Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

#HomesCool: Storytelling Math RULES!

Charlesbridge Publishing has a new series that’s just in time for school, whether you’re fully remote, homeschooling, unschooling, or blended learning. Storytelling Math is all about looking at math a little differently. The authors and illustrators are diverse, their characters speak different languages, and they all speak the universal language of mathematics. The series was developed in collaboration with math experts at STEM education non-profit TERC, under a grant from the Heising-Simons Foundation.

Let’s start with award-winning author/illustrator Grace Lin’s new math board book series!

What Will Fit?, by Grace Lin, (Oct. 2020, Charlesbridge), $6.99, ISBN: 9781623541255

Ages 0-3

Olivia, a little girl, heads to a farmer’s market, ready to fill her basket with good food. What will fit? The beet just rolls around, but the zucchini is too long, and just sticks out. How will Olivia find the best fit and bring home some healthy food? What Will Fit? is all about spatial relations. A section called Exploring the Math explains the math – in this case, spatial sense and how things fit – in the context of the story. A Try This! section offers easy activities that parents and caregivers can incorporate lessons into a child’s day. Exploring Math and Try This are written by Douglas Clements, Kennedy Endowed Chair and Professor at the University of Denver and executive director of the Marsico Institute for Early Learning and Literacy.

Grace Lin’s artwork is always so colorful and fun. Setting What Will Fit? in a farmer’s market allows her to let her character, a young girl of color, wander through a colorful setting, with delicious foods that kids can identify, count, and name shapes and colors.

 

The Last Marshmallow, by Grace Lin, (Oct. 2020, Charlesbridge), $6.99, ISBN: 9781623541262

Ages 0-3

It’s a cold day out, and Olivia and Mei warm up with some hot chocolate. There are two friends, and three marshmallows: who will get the last marshmallow? All about division and fractions, The Last Marshmallow is also about sharing and friendship. Exploring the Math explains how sharing leads to a real-world understanding of fractions and division, and Try This! suggests having kids figure out how to share food in different increments in a way that’s fair to everyone.

The artwork is cheerful and focuses mainly on Olivia and Mei, with two yummy cups of hot cocoa, and three plump marshmallows to split between them.

 

Circle! Sphere!, by Grace Lin, (Oct. 2020, Charlesbridge), $6.99, ISBN: 9781623541248

Ages 0-3

Manny, Mei, and Olivia are playing outside together and want to blow bubbles. There are three bubble wands; one for each friend. Each wand has a different shape, but they all blow spherical bubbles! Teaching children the foundation of geometry, Circle! Sphere! looks at shapes and 3-dimensional objects using a day outside, spent blowing bubbles with friends. Exploring the Math explains how the story helps build that mathematical foundation, and Try This! introduces new vocabulary words, including sphere, circle, and round, along with suggestions for encouraging children to think about shapes.

The artwork is cheery , depicting three friends playing outside on a warm day. Bubbles and wands offer the chance to go over shapes and colors with little learners.

 

Up to My Knees!, by Grace Lin, (Oct. 2020, Charlesbridge), $6.99, ISBN: 9781623541231

Ages 0-3

Mei celebrates the spring by gardening! She plants a seed and waits for it to grow. With water, sun, and time, the plant grows and grows: first it’s as tall as her toe; then, her knees; her shoulders, and finally, when summer arrives, the sunflower is in full bloom and taller than Mei! Up to My Knees introduces height and measurement in a story about plants, growing, and the seasons. Explore This explains how stories like Up to My Knees set the stage for understanding measurements and, eventually, using tools like yardsticks and rulers. Try This! encourages parents and caregivers to work with kids to measure things in their homes and environs, and introduces vocabulary words like longer and taller.

The artwork is cheery and bright: it’s spring and summer! Mei is out in the open air, gardening and growing a lush green plant that blooms into a bright sunflower.

Setting the stage for everyday math concepts, Grace Lin’s board book series features diverse characters and tells deeper stories of sharing and friendship. While Grace Lin’s website doesn’t have anything about the Storytelling Math books up yet, she does have some great resources available for parents, caregivers, and kids. The Storytelling Math website has author Q&A and videos; I’m hoping we get some educator and parent resources soon, too.

 

Lia and Luis: Who Has More?, by Ana Crespo/Illustrated by Giovana Medeiros, (Oct. 2020, Charlesbridge), $15.99, ISBN: 9781623541279

Ages 3-6

Twins Lia and Luis try to one-up one another when it comes to their favorite snacks. Lia’s got two chicken croquettes, and Luis has a bag of tapioca biscuits. So who has more? Depends on how you look at it: if you’re counting, a bag of chips has a lot more than just two; but if you weigh them, two chicken croquettes weigh more than a light bag of chips. So how do they even things out without anyone feeling bad?

The twins use the math concepts of comparing, measuring, and counting to work out who has “more”: depending on what you consider more, the answer is going to be different, as they learn. They learn that quantity and weight are two very, very different things! It’s an easy way to put learning into practice: the next time you go to a grocery store, show your kids how different packaging doesn’t necessarily mean there’s more of something; point out how the weight really makes the difference, especially when it comes to getting the best deal for your money.  A Try This! section at the end of the story, by Sara Cordes, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Psychology at Boston College, offers practical ways to help kids put this story into practice.

This is a fun story made even more fun by the fact that Lia and Luis speak Portuguese! The narrative text of the story is in English, and Lia and Luis, who are Brazilian, speak Portuguese to one another. A glossary of phrases is there for readers (but they’re largely understandable in context). Friendly characters, warm colors, and an exciting new language lesson make learning math even more enjoyable!

 

The Animals Would Not Sleep, by Sara Levine/Illustrated by Marta Alvarez Miguens, (Oct. 2020, Charlesbridge), $15.99, ISBN: 9781623541286

Ages 3-6

Marco has to get ready for bed, but his stuffed animals are causing a ruckus! He tries to sort them into bins to get ready for bed, but they aren’t happy! He attemps different classifications to sort by – he IS a scientist, after all! – and finally arrives at an arrangement that works well for everyone. Incredibly relatable – my Kiddo loved this, because it mirrors has bedtime arrangement – and sweetly affectionate, The Animals Would Not Sleep is a good bedtime story, but it’s also a great way to start talking about the concepts of classification, sorting, and characteristics. Each time Marco classifies and sorts his animals, he’s spot on – some are flying animals, some move on land, some swim – but they complain. He changes them up according to size, and then color, but someone is always feeling left out. His last arrangement takes everyone’s feelings into consideration and leads to a good night’s sleep.

Back matter talks about sorting in science, and a sections on Exploring the Math and Try This! by Karen Economopoulos, Co-Director of the Investigations Center for Curriculum and Professional Development at TERC, introduces ways to bring sorting and classifying into your homes. Encourage your kids to sort some of their toys or school supplies and explain what led them to their decisions. Encourage scientific thinking!

Most Storytelling Math books are available in both English and Spanish, which makes me very happy.

Posted in Intermediate, Non-Fiction, picture books

#HomesCool Reads: Math & Nature

There are so many great books that have come out, and are coming out in the next couple of months! With school having started for some kids (NYC doesn’t go back until after Labor Day), I’m transitioning #SummersCool into #HomesCool, since a lot of us will be learning in either a blended or completely remote environment. For everyone who’s back in a classroom, or had to make the decision on how to schedule your children for learning, hang in there. And thank you, teachers!

Up this time, we’ve got folk tales using math and logic; we’ve got lion queens in India, and an archaeologist who discovered Peru’s ancient cultures. Let’s go!

Sharuko: El arqueólogo peruano Julio C. Tello/Peruvian Archaeologist Julio C. Tello, by Monica Brown/Illustrated by Elisa Chavarri, Translated by Adriana Domínguez, (Aug. 2020, Lee & Low Books), $19.95, ISBN: 9780892394234

Ages 7-11

This bilingual (English/Spanish) biography of Peruvian archaeologist Julio C. Tello, nicknamed “Sharuko”, is a beautifully written, illustrated, and translated story of Julio Tello, an Indigenous boy growing up in late 1800s Peru, who became a leading expert in Peru’s Indigenous culture. As a boy, Sharuko – a nickname meaning “brave” in Quechua, the language spoken by the Indigenous people of Peru – explored caves and burial grounds in the Peruvian Andes. As he got older and continued his education, he read articles about skulls he had found as a child, which were sent to the city of Lima to be further studied. The article inspired Julio to devote his medical school training to study Peru’s indigenous history; going on to prove that Peru’s Indigenous culture was established thousands of years before, not inherited from other countries, as was the pervasive belief. He awakened pride in his country’s ancestry and its cultural legacy and became a hero to the people of Peru.

Elisa Chavarri’s watercolor and gouache artwork is colorful, with maps, beautiful landscapes, and artifacts all coming together to tell Julio Tello’s story. Author Monica Brown tells Tello’s story in a way that will captivate readers and possibly inspire new generations of archaeologists and anthropologists. The Spanish translation is parallel to the English text, which helps learning readers (like me!) learn the flow of the language, be it Spanish or English. Back matter includes an afterword a note on the illustration, and additional sources. I need more picture book biographies in my Spanish/bilingual collection. Happy to add this one.

Sharuko: El arqueólogo peruano Julio C. Tello/Peruvian Archaeologist Julio C. Tello has starred reviews from The Horn Book, Booklist, and School Library Journal.

 

The Lion Queens of India, by Jan Reynolds, (Sept. 2020, Lee and Low Books), $18.95, ISBN: 9781643790510

Ages 6-8

Award-winning photojournalist Jan Reynolds introduces readers to the Lion Queens – a group of female forest guards who track and protect the lions in the Gir Sanctuary. Narrated by Rashila, the first Lion Queen, readers learn about a day in the life of the Lion Queens; from patrolling areas on motorcycle to checking on food and water availability for the lions. There are facts about lions throughout, and Rashila talks about the different lions’ personalities, the “Web of Life” balance in the Gir, and the growing lion population, coming back from the brink of extinction. The Queens work with communities to educate and inform; they discuss conservation and preservation and how to live alongside the lions without hurting the habitats that both human and lion rely on to survive. Back matter includes an author’s note and bibliography. The book is filled with beautiful photos of the lions of the Gir Sanctuary and Rashila and her fellow Lion Queens, and the sentences are brief and to the point, making this a great nonfiction book for emerging readers and for storytimes. It’s an exciting subject to introduce to kids – especially on a Career Day! Consider looking up the Lion Queens of India documentary from Animal Planet to have on hand.

 

Seven Golden Rings: A Tale of Music and Math, by Rajani LaRocca/Illustrated by Archana Sreenivasan, (Oct. 2020, Lee and Low Books), $19.95, ISBN: 9781885008978

Ages 6-10

Set in ancient India, Bhagat is a boy living with his mother. They are poor and they are hungry, but a chance to win a place at the Rajah’s court as a singer gives Bhagat some hope for bettering their circumstances. As he leaves for the Rajah’s city, his mother gives him the last of their wealth – seven gold links from her wedding necklace – to pay for his food and lodging, and Bhagat knows he must be careful in budgeting, as he doesn’t know how long it will take for the Rajah to see him and he doesn’t want to overpay and run out of money. Bhagat uses math to work out how to safely pay his way and keep the innkeeper satisfied, and his math skills lead to a happy resolution.

There are lessons in computational thinking and mathematics, and has the building blocks for coding units here. An author’s note explains the mathematics at work in the story, touching on binary numbers, base 10, and the history of mathematics in the ancient world. The digital artwork is bright, warm, and attractive, with clear illustrations explaining Bhagat’s use of the golden rings. A solid addition to your fables/folk tales and math tales like the Sir Cumference series, One Grain of Rice, and The Grapes of Math.

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

#SummersCool Math books that your kids will love! Honest!

I do not take Math lightly. It’s one of those subjects I have endless admiration for, and way too much fear of. I encourage my kids, and my library kids, to love Math. Embrace Math, run to Math and dance in a field of flowers with it: you get my drift. It’s too late for me, go… go forth and calculate, my children.

So, when I was invited to review two Math books, I was a little terrified. Cool Math? Geometry is as Easy as Pie? I broke out in a cold sweat just thinking of them. I needn’t have stressed. These books are SO much fun (and tasty, as you’ll see). C’mon, join me for an exploration of Math.

 

Geometry is as Easy as Pie (Pieces of Cake series), by Katie Coppens, (March 2020, Tumblehome, Inc.) $17.95, ISBN: 978-1-943431-52-6

Ages 8-12

I know Katie Coppens as the author of the Acadia Files series (I’ve got a writeup about the latest one coming), but she writes about Math, too! Her first book, Geology is a Piece of Cake is a companion of sorts to her latest, Geometry is as Easy as Pie, and it’s an oh-so-yummy way to learn about angles, polygons, and symmetry. Katie Coppens uses pie to explain geometry, but she goes above and beyond the usual “look at this pie chart and imagine it’s a piece of pie” business. She BAKES PIES to illustrate the seven fundamental concepts of geometry. With direct, parent- and child-friendly explanations (she is an English and Science teacher), she discusses mathematical concepts, including calculating radius and diameter, and – naturally – she devotes time to talk about pi (π). You’ll feel a rumbly in your tumbly as you look through her lovely photographed pies; you may want to get a shopping lists together, too, because she includes recipes. Geometry includes pie-centric review questions and a photo gallery of “Just Desserts”, making this a phenomenal way to spend the summer learning math and baking with your kiddos. Yum.

 

Cool Math: 50 Fantastic Facts for Kids of All Ages, by Tracie Young & Katie Hewett, (March 2020, Pavilion Books), $14.95, ISBN: 978-1-84365-448-3

Ages 11+

Geared more toward middle and high schoolers Cool Math (originally released in the UK as Cool Maths, because they can even make Math sound cooler than we do) is so much more than a rundown of 50 Math facts for kids. Think of the NatGeo digest books on weird stuff, silly stuff, cool facts, and add Math to it. That’s Cool Math. With a cover that looks like chalk board gone wild, and with page backgrounds like chalk board, graph paper, and lined paper, this is the notebook your cool nerdy friend would have put together with all their doodles during the school day. Tips and tricks make your life easier throughout the book, like how to multiply by 9 on your fingers. IT WORKS. I tried it. Remember PEMDAS and FOIL? They almost gave me a nervous breakdown in 8th grade, but they’re here in this book, and they’re not as terrifying any more. Real-life tips, like the Super Speedy Recipe Converter and How to Tip put an end to questions like, “When will I ever need this in my life?”

A smart, witty, companion to keep handy, Cool Math takes a lot of the fear out of Math and makes it… dare I say… pretty cool.

 

Disclaimer: I’ve received copies of each of these books from the publisher/their publicists in exchange for a review.

Posted in Humor, Non-Fiction, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Quantum Theory explained in rhyme: The Cat in the Box

The Cat in the Box, by Chris Ferrie/Illustrated by Kevin Sherry, (June 2019, Sourcebooks), $17.99: ISBN; 9781492671237

Ages 14+

The Cat in the Hat meets quantum physics with Chris Ferrie’s The Cat in the Box. The story is similar in structure to Dr. Seuss’ classic, giving it a tongue-in-cheek twist. The narrator sits with Schrödinger himself, puzzling out a problem, when a box shows up. It’s a cat! Can the cat solve the problem? Schrödinger thinks so – and all the cat has to do in this situation is “see and not see”. Whew! What a relief. The story explains Schrödinger’s theory in rhyme that the folks on The Big Bang Theory would love: “Schrödinger used/this cat in a box/to dream up the first/quantum paradox/A paradox is something/that doesn’t make sense/There must be an assumption/that is causing offense”. The cat is the winner in this story, giving the two humans a lesson in quantum physics and probability, sing-songing, “The more math you know, the happier you’ll be”. An author’s note on Schrödinger recounts the original hypothesis, which didn’t end nearly so well for the cat.

The illustrations are black and white, with a big, googly-eyed scientist and a googly-eyed cat. Mathematical symbols and atomic symbols abound, with occasional reds for emphasis. The fun artwork is a perfect match for the light tone of the rhyme, and makes this a great book to keep around for teens and college students who may need a little brain break from studying.

Can younger kids read this? Of course! It’s a fun rhyme, loaded with math and science terms, and there are adorable cats and wacky scientists telling readers that math is fun. They may not get the bare bones of quantum physics, but they’ll pick up new science and math vocabulary.

Chris Ferrie, bringing a love of science and math to the kiddos.

Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction

Math, Loss, and Zombie Movies: A Good Night for Shooting Zombies

A Good Night for Shooting Zombies, by Jaco Jacobs/Illustrated by Jim Tierney/Translated from Afrikaans by Kobus Geldenhuys, (March 2019, Rock the Boat), $12.95, ISBN: 9781786074508

Ages 10-14

Martin is a South African teen living with loss. His father was killed in a car crash a few years ago, and his mother hasn’t left the house since. His sister is hardly ever home, usually out with her sketchy boyfriend. All Martin has is his chickens – his nickname is Clucky – and his propensity for numbers. When the neighbor kid’s dog kills his prize chicken, he goes over to say something – and ends up making a friend instead. Vusi, whose dog, Cheetah has a taste for chicken, is a horror movie fan determined to make his own zombie movie. He’s also fighting Hodgkin’s lymphoma, but he has no interest in letting that, or his protective parents and nurse, stop him. He quickly recruits Martin as a zombie extra, and before Martin realizes it, he’s sneaking out with Vusi, shooting Vusi’s movie and even developing a crush on a schoolmate. And, bonus: the cover glows in the dark!

Jaco Jacobs knows how to pack a book. While A Good Night for Shooting Zombies is primarily about Martin’s and Vusi’s friendship, it’s also about coping with loss, as Martin and his family grieve in their own ways; it’s about potential loss, as Vusi and Martin cope with Vusi’s lymphatic cancer, and it’s got a quietly compelling subplot about a group of troublemaking teens and Vusi and Martin bumbling their way into their sights. Martin is comforted by his mathematics equations, which he uses as a coping mechanism, very similar to Willow in Counting by 7s. He and Vusi each have their comforts – Vusi’s is horror movies – and as they share these pieces of themselves, they build a deeper friendship. Jim Tierney’s black and grey illustrations add some visual interest, and Jaco Jacobs’ writing keeps pages turning; the end of the story will stick with you long after you close the book.

I became a Jaco fan after reading last year’s A Good Day for Climbing Trees. A Good Night for Shooting Zombies just sealed it. I can’t wait to read more.

A Good Night for Shooting Zombies has a starred review from Foreword Reviews. There’s a free, downloadable readers’ guide available from publisher OneWorld Publications.

Posted in Early Reader, Non-Fiction, picture books

A math concept book with NO WRONG ANSWERS? Sign me up!

Which One Doesn’t Belong? Playing with Shapes, by Christopher Danielson, (Feb. 2019, Charlesbridge), $15.99, ISBN: 9781580899444

Ages 4-8

Math educator Christopher Danielson came up with a creative new way to get kids thinking about mathematical concepts: give them groups of shapes, and ask them, “What doesn’t belong?” The best part: NO WRONG ANSWERS. As the beginning explanation details, it’s all about the process, about critical thinking. One color could be different. A shape could be more squished, smooshed, or just look weirder than the others. It’s all in the eye, the mind, of the beholder here! Spreads alternate between layouts with shapes, and explanations on how every answer is correct, with supporting information like shapes, color, and other properties.

This is such a great way to make mathematics accessible to readers (kids and adults alike!). It doesn’t discourage anyone; it doesn’t make anyone’s answer, or rationale, wrong. Which One Doesn’t Belong shows readers how easy it is to approach things in a mathematical way: and this is coming from the lady who tells kids “the best way to do well in math is to not ask me for help with it”. Like the author himself says, “All properties count here; all ideas matter…”. Add this one to your nonfiction collections, build some programs around it for different age groups, and start making math more friendly to your readers!

Which One Doesn’t Belong? has a starred review from Kirkus and is the Winner of the Mathical Book Prize.

Posted in Early Reader, Graphic Novels, Intermediate, Non-Fiction, Non-Fiction, Preschool Reads

Two from TOON: Fun ways of looking at Math and Science

TOON’s doing it again: promoting authors and illustrators who know how to take abstract concepts and craft them into something exciting, beautiful, and fun. The two Fall graphic novels TOON has coming out: 3×4, by Ivan Brunetti, and We Are All Me, by Jordan Crane, play with multiplication, sorting, and sets; creation, DNA, and our relation to the planet and beyond. Sounds like weighty stuff, right? It is, but here’s the best part: these books are for kids, ages 3 and up. Let’s take a deeper look.

3 x 4, by Ivan Brunetti, (Sept. 2018, TOON Books), $12.95, ISBN: 9781943145348

Ages 3+

A teacher gives his class an assignment: draw 12 things, but in sets. Everything else is up to them: how many sets, what to draw, what colors to use. Annemarie, one of the girls in class, thinks deeply about what to create, as we see her classmates get to work on their sets. The book introduces readers to the beginning principles in multiplication; sorting; and thinking outside the box, as we see through the kids’ assignments. The book is so meta – it’s a math assignment within a math assignment – that teachers can easily use this as a math storytime.

Ivan Brunetti’s previous TOON book, WordPlay, played with language and compound words, and also starred Annemarie, a child of color in a diverse classroom of friends. As an art teacher, he has a gift for seeing things differently, and has the talent to make his ideas fun and relatable to a young audience. My 6-year-old read 3×4 to me, cover to cover, one night, after I read it to him and we worked through all the similarities between events in the book and what he’d done in his Kindergarten classroom the past school year. I’d love to try a math challenge for the kids in my library, asking them to start with 3 x 4, and go from there: make an art gallery and keep switching up the numbers. Have stickers and stamps and other creative materials handy!

3 x 4 has a starred review from Kirkus. As with all TOON books, a free, downloadable teacher’s guide is forthcoming.

 

We Are All Me, by Jordan Crane, (Sept. 2018, TOON Books), $12.95, ISBN: 9781943145355

Ages 3+

A dot forms and takes readers on a visual journey through existence. As it moves through bodies, nature, DNA, and space, readers experience evolution, our relationship to the Earth, and consciousness, all in vibrant, pulsing, day-glo pen, ink, and tablet artwork. Spare text reads lyrically, almost mantra-like, as we – via the dot – progress through time and space. The visual confirmation that we are connected to this world, and to one another, is exciting and humbling all at once; for young readers, it’s mind-blowing and beautiful. This is one of those books that left me speechless when I first read it, because it’s breathtaking and uses such brief, eloquent verbiage to explain… everything. A stunning must-have for all collections. Own it, and read it. Often.

We Are All Me has a free, downloadable teacher’s guide forthcoming.

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 picture books, Preschool Reads

Count along with Annie Aardvark, Mathematician!

Annie Aardvark, Mathematician, by Suzie Olsen/Illustrated by Davina “Viv” Kinney, (Jan. 2017, STEAM Publishing), $9.99, ISBN: 9780998433707

Recommended for readers 3-6

This cute counting book stars Annie, an aardvark mathematician. She loves math! She decides to count everything she finds, and takes readers on a 1-10 feast for the senses where she enjoys sniffing and tasting cucumbers, rocks, assorted bugs, berries, and plants. Each spread features a white page with black text for easy storytime reading, and a full-color page featuring Annie and her latest discovery. Kids can count along with the repetitive text, which features written numbers, illustrated things to count, and – most fun – the sounds Annie makes as she explores and investigates each treasure. She gulp, gulp, gulps beetles, slurp, slurp, slurp, slurps sticks, and has a whole bunch of snorts for leaves!

This is a cute concept book that would work really well with flannels – nature flannels are easy enough to make or find. It fits in well with a nature storytime; I’d pair this with Sue Williams’ I Went Walking. Make fun sound effects to get the kiddies giggling! The art is cute; Annie has a friendly smile and expressive eyes that will draw readers’ attention. Explain what an aardvark is, and more importantly, what a mathematician is. Pronounce the kids mathematicians and have them count!

Posted in Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Build that Baby STEM Library! The ABCs of Mathematics and Physics

Quantum theorist and Dad Chris Ferrie adds two more board books to his Baby University library: The ABCs of Physics and The ABCs of Mathematics!

The ABCs of Physics, by Chris Ferrie, (Oct. 2017, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky), $9.99, ISBN: 9781492656241

A is for Atom; B is for Black Hole; C is for Charge… The ABCs of Physics is a bright, entertaining introduction to physics. Not your run of the mill ABCedary, The ABCs of Physics works for all ages – for babies and toddlers, it’s a pretty board book with all sorts of interesting pictures to look at. For older kids and adults, it’s an intro to physics terms and concepts. I am here to tell you, unabashedly, that I found this book fascinating. Did you know that a newton is a standard unit of force? I did NOT. I also learned that my little book scanner works thanks to photons – and you can trust and believe that I will pass on little bits of this information in my day to day at work and at home.

 

The ABCs of Mathematics, by Chris Ferrie, (Oct. 2017, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky), $9.99, ISBN: 9781492656289

The ABCs of Mathematics is even more little one-friendly, because it introduces basic concepts that our kids are going to be learning soon enough. A is for Addition: Addition is the mathematics of counting. D is for division: Division is the mathematics of fair sharing. It’s wonderfully to the point, and illustrations help reinforce simpler concepts like union: a Venn diagram, something that most school-age kids are familiar with, or addition, which stacks apples over numbers to illustrate the concept.

Want to close that word gap? Introduce some of these terms to your little ones. Let them explore and play with the books. Just expose them to the words and ideas in the books; if they hear it enough, it won’t be a scary thing when they hear it in school. Any book that teaches me something as much as it does my kids is a good book.