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 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 Early Reader, Fiction, Non-Fiction, picture books

Science for Kindergarteners!

I’m always looking for ways to get more science in my kids’ days: my QBH Kids and my own Kindergartener alike. I’ve had some great successes and some that fell a little flat. At my previous library, I had a phenomenal early learning assistant who helped create amazing Science Storytimes, using popular storybooks to demonstrate simple science concepts for little ones: using Ellen Stoll Walsh’s Balancing Act to teach balance, while showing them a simple balance board that kids were invited to place small objects on and discover what balanced, and what tipped the sides.

I also look to fellow librarian and teacher bloggers for hints. Pinterest is a great resources, as is Education.com and Teachers Pay Teachers. Science In Storytime is one of my more recent go-tos, with loads a great book and activity ideas, and The Show Me Librarian has some fantastic programming for Pre-K and elementary programs.

I’ve just received some new books from Nomad Press’ Picture Book Science series, too. These are a lot of fun: color artwork on every page, a fun poem to kick off each book, and my favorite part: an explanation of the scientific term, with all the uses of the term. Take, for instance, the book Waves: it starts off with the simplest interpretation of the word; a way to say hello. The book goes on to include ocean waves in that explanation, then the motion of a wave, and finally, a discussion of waves: energy, light, sound, all using questions to provoke thought, discussion, and understanding. Each book “Try This!” boxes, with simple activities kids can easily do at home or in the classroom (or during Science Storytime). Glossaries are handy to define terms that come up. There are currently four books in the Picture Book Science series: Waves, Forces, Matter, and Energy, all written by Andi Diehn and illustrated by Shululu; at $9.95 each, it’s a good and reasonable investment for our home, school, and public shelves. (Waves: 978-1-61930-635-6; Forces: 978-1-61930-638-7; Matter: 978-1-61930-644-8; Energy: 978-1-61930-641-7)

   

 

Rosen Classroom has a new series of easy readers called Computer Science for the Real World. They’re not attempting to teach Python or Scratch to the little ones (yet): these readers break the concepts needed to study computer science down for beginning readers. The three readers I received use everyday concepts – morning routines, alphabetizing books, building a birdhouse – to introduce activities that will help learn computer science; in this case, repetition and doing things step by step.

 

The books are leveled and contain instructional guides with include new vocabulary words, background knowledge for the specified concept, and text-dependent questions. There are independent and class activities to help kids learn through experience, and are available in English and Spanish. I really like these readers; there aren’t that many “just right books” (as my son’s school calls them) explaining science like this, and I’d love to have them in my library, but this is more of a Central library purchase, at least in my system, because you’re going to want to buy these by the collection; you can certainly buy them as single books, but having a whole set will better benefit your readers. The pricing is pretty reasonable, so I’ll be slipping this into an interoffice envelope bound for my collection development department tomorrow morning.

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

Out-There Nonfiction

There is such great nonfiction being published these days. Nonfiction used to conjure pictures of boring textbooks with walls of words, with a handful of old black and white photos. Today? Nonfiction includes video game guides, crazy stories about our bodies, animals, planets, and the freaky ways famous people died. And that’s just scratching the surface. Kids’ nonfiction sports full-color illustration or photographs, text that understands how kids read and learn, and takes all interests into consideration. Series nonfiction, like the Who Was/What Was series from Penguin makes history compulsive readable, and No Starch Press has full-color STEM and tech books that teach kids everything from coding in Scratch to explaining the sciences using manga comics. I love building a good nonfiction section; these are a few of the books on my current shopping list.

Behind the Legend series, by Erin Peabody/Illustrated by Victor Rivas and Jomike Tejido, little bee books
Good for readers 9-12

 

This series is so good. I’ve read Werewolves and Zombies, and love the way Erin Peabody weaves history with pop culture to present a paranormal guide that kids will love reading and learn from. There are black and white illustrations throughout; cartoony, bordering on downright freaky. Zombies delves deeply into the history of slavery and its ties to the rise of the zombie legend and the practice of voudou; Peabody also talks about the walking dead being very old news; they were showing up in Mesopotamia long before Robert Kirkman ever thought up Rick Grimes and his band of survivors. Werewolves talks about the history of animal lore and famous “were-beasts” in history, like the Gandillon siblings – a French brother and sister who were convinced they were wolves and acted accordingly. Harry Potter, Scooby-Doo, and Twilight all get a shout-out in this fun look at werewolves. There are further sources for kids who want to read further. Other Behind the Legend books include Dragons, the Loch Ness Monster, and Bigfoot. This is an absolute must-add set for kids who love themselves some pop culture paranormal reading (and half the price of most series nonfiction, library-bound books).

 

Don’t Read This Book Before Bed, by Anna Claybourne, (Aug. 2017, National Geographic Kids),
$14.99, ISBN: 978-1-4263-2841-1
Good for readers 9-12

The kids in my library love creepy. Most kids do, right? It’s that safe scare, the adrenaline rush, the squeal of the “eeeeeewwwwwww!” that you can make while safely in your seat, surrounded by family, friends, or your stuffed animals or action figures. It’s being able to turn to your friend and say, “Look at this!” and watching your friend freak out, too. NatGeo knows this, and Don’t Read This Book Before Bed (which is exactly what kids will do) is chock full of freaky stories that will keep them reading and saying, “NO WAY!” Think of it as the Lore podcast, for kids. Haunted castles? Check. Freaky dolls? (Robert the Doll, profiled in here, actually has both a podcast and episode of Lore dedicated to him.) Check. Aliens and fish people? Right this way. Each story has a “fright-o-meter” to let readers know how scary this is going to get, and quizzes help readers figure out their phobias (I love a good flow chart), test whether or he or should would be a good ghostbuster, or take apart the mysteries of science. My library’s copy is rarely on the shelf.

 

50 Wacky Things Humans Do: Weird & Amazing Facts About the Human Body, by the Walter Foster Jr. Creative Team/Illustrated by Lisa Perrett,
(Dec. 2017, Walter Foster Jr.), $14.95, ISBN: 9781633223967
Good for readers 7-10

Our bodies do some wild stuff. A sneeze moves at about 100 miles per hour. (Think about that, next time someone doesn’t cover their nose and mouth when they sneeze near you.) If someone tickles you and you put your hand on theirs, it’ll send a message to the brain that stops the tickling sensation. Wrinkly bathtub fingers help us grip things better. Readers will learn all of this and more in 50 Wacky Things Humans Do, written in a similar vein to the chunky, digest-sized NatGeo Kids fun fact books. Wacky Things features one fact per spread and one colorful, fun illustrations; good for intermediate-level readers.

 

Evolution: How Life Adapts to a Changing Environment, by Carla Mooney/Illustrated by Alexis Cornell,
(Nov. 2017, Nomad Press), $17.95, ISBN: 978-1-61930-601-1
Good for readers 9-12

Nomad Press has enjoyed shelf space in my library for a while. They have great science project books and consistently win awards because they blend hands-on projects with text readability. Evolution is a great update to Nomad’s collection and my science projects shelf. First of all, the book is in color; my Nomad books have normally been black and white, and this is as eye-catching on the inside as it is on the cover. The book progresses from a basic overview of evolution and how it works, through natural selection, species and speciation, through to classification and human evolution. Twenty-five projects allow kids to map early human migration; find sidewalk fossils (awesome for my urban library kiddos), and research an endangered species and create a plan to save it. There’s a glossary, lists of resources, and an index. I love this new direction Nomad seems to be taking and want to see more! Great for library shelves.

 

 

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

Mystery & Mayhem: New nonfiction middle grade series

Survival_CoverMystery & Mayhem: Survival, by Tom McCarthy, (Oct. 2016, Nomad Press), $9.95 (softcover)/$19.95 (hardcover), ISBN (softcover): 978-1-61930-480-2, ISBN (hardcover): 978-1-61930-476-5

Recommended for ages 8-12

Five stories of survival against all odds: Antarctic explorer Ted Shackleton and his men, fighting for their lives in the ice; legendary Mutiny on the Bounty Captain William Bligh and his men, set adrift in the Pacific Ocean; a young man and his companions struggle to travel through Death Valley to reach California during the gold rush; a young girl is one of the survivors of a shipwreck and then a trek through the Sahara Desert; and young Eliza Donner, one of the survivors of the Donner party’s fateful journey to the American West. Five stories, all terrifying, and all true.

 

 

PiratesAndShipwrecks_CoverMystery & Mayhem: Pirates and Shipwrecks, by Tom McCarthy (Oct. 2016, Nomad Press), $9.95 (softcover)/$19.95 (hardcover), ISBN (softcover): 978-1-61930-475-8, ISBN (hardcover): 978-1-61930-471-0

If it’s pirates ye be wantin’, pirates you’ll get here! Stories of the unlucky crew of the Betsey, shipwrecked and met by pirates; the 1857 recovery mission to discover what happened to an Arctic expedition that never came home; the story of Mary Read, one of the bloodthirstiest pirates ever to set sail – and a female!; the crews of two shipwrecks try to stay alive in a land populated by cannibal tribes, and the story of Barbarossa, the most feared pirate in the Mediterranean.  There are five stories of pirates and shipwrecks here, all true. Pirate fans, brandish your cutlasses, put on your eyepatch, and have a seat; these are the stories of the real Pirates of the Caribbean (and then some)!

These books read like the adventure and scary true tales I read when I was a kid. Does anyone else remember Dynamite Magazine’s book series? They had ghost stories and stories about famous disappearances (like Amelia Earhart and Judge Crater), and I devoured them. They gave me just enough of a jump scare, without venturing (too much) into “sleep with your lights on” territory. Kids who love Lauren Tarshis’ I Survived series will be all over these, but again – my brilliant nonfiction choices go unnoticed, so I’d have to display them, loud and proud, with the I Survived books and make sure the kids know where they are.

The beginning of each story in each book provides a map with details on the story’s location, and each story ends with a look at other events that took place in the same year as the current adventure. While Barbarossa was terrorizing the seas in 1504, for instance, Leonardo da Vinci was hard at work, painting the Mona Lisa, and Michelangelo’s famous statue, David, was displayed in Florence. In 1849 – the same year that William Lewis Manly led his companions out of Death Valley – Elizabeth Blackwell became the first female doctor in the United States, and Minnesota became a territory of the USA! Glossaries and resources complete each book.

While each book carries a Guided Reading level of V, the text skews a bit younger, which makes this a good series to introduce struggling and reluctant readers to. You can also suggest further reading, including Mystery in the Frozen Lands, a Hi-Lo reader from Lorimer, with Pirates and Shipwrecks: Mystery in the Frozen Lands is the full story of the Arctic mission to discover the fate of the Franklin expedition 12 years previous.

These are a fun series that will appeal to adventure readers. I’ve got a few fourth grade class visits booked for October (already!), so I may see how a read-aloud from one of these books goes.