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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Science, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 1,203
1. Glow by W.H. Beck

Glow: Animals with Their Own Night Lights  by W.H. Beck Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016 Grades K-5 Children will be instantly attracted to the close-up photographs of unusual creatures contrasted on black backgrounds in Glow, a nonfiction picture book featuring bioluminescent animals such as lanternfish, atolla jellyfish, vampire fish and the glowing sucker octopus. Beck explains on the first

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2. The Cancer Moonshot

Announced on January 13th by President Obama in his eighth and final State of the Union Address, the multi-billion dollar project will be led by US Vice President, Joe Biden, who has a vested interest in seeing new cures for cancer. Using genomics to cure cancer is being held on par with JFK’s desire in 1961 to land men on the moon.

The post The Cancer Moonshot appeared first on OUPblog.

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3. The evolution of breathing tests

If a person is experiencing difficulty breathing comfortably, the chances are that the difficulty stays with them no matter what they’re doing, be it sitting, standing, or walking. So it’s not surprising that conventional scans or breathing tests, carried out with the patient lying on a couch or sitting in a chair, don’t always tell us what the problem is.

The post The evolution of breathing tests appeared first on OUPblog.

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4. How the Sun got to Coco’s House

sunfrontcoverGentle cadences full of poetry and quiet snapshots of the waking world fill How the Sun Got to Coco’s House by Bob Graham, one of my very favourite of all books published last year.

It playfully follows the sun as dawn breaks in different locations around the globe, introducing readers to all sorts of children and their families and showing a moment in time that we all love to experience whatever our backgrounds and wherever we are in the world: the delight that the first rays of sunshine can bring – the warmth, the hope, the sense of adventure and optimism. Eventually the sunshine makes it to Coco’s home, presaging a day of joyous outdoor play with friends, leaving readers with a gentle and lovely glow of joy and delight in something so simple and universal.

Graham’s storytelling is full of tiny but magical moments – capturing the sun shining on a kid’s bicycle bell or making shadows in the snowy footprints of a young child. Lyrical and understated, you’ll appreciate the first rays of sun you see after reading this in a brand new light (if you’ll pardon the pun).

Whilst capturing the drama of beams of light when all around is dark has been brilliantly achieved by others (for example Klassen’s illustrations for Lemony Snicket’s The Dark), Graham dazzles with his sunbeams even when they are surrounded by brightness. Equally successful in bringing focus and intensity to vast landscapes as capturing the epitome of personal warmth felt in homes, between loved ones, Graham’s soft, pastel-hued illustrations really bring the world alive, helping us find wonder again in the everyday.




Having delighted in How the Sun Got to Coco’s House I gave my kids a slip of paper with the word ORRERY on it. Words are such fun, and this one is a real delight. The challenge was to find out what an orrery is, why it’s relevant to this book and then to build (a simple) one. This treasure hunt introduced us to:

Charles Boyle, 4th Earl of Orrery, possibly after Charles Jervas oil on canvas, (1707) NPG 894 © National Portrait Gallery, London

Charles Boyle, 4th Earl of Orrery, possibly after Charles Jervas
oil on canvas, (1707)
NPG 894
© National Portrait Gallery, London

and to

Graham portrait" by Unknown - http://cosmone.com/timepiece/agenda/look-graham-london-legacy. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Graham_portrait.jpg#/media/File:Graham_portrait.jpg

“Graham portrait” by Unknown – http://cosmone.com/timepiece/agenda/look-graham-london-legacy. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Graham_portrait.jpg#/media/File:Graham_portrait.jpg

and then eventually led us to this:




and finally to this:



Watch our play in action!

This small orrery shows the relative movement of the moon around the earth, and the earth around the sun, enabling me to explain to my girls how it is not that the sun actually moves around the earth (the descriptions of the sun’s movements in How the Sun Got to Coco’s House might lead listeners to think that this is the case). Rather, what’s happening is that the surface of the earth facing the sun changes as the earth rotates, giving the illusion of the sun moving around the earth.

Now I can’t claim any of the honours for this fabulous orrery. During our treasure hunt for information about orreries we discovered the inspirational videos created by the amazing Mr Newham who works at Ivydale Primary School in South London. In this video he shows how to make a simple orrery with very basic materials:

What’s even more brilliant is that Mr Newham sells kits to make these orreries (and many other brilliant D&T projects) and so we thought we’d give one a go. At £6 I don’t think I could have bought the materials cheaper myself and the service provided by Ivydale Science & Technology Service (Mr Newham’s shop front) was super swift and efficient.

I don’t normally recommend specific products of companies but I can’t resist doing so in this case because the kit and service was so good, and what’s more, the kits are available for entire classes, or individually for families at home. I’ve ordered a whole selection of kits now and so far every one of them has been a huge hit with my girls. So a big hurrah for Mr Newham and the way he’s facilitated my kids (and me!) getting excited about all sorts of aspects of science, design and technology!

Whilst making our orrery and space background (by running our fingers over toothbrushes covered in white paint) we listened to:

  • Sunny Day by Elizabeth Mitchell
  • Here Comes The Sun by The Beatles
  • Sunshine Through My Window by Play Date
  • And all of our favourite science CD – Here Comes Science by They Might be Giants (you can hear a little accidentally in the background of our video above)

  • Other activities which would work well alongside reading How the Sun Got to Coco’s House include:

  • Investigating how plants will go to all sorts of ends to follow the sun, by making this bean maze
  • Playing with mirrors to direct sunlight where you want it. Be inspired by the communities in these valleys in Norway and Italy who alleviate winter darkness by redirecting the sun’s light with giant mirrors. Here’s a more fully fledged lesson plan for older kids which explores similar ground.
  • Carry out science experiments which require the sun. Here’s one to create clean(er) water. Here’s another which investigates UV light. Or what about this one which helps kids understand how sunscreen works?
  • If you liked this post you might like these other posts by me:

  • Solar powered jars of happiness (inspired by The Jar of Happiness by Ailsa Burrows)
  • Creating planets from polystyrene balls and marbling paints (inspired by The Usborne Big Book of Stars and Planets)
  • sunextras

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    Disclosure: I was sent a free review copy of this book by the publisher.

    3 Comments on How the Sun got to Coco’s House, last added: 1/22/2016
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    5. We should all eat more DNA

    2016 is here. The New Year is a time for renewal and resolution. It is also a time for dieting. Peak enrolment and attendance times at gyms occur after sumptuous holiday indulgences in December and again when beach wear is cracked out of cold storage in summer. As the obesity epidemic reaches across the globe we need new solutions. We need better ways to live healthy lifestyles.

    The post We should all eat more DNA appeared first on OUPblog.

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    6. New Year’s Eve fireworks cause a mass exodus of birds

    As the days get shorter, the Netherlands, a low lying waterlogged country, becomes a safe haven for approximately five million waders, gulls, ducks, and geese, which spend the winter here resting and foraging in fresh water lakes, wetlands, and along rivers. Many of these birds travel to the Netherlands from their breeding ranges in the Arctic.

    The post New Year’s Eve fireworks cause a mass exodus of birds appeared first on OUPblog.

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    7. Beyond Words

    cover artI learned amazing things about animals specifically elephants, wolves and killer whales, in Carl Safina’s book Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel. While I would love to babble on about elephant families, wolf hierarchies, and killer whale communication (and the fact that killer whales are actually dolphins!) I would be leading you astray. Even though the book focuses on these three species, with plenty of interjections about primates, dogs, bees and others, their lives are used as examples for a bigger discussion about whether animals think and feel.

    If you, like me, share your life and house with animals, you will immediately conclude that it is a no-brainer. Of course animals think and feel! For a very long time, however, science saw things differently (and they sometimes still do). To impute animals with individual thoughts and feelings, to grant them the ability of communication with us, we are very often told is anthropomorphizing them. This does a number of things. It neglects to take into account that humans are animals too, that we evolved from the same origins as every other creature on this planet and have a lot more in common than we often care to recognize. It also denies other animals agency over their own lives, turns them into lesser beings, and allows humans to treat them and their homes however we see fit.

    Scientists these days are keen on “theory of mind” and testing animals, often in artificial laboratory settings. Trouble is, there is not an agreed upon definition of what this idea means. Depending on who you ask it could range from “knowing another has thoughts different than yours” to “mind-reading abilities.” If the latter definition is used, and it is more frequently than one would think, then even humans fail to have a theory of mind.

    But of course, since we are the ones designing the tests we can say and do whatever we want to. And do we ever design terrible tests. In 1978 some researches testing theory of mind on some chimpanzees in a lab showed them videotapes of actors trying to get to out of reach bananas, trying to play a record on an unplugged record player, and shivering because the heater wasn’t working. The chimps were then supposed to choose a photo that showed the solution to the problem. Of course they failed the test and the researchers declared that chimpanzees have no theory of mind because they didn’t know about heaters and unplugged record players.

    Not only was the experiment a bad one, but Safina insists the question itself is pointless. What difference does it make whether an animal has theory of mind or not? Watch animals in their natural environment, living their lives as they are meant to live them and it becomes clear they understand themselves as individuals. There are a good many observations of incidents in which animals lie to each other. You can’t lie unless you know the one you are deceiving is also an individual.

    Part of the problem, of course, is that much of the time the humans conducting the studies are using humans as the standard. When an animal proves to not be human, it fails. Sometimes studies will say things like such and such an animal exhibits human-like qualities blah blah blah. Who made humans the measure of all things? We did. Who decided that humans were the gold standard to which all else had to meet or even exceed expectations? We did. Crowning ourselves as the peak of evolution gives us dominion over everything and justifies killing elephants for their tusks, wolves for sport, and forcing killer whales, dolphins and sea lions to entertain us at places like Sea World. And it soothes our guilty conscious when it comes to lab animals.

    Time after time Safina shows just what complex and varied lives the other animals we share this planet with live. To say the pleasure of an elephant enjoying a mud bath is unknowable or not the same as the pleasure I feel in a bubble bath discounts the feelings of the elephant. Of course we don’t know what the elephant’s pleasure feels like. Of course it is different than the pleasure I feel. But then, the pleasure you feel is different than mine too and just as unknowable to me as that of the elephant’s. To require en elephant experience pleasure just like I do in order for science to even credit the elephant with having feelings is ridiculous.

    To acknowledge animals as thinking and feeling individuals would mean we humans aren’t as special as we like to think we are. It would mean recognizing the wrongs we have done and continue to do to fellow animals. It would mean stepping down from the throne to share the planet and its resources with all the other animals and granting them the rights they deserve.

    I freely admit that Safina didn’t have to prove anything to me. I have lived with animals — cats, dogs, birds, a turtle— my whole life and I am astonished that there are people who believe animals neither think nor have feelings. I cried several times while reading Beyond Words over the cruelty humans inflict on the world and how we don’t care what effect it has on the families of other animals. There is my bias. You may feel differently and need some convincing.

    Safina is always careful in his observations. He has a PhD in ecology from Rutgers University and holds the endowed chair for nature and humanity at Stony Brook University. In other words, he is a scientist and conducts himself as such throughout the book. His writing style, however, is relaxed, non-academic, clear and without flourish but enjoyable and well-paced. Beyond Words is a fascinating book and it will either confirm what you already know about animals or it will challenge you to see them differently.

    Filed under: Books, Nonfiction, Reviews, Science Tagged: Carl Safina

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    8. How is snow formed? [infographic]

    Every winter the child inside us hopes for snow. It brings with it the potential for days off work and school, the chance to make snowmen, create snow angels, and have snowball fights with anyone that might happen to walk past. But as the snow falls have you ever wondered how it is formed? What goes on in the clouds high above our heads to make these snowflakes come to life?

    The post How is snow formed? [infographic] appeared first on OUPblog.

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    9. GLOW: Animals with Their Own Night-Lights by W. H. Beck

    I absolutely love GLOW by W. H. Beck, both for the subject matter and the playful way in which she presents it. Beck introduces readers to the word bioluminescence then walks them through the natural world, on land an in water, examining creatures that have this rare quality as well as the hows and whys as to their glow. GLOW, which is filled with stunning photographs on a black background, works on two levels, making it perfect for a wide age range of listeners and readers. Text in a larger font is informative and inquisitive while smaller text provides more details older readers will find intriguing, like the names of the creatures and why they make light.

    Beck informs readers early on that the majority of bioluminescent animals live in the water because sunlight can't reach very far under the waves. On the page with the glowing sucker octopus, seen above, the smaller text lets readers know that water covers two-thirds of the earth and that 80% of all life forms are found in the ocean.

    An aspect of GLOW that I found especially fascinating comes in the back matter where Beck tells readers that most bioluminescent animals are the size of an apple or smaller. Because of their size and habitat, they are incredibly hard to photograph. Because of this, Beck includes an index of the animals found in the book with their name, size and the depth at which they can be found. The images that go with this information, like the two above, are drawings that highlight the areas where the bioluminescence occurs. GLOW is the perfect introduction to this amazing aspect of the natural world that is sure to spark further inquiry in readers of all ages!

    Source: Review Copy

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    10. Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine by Laurie Wallmark, illustrated by April Chu, 40pp, RL 3

    It's pretty cool that, on the 200th anniversary of her birth, there have been three books (fiction, graphic novel and narrative non-fiction) published featuring Ada Lovelace. Ada Byron Lovelace is the person considered by many to be the inventor of computer programming and also the daughter of notorious romantic poet Lord Byron. She's also a wonderful role model in this age of GlodieBlox, STEM and Rosie Revere, Engineer. Happily, Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine by Laurie Wallmark and illustrated by April Chu, the third book featuring Ada Lovelace to be published this year, is a biographical picture book that is accessible to readers of all ages. Chu's illustrations are filled with life and movement (and Ada's loyal cat by her side for most of the book) and call to mind the work of Brian Selznick. Add to this the fact that Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine is published by Creston Books, a relatively new publisher dedicated to putting out a broad range of quality picture books - that are printed in the United States - and you have an absolutely gorgeous book in your hands!

    It seems perfectly fitting that a picture book biography of Ada Byron Lovelace be written by a teacher of computer science and illustrated by an architect. Wallmark focuses on aspects of Lovelace's life in a way that will appeal to young readers, beginning with the fact that, while her father was a famous writer, and "Ada was born into a world of poetry," it was "numbers, not words, that captured her imagination." She goes on to share that Ada's mother, who had a passion for geometry, was called the "Princess of Parallelograms." As a child, Ada was fascinated by birds and flight and, through a series of equations and observations, she builds a set of real wings.

    Wallmark goes on to write of the case of measles that temporarily blinded and paralyzed Ada. Her full recovery took three years, but her mother was always at her bedside, keeping her mind sharp with mathematical problems. When Ada was ready, her mother hired Mary Fairfax Sommerville, the well known scientist and mathematician who, as Wallmark writes, "was living proof that girls could do math and do it well." It's hard to imagine a time in recent history when this needed to be proved and yet, 200 years later, there is still such a noticeable dearth of women in the sciences that newspaper articles are written about it, organizations and scholarships are created to reverse this and special "girl versions" of engineering toys are created to address this.

    Through Sommerville, Ada makes new connections in the world of mathematics and science, including Charles Babbage, the man who originated the concept of the programmable computer. It was Ada Lovelace who, after poring over Babbage's thirty lab books filled with notes about his Analytical Engine, discovered that, without mathematical instructions, the machine would be a "useless pile of metal parts." Babbage never finished his Analytical Machine, so Lovelace never got to see her program run. But, as the final page of Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine tells us, more than "one hundred years beofre the invention of the modern computer, Ada had glimpsed the future and created a new profession - computer programming." What's more, Ada was not lost to the pages of history. There is a computer language named after her and it is used, most appropriately, to guide modern flying machines. I hope that Wallmark and Chu have another book about Lovelace in the works, one that will delve a bit deeper into the Analytical Machine itself, and possibly more about what Lovelace's adult life was like living as a lady mathematician in London in the 1850s.

    Other books about Ada, or with Ada as an (anachronistic) character...

    The Wollstonecraft Detective Agency: The Case of the Missing Moonstone by Jordan Stratford, illustrated by Kelly Murphy

    The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage by Sydney Padua 
    (review to come!)

    Source: Review Copy

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    11. How to Swallow a Pig

    How to Swallow a Pig: Step-by-Step Advice from the Animal Kingdom by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015 Grades K-5 ISBN: 978-0-544-31365-1 In classic Jenkins/Page style, How to Swallow a Pig captivates readers with colorful, cut paper collage and interesting science facts. This highly engaging and informative nonfiction picture books uses a sequence text structure to

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    12. Secret Coders Book 1: Get With the Program! by Gene Luen Yang & Mike Holmes, 88 pp, RL 4

    Binary code. Computer programming. New town and new school. Gene Luen Yang, graphic novelist extraordinaire, is great storyteller, whatever subject he focuses on. Yang moves with ease from literary historical fiction like Boxers & Saints, to superheroes, like The Shadow Hero, Avatar, the Last Airbender and Superman, and on to everyday life, like Level Up, American Born Chinese, and The Eternal Smile. As a former high school computer science teacher, who made comics at night, Yang is a big supporter of teacher kids to code at an early age and his newest graphic novel seriesSecret Coders: Get With the Program!, created with Mike Holmes, bringing what Yang calls a "Saturday morning energy" to it, does just that.is designed to do just that. There is even an excellent website for the book filled with great instructional videos, coding activities, including a downloadable file that lets you create Little Guy, the robot from the book, on a 3D printer!

    Stately Academy, the setting of Secret Coders: Get With the Program!, is a bit like Hogwarts. As Yang says, it's a secret school that "teaches coding instead of magic." And, as Yang points out, coding is even better than magic because you can do it at home! Hopper is new to the slightly creepy, sort of mysterious Stately Academy. She gets pudding chucked at her head, makes a fool of herself in Mandarin class and at lunch her earrings, shaped like the number 7, trigger a startling reaction in a weird bird.

    Seeing this oddity, Eni, son of a software engineer, comes over to investigate. Besides having some mad skills on the basketball court, Eni has a solid grasp of binary numbers and explains the controlling binary code to Hopper with a cool demonstration using pennies and chalk. Once Hopper gets it, the two experiment on the bird and begin to understand why the number 9 appears all over the school. There seem to be secret codes everywhere at Stately Academy and as Eni, his buddy Josh and Hopper break them they travel deeper and deeper into the secrets of the school and the crusty old janitor, Mr. Bee.

    Some secrets are exposed and even more are unearthed by the end of Secret Coders: Get With the Program!, which has a bit of a cliffhanger. Book 1 is a great set up, focusing on making sure that readers understand binary code (over more character  and plot development) before moving on to the next book in the series, Secret Coders: Paths & Portals, which comes out in January of 2016!

    Source: Review Copy

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    13. Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine

    Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine  by Laurie Wallmark illustrated by April Chu Creston Books, 2015 Grades 2-5 ISBN: 978-1-939547-20-0 This week is Computer Science in Education Week. Thousands of students across the country will take part in the Hour of Code and learn about computer programming.  Last year I assembled a display of books in my school library to promote Computer Science

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    14. Ellen Swallow Richards for Seattle Review of Books

    Each week I feature a different author portrait in this Seattle Review of Books column "Portrait Gallery."

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    15. The magic of Christmas: it’s Santa’s DNA

    Knowledge that we all have DNA and what this means is getting around. The informed public is well aware that our cells run on DNA software called the genome. This software is passed from parent to child, in the long line of evolutionary history that dates back billions of years – in fact, research published this year pushes back the origin of life on Earth another 300 million years.

    The post The magic of Christmas: it’s Santa’s DNA appeared first on OUPblog.

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    16. Sally Ride: a photography of America’s pioneering woman in space by Tam O’Shaughnessy

    Sally Ride: a photography of America’s pioneering woman in space Tam O’Shaughnessy Roaring Brook Press. 2015 ISBN: 9781596439948 Grades 6-12 I received a copy of this book from the publisher This review reflects my own opinion and not that of the 2015 Cybils Committee. The story of Sally Ride is lovingly shared by her friend and life partner, Tam O’Shaughnessy. The two met when

    0 Comments on Sally Ride: a photography of America’s pioneering woman in space by Tam O’Shaughnessy as of 11/30/2015 6:21:00 AM
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    17. Wine and DNA profiling

    In ampelographic collections, about ten living plants of each grape variety or clone are kept alive for future studies or plantings, which requires a large amount of time and money. Yet, in every collection we estimate an average of 5% of labelling errors. They can now be identified with DNA profiling and duplicates can be eliminated, thus saving time and money.

    The post Wine and DNA profiling appeared first on OUPblog.

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    18. Climate change and the Paris Conference: is the UNFCCC process flawed?

    As representatives from 146 countries gather in Paris for the 2015 UN Climate Change Conference, we’ve turned to our Very Short Introduction series for insight into the process, politics and topics of discussion of the conference. Is the UNFCCC process flawed?

    The post Climate change and the Paris Conference: is the UNFCCC process flawed? appeared first on OUPblog.

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    19. The Angelina Jolie effect

    It is hard to quantify the impact of ‘role-model’ celebrities on the acceptance and uptake of genetic testing and bio-literacy, but it is surely significant. Angelina Jolie is an Oscar-winning actress, Brad Pitt’s other half, mother, humanitarian, and now a “DNA celebrity”. She propelled the topic of familial breast cancer, female prophylactic surgery, and DNA testing to the fore.

    The post The Angelina Jolie effect appeared first on OUPblog.

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    Overturning Wrongful Convictions: science serving justice by Elizabeth A. Murray, PhD Twenty-First Century Books. 2015 ISBN: 9781467725132 Grades 8-12 I borrowed a copy of this book from my local public library. This is a Cybils book. The opinion expressed in this review is mine, not the committee's. Being wrongfully convicted of a crime you didn’t commit and spending years

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    21. Research for the developing world: Moving from development studies toward global science

    Research for the developing world is the application of science to the challenges facing poor people and places. In the 20th century, such research fell into two camps.

    The post Research for the developing world: Moving from development studies toward global science appeared first on OUPblog.

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    22. The impact of On the Origin of Species

    Charles Darwin was widely known as a travel writer and natural historian in the twenty years before On the Origin of Species appeared in 1859. The Voyage of the Beagle was a great popular success in the 1830s. But the radical theories developed in the Origin had been developed more or less in secret during those intervening twenty years.

    The post The impact of On the Origin of Species appeared first on OUPblog.

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    23. How to Swallow a Pig: Step-By-Step Advice from the Animal Kingdom by Steve Jenkins & Robin Page

    I don't know how Steve Jenkins & Robin Page make book after book visually stunning book that is educational and completely engaging. How to Swallow a Pig: Step-By-Step Advice from the Animal Kingdom shows readers how animals do everything from sew, dance, farm and decorate to trap fish, crack a nut and woo an ewe. And, of course, saving the most sensational for last, how to swallow a pig.

    One thing that Jenkins and Page excel at, beyond Jenkins's fantastic cut-and-tear collage illustrations, is keeping things simple. Most instructions have five or fewer  steps, although learning how to spin a web takes seven. Jenkins and Page are also great at finding lesser known animals to feature. The satin bowerbird who likes to decorate his nest with blue objects and the mimic octopus are among the many intriguing animals with curious behaviors. And, as always, the backmatter in every Jenkins & Page book is almost as interesting as the book itself.

    Reviews of more books by Jenkins & Page HERE!

    Source: Review Copy

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    24. The case for chemistry

    What is all around us, terrifies a lot of people, but adds enormously to the quality of life? Answer: chemistry. Almost everything that happens in the world, in transport, throughout agriculture and industry, to the flexing of a muscle and the framing of a thought involves chemical reactions in which one substance changes into another.

    The post The case for chemistry appeared first on OUPblog.

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    25. A Chicken Followed Me Home!

    A Chicken Followed Me Home!: Questions and Answers About a Familiar Fowl   by Robin Page Beach Lane Books, 2015 ISBN: 978-1-4814-1028-1 Grades K-3 The reviewer received a copy of the book from the publisher. Robin Page is known for collaborating with Steven Jenkins on nonfiction picture books such as What Do You Do With a Tail Like This?,  My First Day, Time to Eat and How to Clean a

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