Posted in Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

#HomesCool for Littles: Board Books with a mission!

I’ve been thoroughly enjoying the great board books that are loaded with learning activities for tiny hands to explore. Turning wheels, sliding panels, flaps, these books are filled with fun and imagination. Let’s take a look at a few.

Turn•Seek•Find: Habitats, by Ben Newman, (Feb. 2021, Twirl), $14.99, ISBN: 9782408019693

Ages 3-5

Perfect for preschoolers, this larger board book (11″x9.5″) takes readers on a journey to five different areas – the African Savanna, the Ice Field, the Indian Jungle, the Pacific Island, and the Big City – and talks a little about the kind of habitat each one provides, along with fun seek and find activities at the turn of a wheel. Two wheels on each spread encourages readers to discover different items and colors within the spreads. The artwork is bright and cold, with eye-catching colors and details that kiddos will love exploring. Perfect for cultivating observation skills and fine motor skills, the book is sturdy and will hold up to multiple readings. Find books and facts about each spread to encourage littles to go deeper and learn more. Ask kids what they recognize from the spreads and encourage them to find out more about things that may be new. Never seen a baobab tree before? Look it up on kid-friendly sites like National Geographic and find books like John Archambault’s By the Baobab Tree. There are so many ways to encourage and extend learning with a fun book like this; let it be your jumping-off point and follow your little’s interests.

 

Matching Game Book: Bugs and Other Little Critters, by Stéphanie Babin/Illustrated by Manu Callejón (March 2021, Twirl Books), $16.99, ISBN: 9782408024659
Ages 3-5
Another fun, larger-sized board book with activities to keep little brains busy! Meet the bugs that live in the meadow, at the pond, in the forest, in the ground, and in the dark! Sliding panels allow kids to play a memory game on each spread, and additional suggested activities encourage kids to play seek and find, I Spy, and Hide and Seek. Panels slide easily back and forth; no struggles here. The insects are cute, with big, expressive eyes and are colorful and kid-friendly. Excellent manipulation for fine motor skills, and pair with Eric Carle books like The Very Grouchy Ladybug and The Very Lonely Firefly. Bob Barner’s Bugs, Bugs, Bugs! is a great choice, too. There are so many “Buggie Books”, as my Kiddo used to refer to them, out there  – just ask your favorite librarian! The Spruce Crafts has some adorable and easy bug-related crafts, too: I’m partial to the ladybug hat and firefly suncatcher.
Animal Friends 1 2 3, by Christophe Loupy/Illustrated by Shunsake Satake, (Feb. 2021, Twirl Books), $14.99, ISBN: 9782408024680
Ages 3-5
A lift-the-flap counting book with a fun spin, Animal Friends 1 2 3 has a fun question-and-answer format that encourages readers’ curiosity: “5 little bears are busy picking blueberries. 2 got a wee bit hungry!”  The facing spread has five little smiling bears sitting among minimalist blueberry trees. Easy-to-lift flaps reveal two bears snacking on blueberries. Colored dots run across the bottom of each spread, adding a fun visual component. The story also includes basic addition skills, with a group of 4 mice inviting groups of friends to their party, and increasing their number: “‘Let’s invite our 4 performer friends!’ says the fourth mouse. ‘With them, there will be 9 of us. They can show us magic tricks!'” Flaps will reveal the four friends, while dots across the bottom of the page will account for all nine characters. Good for preschoolers developing their math skills and toddlers who are learning their 123s. There are so many great printables for little counters available. Teaching 2 and 3 Year Olds has some fun printables, On Teachers Pay Teachers, Play to Learn Preschool has a fun apple counting printable, and Kamp Kindergarten has an adorable school bus clip and count activity.
Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, gaming, Science Fiction, Steampunk, Tween Reads

Here it is… The First Holiday Gift Guide of the Season!

Finally, right? Here is my little contribution to the holiday season’s gift guides: a few of these over the next couple of weeks, as I try to match my Reader’s Advisory skills with my love of gifty books and book-adjacent goodies.

Build a Skyscraper, by Paul Farrell, (Sept. 2020, Pavilion Children’s Books), $19.69, ISBN: 978-1843654742

Ages 3-8

If you haven’t played with Paul Farrell’s Build a Castle, you have been missing out, but no worries: just in time for the holidays, he’s released Build a Skyscraper, the next in his series of graphic-designed cards that let you and your kiddos create the skyscraper of your dreams. The box contains 64 cards with slots cut to let you build and expand your building in any way you like. Add glass, decorative elements and flourishes, and build up or out. It’s all up to your little one! Perfect for stocking stuffers, this is great for hours of play and you can build a new skyscraper each time. An 8-page booklet contains some inspiration and descriptions of skyscraper elements. Get out the minifigs and let them move into a new neighborhood!

Elevator Up card game, (2020), $9.99

Ages 7+

Created by a 17-year-old, Elevator Up is – in the words of creator Harrison Brooks – “kid-created, kid-designed, kid-marketed, kid-shipped, and kid-loved card game”. It’s pretty easy to pick up, fast-paced, and way too much fun to play. The goal is to be the first player to get rid of all your cards as your elevator rides through a building. You can use cards to get your opponents stuck, sent back down to the lobby, or have the doors closed on them. There are a lot of laughs to be had – my Kiddo loves closing the door on his older brothers – and the chance for friendly trash talk is high. Support indie game makers and kid creators, give this one a look. For more information, check out the game website at PlayElevatorUp.com.

 

Lost in the Imagination: A Journey Through Nine Worlds in Nine Nights, by Hiawyn Oram/Illustrated by David Wyatt, (Oct. 2020, Candlewick Studio), $19.99, ISBN: 9781536210736

Ages 8-12

This book is just amazing, perfect for the reader always looking for new worlds and new adventures. Taken from the “found” journals of the late theoretical physicist Dawn Gable, the book is an armchair adventure: writing, drawings, research, and keepsakes from Dr. Gable’s nightly journeys into fantastic worlds: Asgard, Camelot, The Lost City of Kôr, and a city of machines, Meganopolis, are only a handful of the worlds explored here. Fantasy artwork brings readers from the fantasy of Camelot, with knights and shields, to the steampunk mechanical world of Meganopolis; dragons fly around Wyvern Alley, with fantastic beasts sketched on journal pages to delight and entice, and the ancient ruins of Atlantis wait for readers in its underwater kingdom, with squid and nautiluses. Perfect for your fantasy fans and anyone who loves the “Ology” series by Dugald Steer. Books like this are a gateway to more reading, so have some Tales of Asgard and Thor on hand, Gulliver’s Travels, or Tales of King Arthur handy.

Keeping this short and sweet, but there is much more to come!
Posted in Intermediate, Non-Fiction

Books from Quarantine: Tag Your Dreams!

Tag Your Dreams: Poems of Play and Persistence, by Jacqueline Jules/Illustrated by Iris Deppe, (Apr. 2020, Albert Whitman & Company), $17.99, ISBN: 9780807567265

Ages 7-10

I’m getting that TBR under control a little more every day! Tag Your Dreams is a book of poetry about sports and play for kids, but it’s more than that. These are poems about endurance, self-esteem, community, and reaching goals. It’s about a girl reaching out to a new friend by reciting a rhyme that her Guatemalan grandmother taught her (“Clapping  Hands”); it’s about a girl, swimming gracefully, mermaid-like, as she remembers being bullied for her weight earlier that day (“Mermaid Manatee”); a father and son cruising through a park on matching scooters (“Kick Scooters”), and a playground where “Spanish jumps just as high as English” as the kids skip rope and sing together. A multicultural group of adults and kids come together on these pages to play, to laugh, and to inspire readers. Jacqueline Jules, award-winning author of the Zapato Power and Sofia Martinez book series, created 31 poems about the power of play and the power of persistence to motivate readers: motivate them to play, motivate them to embrace themselves, and work as part of a team while striving to be their best. Iris Deppe’s colorful artwork shows children and grown-ups together in various stages of play: clapping hands underneath a tree, reaching for a ball in the outfield, or walking a trail with grandparents. A nice addition to poetry collections, with positive messages that we need more than ever these days.

Jacqueline Jules’s author webpage has information about her books and plenty of free, downloadable activities connected to her books.

Posted in Early Reader, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Non-Fiction, Non-Fiction, Preschool Reads

Read, Learn & Create: The Nature Craft Book is great for kids!

Hi, all! I know my posting schedule has been off the last several weeks, and I ask you all to bear with me. I’ve received a promotion and am getting into the swing of things at my new library (actually one of my first; I went back to my home away from home in Corona). I’ve been reading and furiously scribbling notes, though! More on the new digs shortly. For now, it’s back to my reviews!

The Nature Craft Book, by Clare Beaton, (May 2019, Charlesbridge), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1-58089-843-0

Ages 3=

I LOVE nature crafts, and I love easy nature crafts. My first grader has a real love for wandering the neighborhood, collecting various leaves, snail shells, sticks, rocks… anything that strikes his fancy, and we’ve gone on some great nature walks in our neighborhood and local parks. I even brought home acorns from Rochester, NY for him when I was there for a library conference. He loved them!

The Nature Craft Book is part of Charlesbridge’s Read, Learn & Create series (there’s an Ocean Craft Book, too!) is is loaded with ideas, templates, and facts for you and your kids to enjoy. Every craft is created with a respect for nature and our environment; a note at the beginning mentions that “it’s hard for some plants and creatures to survive where factories or farms have replaced wild places”, and encourages kids to “attract wildlife” by planting wildlife-friendly plants and flowers, putting water out for birds, and keeping nature journals. It fosters a real love and respect for our world. Activities include different bird feeders, toilet paper tube owls, leaf printing, animal finger puppets. The crafts give us a chance to reuse household objects like yogurt containers, hangers, and tissue boxes, and to create with found objects like pine combs and twigs. Even little crafters can get in on the fun, coloring and creating simple, enjoyable art.  Facts about birds, freshwater wildlife, raccoons, and other wildlife give readers a quick, overall idea of different animals and plants. The crafts are easy and can be done on a budget, which makes this spot-on for me at home or at work. My kiddo and I have already created a couple of craft projects from here and are planning winter bird feeders for our backyard. The collage artwork is adorable and labeled to introduce kids to different kinds of animals, trees, and leaves.

Grab this series for your shelves. I know I will.

Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Non-Fiction, picture books, Preschool Reads

Last minute gift shopping? Books are easy to wrap!

Okay, the big days are coming, and you still need a gift or two – maybe your kid’s got a last-minute gift to get, or you don’t want to show up to a party empty-handed for any kids in the house. Check out some more of these gifts books for some guaranteed entertainment!

Where’s the Architect? From Pyramids to Skyscrapers: An Architecture Look and Find Book, by Susanne Rebscher/Illustrations by Annabelle von Sperber, (Oct. 2018, Prestel Publishing), $19.95, ISBN: 978-3-7913-7301-0

Ages 4-10

This one is like I Spy, but with architecture. Readers can join two kids – Ben and Mia – and two little monkey escorts on an adventure around the world! View 12 beautiful works of architecture, learn a little bit about each, and find some cool objects and people along the way. Count ravens at London’s The Tower of London; see an exhibition at the Moscow Metro, and take in a concert at Sydney’s Opera House. Artwork is full-color and there’s always something to see. Back matter offers more information on each of the structures, a timeline of construction, and a glossary of terms. Endpapers add to the fun with a world map sporting numbers for each structure’s location, and beautiful artwork featuring Ben and Mia riding a Chinese dragon. This one’s a fun gift for your seek and find fans and can pair with some Legos – let kids build their own structures!

Star Wars: Millennium Falcon Book and Mega Model, (Oct. 2018, Fun Studio International), $17.99, ISBN: 978-0794442071

Ages 8-12

Okay, this is just too much fun. Build your own Millennium Falcon model with this book-model combo! Punch out the laminated stock pieces, and assemble using the attached book, which includes instructions and some Falcon history: stats on previous Falcon pilots, ports of call, and key movie moments where the ship played a big part. Activities abound here: starship Sudoku, Hoth escape maze, and draw your own spaceship. The model assembly is a little fiddly, so younger fingers will need some help from older readers. The accompanying volume is slim, but loaded with facts and fun, making this a gift Star Wars fans will love.

 

I Am a Wonder Woman: Inspiring Activities to Try, Incredible Women to Discover, by Ellen Bailey, (Sept. 2018, Portable Press), $14.99, ISBN: 978-1684125487

Ages 8-12

Activity books are a great go-to gift, and I Am a Wonder Woman is right up there, mixing a bit of nonfiction with thought-provoking, fun activities. There are profiles of 60 women who’ve made their mark on history, all with accompanying activities. Make a diary entry like Anne Frank; work on your suffragist buttons and newspaper articles with Emmaline Pankhurst and Kate Sheppard; plant a tree like Nobel Prize winner Wangari Maathai. There are familiar names here: Anne Frank, Jane Goodall, and Helen Keller; and new names, including artist Artemisia Gentileschi, whose story was recently told in the award-winning YA novel, Blood Water Paint. Two-color illustrations throughout make this a fun, smart bet for a gift book.

 

Another Monster at the End of This Book: An Interactive Adventure, by Jon Stone, (Sept. 2018, Fun Studio International), $14.99, ISBN: 978-0794441746

Ages 3-5

My favorite book of all time has been, and always will be, The Monster at the End of This Book, Starring Lovable, Furry Old Grover. I have the best memories of my mom reading this to my 4- and 5-year old self, and of the two of us giggling together as Grover’s nervous breakdown increased with each turn of the (barricaded) page, bringing us closer to the Monster at the End of the Book – which was, as you may have guessed, Grover himself. I’ve read this book to my own  kids, and added another monster to the mix, when Elmo joined Grover in 1999 for Another Monster at the End of This Book. Now, we’ve got an interactive update to Another Monster, complete with magnetic book locks, flaps to explore, and pop-ups to surprise. It’s an adorable update to a classic kids’ book, and a perfect gift for the holidays.

 

Happy Shopping, and Happy Holidays!

Posted in geek culture

Help! What do I do with these kids on Thanksgiving?

Are you facing down a day with restless kids? Dreading hearing the inevitable…

I hear you. That’s why I’m loading up on goodies to keep around the house when my 6-year-old starts up. (I can put the older two to work; they’re in high school and college.)

 

First off, Pinterest is a lifesaver. I’ve linked to a “Thanksgiving Crafts for Kids” search, so you can see a smidgen of the ideas waiting for you, most of which can be accomplished with stuff around the house. Toilet paper rolls? GODSEND. They can be turkey bodies; they can be Batman gauntlets or Wonder Woman bracelets; they can be snowmen, they can be anything! Stock up, have construction paper, scissors, glue sticks, and watercolor paints on hand (and newspaper to protect your table). The kids will love the chance to create.

Print out a bunch of pictures for coloring, and leave ’em around with crayons and colored pencils. Crayola has a bunch of Thanksgiving pictures, Hanukkah pictures, and Kwanzaa pictures, plus printables that let kids cut out and create their own turkeys, and even Thanksgiving Bingo! for a family game. Sesame Street’s got fantastic printables, including activities and different holidays; so does Disney Family.

Of course I have books! This is a book blog!

Around the World in 80 Puzzles, by Aleksandra Artymowska, (Sept. 2018, Candlewick), $19.99, ISBN: 9781536203080

Ages 7-10

Puzzles!!! Who doesn’t have love puzzles? These aren’t your regular old crossword, word search, or Hidden Picture puzzles, though. These are puzzles made into an art form. Inspired by Jules Verne’s classic, Around the World in 80 Days, these puzzles feature steam trains, sailboats, parachutes, gliders, zeppelins, and more to take readers around the world. Each puzzle takes up a two-page spread and offers visual challenges to readers: find the safe path through a canyon that will avoid scorpions; discover lizards hiding in breathtaking Islamic architecture, or wander through jungle vines, in search of snakes and parrots. All mazes are in full-color and star a young boy who starts readers off on the adventure as he sits, reading, in his treehouse and grabs onto a balloon; the adventure ends when the balloon returns him to his little hideaway. The answers are at the back of the book, but that’s no fun! Get family members working together to solve the mysteries.

Santa Claus: The Book of Secrets Christmas Coloring Book, created by Russell Ince, (2013), $11.00, ISBN: 089945589887

My friend picked this coloring book up at BookExpo this year, and I’m so glad she did. There are some beautiful Christmas pictures to color in this book; from Nutcrackers to Santa; holly mandalas and knotwork ornaments; Christmas stockings and presents. My little guy and I broke this out the other night and just went at it. There really is something soothing about coloring, and these meditative Christmas designs bring back memories of old-fashioned Christmases. If you can grab a copy for yourself, leave this one out and let the grownups and kids pair up together for some impressive artwork.

Games are great to get everyone going after the turkey coma threatens to kick in. We’re big on tabletop gaming in my family, so I’ve got a bunch handy, across age groups.

Machi Koro is a Pandasaurus/IDW Game that’s a big favorite with my older kids and me. (Me, primarily, because I love watching the two of them trash talk one another as they try to outdo one another). Think Monopoly, but faster-paced and with 100% more opportunity for smack talk. You’re the mayor of Machi Koro, an up-and-coming city, and you’ve got your work cut out for you: develop the city into the largest city in the region. It’s card and dice-based, for 2-4 players. We have the Harbor Expansion, which adds some more cards to the game and provides a few new building opportunities.

King of Tokyo is a board and dice-based game for 2-6 players. Because who doesn’t want to be a giant monster that destroys Tokyo? My littlest guy gets in there with the rest of us, no problem; one of us helps read the cards with him, but really, this game is about the dice and the hit points your monster can take. Actually getting hold of Tokyo is only part of the battle: fighting to keep it is quite another story!

Monsters in the Elevator is one of our favorites. It’s a cooperative game that brings math to the table. You’ve got a bunch of monsters, each with a different weight. You’ve got an elevator that goes up 20 floors. Monsters get on, monsters get off; monsters pass gas and clear out, monsters rush in to get to their destinations. You need to get that elevator up to the 20th floor, safely, so you need to keep your math skills sharp and maintain that weight! You can easily accommodate between 2 and 10 players, but I’d say anywhere between 3-6 is the best number. Younger kids can easily play this with help.

I couldn’t talk tabletop games without mentioning my first grader’s favorite game, Nightmarium. This one is fantastic for pre-readers all the way up to teens and adults. It’s a card-based game, and each monster comes in three parts: you have feet cards, body cards, and head cards. Monsters need to be built from the feet up, and you need to build five to win. Once you complete a monster, they have certain abilities that activate for that turn, depending on the cards making them up. We play this one a lot. It’s hilarious, and can be quite cutthroat. Enjoy.

 

Posted in Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Tween Reads

Solve This! Engineering challenges for kids!

Solve This! Wild and Wacky Challenges for the Genius Engineer in You, by Joan Marie Galat, (March 2018, NatGeo Kids), $16.99, ISBN: 9781426327322

Ages 8-13

Another STEM/STEAM hit from NatGeo Kids, Solve This gets kids thinking about wacky ways to solve life’s little challenges. Need to soundproof your room for a sleepover? How about protecting your candy stash? NatGeo Kids has your back, with 14 engineering challenges that will make readers laugh and think, “Hmm… but what if hot sauce did get in the swimming pool?”

Organized into three sections, the book first introduces readers to engineers and the science of engineering, with discussions on different types of engineers and an overview of the engineering process. The fun stuff – the challenges! – happens in the Solve This! section, starting with an introduction to the Solution Panel: 13 wonderfully diverse scientists and the author. They took these challenges and offer their own tips and tricks to help kids along in the most kid-friendly and often non-conventional ways. Solutions are sketched out, putting the panel’s money where their mouths are: a kid can look at these sketches and easily work things out. Engineering Our World gives some real-life engineering successes and flops, plus a look at what we can expect from engineering in the future. Back matter includes further resources, a glossary, and an index.

STEM/STEAM fans, this is the book for you. Science classes, library programs, trying not to blow up the basement at home; this is a book you can use anywhere. Discovery Clubs, where are you? This is an entire season’s worth of library programming! A nice add to nonfiction collections and for kids who love tinkering. A handy reference to have when kids come in asking for books on simple machines, too – I have some great ones for the little learners, but this will be a good add to my middle graders’ shelves.

Posted in Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Tween Reads

Get outside with your pup… for science! Dog Science Unleashed gives you ideas!

Dog Science Unleashed: Fun Activities To Do With Your Canine Companion, by Jodi Wheeler-Toppen/Photographs by Matthew Rakola, (Aug. 2018, National Geographic Kids), $12.99, ISBN: 9781426331534

Ages 8-13

Dog lovers and science fans will dive right into this NatGeo book that teaches kids all about their canine companions. There are 22 “safe and dog-friendly” activities in this volume, tested by 15 kid scientists and their pups, that will teach readers about their dogs’ senses, fitness, behavior, and grooming habits. There is a big emphasis on safety here, since we are talking about working and playing with dogs: notes to parents and kids remind readers about the importance of safety for humans and dogs alike, and if your dog isn’t into the activity you want to do? Respect the dog and walk away.

Every activity has a difficulty level and approximate active time, so you can gauge your energy and your dog’s energy. (When I’m half asleep first thing in the morning, my pup may be ready for a 15 minute race to see who’s faster, but I can assure you, I am not.) There are great color photos of dogs and humans being scientists together, and great callout facts to be discovered (and now I know why dogs have those slits on their noses). It’s a great way to bond with your dog and spend time learning together. A fun add to your nonfiction books, and a good gift for a dog and his or her human.

Posted in Non-Fiction

My Wild Activity Book is BIG fun for kids!

My First Wild Activity Book, by Maxime Lebrun, (Jan. 2018, Silver Dolphin), $12.99, ISBN: 9781626869578

Ages 4+

This activity book on animals and their habitats is packed with things to do and make! Inviting kids on an adventure, the book begins with a challenge: take a journey through seven habitats around the world, and offers kids the chance to write their own profiles and draw a self-portrait. From there, the game is on! Readers can work their way through the seven habitats: rain forests, deserts, oceans, the mountains, forests, the savanna, and the polar ice by enjoying search and find activities across fold-out spreads, mazes, connect-the-dots and matching games, coloring sheets, and spot the difference challenges. There are loads of facts throughout the book, and each habitat offers a “think outside of the book” activity that parents, caregivers, and educators can enjoy with the kiddos! Sticker badges for each habitat add a little passport-y punch to the book, and two pages of animal stickers (seriously, so. many. stickers) lets readers go wild on the spreads, or, if you’ve got a kid like mine, his bed, the walls in his room, and, in one case, my laptop.

My son went through this book in just shy of a day and a half, and that’s only because I begged for mercy to make dinner when he was halfway through. We had a great time working on these activities and coloring the pages together, and our next step is to work on a few of the “outside of the book” activities: should we make a leaf collage first, or liberate some of our renegade socks, to make a snake? Maybe we’ll go for the paper plate aquarium! This one is absolute fun for families, and the projects are great for a STEM or Discovery Club at the library or in school. It’s a fun way to enhance natural science learning.

There’s a free maze and “spot the differences” printable at Silver Dolphin’s website. Enjoy!

Posted in Middle Grade, Non-fiction

Get Ready for STEM Summer!

Sure, many libraries are doing the “Libraries Rock!” theme for Summer Reading, but that’s no reason to leave science out of the fun! I’ve got a bunch of STEM books that you’ll want to get in front of (or create programs using) your readers to have fun with this summer. Careers, facts, bios, and, most fun of all, experiments, await!

Architecture: Cool Women Who Design Structures (Girls in Science series), by Elizabeth Schmermund/Illustrated by Lena Chandhok, (Aug. 2017, Nomad Press), $9.95, ISBN: 9781619305465

Recommended for readers 9-13

I’m always looking for good career books, because I weeded my current section when I first got to my library. I really liked this book, and I’m looking forward to reading and putting more of the Girls in Science series in my book cart for future purchases. Architecture is divided into four color-coded sections: the first, a general overview of architecture; the history, styles, what the profession is like today and how to prepare for study in architecture, and women in the profession. The next three sections are devoted to profiles of a diverse group of women architects: Patricia Galván, a Project Manager; Farida Abu-Bakare, an intern architect who’s in the process of writing her exams and works with science and technology; and Maia Small, who owns and operates her own small architecture firm. In addition to the profiled female architects, there are brief bios on other women in the field. Ask & Answer sections provide thought-provoking questions, many beyond the basic material, for readers to consider. QR codes in callout sections provide links to more information. The overall narrative, and each profiled professional, addresses the gender gap and even larger diversity gap in the industry. Back matter includes a timeline of the profession, all the Ask & Answer questions in one place, a glossary, further resources, including written-out links to the QR code sections, and an index.

Try This! Extreme: 50 Fun & Safe Experiments for the Mad Scientist in You, by Karen Romano Young/Photographs by Matthew Rakola, (Sept. 2017, National Geographic Kids), $16.99, ISBN: 9781426328633

Recommended for readers 8+

The best part about science, I tell the kids in my programs and class visits, is making a mess, yet, no one gets mad at you (mostly). What better time to be a mad scientist than in the summer, when it’s beautiful out and you can open those windows to offset any stinky experiements? The book starts off with safety instructions and photos of the kid (and dog) scientists who tested out the 50 experiments waiting to be discovered in Try This! Extreme. Each experiment has a safety rating, a who you need rating (i.e., an adult, just you, or maybe grab a friend), and supervision rating; each experiment also lays out concepts explored, approximately how long it will take, what you need, and a step-by-step guide through the process, accompanied by full-color photos. There are callout facts, questions to ask yourself, and key terms defined throughout. Conduct a bioblitz (exploration) in your yard or a park, learn physics using marshmallow Peeps, or check the weather forecast and aim for a game of masking tape hopscotch when there’s rain predicted. There are bonus mini-experiements, Science Fair experiment prompts and guidance, K-12 science standards and how each experiment corresponds to them, an index, and metric conversion tables. Enjoy!

The STEM Quest Series from Barron’s Educational is a brand new series broken out into four books, loaded with facts and experiments:

STEM Quest Science: Astonishing Atoms and Matter Mayhem, by Colin Stuart/Illustrated by Annika Brandow, (May 2018, Barron’s Educational), $10.99, ISBN: 9781438011363

Recommended for readers 8+

This volume looks at the organic side of things: biology, chemistry, physics, earth and space sciences, biochemistry, biomedicine, and biotechnology. Each section guides readers through full-color illustrated discussions on each area and includes experiments to ramp up the fun. Kids will LOVE the Marshmallow Molecules – you need a bag of marshmallows, a box of toothpicks or wooden skewers (me? I’d go with the toothpicks, but I’m in a public library), and some compound formulas. Let kids make their own formulas up and watch the fun begin! I’ll save you the search: this is where you can find the chemical compounds for farts. It’s the American Council on Science and Health’s website, so they did this for science. You’re welcome. Littler ones can make their own sundial, or spot a constellation. There are scientist profiles and fantastic facts throughout, plus a glossary and an index.

 

STEM Quest Technology: Tools, Robotics, and Gadgets Galore, by Nick Arnold/Illustrated by Kristyna Baczynski, (May 2018, Barron’s Educational), $10.99, ISBN: 9781438011370

Recommended for readers 8+

This volume looks at the techy side of life: construction, power and energy, agriculture and biotechnology, manufacturing, information and communication, medical and biomedical, and transportation. Learn about the evolution of tools, from the earliest hand tools to robots and space suits. Learn how a blast furnace works, and make your own plastic (adult helpers necessary), and learn how it works. Get your Project Runway on, with a section on textiles: you’ll learn to weave, tie dye, and ink print. For your more tech-inspired readers, there’s an easy Try This at Home experiment that teaches (with adult help) how to build a circuit, or how to magnetize a nail. There are great programming ideas in here: I think I’m going to look into building a planet and designing a space station, all of which can be done on a shoestring and with adult help. And since I’m the closest thing resembling an adult in the room… well, I guess that falls to me. The same format applies here (and to all of the STEM Quest books): bios on prominent scientists, loads of facts and illustrations, a glossary, and an index.

 

STEM Quest Engineering: Fantastic Forces and Incredible Machines, by Nick Arnold/Illustrated by Kristyna Baczynski, (May 2018, Barron’s Educational), $10.99, ISBN: 9781438011349

Recommended for readers 8+

Next up, engineering: systems and mechanics; materials and processes; biology, medical, agriculture and chemistry; structures; and sustainability engineering. Get the kids learning about forces and energy with experiments like Superhero Paper Clips, where they’ll make a paper clip float; a material scavenger hunt, inviting them to look around for everyday items made out of different materials; get out the old reliable straws and pipe cleaners and let them create 3-D shapes to see how they hold up under pressure, or that summer staple, the pinwheel. (The book suggests dowels; I’m here to tell you that chopsticks are a lot cheaper and just as easy to use.) There’s a great section on environmental engineering that will have you and your readers figuring out how to clean up our environment and a nuclear power lesson that has the simplest of experiments: use the sun’s nuclear energy to test your sunscreen on a piece of construction paper.

 

STEM Quest Math: Fabulous Figures and Cool Calcuations, by Colin Stuart/Illustrated by Annika Brandow, (May 2018, Barron’s Educational), $10.99, ISBN: 9781438011356

Recommended for readers 8+

I’m trying to get more math-related fun in front of my library kids, because it scares the bejesus out of me and I don’t want to pass that on. The parents love a good math program, too, so I know I’ll get buy-in from the community on this one. Here, we’ve got numbers and operations; measurement; problem-solving, logic and reasoning; geometry; algebra; advanced math; data, analysis and probability; and communication. I will admit that just looking at that section scared the life out of me, but once I started reading, I quickly warmed up. There are great explanations of each concept in here, addressing the quick and easy stuff like place value and column addition and subtraction, and heading all the way into bigger ideas like proofs and binary. Fun experiments and activities include a pirate treasure challenge, where, as a pirate captain, you need to use math to calculate the best place to bury your treasure; creating 3-D art and making pyramids, and averaging Olympic judge scores.

That’s a start for some STEM summer fun, but make sure to get your STEM sections and displays up and running to give readers readalikes and ways to expand on what they’re learning. The Secret Coders graphic novel series by Gene Luen Yang and Mike Holmes is great for Math and Tech fans, who want to play with coding. Science Comics has books about rockets and robots that will fit nicely with STEM displays, and I’m a big fan of the Junk Drawer Science series by Bobby Mercer. There are tons of fun STEM-related books out there!