey Rescue, by Sandra Markle

Monday, June 6th, 2016

great_monkey_rescue_largeThe Great Monkey Rescue

Saving the Golden Lion Tamarins

by Sandra Markle

Millbrook Press, Minneapolis, 2015. 40 pages.

Here’s a nonfiction picture book about science – with a practical problem of saving an endangered species.

In the 1960s, scientists believed only about two hundred of Brazil’s wild golden lion tamarins were still alive. Their habitat was shrinking, and the ones in zoos were not having babies that survived.

This book tells the story of how that turned around. First, people learned more about their habits in the wild to help them live better in zoos. Then they learned how to successfully introduce zoo-born tamarins back to the wild.

A recent problem was that remaining forest habitats were in islands separated by cattle pasture, which tamarins couldn’t safely cross. Conservationists purchased land to plant a forest bridge between separate habitats, thus expanding their range.

This story is told in a much more interesting way in the book, accompanied by an abundance of pictures of the photogenic animals.

It’s a story about science and activism and hope – accompanied by adorably cute pictures! I’m already thinking I’ve got booktalking gold.

lernerbooks.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.

What did you think of this book?