Posted in Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Tween Reads

Art Meets STEM in The Stardust That Made Us

The Stardust That Made Us : A Visual Exploration of Chemistry, Atoms, Elements, and the Universe, by Colin Stuart/Illustrated by Ximo Abadía, (March 2022, Big Picture Press), $24.99, ISBN: 9781536223835

Ages 8-12

This oversized book is a “visual exploration of chemistry, atoms, elements, and the universe”, made accessible to middle grade and middle school students. Organized into five areas, The Stardust That Made Us looks at the history of chemistry in the natural world, the people who have dedicated their lives and careers to studying it, how we use chemistry in our everyday lives, and where the future of chemistry lies. Astronomy author and speaker Colin Stuart uses straightforward language to explain concepts in a way that respects and understands his readers. He uses enticing phrases like, “Nature has an unseen book full of recipes for making everything you’ve ever encountered” to draw readers in and pique their interest. He shares interesting bits of information within the scientific text, too, noting that the green dye that fascinated consumers in Victorian Britain was also slowly poisoning them: the green dye was produced by arsenic; mobile phones vibrate thanks to the chemical element dysprosium, that makes the motor responsible for the vibration, and ancient cave paintings in France were made using paint containing the element manganese. Ximo Abadía’s high contrast illustrations are stunning and colorful. A good addition to STEM collections.

Visit Colin Stuart’s webpage for more information about his books, to sign up for his newsletter (and get a free ebook!), and get information about appearances.

Posted in Non-Fiction, Teen, Tween Reads, Young Adult/New Adult

Chem Class just got even better: Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Elements

The Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Elements : The Powers, Uses, and Histories of Every Atom in the Universe, by Lisa Congdon, (July 2021, Chronicle Books), $22.99, ISBN: 9781452161594
Ages 10-16
Artist/Illustrator and former science teacher Lisa Congdon brings her love of art and science together with this beautifully illustrated book on the elements, and punches it up with trivia, humor, and profiles on the elements and scientists. With sections like “Pee-ew! You Stink!” (sulfur, selenium, bromine, tellurium, and osmium, the stinkier elements) and “The Deadliest Elements” (plutonium, arsenic, lead, polonium, and flourine… kind of self-explanatory), this book brings readers in with interesting facts and fun observations. Did you know that Napoleon’s hair samples showed that he had one hundred times the normal arsenic level in his system when he died in 1821? Or that three different elements are named after a Swedish village where they were discovered? Colorful artwork and a breakdown of the periodic table will keep readers engaged and makes this an essential desk reference. A glossary and an index make up the back matter. Put a copy into circulation, but keep one in your reference section, too; this will be in demand when the new school year begins. A great book for burgeoning scientists!
Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate, Middle Grade

Books from Quarantine: Kate the Chemist

So while I live in my Stephen King-esque Dome (as I like to think of my home at the moment), I’ve been doing a lot of reading, in addition to my virtual programming, helping my kids with their schoolwork, and assorted goofiness with the dog. First up, let’s talk about Kate the Chemist, a fun new STEM intermediate/middle grade series.

Kate the Chemist: Dragons vs. Unicorns, by Dr. Kate Biberdorf with Hillary Homzie, (Apr. 2020, Philomel Books), $12.99, ISBN: 978-0-593116555

Ages  7-12

Ten-year-old Kate the Chemist is a science problem solver: meaning, she can solve just about any problem that she faces with science! In her first STEM adventure, Dragons vs. Unicorns, Kate is the assistant director on her school play, and her best friend is the lead unicorn. But someone is sabotaging the production! Kate has to use her science skills to figure out who’s trying to hurt the show, and how to save the day when the unicorns face a last-minute costume malfunction. The narration is fast-paced and comprehensive in its look at science, and how chemistry is a big help in day-to-day situations (baking = science! special effects = science!). Scientist Kate Biberdorf includes a recipe for Unicorn Glue at the end of the book (looks easy enough – I haven’t tried it yet) and an explanation of how it works. Ellie May series author Hillary Homzie and Kate Biberdorf come together to give readers a fun intermediate/middle school mix of drama (literal and figurative), friendship, and science. This one is a good series to watch. There are some black and white illustrations throughout; usually journal pages and scientific items like flasks and volcanoes, to add to the fun.

Kate Biberdorf is a science entertainer with a series of videos and a Big Book of Experiments to introduce kids to fun, safe, science. Her website has videos, information about her books, and contact information. Hillary Homzie’s author webpage has great info for aspiring writers, links to her blog and social media, and more information about her books.


Posted in Non-Fiction, Teen, Tween Reads, Uncategorized, Women's History

Radioactive! The story of two women scientists and how they changed the world.

radioactiveRadioactive!: How Irène Curie and Lise Meitner Revolutionized Science and Changed the World, by Winifred Conkling (Jan. 2016, Algonquin Young Readers), $17.95, ISBN: 9781616204150

Recommended for ages 12+

Most of us know who Marie Curie was: the scientist who pioneered the study of radioactivity. But how many know that her daughter, Irène, was an accomplished scientist in her own right, whose studies on radioactivity, physics, and the transmutation of elements earned her a Nobel prize, shared with her husband? Have you heard of Lise Meitner, the physicist whose work in physics – often published in conjunction with her friend and research partner, Otto Hahn – led to the discovery of nuclear fission? She was passed over for a Nobel for several reasons, not the least of which involved her being straight-up robbed by a partner who took credit for much of her work during the World War II years, when she was exiled in Sweden.

Radioactive! tells the stories of these two very important women and their historical research. We learn Irène’s story from the beginning, as the daughter of celebrated scientist, Marie Curie. She worked by her mother’s side, operating an x-ray machine on World War I battlefields, eventually going on to further her mother’s work in radioactivity along with her chemist husband, Pierre Joliot. We learn about Lise Meitner, whose work put her in competition with Curie many times, but experienced more sexism and prejudice than Curie ever did. When Hitler rose to power in the 1930s, her Jewish heritage created problems at her research position, where former colleagues turned against her and demanded she resign; she was eventually forced her to flee Austria for Sweden or end up in a concentration camp. Although she continued to consult with Hahn on their nuclear fission research, he took credit for her work and took home the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1944.

I’ve been looking for biographies on women in science for my tweens and teens, and this certainly fits the bill. There are photographs throughout the book, and Ms. Conkling provides strong backgrounds on both Curie and Mietner, making them live again, making the reader care about them, and explaining physics, fission, and radioactive science in terms that we can all wrap our heads around. A valuable addition to libraries and classrooms, and a great book for anyone who wants to inspire the next generation of scientists – female OR male.

Winifred Conkling is an award-winning author of fiction and nonfiction for young readers, including Passenger on the Pearl: The True Story of Emily Edmonson’s Flight from Slavery and the middle-grade novel Sylvia and Aki, winner of the Jane Addams Children’s Literature Award and the Tomás Rivera Award. Her author website provides teacher guides for her books. There is no guide up for Radioactive yet, but I’m sure there will be one closer to the book’s publication date.