Posted in Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Tween Reads

The truth about cats and dogs (and gerbils, birds, fish, and other pets…)

Nat Geo Kids is all about the pets these days: they’ve just released Doggy Defenders, a series of books on working dogs, and they’ve also put out some great desk references about cats, dogs, and an Big Book to get younger readers excited about the world of animal companionship. Here’s a glimpse at some of the books out.

Cat Science Unleashed: Fun Activities to Do With Your Feline Friend, by Jodi Wheeler-Toppen/Photos by Matthew Rakola, (Aug. 2019, National Geographic Kids), $12.99, ISBN: 978-1-4263-3441-2

Ages 7-12

A companion to last year’s Dog Science Unleashed, Cat Science Unleashed is all about the cats, with a glimpse into cat biology and physiology, cat facts, and cat-tivities to engage the scientists in your life. Eleven kid scientists have tested their cats – you’ll meet them on a spread in the book – and invite readers to join them in discovering how cats see at night and how to discover their favorite smells. Activities include building a hiding spot for your cat’s toys (other than my living room floor? Have to get my kid on that) and making toys to test your kitty’s stalking prowess. There’s a glossary and list of further resources at the end A fun volume, and with a new science fair season on the horizon, this could be a fun way to give your kiddos’ cats the spotlight at school in addition to home.

Cat Breed Guide: A Complete Reference to Your Purr-Fect Best Friend, by Stephanie Warren Drimmer & Dr. Gary Weitzman, DVM, (Sept. 2019, National Geographic Kids), $19.99, ISBN: 978-1-4263-3439-9-

Ages 8+

This is a compact, thorough desk reference to cats, perfect for an animal lover, cat fan, and anyone either writing a report about felines or researching a new pet. The guide provides a look at feline history, with a cat family tree, a history of cats and how domesticated cats became household constants, even cat-related superstitions and folktales. There are profiles on more than 60 cat breeds, organized by short hair and long hair breeds, and each profile offers a quick “cat stats” box that provides notes on country of origin, size, coat, grooming, and “catitude”. There are gorgeous photos, fun facts, and general adorableness throughout, plus a section on cat-related careers, a glossary, and further resources. I’m always trying to keep my domestic animals/pets books stocked, so this one will be a nice add to my shelves.

 

Dog Breed Guide: A Complete Reference to Your Best Friend Fur-Ever, by TJ Reser & Dr. Gary Weitzman, DVM, (Sept. 2019, National Geographic Kids), $19.99, ISBN: 978-1-4263-3445-0

Ages 8+

A companion desk reference to the Cat Breed Guide, Dr. Weitzman and TJ Reser team up to give readers a comprehensive guide to canines, from their wolfish origins to today’s modern breeds. Organized into 10 sections, dog profiles include full-color, squeal-worthy photos and stats-at-a-glance: country of origin, height, weight, coat, grooming, exercise needs, and K-9 qualities. There are sections on show dogs, canine senses, and how to talk to your dog, and a section on adopting and training a puppy. There’s a glossary and more resources.

Together, the Dog and Cat Breed Guides provide a handy reference for pet and animal lovers.

 

Little Kids First Big Book of Pets, by Catherine D. Hughes, (July 2019, National Geographic Kids), $14.99, ISBN: 978-1-4263-3470-2

Ages 4-8

I love the NatGeo Kids Little Kids First Big Book series! There are 17 books in the series now, and they’re great for pre-readers to look through, while emerging readers can more confidently navigate the pages. Words are bold, the pictures are big and bright, and there’s tons of fun facts, quizzes, and info to be found. The First Big Book of Pets is all about our favorite companions, from dogs and cats to birds, reptiles, fish, mice… you name it. Interactive questions throughout the book prompt discussion, games at the end of every chapter help reinforce concepts and give librarians like me an excuse to have fun, pet-related programming, and fact boxes give kids info at-a-glance about different pets. If you know a kiddo who wants a pet, but isn’t quite decided on what pet to get, hand them this guide – it’s geared toward educating kids about different pets’ needs, and our responsibilities to animals once we adopt them. A section for parents includes a recipe for baking dog biscuits, pet jokes and tips and ideas to engage kids about pets. There’s a glossary and list of additional resources. The Little Kids First Big Books are really popular with my library kids, so this one is another win for my shelves.

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

Makers… Get Tinkering!

Forgive the stretch between updates, all; I’m home this week, with my little guy, who’s on Midwinter Recess. He’s currently got a Lego stronghold of army men fighting across two rooms, so I used the break to get some writing in.

Did you know that this week is National Engineers Week? It is, and with many of us facing looming Science Fair deadlines, I’ve got a book for you. NatGeo, lifesaving publisher of all the things my own kids and library kids have needed for reports and projects, now has a book called Make This! Building, Thinking, and Tinkering Projects for the Amazing Maker in You

Make This! Building, Thinking, and Tinkering Projects for the Amazing Maker in You,
by Ella Schwartz/Photos by Matthew Rakola,
(Feb. 2019, National Geographic Kids), $16.99, ISBN: 9781426333248
Ages 8-12

This is a perfect book to start off a basic maker program, or a book to add to an already robust program. Most of the materials needed are already in your home: I did three projects today with my first grader! (Pencil Pusher, Silly Noisemaker, and Kazoo, if you’re curious.) The basics of tinkering are here; you can take all of these projects to different levels with questions about the process of making and considering results (we talked briefly about the scientific method as we made predictions about using pencils as wheels, for instance, to propel a pile of books across a table).

Projects are broken down into 8 areas: Simple Machines; Materials; Systes; Optics; Energy; Acoustics; Forces; and Motion. Each area has a spread explaining the concept, followed by several projects further exploring each area. There are questions to consider, fast facts, a list of materials, and a step-by-step of what to do to complete your project. Each project also has a difficulty level and maximum number of people to work on each project.

A foreword explains the nature of making, and sections on makers and makerspaces assure every kid that there is no “maker profile”: you make something, you’re a maker! There are some handy suggestions on materials to keep handy if you want making to be a regular activity in your home, library, or classroom, and there are some spreads dedicated on using the book and starting with a toy challenge. Safety is always paramount, so there’s cautionary messages about having an adult nearby to help out; really, we’re just window dressing, though: kids can easily make these great projects. Afterwords have some info on more complex, advanced making (3-d printers and robotics), and introduce readers to real-life makers: scientists, conservationists, and photographers are makers, too!

This one is yet another win for my Science Projects section and a guaranteed “program in a book” add to my STEM shelf.

Posted in Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Tween Reads

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

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

Ages 8-13

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

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

Posted in 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!