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

The LEGO Engineer will take your builds to new heights

The LEGO Engineer, by Jeff Friesen, (Nov. 2022, No Starch Press), $24.99, ISBN: 9781718502505

Ages 10+

I am always looking for good LEGO books for my library. We have a weekly LEGO build that the kids love, and I like to make sure I have books around that will inspire them. Jeff Friesen is always a good purchase for me: I’ve got The LEGO Castle Book and LEGO Space Projects and they are chock full of block-spiration. Friesen’s newest, The LEGO Engineer, is another win; this time, taking on some of the most incredible engineering feats ever created, including cable-stayed bridges and a LEGO South Beach, in all its colorful glory. There are over 30 models, all beautifully photographed by Friesen, and include step-by-step illustrated instructions and a wealth of engineering know-how to make your builds as realistic as can be. It’s a beautiful coffee table book for LEGO enthusiasts and it’s a challenging book of ideas for LEGO fans and future engineers. An excellent choice for collections where LEGO books are popular.

Want to see more of Jeff Friesen’s work? Follow his Instagram page. Want more LEGO learning? Visit LEGO’s education page for free lesson plans.

Posted in picture books

The Girl Who Could Fix Anything – Great STEM Bio!

The Girl Who Could Fix Anything: Beatrice Shilling, World War II Engineer, by Mara Rockliff/Illustrated by Daniel Duncan, (Sept. 2021, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536212525

Ages 5-9

Beatrice Shilling, a British World War II engineer, gets her time in the spotlight in this picture book biography. As a child, she “wasn’t quite like other children”, preferring tools and tinkering to usual childhood pursuits. After working for another female engineer as an apprentice, she went to school for engineering and eventually landed a position at the Royal Aircraft Establishment… to write handbooks about plane engines, not to work on them. Eventually, she did get to work on engines, and when World War II broke out, Beatrice was put in charge of a team that traveled to airfields and demonstrated winterizing planes to fighter pilots. She went on, with her team, to figure out an engine problem that fighter planes encountered during a dive, saving countless lives. Another great story about a female figure in STEM, The Girl Who Could Fix Anything tells Beatrice Shilling’s story; Daniel Duncan adds humorous reactions to Beatrice’s being “othered” as a woman in a traditionally “man’s field” and brings thrilling air fight moments to life to add some excitement. Beatrice is drawn as a determined, thoughtful woman, while men around her don’t always quite seem to know what to make of her. Endpapers show a variety of airplane parts, blueprint style. An author’s note and additional resources make up the back matter.

 

Posted in Fiction, Middle Grade, Middle School, Realistic Fiction, Tween Reads

The Tornado takes on a tough question about bullies

The Tornado, by Jake Burt, (Oct. 2019, Feiwel & Friends), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1-250-16864-1

Ages 10-14

Fifth grader Bell Kirby loves systems and structure. He uses them to excel in his school’s Creator’s Club, he creates an enviable habitat for his pet chincilla, Fuzzgig, and he stays under the radar, away from the school bully, Parker Hellickson – who also happens to be the principal’s son. When Daelynn Gower shows up – a new kid in town, straight out of homeschool, with rainbow-colored hair and a personality to match – and befriends Bell, she puts all of his hard work and systems at risk. Because Daelynn can’t help but be noticed. But when Daelynn finds herself in the bully’s sights, Bell finds himself at a crossroads: back in Parker’s good graces if he stands by and lets the next kid take the abuse, or stand up for himself and his new friend.

This is a strong story about bullying, looking at it from a less examined point of view. What happens when your bully moves on to another kid? Bell struggles with this because he’s relieved, but he knows that even standing by, pretending not to see the bullying, is wrong. When he learns that he was another kid’s relief from being in Parker’s sights, he knows, even more, that he has to take a stand. It’s a topic that can contribute to a meaningful class discussion. Jake Burt gives us fully realized characters here. Bell loves building and creating things to order his world, likely influenced by his military parents, who pass that love for structure onto him: he messages with his father, who’s stationed overseas and sends him engineering puzzles to figure out; his mother, a major in the US Army, is working on her Ph.D. and is referred to as a “mad scientist” by Parker. Parker is an unrepentant bully who uses the fact that his father has his own blind spot when it comes to his son’s bullying, brushing aside repeated complaints and believing the thinnest of excuses while letting readers glimpse into a home life that may not be ideal for Parker, either. His father talks down to Bell’s mother on several occasions, and she needs to correct him about her rank in the Army on at least one occasion, noting that she outranks her husband.

Woven into this story is Bell’s interest in systems and creating, and bringing a great STEAM challenge into the plot. The Creator Club challenge for this school year is to recreate one of Leonardo DaVinci’s creations, DaVinci-era style. No Internet. No electricity. Working by candlelight and looking up information in books. It’s a great subplot about friendship, teamwork, and cooperation. There’s also some great references to The Wizard of Oz throughout the book – see how many you can find, and challenge your readers. The one question that came up for me multiple times throughout the reading: Who is the Tornado here? I don’t know about you, but I got a different answer each time I considered it.

Author Jake Burt’s website offers updates and more information about his books. John Schu has an interview with Jake Burt available at Watch.Connect.Read, and The Tornado has a starred review from School Library Journal.

 

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

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!

Posted in Fiction, Intermediate, picture books, Preschool Reads

June Picture Book Roundup

There are so many good books for Summer Reading hitting shelves in June! Let younger readers explore new worlds and meet new friends with some of these picture books.

Seven Pablos, by Jorge Luján/Illustrated by Chiara Carrer, Translated by Mara Lethem, (June 2018, Enchanted Lion Books), $17.95, ISBN: 9781592702534

Seven boys share the same name. Seven short vignettes share the stories of seven lives, taking readers from the copper mines in Chile to a refugee family living in Mexico, from a garbage dump in Peru to a streets of the Bronx, New York. Seven Pablos sheds light on the living conditions of children around the world in sparse, quietly powerful text. Graphite pencil art creates a dreamlike atmosphere for this lyrical story by Poet Jorge Luján.

Seven Pablos is deeply moving and continues to call attention to the plight of migrant and refugee families around the world. One scene expresses the rage these kids hold within them, as one Pablo tells a visiting poet that he wants to be a “big guy in a uniform” so he can “beat people up and get away with it”. A refugee Pablo recites a poem – in actuality, written by a 9-year-old Argentine child – where he imagines soldiers crushing roofs with their boots. Luján ends his story with the beautiful reminder that there are many Pablos in the world, and each one has a heart that beats with the rhythm of our world.

The Turtle Ship, by Helena Ku Rhee/Illustrated by Colleen Kong-Savage, (June 2018, Lee and Low Books), $17.95, ISBN: 9781885008909
Recommended for readers 6-12
This folk tale is based on Korean history. A boy named Sun-sin dreams of seeing the world with his pet turtle, Gobugi, and discovers his chance when the king announces a contest: design the best battleship to defend the land. The winner will receive ten bags of copper coins and the chance to travel with the royal navy. After a few failed attempts at a design, Sun-sin notices that his turtle is strong, slow, and steady, and decides that the best design will be based on Gobugi. At first, he’s laughed at in the king’s court, but when a cat tries to attack the turtle, the king and his court all see that there is something to the boy’s idea. Thus, the Korean Turtle Ships were created, and the boy grew to be famed Admiral Yi Sun-sin.
The story is best served by the incredible paper collage artwork, created using paper from all over the world. The art gives the story drama, color, and texture, and the story itself is as good for read-alouds as it is for independent reading. This is a nice addition to historical collections and cultural folktales. An author note on the Korean Turtle Ships provides some background on the legend of Yi Sun-sin and the Turtle Ship design.

Johnny, by Guido van Genechten, (June 2018, Clavis Publishing), $17.95, ISBN: 9781605373775

Recommended for readers 3-5

Johnny is an adorable spider with a secret to share, but everyone’s afraid of him! Wanna know his secret? It’s his birthday, and he wants to share his cake! This adorable book by Guido van Genechten is a good story to read when talking to kids about judging others based solely on appearances.

I have to admit, I needed to read this one a couple of times because I felt so bad for Johnny! It’s his birthday, and he’s all alone because everyone’s afraid of him! And then I figured it out: that’s the point. I mean, I know it was the point to begin with, but having Johnny celebrate with only the reader by the story’s end leaves a reader feeling badly – and that’s the time to talk about empathy. Ask kids how they would feel if people didn’t want to be near them because someone didn’t like the way they looked. Ask how they would feel if they had a birthday party and no one came! And then, for heaven’s sake, throw Johnny a birthday party: have some cupcakes and fruit punch, and sing Happy Birthday to the poor guy. He deserves it. Guido van Genechten’s cute, expressive, boldly outlined artwork is instantly recognizable and appealing to younger readers.

 

Swim Bark Run, by Brian & Pamela Boyle/Illustrated by Beth Hughes, (June 2018, Sky Pony Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781510726963

Recommended for readers 3-7

Daisy the Bulldog is so proud of her humans, Brian and Pam, when they compete in triathlons. She wonders if she could train and compete like they do, and decides to enlist the help of her fellow doggie buddies, Rascal, Atticus, and Hobie, to hold their own Dog-Athlon! Daisy is full of energy at first, but when she starts getting tired, a familiar face at the finish line gives her the boost she needs!

Swim Bark Run is a cute book about physical activity, competition and cooperation, and determination. The digital artwork is bright and cute, giving the dogs happy, friendly faces and includes a nice amount of action as the pups train for their big day. There are positive messages about working together and encouraging one another. This is a cute additional add for readers who like animal books and books about physical fitness.

Seven Bad Cats, by Moe Bonneau, (June 2018, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky), $17.99, ISBN: 9781492657101

Recommended for readers 4-7

A child gets ready to go out on a fishing boat, but seven bad cats make progress very difficult. I love this rhyming, counting tale of seven cats who do what cats do best: get in the way! They eat from the traps, take naps on the oars and steal the child’s gloves, and generally make themselves a nuisance until the boat flips over, and the cats band together to save the day. The book counts up from one to seven until the boat flips everything over, including the story, and the countdown from seven back to one ends the fun. The watercolor artwork adds a nice, watery feel to this seafaring tale, and the cats are hilarious, using their whole bodies to get up to all sorts of no good; even appearing in mug shots on one page. They sprawl, they curl, they stretch, and they swim – they may not like it, but a cat’s gotta do what a cat’s gotta do! This one is a thoroughly enjoyable add to storytime and concept collections. Give this to your cat loving kids! (Also good for a readaloud with flannels or beanie babies.)

 

Finn’s Feather, by Rachel Noble/Illustrated by Zoey Abbot, (June 2018, Enchanted Lion), $17.95, ISBN: 9781592702398

Recommended for readers 4-8

In this touching story about grief, loss, and remembrance, a young boy named Finn finds a feather at his doorstep. It’s white, amazing, perfect. It has to be from his brother, Hamish, and Finn tells his mother and his teacher, who take a deep breath and smile; Finn doesn’t understand why they aren’t as excited as he is. His friend Lucas is, though: it’s got to be an angel’s feather, it’s so perfect, and the two friends take Hamish with them on the playground, running with the feather as if it were an additional friend. Finn uses the feather as a quill to write a note to Hamish that evening, and sets the envelope holding the letter in a tree, so the wind will carry it to Hamish.

Inspired by author Rachel Noble’s loss, this moving story about a sibling grieving and remembering is gentle, understanding, and an excellent book to have available for children moving through grief. The soft pencil artwork and gentle colors provide a calming, soothing feel to the story.

 

Ready to Ride, by Sébastien Pelon, (June 2018, words & pictures), $17.95, ISBN: 9781910277737

Recommended for readers 3-7

A young boy finds himself bored on a day home, until his mother sends him out to play. An imaginary friend joins him, and together, they learn to ride a bike! This is a fun, light story about imagination and getting outdoors to play. The imaginary friend is a big, white, two-legged figure – think yeti without the shag – wearing a pointy pink hat and protectively towers over the boy, helping him learn to ride the bike. When the boy heads home after a day of play, his new friend disappears, which is a bit of a letdown. Maybe he’ll show up again. There’s a “Certificate for a Super Cyclist” at the end of the book; a cute prize for kids who learn to ride. This one is an additional add if you’ve got kids who like bike-riding.

Posted in Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, Non-Fiction, Non-fiction, picture books, Preschool Reads, Tween Reads

Books to inspire your young scientists!

This is an incredible year for children’s books! There’s something for everyone available or coming soon, with wonderful artwork and text that draws readers right in. This time around, I’m looking at some fun science books for readers – and caregivers will like them, too.

Izzy Gizmo, by Pip Jones/Illustrated by Sara Ogilve,
(March 2018, Peachtree Publishers), $16.95, ISBN: 978-1-68263-021-1
Recommended for readers 4-7

 

Izzy Gizmo is a curious little girl of color who loves to invent, tweak, and discover. Her inventions don’t always work, but she discovers that she has to put her frustrations aside when she rescues a crow with a broken wing. He wants her to help him fly again, and he’s willing to stick with her through trial and error, until she can get it right. I love the bright colors and chaotic art in this story; it lets readers know that creativity is often messy and wild; the story assures readers that mistakes are just opportunities to filter out what isn’t working and concentrate on what will work; and I love the story of endurance and perseverance. Izzy’s grandfather and her crow friend have faith in Izzy; she just has to find her faith in herself. The gray and white endpapers feature different gears and mechanical parts, letting readers know they’re going to put on their engineering hats to help Izzy out, and the art – a mix of pencil, ink, oil pastel, monoprint, and digital technique – create a busy background that provides a glimpse into the mind of a scientist. Originally published in the UK in 2011, Izzy’s just arrived here in the U.S. and her rhyming story would be a great addition to collections where Andrea Beaty’s Iggy Peck, Architect, Rosie Revere, Engineer, and Ada Twist, Scientist are popular.

 

Scientist, Scientist, Who Do You See?, by Chris Ferrie,
(Apr. 2018, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky), $17.99, ISBN: 9781492656180
Recommended for readers 3-6

 

Set to the cadence of the classic, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, scientist and dad Chris Ferrie introduces little readers to some of history’s greatest minds with Scientist, Scientist, Who Do You See? There is a strong mix of disciplines and diversity represented here, with Einstein sharing space with Grace Hopper, Ahmed Zewail, George Washington Carver, Katherine Johnson, and more. It’s noted as a “scientific parody”, and it certainly is a fun book that will make everyone smile, but kids are introduced to names and ideas, and that’s just great. Starting off with the question, “Einstein, Einstein, Who Do You See?” and the response, “I see Marie Curie in her laboratory”, the story goes on, introducing scientists and their accomplishments, in the soothing rhyme style we’ve grown up hearing and enjoying. Chris Ferrie has given us Baby Science board books and a fun take on Goodnight, Moon with Goodnight, Lab; let’s hope he keeps finding new, fun ways to make science lovers out of our kids.

 

One Day a Dot: The Story of You, the Universe, and Everything, by Ian Lendler/Illustrated by Shelli Paroline & Braden Lamb,
(Apr. 2018, First Second Books), $17.99, ISBN: 9781626722446
Recommended for readers 7-10

This one’s one of my standout favorites. Author Ian Lendler and illustrators Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb drill down the history of everything to one humble dot. From one dot’s excited burst of joy comes the Big Bang, bringing new dots together to form planets and, eventually, life. The dots are animated, dancing, playing, even running away from other dots that want to eat them! The artwork is bright with a retro feel and uses the dot theme as a focal point through the story, gently leading readers on a trip through time and space. It’s a simplified look at the formation of the universe, but works nicely for younger readers. Give this one to kids who like Stacy McAnulty’s Earth: My First 4.5 Billion Years, and Dominic Walliman’s Professor Astro Cat books, published by Nobrow.

 

Iqbal and His Ingenious Idea: How a Science Project Helps One Family and the Planet, by Elizabeth Suneby/Illustrated by Rebecca Green,
(May 2018, Kids Can Press), $19.99, ISBN: 9781771387200
Recommended for readers 7-10

The latest from Kids Can Press’ Citizen Kid imprint, Iqbal and His Ingenious Idea is a fictional story about a Bangladeshi boy named Iqbal, who comes with a clean, solar-powered cookstove for his science fair project. He sees his mother force to cook the family’s meals indoors during monsoon season, but the family has no stove: she cooks over an open fire, which produces smoke that makes breathing difficult, especially for his mother and baby sister. He learns about solar energy cooking, wins first place in the science fair, and introduces a sustainable and healthier way for families to prepare meals. The artwork illustrates everyday life in Bangladesh and communicates the closeness Iqbal shares with his family and his hard work to create a science fair project that accomplishes the dual purpose of getting him a good grade and helping his family. The story shows readers that kids can make a difference, and that healthier living doesn’t depend on expensive gadgets – a little research, and you can make the world a better place with tools right in front of you. The book includes more information on cookstoves, a glossary, and instructions for making a DIY solar cooker. Great for class projects and science fair ideas!

Audrey the Inventor, by Rachel Valentine/Illustrated by Katie Weymouth,
(May 2018), words & pictures, $17.95, ISBN: 9781910277584
Recommended for readers 4-7

Audrey could hang out with Izzy (first book) and Andrea Beaty’s gang. A wild-haired, redheaded little girl who uses measuring tape for ribbons, Audrey is a curious kid who wants to be an inventor – but she doesn’t know what to invent! She sets off on a host of different ideas, some involving her poor cat, Happy Cat, all of which end up in the “rework” pile. She’s ready to throw in the towel, but decides to give it one last try after getting some encouragement. Little touches, like featuring a graph paper background and visualizing Audrey’s thought process and her doodles, invite kids to share their own ways of working out ideas. The collage, watercolor, and pen artwork comes together to create a busy story about a busy mind. A fun add to creative collections.

These books offer a great way to introduce the scientific method, even for younger grades. Little Bins for Little Hands has a good article, with tips on using the scientific method – and including links to experiments – for preschoolers.

Posted in Preschool Reads

Wanda’s Better Way – good STEM reading!

Wanda’s Better Way, by Laura Pedersen/Illustrated by Penny Weber, (July 2017, Fulcrum Publishing), $17.95, ISBN: 978-1-68275-014-8

Recommended for readers 4-8

A young girl finds a better way to do things as she goes through her day. The grownups around her think she’s not interested in the task at hand, but she’s really at work observing problems and creating workarounds – and then goes on to engineer them. When Wanda’s dance teacher suggests she consider gymnastics because she doesn’t appear interested in dance, we discover that she’s engineering a solution to the cluttered and messy dressing room. When she offers to help her landscape designer mother, she finds a solution that will keep squirrels out of a bird feeder. When she helps her chef father in the kitchen, she finds an easier way to separate eggs – and makes that her science fair project!

With short, easy to read and understand sentences and realistic illustrations, Wanda’s Better Way is a nice way to introduce STEM concepts and the scientific method to younger budding scientists and readers. Wanda’s ideas come to her in step-by-step thought bubbles and she’s illustrated with a light bulb going off over her head when solutions to come her. It’s a time-honored and effective way to communicate ideas! Kids will see how Wanda works out the problem and can discuss how she implements her solutions. Wanda tries on different career ideas while talking to her mother and father; something many kids will be familiar with. We’re often our kids’ first exposure to careers, so why wouldn’t they consider doing what we do? Wanda ultimately decides that she wants to be a scientist, which offers a nice topic for discussion: Wanda wants to be a scientist because she realizes her strength in figuring out problems. What are you really good at, and what can you do with your talent?

Wanda and her brother are biracial, with an African-American mother and white father. It sends a positive message about girls of color taking an interest in STEM! There is a two-page, age-appropriate explanation of the scientific method.

I’d put this with my Andrea Beaty books – Ada Twist, Scientist, Rosie Revere, Engineer, and Iggy Peck, Architect – and my other STEM picture books, like Ashley Spires’ The Most Magnificent Thing and Kobi Yamada’s What Do You Do With a Problem? and What Do You Do With an Idea? Great for STEM storytimes, and if you have blocks or other maker goodies handy, you can let the kiddos play for a little while and work up their own engineering challenges.

Laura Pedersen is an author, humorist, and playwright. Her website offers more information about her books and theater projects. Illustrator Penny Weber’s website has a gallery of her artwork.

Posted in Intermediate, Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Non-Fiction

September Non-Fiction: Engineering, Nutrition, and the Planets

Engineered! Engineering Design at Work, by Shannon Hunt/Illustrated by James Gulliver Hancock, (Sept. 2017, Kids Can Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781771385602

Recommended for readers 9-13

Nine engineering specialties -Aerospace Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Civil Engineering, Geomatics Engineering, Computer Engineering, and Environmental Engineering – in this look at engineering design, which introduces readers to the step-by-step process by using eye-catching icons and nine case studies, one for each field. Team member bios that introduce kids to new scientists and what they do; new fields of engineering, like geomatics, are explained and illustrated, as are new technologies, like the incorporation of 3-D printing into biomedical engineering. Cartoony illustrations make the science more appealing to anyone who may think they can’t *do* science. Kids will learn that engineering can be found everywhere, from sending the rover to Mars, to saving animals from extinction, to replacing a sewer system to clear pollution from a lake. A glossary helps with new engineering terms readers come across.

Engineered! is a fun introduction to the basics of engineering and can be used equally in a science class, makerspace, or on career day.

 

See What We Eat! A First Book of Healthy Eating, by Scot Ritchie, (Sept. 2017, Kids Can Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781771386180

Recommended for readers 5-8

A group of friends takes a trip to a farm, run by one girl’s aunt. They’re there for pick apples and make an apple crisp for the potluck harvest dinner. Yulee’s aunt takes them on a tour of the farm, teaching the kids about growing grains and vegetables, getting enough nutrients, dairy, and protein – and addresses food allergies and alternative methods of getting those nutrients. Kids learn about transporting food to farmer’s market, stores, and all over the world. Ritchie addresses composting and recycling, and includes a tasty Harvest Apple Crisp recipe to try. A glossary helps readers with new words like pasteurize, carbohydrate, and nutrient.

The illustrations are soft, cartoony realistic, with a multicultural group of friends coming together to learn and eat. The room where the Harvest Celebration takes place has a line of hanging global flags as the families dine on pierogies, tamales, and apple crisp. With bolded facts and questions to encourage deeper thinking, this is a fun introduction for younger learners to nutrition and sustainability.

 

When Planet Earth Was New, by James Gladstone/Illustrated by Katherine Diemert, (Sept. 2017, OwlKids Books), $18.95, ISBN: 9781771472036
Recommended for readers 4-7
Take a trip through time and space and discover how our planet – and life on our planet – evolved. Beginning billions of years ago when Earth was forming, When Planet Earth Was New follows our planet’s formation through volcanoes and comet bombardment; through the formation of the oceans and evolution of life in the oceans and on the land. Beautiful, digitally-enhanced watercolor spreads showcase colorful artwork of each moment captured, with brief descriptive text that preschool and early elementary audiences will find breathtaking. A gorgeous spread showcases life on Earth today: a blue whale, birds flying overhead, and a marching line of animals, including a human being. A section at the end of the book presents each spread in thumbnail format, with additional explanatory text, and a glossary and list of sources round out this introduction to astronomy for young readers.
My 5 year-old loves this book; the spare text is just right for him and he’s fascinated with the changes our planet went through on its journey to the present. It’s a beautiful-looking book, and a great addition to elementary nonfiction collections. I can’t wait to display a copy in my library.