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Aleksandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizieliński (@hipopotam) started a revolution here in the UK, with the publication by Big Picture Press back in 2013 of their now famous Maps. With that beautifully produced book we started to see something of new departure for children’s non-fiction, with publishers realising that there was an appetite for gorgeously illustrated and finely produced information books which didn’t look or feel like school textbooks.
Since then we’ve seen several new non-fiction imprints established, dedicated to bringing us eye-catching, unusual and sumptuous non-fiction for children and young people, such as Wide Eyed Editions and 360 Degrees. This is great news, especially for younger children who report choosing to read non-fiction (42% of 7-11 year olds) almost as much as they do fiction (48.2% of 7-11 year olds, source), though you’d never guess this from the imbalance in titles published and reviewed.
It’s wonderful to see the return of the founders of the non-fiction revolution with a new title, Under Earth, Under Water, a substantial and wide-ranging exploration of what lies beneath the surface of the globe.
Split into two halves, allowing you to start from either end of the book by turning it around to explore either what lies beneath the earth, or under the oceans, this compendium of startling facts and quirky, fresh illustrations makes the most of its large format (a double page spread almost extends to A2), with great visual and verbal detail to pour over and a real sense of going down, down, down across the expanse of the pages.
The Earth pages cover everything from burrowing creatures to plant life in the soil, via extracting natural resources to industrial underground infrastructure. Tunnels, caves, digging up fossils and plate tectonics are all included in this rich and varied buffet brought together though a simple concept – simply exploring what is underneath our feet.
The Water pages explore aquatic life right from the surface down to the bottom of the Mariana Trench, ocean geography, human exploration with the aid of diving equipment, the history of submarines and even shipwrecks.
Lavishly produced, with gorgeously thick paper it is a delight to hold this book in your hands. Wonderful design, featuring lots of natural reds and browns in the Earth section and soothing shades of blues and green in the Water section, ensures exploring the diverse content is a visual treat as much as it is a spark for thinking about the world around us in new ways.
My only question mark over Under Earth, Under Water is the lack of an index. Maybe this makes it more like a box of treasures to rummage in and linger over, the sort of space where you can’t be sure what gems you’ll dig up. Although perhaps not a resource from which to clinically extract information, Under Earth, Under Water offers a great deal to explore and a very enjoyable journey to the centre of the earth.
There’s so much we could have “played” in Under Earth, Under Water. We toyed with making submarines, visiting caves, planting seeds to watch roots grow, but in the end the animal burrows won out, and we decided it was time to make our own. This began with papier mache and balloons…
…which when dry were set into a cardboard box frame, and surrounded by layers of “soil” i.e. different coloured felt, to recreate the layering of different soil and rock types.
Then the burrows needed filling! Sylvanian families came to the rescue, along with nature treasures gathered from the garden.
And soon we had a dollshouse with a difference! (Can you spot the bones and other archaeological finds waiting to be dug up from the soil??)
Whilst making our underground burrow we listened to:
Reading Above and Below by Patricia Hegarty and Hanako Clulow. This books explores similar territory to Under Earth, Under Water – but for slightly younger children – and makes great use of split pages.
The school year is coming to a close and it’s time to stock up for summer reading. We have five great books for you!
This month, our book list features a sweet story about an unconventional animal family, an adorable picture book that celebrates determination, a nonfiction guide to becoming a backyard scientist, and a book that teaches you how to stand up to their fears. For mature readers, the first-ever graphic novel to receive a Caldecott Honor will make for an engrossing read.
Get ready to say “Awww!” every time you turn the page! The real-life photos of a tiny little pig being raised by dachshunds is a heart-warming story that promotes acceptance and reminds us that everyone deserves love.
This adorable picture book is both a perfect read-aloud and an ideal graduation gift! It’s a joyful celebration of creativity, determination, and creative problem-solving. We can’t get enough of this one!
Anyone can be a scientist in this kid-friendly, non-fiction gem! Kids will learn how to observe, conduct research, collect data, and be part of four unique scientific discoveries that can happen anywhere — in a backyard, a field, or even a city park.
Both hopeful and heartbreaking, this beautiful book is the first graphic novel to be awarded a Caldecott Honor. Mature teens will find it captivating and will readily relate to its coming-of-age explorations of complex friendship and family relationships.
If you’ve been to a bookstore lately, you may have noticed the STEAM-y new trend in nonfiction children’s books.
No, I’m not talking about romance novels, it’s STEAM—Science Technology Engineering Art and Math. From picture books to middle grade, to YA, STEAM topics are hot right now.
The STEAM books can include biographies and histories of scientists, artists, and engineers, but also topics that range from the simple: Miranda Paul’s book Water is Water (Roaring Brook, 2015). It gives a beautiful and lyrical explanation of the water cycle for young readers.
Kids are naturally inquisitive. They are always asking how things work, why things happen, and where things come from.
Tap into your kid-side and find a topic that you’re curious about. Then dig deep and look for the cool aspects of it. Kids love trivia. See if you can find something that will make your reader say, “Hmmmm…. I didn’t know that.” Or “Wow! That’s so cool!”
For example: Your brain can store up to 2.5 petabytes of knowledge—That’s like 300 years of T.V. shows!
2. Think like a kid
Kids want to understand so when explaining things, break complex ideas into simple ones. The best way is to use kid-friendly examples, something that taps into the knowledge they have.
For instance, instead of saying something is 10meters tall, say it’s 3 stories high.
One hundred twenty yards becomes as big as a football field.
A nanoparticle is 100,000 times smaller than the edge of a piece of paper.
3. Talk like a kid
Use kid-friendly language. Activate your words! Use short sentences to amp up the excitement or tension. Use longer sentences for explanation to make sure your readers understand the concepts you want to get across. Then mix things up. Put short sentences after long sentences. Add endings like, “Now that’s tiny!” or “Bet you didn’t know that.” It makes your tone more exciting and conversational.
4. Be gross like a kid
Sometimes the best way to capture your reader with science is to gross them out. They are, after all, kids.
For example: Did you know that in one day, your feet can produce more than 1/4th of a gallon of sweat. (P- Ewww!)
5. Tap into a kid’s imagination
Children have very vivid imaginations. By using fun rhyming, rhythmic language, and amazing descriptions, you will grab their attention and get them to think. You can also fill your book with awesome illustrations and photographs to get your reader to visualize what is happening in the book.
Following these tips may help you to STEAM into nonfiction with your own books!
Jennifer Swanson is a self-professed science geek and the author of over twenty-five nonfiction and fiction books for kids. She is the author of Brain Games (NGKids, 2015) and the forthcoming Super Gear. Her book How Hybrid Cars Work (The Child’s World) received a starred review from Booklist and also a Top 10 Books for Youth 2012 Award from Booklist Online.
Several of Jennifer’s other books have received “highly recommended” reviews from the National Science Teacher Association, as well as School Library Journal. Her favorite saying to her students is to “notice the science all around you.”
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Dinosaurs, literally meaning 'terrible lizards', were first recognized by science, and named by Sir Richard Owen (who preferred the translation ‘fearfully great’), in the 1840's. In the intervening 170 years our knowledge of dinosaurs, including whether they all really died out 65 million years ago, has changed dramatically. Take a crash course on the history of the dinosaurs with our infographic.
Ocean Animals (Animal Bites series)
by Laaren Brown
Liberty Street, an imprint of Time Inc. Books, 2016
Polar Animals (Animal Bites series)
by Laaren Brown
Liberty Street, an imprint of Time Inc. Books, 2016
Today is Earth Day, and it's the perfect time to highlight the new Animal Bites series by Animal Planet. Published by Time Inc., the series was released earlier this
Jump! has been publishing nonfiction for children since 2012. The publisher known for Bullfrog Books for PreK-2 readers, has a new imprint released this year. Pogo features science books for grades 2-5.
Books released under the Pogo imprint cover life science, earth science, physical science, and engineering/technology. Each book incorporates a variety of text features including sidebars,
Have you ever wanted to take a trip to the cloud forest? Explore the Andes of Ecuador? Discover a new species? Well, you’re in luck.
With¡Olinguito, de la A a la Z! / Olinguito from A to Z! travel to the unique world of the cloud forest and discover the bounty of plants, animals, and other organisms that live there as you help a zoologist look for the elusive olinguito, the first new mammal species identified in the Americas since 1978.
But the adventure doesn’t stop there. Anyone can learn to be an explorer in their own backyard with the FREEOlinguito Activity Kitand Teacher’s Guide. Learn more about the cloud forest and other ecosystems, including all of the important animals and the adaptations that help them survive in their environment with the many interdisciplinary ideas, projects, and engaging activities.
Content themes and subjects covered:
ecosystems and habitats
animal classification and adaptation
vertebrates and invertebrates
competition and predation
Here’s a preview of the types of engaging projects and activities you can find in the Olinguito Activity Kit and Teacher’s Guide:
Observe an Ecosystem!
You will need:
a pen or pencil
a thick, old paperback book
Make note of the time of day you are making your observations. Is it morning, afternoon, or night?
Record all the plants and organisms you see, including trees, shrubs, bushes, grasses, ferns, mosses, and lichens.
Record all the animals you see in the area, including insects, arachnids, mollusks, reptiles, birds and mammals.
Gather fresh leaves of different shapes from trees and shrubs and put each separately between two pages of the paperback book. You may also gather small, colorful flowers or flower petals and put them between pages of the book.
Take photos of any animals you see.
Once you are back inside, place the paperback book under a pile of heavy books for a week or two to let you pressed leaves and flowers dry.
Design a Cloud Forest Travel Brochure!
Have students research cloud forests in the Andes and create an informative and persuasive travel brochure. Include headings, subheadings, pictures, maps, and informative captions.
Where are the cloud forests located?
What plants and animals live there?
Why are cloud forests valued or important?
What is the climate like?
What will people see there?
What environmental and human threats do they face?
Why should someone make the cloud forest his or her next vacation destination?
Create a Cloud Forest Alphabet or Glossary Book:
string or twine
art decorating supplies (crayons, colored pencils, markers. etc.)
Alphabet Book: include the featured letter, a picture or drawing of the featured plant or animal, and the name of the plant or animal.
Plant/Animal Glossary Book: include the name of the plant or animal, a picture or drawing of the featured plant or animal, and an informative description of the plant or animal: where does it live? what does it eat? how is it classified (plant or animal, vertebrate or invertebrate, etc.)?
For more fun and exciting activity ideas, including I-Spy Fun and learning to create you own pressed leaf print, check out and download the FREE Olinguito Activity Kit and Teacher’s Guide.
You can purchase a copy of ¡Olinguito, de la A a la Z! / Olinguito, from A to Z! : Descubriendo el bosque nublado / Unveiling the Cloud Forest on our website here.
Veronicahas a degree from Mount Saint Mary College and joined LEE & LOW in the fall of 2014. She has a background in education and holds a New York State childhood education (1-6) and students with disabilities (1-6) certification. When she’s not wandering around New York City, you can find her hiking or hanging out with her dog Milo in her hometown in the Hudson Valley, NY.
Poetry can be a terrific way to explore different topics kids might want to learn more about. In particular, poetry and science make a great pair. Above all else, poets and scientists ask us to stop and notice the world around us. I love these two picture books that celebrate our fine feathered friends, and do it with terrific word play and illustrations.
Sayre’s dynamic verse brings alive the sound and movement of six different woodpecker species as they chop, bonk, tap, and slam, doing serious work.
"Swoop and land. Hitch and hop. Shred a tree stump. Chop, chip, chop!"
The bouncing, rhythmic verse and the bold illustrations make this a great read-aloud. As you read, ask kids which words they think have real pizzaz--notice Sayre's word choices. Whether she's showing how the birds fly or how their tapping sounds, Sayre chooses dramatic words. Encourage your kids to try using words like this on your next walk outside.
Short simple verses and cut-paper collage illustrations introduce young readers to common North American birds. Choosing birds that preschoolers like to notice, VanDerwater displays one bird on each page, highlighting a memorable characteristic for each.
"Chickadee wears a wee black cap."
"Owl swoops soundlessly late at night."
The bold illustrations focus young readers on each bird, setting each bird against a simple background helps highlight the species and the poetry. I especially like how VanDerwater focuses on one key feature of each bird, highlighting it with strong language. The endnotes provide more detail on each species for adults to share, as kids as more quesitons.
Together, the cumulative effect leads to a rhythm and rhyming scheme that makes for a lovely read-aloud for preschoolers. "Heron fishes with his bill./ Sparrow hops in brown./ Mockingbird has many voices./ Pigeon lives in town." Perfect for budding naturalists.
Today is Wangari Maathai’s birthday! Wangari Maathai was the first African woman, and the first environmentalist, to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Seeds Of Change: Planting a Path to Peace, which tells Wangari’s story, continues to be one of the most popular books that we publish!
In honor of Wangari Maathai’s birthday and upcoming Earth Day later this month, here’s a list of the many fantastic resources and ideas available to educators who are teaching about Wangari Maathai’s legacy and using Seeds Of Change: Planting a Path to Peace:
Seeds Of Change won the American Library Association’s Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent in Illustration in 2011. The Committee Chair and Book Jury have prepared activities and discussion questions for Seeds Of Change in the 2011 Discussion Guide for Coretta Scott King Book Awards, P. 20-21.
Have students read and discuss author Jen Cullerton Johnson and illustrator Sonia Lynn Sadler’s joint interview with Lee & Low, which covers the environment, their travels, and Wangari Maathai’s achievements.
After introducing Wangari Maathai with Seeds Of Change, delve deeper with the Speak Truth To Power human rights education curriculum, a project of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights. They present an in-depth exploration on Wangari Maathai, the Green Belt Movement, and sustainability issues.
In teaching standard 7 of the ELA Common Core, have students evaluate how Wangari Maathai is presented in a documentary compared to the Seeds Of Change biography. PBS’s documentary on Wangari Maathai and the Green Belt Movement, Taking Root: The Vision of Wangari Maathai, contains a classroom section full of video modules, handouts, and lesson plans.
What did we miss? Let us know how you are using Seeds Of Change in your classroom!
Jill Eisenberg, our Resident Literacy Expert, began her career teaching English as a Foreign Language to second through sixth graders in Yilan, Taiwan as a Fulbright Fellow. She went on to become a literacy teacher for third grade in San Jose, CA as a Teach for America corps member. She is certified in Project Glad instruction to promote English language acquisition and academic achievement. In her column she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators.
Many say now is the century of biology, the study of life. Genomics is therefore “front-and-centre”, as DNA, is the software of life. From staring at stars, we are now staring at DNA. We can’t use our eyes, like we do in star gazing, but just as telescopes show us the far reaches of the Universe, DNA sequencing machines are reading out our genomes at an astonishing pace.
The Librarian Who Measured the Earth
Written by Kathryn Lasky; Illustrated by Kevin Hawkes
Little, Brown and Company. 1994
I am on a crusade to get some really terrific and often overlooked informational picture books into the hands of teachers and parents. These books, read aloud to middle and high school students, could be a gateway for important conversations and growth.
Proving to be both varied and fascinating, moons are far more common than planets in our Solar System. Our own Moon has had a profound influence on Earth, not only through tidal effects, but even on the behaviour of some marine animals. But how much do we really know about moons?
Human Body Theater: A Non-Fiction Revue, the new graphic novel by Maris Wicks is a fantastic way to learn a vast amount of information in a very fun format. Wicks is the illustrator of one of my favorite non-fiction graphic novels, Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey and Birute Galdikas, written by Jim Ottaviani. In eleven acts, a skeleton takes readers through the main systems of the body, beginning with the skeletal system and working up at the excretory system just before intermission. After that, five more systems are visited, from the endocrine system to the reproductive, immune and nervous systems, ending with the five senses. And, as you can see, Wicks's illustrations are fantastic. Crisp and clear, with a bright color palette and images outlined in black, Human Body Theater is a treat to look at that you will find yourself poring over.
After a quick introduction to the hardworking stage hands, the cells, bones then muscles are explored. I'll be honest, I have vague memories of learning about the human body in my high school biology class and it was largely uninteresting and forgettable. However, Wicks's illustrations and presentation are so inviting that I genuinely enjoyed my trip through the human body! I guess giving faces and smiles to things like a cytoplasm, a Gogli body and atoms is just entertaining enough to keep my attention. To illustrate how the heart and the lungs work together to supply the body with oxygen, Wicks brings two, pink oxygen molecules in tutus on stage to dance readers through the process.
The Blood Bus takes readers through the cardiovascular system and a peanut butter and banana sandwich explains carbohydrates then, with a note of glee exclaims, "But what's really exciting is that I'm going to get eaten!" The scene ends with the natural conclusion. There is a splash in the toilet on stage and the skeleton thanking the sandwich for an "informative performance." There are also brief forays into heartburn, constipation and the fact that stomach aches, constipation, vomiting and diarrhea can be caused by the brain and the benefits of relaxing and removing stress for the whole body.
Human Body Theater very tactfully covers the reproductive system, starting with the endocrine system and hormones. Wicks very tactfully uses descriptions rather than depictions for this scene. While there is a sperm and an egg with faces that talk, along with anatomical images of the sex organs, many readers might not even realize what they are looking at. Menstruation and erections are covered along with other changes that puberty brings, like body odor, pimples, hair growth, voice changing and breast development. The scene ends with pregnancy, birth and infancy. After a romp through the five senses, the skeleton ends the show by putting on some skin, then quickly stepping behind the curtain for some clothes.
In an excellent move, Wicks includes a glossary, with the ASL sign for each letter starting off each section, then a bibliography and suggested reading section!
Besides being a first rate author and illustrator and graphic novelist, Maris Wicks has a background in oceanography and education, having worked at the New England Aquarium where she taught children about marine science. This month she can be found on the R/V Atlantis doing research for the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. This all makes perfect sense because Wicks's next graphic novel, coming later this month, can be seen below!
Pre-eminent among writers of mystery stories is, in my opinion, Dorothy L. Sayers. She is ingenious, witty, original - and scientific too, including themes like the fourth dimension, electroplating, and the acoustics of bells in some of her best stories. She is also the inventor of the voice-activated lock, which her hero Lord Wimsey deploys in the 1928 short story 'The Adventurous Exploit of the Cave of Ali Baba'.
Ahoy! Captain No Beard and his crew are back. In the latest installment to Carole P. Roman’s award-wining series, Being a Captain is Hard Work, readers learn it’s okay to make mistakes, especially when you learn something from them.
Although I reviewed a print version ofInfinity and Mebook several years ago (my original review is linked here), I recently had the opportunity to review the audio version for School Library Journal. My review as it appeared in the February, 2016, edition of SLJ is below.
HOSFORD, Kate. Infinity and Me. 1 CD w/tr book. 44 min. Live Oak Media. 2015. $29.95. ISBN 9781430120049.
K-Gr 3—A small girl, Uma, ponders infinity while gazing at stars, “How many stars were in the sky? A million? A billion? Maybe the number was as big as infinity.” Uma proceeds to ask friends and family how they conceive of infinity. They define it in quantities of numbers, time, music, ancestors—even spaghetti! Finally, she settles on her own measure of infinity, quantified in something that is personal and boundless. Narrator Nancy Wu is accompanied by a full cast of characters, music, and sound effects that complement the text and the book’s full-bleed, painted illustrations by Gabi Swiatkowska. Background sound effects include a bicycle bell, the “tinkling” of stars, chattering voices, and churning gears. A sense of wonder is embodied in Wu’s narration, the illustrations, and the overall production. The audiobook contains two tracks, one with page turn signals and one without. VERDICT This is an intriguing introduction to a mathematical concept, perfect for those seeking to inspire very young people to wonder about math and science. [“This quiet jewel is sure to spark contemplation and conversation": SLJ 10/12 review of the Carolrhoda book.]
How could I possibly pick the 10 nonfiction books I can't live without? Frankly, it's an impossible task for me. I use children's literature in every class I teach. I loan them to students, take them on school visits, and read them to my kid (who is now 15).
I also create a LOT of thematic book lists for teachers, so as I look at my shelves I find them lined with favorites. Since I couldn't settle on a topic or find it in my heart to stop at 10, I asked my son to pick some of his favorite books to share. Here are the books he remembers fondly and thinks other nonfiction loving boys will enjoy. I'll add that I believe boys and girls, avid and reluctant readers—ALL kids will find these interesting reads. So without further ado, William's list. Whatever you do, don't let the first title scare you away, as this is a pretty amazing list of titles.
Jurassic Poop: What Dinosaurs (And Others) Left Behind, written by Jacob Berkowitz and illustrated by Steve Mack is a book about ancient poop. This is a boy's dream--dinosaurs and poop in one book! I'm not a fan of potty books or humor, but must admit that this book is a real gem. Chapter 1, A Message From A Bottom, begins with illustrations of a T-Rex leaving a turd "larger than two loaves of bread" and shows how that "king-sized poop" becomes a coprolite. Coprolite is the "polite word for fossil feces." Readers learn that coprolites can be frozen, dried or lithified. They also learn about doo-doo detectives (scientists who study coprolites) and much more. There is humor in this book, a huge number of synonyms for poop, and a TON of science.
Can We Save the Tiger?, written by Martin Jenkins and illustrated by Vicky White, is an oversize volume with gorgeously detailed pencil sketches and a text that neither talks down to readers nor glosses over the difficult problems we humans have created. While Jenkins begins by discussing animals that are now extinct and why that is so, he goes on to discuss endangered species and once-threatened animals whose numbers are now on the rise. Discussing endangered species is a complex issue, impacting not only the animals themselves, but the humans that live in close proximity to them. Saving animals, while noble, is not always a black and white issue. Jenkins tackles this head on in a conversational and understandable way.
Animals profiled include dodo, stellar sea cow, marsupial wolf, great auk, broad-faced potoroo, tiger, Asian elephant, sloth bear, African hunting dog, partula snail, quokka, mariana fruit dove, ground iguana, white-rumped vulture, sawfish, European crayfish, golden arrow poison frog, American bison, white rhinocerous, Antarctic fur seal, vicuna, kakapo, Rodrigues flying fox, whooping crane, Bermuda petrel, and polar bear. On the final page readers will find an illustration of Sander's slipper orchid, a plant that is protected because it is endangered. Back matter includes suggestions for further Web research and an index.
Vulture View, written by April Pulley Sayre and illustrated by Steve Jenkins - Scavengers and decomposers play a very important role in maintaining the balance of the ecosystem. In helping to break down dead organisms, they are responsible for returning basic nutrients to the soil so that they may reenter the chain. In this book, we get a glimpse of the scavenging role that vultures play. I know that right now some of you are saying, "Gross! Why would I want to learn about these disgusting birds?" Here's my response. First, vultures are incredibly clean birds, bathing and preening regularly. Second, and more importantly, vultures are a vital part of our natural environment, cleaning up dead carcasses and decreasing the spread of some diseases. Third, they're just plain interesting.
In rhythmic, precise text, Sayre teaches us much about the amazing turkey vulture. Here's an excerpt on how they find their food. Readers learn that vultures soar on thermals, taking to the air as it warms, returning to roost in the trees as air cools. The book ends with a section entitled Get To Know Vultures, with the Subsections: (1) Soaring Up, Up, Up!; (2) The Vulture Family; (3) Nature's Cleanup Crew; (4) Family Life and Range; and (5) Heads Up, Young Scientists. It is packed with information and even includes a link to the Turkey Vulture Society's web site, as well as information on festivals that celebrate vultures/buzzards.
Down, Down, Down: A Journey to the Bottom of the Sea, written and illustrated by Steve Jenkins, treats readers to the wonder of the world's oceans. Jenkins' tour of the oceans begins at the surface and ends in the Marianas Trench. Each double page spread contains a paragraph (or two) of information about that particular depth, illustration of the inhabitants, and a depth meter. The depth meter appears on the right edge of each spread and extends from the top of the page (the surface) to the bottom (deepest spot in the ocean). The depth is marked with what looks like a red push-pin and is labeled with the distance below sea level (in both feet and meters) and the temperature (in both Fahrenheit and Celsius).
How much do we really know about the earth's oceans and the creatures that live there? The answer is, not much. In clear, concise text, Jenkins takes us on an unbelievable, fact-filled journey. The illustrations of the creatures, from the beautiful and familiar to strange and exotic (weird!), are gloriously rendered. (See images here, here and at this terrific review at Seven Imp.) At the end of the book are five full pages of background information on the animals in the book. Each section includes a diagram that shows the size of each creature compare to an adult human's body or hand. The final page includes a brief bibliography and another depth meter that shows how deep humans and sea vessels can descend.
Volcano Rising, written by Elizabeth Rusch and illustrated by Susan Swan, looks at volcanoes as constructive forces of nature, building up the surface of the Earth. Beautifully illustrated in mixed media with lots of examples and labels, this book uses two levels of text to engage readers. The first level of text provides readers with basic volcano information. This is accompanied by detailed informational text that provides more comprehensive information on volcanoes. Both levels of text are well-written and make the concepts accessible for readers across a range of ages. Together the text and illustrations offer a dramatic introduction to volcanic activity.
Rusch introduces readers to 8 different volcanoes around the world and explores their impact when found in what some might consider unusual places, like under a glacier or on the seafloor. Back matter includes a glossary of 30 volcano vocabulary words and an extensive bibliography.
Bubble Homes and Fish Farts, written by Fiona Bayrock and illustrated by Carolyn Conahan, is an all-out fun-fest of animal bubbleology. Ho do animals use bubbles? After reading this title, a better question is how don't they?! Before reading this try to guess what animals and/or bubble strategies might be highlighted. Whales and bubble netting? Check. Tree frog nests? Check. And ... that's where the knowledge of most readers ends. Who knew there were so many ways to use bubbles? All total, Bayrock has introduced readers 16 different animals that sail through the water, run on its surface, and even taste disgusting, all thanks to bubbles.
Accompanied by a soft palette of gorgeous watercolor illustrations, Bayrock takes readers on a journey into worlds not often explored. Each double-page spread begins with a short sentence that describes the way in which bubbles are used. Beneath that are the common and scientific names for an animal, followed by a paragraph that describes how that particular creature uses bubbles in its daily life. The illustrations are whimsical, with each animal spouting its thoughts in, you guessed it, a bubble.
The back matter in the book contains end notes about each animal, including its habitat, where in the world it lives, and even more amazing facts. There is also a glossary of terms and an index, as well as a lengthy list of acknowledgments, a huge number of them scientists and scholars who aided the author in her research. This is a well-researched, thoroughly engaging book for studying animals and the way they adapt to their environment.
What's for Dinner?: Quirky, Squirmy Poems from the Animal World, written by Katherine B. Hauth and illustrated by David Clark, is a collection of poems about food chain topics. The introductory poem, "What's for Dinner," explains why animals must find food. What follows this introductory piece are humorous, graphic, scientific, inventive and just downright fun poems. Accompanied by equally graphic and humorous illustrations, the perfect pairing of word and art gives us a book that readers will love. In the poem entitled "Waste Management," a rather haughty-looking vulture pulls at a strand of the innards of a carcass while standing on the exposed ribs. While most of the poems are about animals, the last entry, "Eating Words," uses poetry and word roots to define insectivore, carnivore, herbivore, and omnivore.
The back matter includes a section entitled More Words About the Poems, which explains a bit more of the science and further explains vocabulary terms such as symbiosis, parasitism, mutualism, commensalism, and more. More Words About the Animals provides background information for each of the poems. The final page of the book provides some additional titles for learning more about the animals in the book.
Hottest, Coldest, Highest, Deepest, written and illustrated by Steve Jenkins, is a book that examines extremes in the natural world, such as the highest mountain (based on elevation), longest river, location with the most extreme tides, the driest spot on earth, and more. Jenkins grabs the attention of readers from the first page and makes them want to know about all these places. On every double-page spread that follows is a statement of fact, an inset map showing location, a bit of informational text, and some other graphic to help readers visualize and better understand the information. There is no back matter in this volume, but the final page does include a world map that pinpoints the 12 locations described.
Born to Be Giants: How Baby Dinosaurs Grew to Rule the World, written and illustrated by Lita Judge, not only answers this question, but explores how dinosaurs hatched from eggs grew and survived to become some of the largest creatures that ever walked the earth. Judge uses evidence discovered by paleontologists and to hypothesize how dinosaurs may have behaved. Judge doesn't shy away from difficult vocabulary in the text, using words like altricial and precocial. However, readers are supported in understanding these words through simple, explanatory sentences, as well as the inclusion of a glossary. Eight species of dinosaur are explored in the book. Early on readers are introduced to Argentinosaurus, a dinosaur that likely weighed as much as 17 elephants. Imagine for a moment just how large this dinosaur must have been. Now juxtapose this with the knowledge that the largest dinosaur eggs ever found were only 18 inches long. As Judge tells readers, "These mothers probably couldn't protect their tiny babies without trampling them underfoot." Dinosaurs may have been giants, but surviving to adulthood was no easy task. The text leaves readers much to ponder while also providing a wealth of factual information. There are some brief notes in the back matter about each of the dinosaur species, including pronunciation (always important with dinosaur names), approximate size, location of fossils, and period of appearance.
Nic Bishop Frogs, written and photographed by Nic Bishop, provides readers with a thorough introduction to members of the order Anura. Found on every continent, frogs and toads (which are just a type of frog) come in every imaginable size and color. Bishop does an outstanding job presenting this variety in the photographs and text. The text in this book is inherently understandable. Each page has a main idea written in large font, a paragraph of information, and a short section in small font with an additional fact or two. Every page is filled with scientific information, amazing and sometimes quirky facts, and gorgeous photos. One the page accompanying a photo of a glass frog (one in which you can see through its skin to its internal organs), readers learn that frogs have 159 bones, nearly 50 less than the number found in the human body. Bishop explains that frogs do not have rib bones, and that this explains why frogs are so good at squeezing through "small gaps, like between your fingers when you are trying to hold them."
It is clear that Bishop has his readers carefully in mind. Scientifically, he doesn't talk down to them, but rather helps to make the mystery that is life and science more understandable. The conversational tone hooks readers and keeps them interested. What kid hasn't wanted to hold a frog in his/her hand, only to have it wriggle away? The text as a whole is thoughtfully laid out and proceeds in an orderly and reasonable fashion through a variety of topics, from where frogs live, to what they look like, how their bodies are constructed and adapted, their eating habits, means of escaping predators (camouflage and those incredible legs and jumping skills), the sounds they make, reproduction, and much more.
In the back matter, Bishop devotes two pages to describing his love for his work, the process of photographing frogs, and the interesting experiences he had along the way. Kids will love learning about how he captured the images on film almost as much they will love learning about the frogs.
***** So, there you have it. These works of nonfiction are sure to spark curiosity and delight many young readers. And by the way, the teenage boy had difficulty stopping at 10 too! Settling on one Nic Bishop book was struggle, as was deciding which Jenkins' books to leave off the list, or which dinosaur book to choose. All in all, he did a fine job. I hope you love these as much as he does. I know I do.
I was thrilled to be invited back to the SOREF JCC Morrow Elementary After Care Program for the third time and to North Lauderdale Elementary for the 2nd time! What a pleasure it was to see some of the same smiling faces and respectful students again.
This visit was extra special because I brought with me one empty chrysalis, from which a monarch hatched in my own garden and another that died naturally and was still in full form. Along with a magnifying glass, the students could see up close what they looked like. The life cycle of the butterfly is so fascinating, there is so much to learn.
How does one get from Miami to San Jose, Costa Rica? Big maps are always a big hit with children.
I’ll never grow weary of all the oohs and ahhs I get from showing the students my watercolor pencils and the detailed questions I get about how a book is made and bound
With my new poster the children can see my daughter, Rachel, who composed music for the story and my huge standard poodle, Darwin
The adult Morpho Butterfly lives for only about three weeks!
North Lauderdale Elementary
It’s important for children to learn about how writers find heir inspiration
I shared my own photo of the monarch butterfly in my garden right after it emerged from the chrysalis
It’s so exciting to see what the chrysalises look like through a magnifying glass
The students could barely wait their turns to take a look at the chrysalises up close themselves
The best question of the day by a sophisticated 2nd grader: “What is it that made you want to be an author and what is it about being an author that you most enjoy?”
A big thank you to all the curious students who love Lilly Badilly. I hope you start writing your own stories! Thank you Sharon Schwartz, SOREF JCC Elementary Services Director, Site Directors, Ms. Angel, Ms. Nancy and all to Mark, Travis and Jordan, the friendly, helpful 4th grade students who helped me carry my props to and from the car on a very windy day.
Our Moon: New Discoveries About Earth’s Closest Companion
by Elaine Scott
Intermediate Clarion 72 pp.
2/16 978-0-547-48394-8 $18.99 g
This deep dive into the science of the moon includes explanations of its formation and composition, as well as details about the all-important Apollo missions (1963–1972) and the latest in lunar exploration. Scott begins with a history of human surmise on the moon’s appearance, including the maps of early astronomers. Subsequent chapters provide the latest scientific consensus (known as the “giant impact theory”) on the creation of the moon during the earliest days of the formation of our solar system, the formation of craters and maria, and on the geology of moon materials (the so-called “moon rocks”) that were collected during the Apollo missions. Most exciting is the final chapter, in which lunar missions from 2007 to 2014 — and the scientists who worked on them — are profiled. During this timeframe, scientists have confirmed the presence of water on the moon, examined its dust, atmosphere, and gravitational field, and are currently considering what it would take for humans to live on the moon. Color photos and additional text boxes found on nearly every page are as informative as the main narrative. Appended with an extensive glossary; a brief list of further resources, both online and in print; and an index.
Those of you who know me may or may not know that I've been writing for 12 years.
I started in 2004 when my daughter was born and I had 5 months of paid maternity leave. I was immediately hooked and haven't looked back since.
I've had a tough road in publishing. I've written about 9 books over 12 years rejected by agents and editors. I had an amazing agent and then mutually parted ways.
I ended up indie pubbing my Nature of Grace series (before it was cool) and worked hard to sell over 100,000 copies. I also worked hard to rise above the stigma of self-pubbing and turn off all the naysayers and criticism I received from many. TO be honest, I worked through many tears to get where I am. I stopped writing for 6 months and almost gave up at times, but I found my way back to loving writing again.
Don't get me wrong, I LOVE indie pubbing and still do. It was the best decision I ever made (besides my husband :) But I always wanted a traditional deal. Whether I felt I needed to be legitimized or that I needed to prove it to myself or whether it was because I wanted to be a hybrid author and do both indie and traditional, I don't know.
But one day I got super lucky and found a new agent (my agent soulmate) and we have worked hard together to make that dream a reality.
So today, after 9 books, 2 agents, 12 years of writing, and months of holding in a secret and avoiding talking to anyone because I can't keep secrets very well...I can finally announce my first traditional deal. :) And I get to see my name in Publisher's Weekly - a dream come true.
And what's even better, it's with my best friend, Kimberly Derting (author of the Body Finder series).
Virginia Duncan at Greenwillow Books preempted world rights, in a two-book deal, to a picture book series called Luna and the Scientific Method! by Kimberly Derting and Shelli Johannes-Wells. The first book is set for fall 2017. Laura Rennert at Andrea Brown Literary represented Derting, and Lara Perkins, also at Andrea Brown, represented Johannes-Wells. Rennert said the series is about a “science-loving, question-asking girl” who discovers that “scientific inquiry... can lead to a lot of fun and adventure.” Derting (the Body Finder series) and Johannes-Wells (who uses the pseudonym S.R. Johannes and is the author of the Nature of Grace series) will be writing the series together; an illustrator for the books has yet to be chosen.
We have no idea who will be illustrating our picture book babies, but what I can say is that Kim and I are crazy-excited to be working with Virginia Duncan, the publisher at Greenwillow, and her amazing team to bring our feisty, science-loving girl, LUNA, and her love science to girls around the world.
To me, this book is more than a traditional deal. More than a book. LUNA is a chance for us to make a difference in the lives of many future scientists to be. :)
Special shout out to our partner's in crime - Laura Rennert, Lara Perkins, and Virgina Duncan/Greenwillow for believing in me and Kim... and LUNA.
Science + Girls = AWESOME-SAUCE
Don't give up on your dreams - ever - they can happen.
Each year the Royal Society (a fellowship of many of the world’s most eminent scientists and the oldest scientific academy in continuous existence) celebrates the best books that communicate science to young people through their Young People’s Book Prize.
The Prize aims to inspire young people to read about science and promotes the writing of excellent, accessible books for under-14s. This year – to my utter delight and great excitement – I’m part of the panel of adult judges who will be choosing a shortlist of six books, to be announced in May, before the winner is chosen by groups of young people in judging panels across the UK.
It’s a huge honour to be joining Professor Dame Julia Higgins DBE FREng FRS, Emeritus Professor and Senior Research Investigator, Department Of Chemical Engineering at Imperial College London, Dr Robert Pal, Royal Society University Research Fellow in the Department of Chemistry, Durham University, author and Blue Peter Book Awards Winner 2015 Andy Seed and Head of Science at the Harris Academy Coleraine Park primary school Shirin Sheikh Bahai on the shortlisting panel.
Being invited to join the judging panel for this prestigious national award for science-themed books for children is really like a dream come true. Not only will it keep me out of trouble for the next few weeks as I read through all the eligible books which have been submitted, I’m sure what I’ll read will delight and inspire me.
The whole experience will be a treat for me, but what I really want is for lots of children to be amazed and excited by brilliant writing about science and so it’s truly wonderful that once the panel has chosen six books for the shortlist, we hand over the judging to kids up and down the UK. 125 school and youth groups will receive a free set of shortlisted books and then they vote for the winning book – it’s really a great opportunity to enthuse and excite children about science and books at the same time.
Perhaps your class would like to help choose the winning book? Maybe you facilitate a children’s book group that would like to try something different? Or perhaps you help run a club for young people (eg Scouts) and would like to spark their curiosity about science? If so, why not register now to become one of the judging panels for the Royal Society Young People’s Book Prize?
Judging panels can be in schools, libraries, science centres or youth groups: participation is open to any group able to read and discuss the shortlist and vote for what they think is the best book. Each judging panel (overseen by an adult) mirrors the short-listing panel, electing their own Chair, holding judging meetings, discussing the merits of each book and submitting their vote and comments. All participating groups have an equal say in deciding the winner. Each group receives a judging pack with all the information they need to take part. The results from all the groups are then collated by the Royal Society to determine the winner.
To become a judging panel for the Royal Society Young People’s Book Prize you’ll need to complete this online registration form. Registration to become a judging panel will close on Monday 25 April 2016.
I wholeheartedly encourage you to get involved! Last year, over 70% of the children who voted said the process changed their attitude towards both reading and science in a positive way and 100% said the experience was ‘enjoyable’ or ‘very enjoyable’. Here’s to great books and getting children and young people excited about science!