Posted in Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Teen, Tween Reads

To Explore Strange New Worlds…

Pop quiz! We know that outer space is still largely unexplored, but did you know that we’ve explored less than five percent of the world’s oceans? There are some great new books on space and sea exploration for middle graders to dive into (see what I did there?). Read on!

Dr. E’s Super Stellar Solar System, by Bethany Ehlmann with Jennifer Swanson, (Jan. 2018, National Geographic Kids), $12.99, ISBN: 978-1-4263-2798-8

Recommended for readers 8-12

Planetary geologist Dr. E (Bethany Ehlmann) and her sidekick, Rover, take readers on a trip around the universe, filled with activities, photos, facts, and comics. Readers will learn about space exploration and how our big blue dot fits in with our cosmic neighbors: who else has volcanoes and sand dunes; how plate tectonics work; how craters are formed. There’s information about robots and rovers; space exploration and technology; and how learning about space helps us learn more about Earth. Each chapter begins with a 2-page comic spread, following Dr. E and Rover on an adventure related to chapter material. There are scientist profiles throughout the book, thought-provoking questions to generate discussion, and incredible photos. A glossary, list of book and web resources, and index makes this a solid book to have in space collections and a fun gift for kids who love science.

 

Astronaut-Aquanaut: How Space Science and Sea Science Interact, by Jennifer Swanson, (Jan. 2018, National Geographic Kids), $18.99, ISBN: 978-1-4263-2867-1

Recommended for readers 8-12

What do space and the ocean exploration have in common? SO much. There’s a reason we’re still trying to figure out how to explore both. Extreme pressure, temperatures and climates are all considerations scientists have to make when planning missions up above or far below. Author Jennifer Swanson (she’s co-author on Dr. E’s book, above!) gets a new generation of explorers ready for action with discussions about buoyancy and gravity; the shapes used in space and sea exploration (shape counts!); creating livable habitats; similarities and differences in each form of travel, and more. There’s consideration given to preservation and conservation for both sea and space: we leave a lot of garbage behind, and we need to stop that. Explorer’s Notebook callouts give readers a quick run-down on different topics, like training for a trip and how to create successful living and working environments – ideas that readers can apply to their daily lives while getting ready to be explorers. Activities give readers hands-on opportunities to learn about concepts like docking the International Space Station. There are detailed illustrations and color photos throughout, astronaut and aquanaut profiles, fun facts, resources, a glossary, and an index. NatGeo never disappoints: I love how Jennifer Swanson brings these two areas of exploration together; maybe it will inspire kids to become both astronauts AND aquanauts!

 

The Space Race: How the Cold War Put Humans on the Moon, by Matthew Brenden Wood/Illustrated by Sam Carbaugh, (May 2018, Nomad Press), $17.95, ISBN: 978-1-61930-663-9

Recommended for readers 12-15

The Cold War between the U.S. and Soviet Union led to a race for dominance, and space was best place to push for that dominance. Matthew Brenden’s book, The Space Race, is an interactive chronicle of this pivotal point in history. Beginning with a timeline to give readers background, Brenden takes us from the 1917 Russian Revolution, through World War II (when Russia was our ally) and the Cold War, to July 20, 1969: the date Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first people to walk on the moon.

A  comic strip running throughout the book illustrates and encapsulates the big ideas in the book, adding a little mental break for readers. There are loads of callout boxes, enhanced with QR codes that lead to historical reference and further learning; some topics include McCarthyism, duck-and-cover nuclear war drills, and the first anniversary of the Berlin Wall. Blast Fact callout boxes provide quick facts, and Inquire and Investigate sections provide rich inspiration for projects and research. Questions throughout the text challenge readers to think deeper about the material and would provide a great jumping-off point for book group or class discussions, and Vocab Lab sections offer new words to learn, all defined in the glossary at the end of the book. There are black-and-white and color photos throughout, providing a strong connection to history. Thankfully, there’s a metric conversion table, since science is metric and I’m not; there are additional resources, source notes, and an index.

I love Nomad Press’ books; there are so many entry points for students in each book. This one is a valuable reference for Science or History: in fact, The Space Race is one in a set of four Nomad books exploring great events of the 20th Century (others include Globalization: Why We Care About Faraway Events; The Vietnam War; and World War II: From the Rise of the Nazi Party to the Dropping of the Atomic Bomb).

The Space Race skews slightly older than the NatGeo books above: Nomad recommends this one for ages 12-15, but I think it can go a year or two younger, especially in my children’s room, where it will see more circ than in our teen section. Your library’s mileage, and your kids’ reading interests may vary. It’s a Guided Reading level Z, which can go as young as 9; I’d suggest at least 10 or 11.

 

 

Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Non-Fiction, Tween Reads

Science Comics explores Volcanoes

volcanoesScience Comics: Volcanoes-Fire and Life, by Jon Chad, (Oct. 2016, First Second), $12.99, ISBN: 9781626723603

Recommended for ages 8-12

Earlier this year, we got a look at First Second’s two Science Comics, Coral Reefs and Dinosaurs. There’s great science and fun art wrapped up in each of these comics, so I was super-psyched when I met a First Second rep at the PLA Conference this year, and she told me that there were more Science Comics coming. True to her word, we’re getting Volcanoes in just a couple of weeks.

Similar to Coral Reefs, Volcanoes wraps information about volcanic activity into a story: there’s been some sort of environmental cataclysm, and Earth is freezing. A tribe is scanning books when Aurora, one of the kids, discovers a book about volcanoes; she is HOOKED. She’s saved her tribe! The power to warm the planet is right underneath their feet!

From there, Aurora becomes the reader’s guide through a look into the activity bubbling under the earth’s crust: there are magma vents, shifting tectonic plates, and volcanic eruptions. Volcanoes create just as much as they destroy: there are entire land masses that owe their existence to a volcanic eruption, just as there are entire cities that have been wiped out by them.

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

Our Moon gives us a new look at an old friend

our moonOur Moon: New Discoveries About Earth’s Closest Companion, by Elaine Scott (Feb. 2016, Clarion Books), $18.99, ISBN: 9780547483948

Recommended for ages 10-13

You may have heard the old myth about the man in the moon, or even that the moon was made of green cheese. Did you hear about a Chinese princess named Chang-o or a rabbit, though? Those ancient Chinese stories are only the beginning of what I learned from Elaine Scott’s Our Moon: New Discoveries About Earth’s Closest Companion.

 

Our Moon is a great biography about our one and only satellite, Luna. The Moon. We get her all of her numbers: size, speed, temperature; we learn in depth about her phases, and her origin story. Ms. Scott gives us a history of lunar research and exploration, from the Turkish philosopher Anaxagoras’ ideas about moonlight being a reflection of the sun’s light back in the 5th century B.C.E. to the modern lunar landings and space travel. The book is loaded with photographs and quick facts that make for easy reading. A glossary breaks down terms used in the book, and there are resources for further reading, both on- and offline.

This is the book I’d have wanted in my astronomy library when I was a kid. It’s a great library purchase and a great home library purchase. Our Moon will be available in February, 2016, but you can pre-order it from Amazon.

Elaine Scott is an award-winning nonfiction author of children’s books. Her author website includes information about her books, honors, and school visits.