Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

Review of Water Land, by Christy Hale

Friday, November 13th, 2020

Water, Land

Land and Water Forms Around the World

by Christy Hale

A Neal Porter Book (Roaring Brook Press), 2018. 24 pages.
Starred Review
2018 Sonderbooks Stand-out:
#8 Children’s Nonfiction Picture Books

My coworker and I agree that the library copy of this book may not hold up well. Although they are extra-sturdy light cardboard pages, there are cut-out shapes on each one and a giant fold-out page at the end. But check this one out quickly while it lasts, because it’s wonderful!

I have never looked at water and land forms this way – but now I will never think of them any other way.

This book pairs a water form with a land form. You’ve got a cut-out on each set of pages. Here’s how it works:

The first spread has a big picture of an autumn scene with a brown background. There’s an oval cut-out on the right-hand page showing blue and a kid in a boat. The only word on the page says “lake.”

When you turn the page, the next spread has a blue background. The cut-out is now on the left side and shows brown. The only word on this page is “island.”

And so it goes. We’ve got the shapes of water forms matched up on the next page – using the exact same cut-out shapes – with land forms.

Other pairs are: bay and cape, strait and isthmus, system of lakes and archipelago, gulf and peninsula. In the back, there’s a fold-out page that includes two charts and a big world map, pointing out examples of each of the forms.

The idea is so simple – and it’s beautifully carried out. Those who read this book will have a clear understanding of these water and land forms forever after.

mackids.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 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 Champion, by Sally M. Walker

Sunday, October 25th, 2020

Champion

The Comeback Tale of the American Chestnut Tree

by Sally M. Walker

Henry Holt and Company, 2018. 136 pages.
Starred Review
2018 Sonderbooks Stand-out:
#8 Longer Children’s Nonfiction

I’m not sure when I heard that American chestnut trees had all died off, but I know I heard it as a regrettable fact.

This book says that isn’t actually true. Scientists are using a three-pronged approach to bringing back the American chestnut tree.

First, we learn what happened. A mysterious blight hit the magnificent trees in 1904 in New York, killing them quickly.

It took some work, but scientists determined that a fungus was causing the problem. Finding a way to fight the fungus proved to be very difficult. By 1940, nearly four billion American chestnut trees had died.

However – there’s still some hope.

The roots of many American chestnut trees are still living beneath the soil. Certain microbes in the soil stop the blight fungus from invading the buried roots. The healthy roots continually send up new sprouts that ring the lifeless stump. Each sprout develops its own root system and becomes a sapling. But its reprieve from the blight is only temporary. The sapling grows for 5 to 10 years, until eventually the blight kills it.

However – those still-alive trees give scientists something to work with.

There are currently three approaches being used to try to bring back the American chestnut tree. One is weakening the blight – a virus was found in Europe that attacks the fungus that causes the blight and makes it weaker, so that trees can survive its attacks. Scientists are working with this virus and inoculating trees.

Another approach is to cross breed American chestnuts with Chinese chestnuts, which are naturally resistant to the blight. The challenge is using backcrossing to keep almost all the characteristics of the American chestnut in the resultant trees – but have them resistant to the blight.

The final approach involves genetically modifying the trees’ DNA with a blight-resistant gene from wheat. However, genetic engineering is highly regulated, so there will be many tests the resulting plants must undergo before they can even be allowed to propagate in the wild.

It’s all very interesting, real-life science. Because trees are slow-growing, it all takes years, but maybe our grandchildren will once again be able to find forests of American chestnut trees.

There’s plenty of back matter in this book, including four appendices about side stories. I liked Appendix B where they tested whether squirrels like the taste of the new chestnuts and would gather them. Appendix C talks about ways children and classrooms can help the effort.

sallymwalker.com
mackids.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 book sent by the publisher.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but 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 Drawn from Nature, by Helen Ahpornsiri

Wednesday, June 24th, 2020

Drawn from Nature

by Helen Ahpornsiri

Big Picture Press (Candlewick), 2018. 60 pages.
Starred Review
Review written April 29, 2018, from a library book
2018 Sonderbooks Stand-out:
#5 Children’s Nonfiction Picture Books

I don’t think this book is eligible for either the Newbery or the Caldecott Medal, because the author lives in the United Kingdom – but that’s too bad! The art in this book is incredible! (I’m going to wait to post this review until after the Newbery is announced, just to be careful.)

All of the art in this amazing book is made from actual plants. Here’s how the artist explains it in the back:

Everything you see in these pages – from the gleam in a fox’s eye to the delicate line of a cobweb – is made from a plant.

Flowers and foliage are always changing with the seasons, but here they have been paused in their life cycle, kindled with a new story. Ferns have been transformed into feathers, and the colorful wings of insects are formed from the very flowers they feed on.

Each collage is made from hundreds of leaves and flowers, which are responsibly grown or foraged in the wild and preserved with traditional flower-pressing methods. The plants are then delicately arranged into bold new shapes and forms. They are all brimming with the twists and tangles of the wilderness, all capturing a perfect moment in time.

The text is about nature as it goes through the seasons, beginning with Spring and birds building nests, through Summer in the meadow, through Autumn with falling leaves, and finishing with Winter and hibernation and bare branches. But that’s a very brief summary – besides the incredibly detailed illustrations, the words reveal a knowledge of details of life in the wild that show careful observation.

I could look at these illustrations for hours. They are the sort that prompt me to show everyone in the library. One co-worker said that she has ordered cards from this artist on Etsy. The beauty and detail of her work is simply astonishing.

candlewick.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 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 Calling All Minds, by Temple Grandin

Wednesday, May 20th, 2020

Calling All Minds

How to Think and Create Like an Inventor

by Temple Grandin
with Betsy Lerner

Philomel Books, 2018. 228 pages.
Starred Review
Review written September 23, 2018, from a book sent by the publisher
2018 Sonderbooks Stand-out:
#3 Longer Children’s Nonfiction

As the blurb on the cover of the book states, Temple Grandin is a “World-Renowned Scientist, Inventor, and Expert on Visual Thinking.” She is also autistic. This book outlines some of the things that fascinated her as a child and led to her becoming a world-renowned inventor.

All along the way in this book, she presents projects for kids to experiment with. And for the most part, we’re not talking about simple craft projects, though there are a few of those. Many things involve sawing lumber or cutting pieces to the right size. I also like the way she suggests tinkering with the creations to get the results you want.

A note to readers and their parents right at the front warns which projects “require the use of sharp objects or power tools.” I think this makes the book all the more fascinating for an inquisitive mind.

I love the way she fills the book with stories of things that made her curious as a child. But I think my favorite part is where she explains about patents and how they work. She’s got many diagrams from patents used in the illustrations. But best of all is that she encourages kids to indulge in this curiosity, too:

My grandfather stimulated my early interest in science and invention. There may even be a genetic link that explains our shared interest. You can look up one of his patents, Patent No. US2383460A, for a magnetic field responsive device. His invention makes the autopilot on airplanes work. A really fun thing to do online is to look up patents. You can easily find any invention; just type in “Google patent” and enter key words for whatever you’re interested in. It’s much easier to search Google than the government patent site, though you can use that, too.

Here’s how she finishes the introductory chapter:

The future holds many crucial challenges such as understanding the impact of climate change, curing diseases, and ending hunger. We need all kinds of minds if we are going to figure out how to adapt. If we lose the ability to make things, we will lose a whole lot more. We need people who can cast iron and chemists who can create new materials that are lighter and stronger than metal. We need new storytellers, filmmakers, musicians, and artists. And we need new technologies to explore the future, including a deeper and more complex understanding of the earth and the ocean and the galaxies.

There is no better way to start than by making things of your own design. All the projects I made when I was young contributed to the inventions I’ve made throughout my life. And they have given my life meaning. I hope these projects and the ones you create will do the same for you.

Encourage the kids in your life to create, to try and try again, to tinker, and to make things with their own hands. This book is going to make some minds take off!

templegrandin.com
penguin.com/middle-grade

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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.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but 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 Can You Hear the Trees Talking? by Peter Wohlleben

Friday, February 7th, 2020

Can You Hear the Trees Talking?

Discovering the Hidden Life of the Forest

by Peter Wohlleben

Greystone Kids, 2019. Originally published in German in 2017. 80 pages.
Starred Review
Review written October 31, 2019, from a library book
2019 Sonderbooks Stand-outs: #4 in Children’s Nonfiction Picture Books

This book says it’s a Young Readers’ Edition of the New York Times Bestseller The Hidden Life of Trees — a book I had checked out for a very long time intending to read, but never did. The Young Readers’ Edition with great big photographs and bite-sized facts in large print on each page – that was irresistible. I couldn’t help but read it! I opened it up to leaf through it, intending to only look at the pictures, and some fact would capture my attention.

Within the seven chapters, which all have a large and beautiful photograph on an introductory page, each spread has a page heading that’s a question. We begin with basics like “How Do Trees Breathe?” “How Do Trees Drink?” and “Why Don’t Trees Fall Over?” and progress to questions such as “Can Forests Make It Rain?” “What Are Trees Afraid Of?” “How Do Trees Know When It’s Spring?” “Do Trees Sleep at Night?” and “Why Do Trees Shed Their Leaves in Fall?”

While I was reading this book, I found myself sharing random facts with my coworkers. Did you know that trees sleep at night – and that when lights are on all night, nearby trees don’t live as long? Did you know that young trees don’t need to drop their leaves because their trunks are so flexible, they can spring back if snow weighs them down? Did you know that trees can communicate with one another through fungi in the soil? They can warn neighbors about insect attacks (so they produce chemicals to repel them) and they can even give sugar to a neighbor who needs it.

It’s all super fascinating and so attractively presented! Maybe I’ll finally read the adult version – but I wish it had the glorious full-color photos of this book!

greystonebooks.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 Birds of a Feather, by Susan L. Roth

Wednesday, August 28th, 2019

Birds of a Feather

Bowerbirds and Me

by Susan L. Roth

Neal Porter Books (Holiday House), 2019. 32 pages.
Review written June 1, 2019, from a library book

This is a fun take on a science book about a bird. In Birds of a Feather collage artist Susan Roth explains how bowerbirds of Australia and New Guinea are collage artists, too.

The males create a “bower,” a sheltering sort of structure, and then create a collage on the floor of the bower in hopes of impressing a female. These are not nests, and seem to be a work of art. The bowerbirds work like artists, choosing colors they like and arranging and rearranging materials. They are just as picky as any human artist.

By putting this story in a book illustrated with collage art, we have a striking and memorable story. There is one photograph in the back of a bowerbird’s bower. I would have liked a few more, so I could see for myself that each bird is making a unique work of art.

The backmatter is interesting, with a list of facts about bowerbirds, a description of how they work, a description of how the artist works, and a list of ways they are the same.

This is a delightful and original approach to telling kids about nature.

HolidayHouse.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.

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 Rocket to the Moon! by Don Brown

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2019

Big Ideas That Changed the World

Rocket to the Moon!

by Don Brown

Amulet Books, 2019. 132 pages.
Review written July 22, 2019, from a library book

I’ve long said that comic format is the best possible way to make a book of nonfiction for children. Accompany all the facts with pictures, and it’s going to be much more memorable and easier to understand. Don Brown is particularly good at communicating information to children in this format.

This book about the history of space flight and particularly rockets to the moon was perfect reading for the 50th anniversary of the moon landing.

He covers the history of mankind’s use of rockets, the first visionaries who thought of going into space, and the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. Then he covers what it actually took to get men on the moon – including the big ideas behind the mission (Direct Ascent, Earth-Orbit Rendezvous, or Lunar-Orbit Rendezvous?).

This covers both the science and the history of flights to the moon in a compact graphic nonfiction form. A great way to communicate the big ideas!

booksbybrown.com
amuletbooks.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 Nine Months: Before a Baby Is Born, by Miranda Paul, illustrated by Jason Chin

Sunday, July 14th, 2019

Nine Months

Before a Baby Is Born

by Miranda Paul
illustrated by Jason Chin

Neal Porter Books (Holiday House), 2019. 32 pages.
Starred Review
Review written May 10, 2019, from a library book

This book tells us, with a simple rhyming text, the progress of a little girl becoming a big sister – but the stunning part of the book comes from the actual-size pictures of the growing fetus inside the mother.

For most of the book, the growing fetus is on the left side of the spread and the expectant family on the other side, with the soon-to-be big sister obviously anticipating her new status. By the end, the newborn infant takes up the entire spread.

I didn’t check until I’d finished reading who the illustrator is – and immediately thought, “Oh! No wonder those pictures are so amazing!” I find myself wanting to reach out and touch the newborn baby.

The text is very simple, with gentle rhymes. Here are a couple of examples. (On the left side, it tells which month we’re in. There’s a spread for each month.)

[Month Five]
Lips.
Flips.
Curve, dip, and groove.
She has a face.
She likes to move!

[Month Six]
Grasp.
Clasp.
Ears that can hear.
Sing as she listens.
Tell her you’re near.

The text is simple – based on the pictures, this is designed for a preschooler becoming a big sister – but there are five pages in the back with more information for the curious.

It does begin with the fertilized egg and doesn’t say one little bit about how the egg got that way. You’re on your own if your child has questions! But that does keep the book about the new baby.

This is my new go-to book for kids about to become older siblings. And it’s an immediate gift choice for my three-year-old niece and her big sister who are welcoming a new baby brother in a few months.

HolidayHouse.com

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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 Hawk Mother, by Kara Hagedorn

Wednesday, March 27th, 2019

Hawk Mother

The Story of a Red-tailed Hawk Who Hatched Chickens

by Kara Hagedorn

Web of Life Children’s Books, Berkeley, California, 2017. 32 pages.
Review written March 5, 2019, from a library book

This is one of those nonfiction books with big, cute pictures of baby animals – which make it an easy win for booktalking.

The main story is of a rescued red-tailed hawk. She’d been shot and found with a broken wing. She’d never fly again. Kara Hagedorn is a zoologist who works at a wildlife center. She took care of the hawk, named her Sunshine, and bonded with her.

Sunshine made a habit of laying eggs and sitting on them – even though they were infertile and would never hatch. Sunshine would take good care of the eggs – and expect Kara to help her – but Kara had to get rid of the eggs each summer to stop Sunshine waiting forever for them to hatch.

But one year, Kara got two fertilized eggs from a local chicken farmer and placed them in Sunshine’s nest.

Even though in the wild, hawks kill and eat baby chickens, Sunshine adopted these as her own and cared for them until they became fully grown roosters.

Sunshine’s inspiring story shows how we can all overcome challenges and adjust to new situations with the help of others!

This lovely book tells a simple but heart-warming story and is illustrated with large photographs throughout.

sunshinehawk.com
conifercreative.com
weboflifebooks.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.

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 Girl Who Drew Butterflies, by Joyce Sidman

Friday, February 15th, 2019

The Girl Who Drew Butterflies

How Maria Merian’s Art Changed Science

by Joyce Sidman

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018. 144 pages.
Starred Review
Review written March 7, 2018, from a book sent by the publisher.
2019 Sibert Medal Winner for best children’s nonfiction book of the year
2018 Sonderbooks Stand-out:
#1 Longer Children’s Nonfiction

This book has a prologue, with the heading, “The Girl in the Garden.” Quoting from it will tell you the background of Maria Merian’s life.

A girl kneels in her garden. It is 1660, and she has just turned thirteen: too old for a proper German girl to be crouching in the dirt, according to her mother. She is searching for something she discovered days ago in the chilly spring air. As she combs the emerald bushes, she looks for other telltale signs – eggs no bigger than pinpricks, or leaf edges scalloped by the jaws of an inching worm. . . .

But for years she has gathered flowers for her stepfather’s studio, carried them in, and arranged them for his still-life paintings. She has studied the creatures that ride on their petals: the soft green bodies of caterpillars, the shiny armor of beetles, the delicate wings of moths. She has looked at them closely, sketched and painted them. In learning the skills of an artist, she has learned to look and watch and wonder.

Imagine this girl, forbidden from training as either a scholar or a master artist because she is female. Aware that in nearby villages women have been hanged as witches for something as simple as showing too much interest in “evil vermin.”

Yet she is drawn to these small, mysterious lives. She does not believe the local lore: that “summer birds,” or butterflies, creep out from under the earth. She thinks there is a connection between butterflies, moths, caterpillars, and the rumpled brown cocoon before her, and she is determined to find it.

This is her story.

The biography that follows tells of a woman far ahead of her times. She was both an artist and a scientist. She was an artist because she assisted her father and her husband and learned from them – she wouldn’t have been able to study on her own merits. She was a scientist by virtue of her own patient observations. She learned which caterpillars transformed into which moths or butterflies and which cocoon or chrysalis went with each.

She made her observations known by painting them. She would paint creatures on the same plant where she found them, and she would paint a butterfly with its egg, caterpillar, pupa, and chrysalis in the same picture.

This book is lavishly illustrated with Maria Merian’s own paintings as well as photographs of caterpillars, moths, and butterflies. Quotations from Maria’s writings are included, set off in a box and printed in script. Every spread has something colorful to catch the eye.

The structure of Maria’s biography follows the life cycle of a butterfly, with chapter titles: “Egg,” “Hatching,” “First Instar,” “Second Instar,” “Third Instar,” “Fourth Instar,” “Molting,” “Pupa,” “Eclosing,” “Expanding,” “Flight,” and “Egg” again. Joyce Sidman has written a poem for each chapter, placed next to a photo of a caterpillar or butterfly at that stage.

Maria’s unique combination of observation plus art left a mark that affected scientists after her. After her death, Carl Linnaeus used her book to classify and name more than one hundred insects – names we still use today.

The exquisite paintings and detailed photographs make this a beautiful book worth browsing – even if it weren’t packed with facts about an important scientist, a woman far ahead of her time.

joycesidman.com
hmhco.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 book sent by the publisher.

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?