Posts tagged ‘science’

UNLIMITED POTENTIAL

The Tiniest Tumbleweed

Written by Kathy Peach

Illustrated by Alex Lopez

TinyTumbleweed

Beautifully told tale with two protagonists. The story opens with a Mother Tumbleweed discussing her tiny baby with her husband who is concerned that the tot will be too small to make seeds. At that same time a young baby sparrow is hatching; his father is concerned that the baby will be too small to fly and spread seeds. Both the sparrow and tumbleweed experience sadness as they watch their siblings grow and they remain smaller than their peers. Their respective parents continue to reassure their children that size does not really matter as they teach their young the skills needed to reach their own full potential. When the desert rains come, tumbleweed works hard to make seeds, while tiny sparrow learns to flap his wings and hop. One day as fate might have it, a rainstorm brings the tiny sparrow and the tiny tumbleweed together. They learn how to work together to make each other reach their goals.

This is a beautiful book on many levels. The fictional story teaches children a lot about disabilities and strength of character as well as the value of family support. Targeted for preschool through grade three, the book works on many levels. Beautiful yet simple illustrations enhance the text as a read aloud for preschoolers. Lessons embedded within the text are appropriate for primary grade children. I like the lesson plans included for teachers to supplement interdisciplinary curriculum. Fun Facts could be the start of science projects, and the curriculum questions provide many avenues of exploration for the teacher or parent of a home schooled child. As some other reviewers mentioned, I noted some spelling and editing errors, which is the reason I gave the book four instead of five stars.

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SWINGING WITH THE PLANETS

Sing the Planets: I’ll Remember That (Volume 1)

Written and Illustrated by Bonnie Ferrante

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A different and innovative approach to introduce the planets of our solar system to children. Wish I had this book when I was teaching the solar system to third grade students. This author combines beautiful photos of the planets with multicultural drawings of children. Instead of simply presenting information, readers are provided with a story about the mythological background behind the name of each planet. The author distinguishes between the inner and outer planets and explains the features which make them different. Each planet is assigned different notes and a musical song that can be sung to the tune of “Alouette.” Drawings indicate a unique movement associated with each planet like hugging yourself, flapping arms like wings or spinning around. Children can feel themselves moving in space as the planets do. The information is up to date; Pluto is no longer classified a planet. Some children remember better with a word rhyme so Ms. Ferrante suggests the sentence, My Very Excellent Mother Just Served Us Noodles as a mnemonic to remember the planetary names. At the end of the book, a glossary redefines and elaborates on all scientific terminology mentioned in the text.

Such a wealth of knowledge packed into 35 pages. Younger children will enjoy looking at the photos and performing the gestures. Older students will expand their knowledge base of the solar system.

A child will be able to use this book over and over again for a number of years. Recommended for children ages five and up. Also a great family or classroom group activity!

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LET YOUR FINGERS DO THE WALKING

                                                      HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Kindle Fire Apps For Kids: 22 Kick-Ass Apps Parents Should Buy and Why

Written by Elaine Donato

KindleFireAppsWhile I am not crazy about the name chosen for the subtitle, this short guide is an informative and useful one for parents trying to navigate the world of apps for their children.

Donato begins by talking about recommended ages and the benefits of iPad use for children. She reminds parents that it is important to set and enforce limitations and know that apps are a supplement not a substitution to a child’s education. Subsequent chapters highlight games for kids like Curious George’s Town and Toca Hair Salon. Donato moves on to preview traditional story book apps like Little Red Riding Hood as well as those that explore geography and science such as Barefoot World Atlas and Bobo Explores Light. In her chapter on art, writing, and music the author includes apps for comics, playing piano and creating your own book. Then there are educational apps for learning the alphabet, phonics, counting, and common object recognition.

Donato urges all parents to test the waters with these apps and share the experience with their children. These apps provide an excellent opportunity for both generations to grow and learn together.

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THE DIRT ON DINGOES

Dingo Facts: Easy Learning For Kids (Amazing Australian Animals)

Written by Sara Woods

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This book is one of the amazing Australian animal series. It will enlighten the reader about what kind of animal a dingo is, where it lives, what it eats, how it moves and breeds, how it is threatened, and why it is important. The book packs a lot of information in thirty-four pages. While the author targets the book as a read aloud for younger children as well as an independent reader for older children, I think it more appropriate for the latter group.

Unfortunately, my travels have not yet taken me to Australian so I am unfamiliar with this animal. Looking at the photos, I immediately thought of a gray wolf and later learned from the author that the dingo is a subspecies of that animal introduced to Australia by seamen about 4,000years ago. I was fascinated to learn that dingoes are double jointed at all their joints, and that they use their paws as we do our hands. They can even open door knobs. Their ears stand straight up and can rotate backwards; they can rotate their heads 180 degrees for better vision. Most dingoes are monogamous and will mate yearly averaging four to six pups for about ten years. The mother will eat, swallow and regurgitate food to feed young much like a bird.

Landowners and hunters are the biggest threat to the dingoes, but crocodiles, snakes, and lack of food and water also factor in their survival. More contact with domestic dogs as urban sprawl progresses could eventually lead to extinction. Farmers who see them as a threat have engineered the world’s largest fence (3,488 miles) to protect sheep and farm lands. But dingoes are special animals because as the only native dog to Australia, they are apex predators at the top of the food chain who protect many smaller mammals and the native natural grasses. Some areas of Australia have set up sanctuaries to protect the dingoes.

This series will eventually include eighteen books about Australian animals. It certainly makes an excellent, well-organized reference source for classrooms in the elementary grades and libraries. Teachers could also use many of these books in science units comparing and contrasting with other animals. Highly recommended for children age seven and up. Adults who read these books to children will find themselves being entertained and informed as well.

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FROG FEST

Frogs for Kids: The Amazing and Wonderful World of Frogs Book (Reptiles and Amphibians)

Written by Betty Olsen

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Did you realize that there are many species of frogs and that each of them has unique characteristics? In this kindle book, children and adults will have the opportunity to learn about every aspect of their lives. Olsen defines the word amphibian and traces the life cycle of the frog, the food they eat, their anatomy and skin characteristics, how they use camouflage, how they move and communicate, where they live, and how they can be dangerous to humans. Each description is accompanied by a photograph of that frog.

Most people know that frogs develop from eggs laid in the water and later develop lungs and breathe air on land. Are you aware that the age of a frog can be determined by the rings in its bones, and that some frogs live as long as forty years? I learned that not all frogs croak but some chirp, ribbit, whistle, bark or grunt. Their calls have been heard as far as a mile away from their location. The Golden Poison Frog can kill as many as twenty humans or one thousand mice! Olsen mentions toads, but does not go into detail about how they are different from frogs. She also reminds us that we need to keep our waterways clean so that frogs will have a place to lay eggs and prosper.

This book is an ideal beginning tool for a child who is interested in frogs or wants to learn basic information for a science project. As such, it is a good resource for elementary school science bookshelves or libraries. I thought the book failed to elaborate on the topics of environment and toads, but perhaps the author plans to expand these subjects at a later date. Overall, the book is well done and the photographs enhance the details. I would recommend reading it on the cloud or in PDF format.

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HAUNTED HOUSE?

Junior Ghost Hunters – Case of the Chadwick Ghost

Written by Sam Grasdin

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The adventure originates as four friends are hanging out in Nate’s room. Nate is twelve years old and an admitted nerd who loves science and comic books. Lanie Talbot, the only female, has recently emigrated from England. Pete, the athlete, rescued Nate from a bully last year. Greg is an electronic genius with the nickname Gadget because he is always inventing things. Greg has just burst into the room with the news that he has seen a ghost in the upstairs window of the abandoned Chadwick house. Initially the group is skeptical, but Nate convinces them that they should investigate. They decide to form a Junior Ghost Hunters Club; their mission to prove or disprove what Gadget claims to have witnessed.

When Nate’s father convinces the real estate agent to allow the group to view the house in question on the next Saturday, their exploration begins. Mrs. Davenport allows them a couple of hours to “do research for a school report.” They are equipped with a digital recorder, flashlight and video camera, the tools of modern ghost hunters. At first, they fail to uncover evidence until Nate picks up a faint voice on the recorder, saying, “Get out of my house.” They are now determined to make a nighttime visit. Coincidentally, the four friends discover that a couple named Barnes are interested in buying the house. Mr. Barnes is undeterred by the childrens’ revelations that the house may be haunted. He invites them to spend the next Saturday night camping out in the living room of his new house.

The courageous group share pizza and then settle down for their adventure. They appear to be at a standstill until Nate remembers something. His computer research will lead him on a trail to uncover the final clues in solving the mystery. Is there a ghost? Who is it? Will the ghost hunters continue their career as sleuths of the paranormal. Tune in for the next book in the series.

The author is targeting his writing toward children nine to twelve. I believe the text is appropriate and readable for that group. Plot and characters are likable and modern detectives who are equipped with the technology expertise twenty-first children expertly employ. As an adult, I was entertained, amused and convinced that the characters are real. They are multicultural and cover both genders. Looks like the beginning of a good middle grade detective series that will possess wide appeal.

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EARTH, OUR PLANET

Planet Earth! A Kids Book About Planet Earth-Fun Facts & Pictures About Our Oceans, Mountains, Rivers,Deserts, Endangered Species & More

Written by Alexander G. Michaels

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The title of this post is much shorter than the name of the book, but in fact the author provides a concise guide to all those things in an e book of less than fifty pages. Targeted for children in the early elementary grades and written in fairly simple language, this guide sets forth basic information combined with beautiful photographs. It can be a asset to the science section of the classroom as well as serve as a quick reference book or starting point for more research. The author might consider releasing a paper edition for libraries and print book lovers.

Michaels begins with the planet’s history, characteristics, composition, and place in solar system. He next outlines the geographic regions of land and water and gives details about well known examples. The section on fun facts is sure to be a favorite among children; it provides a vast compendium of information in sentence form. For example, each winter approximately one septillion snow crystals drop from the sky or that 75% of the earth’s animals could be extinct within the next three hundred years. Michaels concludes with some ideas on how we can preserve the planet for our descendants.

I have to admit that I learned quite a few things from this book. While I knew that most of the Earth’s surface is water, I was not aware that only 3% of the water on earth is fresh water. Did you know that the largest desert in the world is in Antarctica? Where can you find most of the Earth’s gold? How are mountains, volcanoes and rivers formed? There are lots of surprises for adults as well as the children who pick up this book.

Take a look at this beautiful guide to our planet and share it with your children. Michaels has written a whole series of books, including one on the solar system, endangered species, and dinosaurs. I plan on taking a look at those as well.

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DEEP FREEZE

Arctic Fox: Animals Knowledge Series

Written by Deutsche Don Juan

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The author has written several books with the intent to inform the reader about animals and their environments. He writes well in an easy to read format that will appeal to both children and adults. Gorgeous pictures illustrate each of the major points. As is the case with previous books in the series, Don Juan covers every aspect of the arctic fox’s life. You will learn about appearance, feeding, geography, mating, behavior, habitat, predators, and dangers to humans. Near the end of this short sixty page book, the author provides a summary of fun facts with questions and answers. This makes the book perfect for a unit study or cooperative learning project in the classroom.

Without giving away all the wonderful details that the author provides, I will provide a short summary about this amazing animal. The arctic fox ( Vulpes lagopus ) has many common names. These include polar fox, white fox, and snow fox. This animal lives in the alpine tundra or arctic regions. Despite its name, this animal is not always white. It is born a darker brown color which gradually becomes white over time, while in summer its color actually returns to brown providing camouflage. Its body is round and fat with short legs and a thick tail preventing loss of heat; adaptations that evolved over time so that it could survive in this harsh environment. The arctic fox preys on smaller animals, the lemming being its favorite when available. In spring it will attack baby ringed seals. Fish found beneath the ice are also a food staple. Arctic foxes live in caves or burrow in the sides of cliffs. They are generally monogamous and choose one lifelong mate. The mother’s litter of kits generally ranges from seven to fifteen. Their average life span is only three to four years.  Polar bears are their biggest enemy, but wolves, snowy owls and humans also hunt them. They have keen senses especially in the area of smell and hearing. Arctic foxes carry diseases like rabies and encephalitis and may be affected by mercury poisoning from the fish that they eat.

Readers will learn much more by studying in detail the text and photographs in this unique book. Just the thing to stretch your mind and remind you of the wonders and beauties of nature.

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TURTLE TRUTHS

Samantha Loses The Box Turtle

Written by Daisy Griffin
Illustrated by Matthew Gauvin
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This book is a fictional story about a girl named Samantha who is traveling with her grandparents and two younger sisters when a box turtle suddenly crosses the road. She pleads with them to stop, and to her surprise grandpa not only rescues the turtle but hands it to her. Once they return home, the girls plead with their parents to keep it, but mom explains that a box turtle needs to live in the wild. She agrees that they can keep it until the next day. Samantha also gets her teacher’s permission to bring the turtle to school.

Many adventures ensue as the turtle they have named Gayzer manages to escape both at home and in the classroom. Samantha introduces us to several of her friends and their reactions to her turtle. Because they are studying the food chain in science, their teacher, Mrs. Klutz, has devised a very clever “answer the question and pass the turtle” game to teach the children. At the same time, the reader is learning a lot of facts about turtles, nature and ecosystems. An element of suspense is introduced when the turtle goes missing and the neighborhood cat somehow gets into the classroom. This causes the entire student body to go into an uproar as everyone in the room desperately searches for Gayzer Samantha is supposed to protect and return her turtle to the nature preserve after school. Now she feels guilty that she may have caused it harm.

This chapter book with beautiful black and white illustrations is just over one hundred pages. The charming way the story is told will entertain children in first grade and up if read in chapters. Older children will amass a great deal of information about reptiles and nature; such as, how to tell the sex of a turtle, what they eat, how they survive in their habitats, and how long they live. The adult characters guide the children, but do not preach or make decisions for them. There is just the right amount of humor like naming the teacher Mrs. Klutz, and the toddler sister placing stickers on the turtle so that she could identify it when searching for it in the nature preserve. I thought the questions based on the book at the end were well done and an excellent resource for teachers to test comprehension. In the conclusion, the author reveals that the story is based on the real life experience of a family with three daughters and grandparents who rescue a box turtle named Gayzer and release it to a nature preserve. She also provides additional fun facts about box turtles and includes her website www.samsanimals.info. I am looking forward to many more animal adventure stories with Samantha and her family.

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SLIPPING AND SLIDING AWAY

Leaf and the Long Ice: Volume 3 of Twig Stories

Written by Jo Marshall

Illustrated by D.W. Murray

LeafandlongicepicThis book is volume three of the twig stories. Jo Marshall writes them to develop an understanding of the natural world. She successfully combines adventure storytelling with accurate science in an attempt to encourage an appreciation for the earth and preservation of our environment.. Her target audience is fourth grade through the elementary school years though adults will enjoy them just as much.

The twigs live in a forest at the base of an old volcano which is topped by a glacier. At the beginning of the story we meet Leaf who has been placed in charge of his younger twig brothers while his parents and older sister Fern are away.  The twins named Buddy and Burka plead for a story. Leaf tells them about one of their father’s adventures which inspires them to sneak away so that they can play in the snow. When Leaf  falls asleep, they make their break and the adventure begins.

Along the way the twins encounter many forest creatures, beaver, rabbits, goats, foxes, pike, insects, eagles and caribou among them. Some are friendly and supportive; others are natural predators. The moth provides a ride, while the eagle looks at them as a tasty meal. Leaf ventures after his brothers so the author is really describing two separate fantasy adventures. The twins  slip and slide, hide in caves, and  are attacked by natural enemies, while Leaf frets about them and experiences his own adventures. The author shows the harmony of nature and how the creatures of earth need to support and aid each other for mutual benefit.

At the end of the book, Marshall gives cameos of the types of wildlife that she features as her characters and sketches what their needs are and how they are endangered today. Murray, who has worked with Disney and Universal Studios as an illustrator and screenwriter, supplies beautiful hand drawn illustrations. Marshall donates a portion of sales to wildlife causes and provides additional learning materials on her website www.twigstories.com.

This series furnishes reading entertainment for children and adults as well as accurate scientific environmental information that teachers and parents will find valuable. Read this volume to get started.

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