On Wednesday last week (September 6, 2017), the sun produced an unusually large solar flare. This flare results in an increased likelihood of auroras lighting up the night sky here on Earth. To learn more about how this works, let’s look at the timely middle grade book Stories of the Aurora: The Myths and Facts of the Northern Lights by Joan Marie Galat and illustrated by Lorna Bennett.
As the title suggests, Stories of the Aurora is a combination of science and folklore. On the folklore side are legends from Inuit, Norse, Greek, and other cultures. On the science side, readers learn about the Earth’s magnetic field, how the auroras form, how they behave, and the environmental effects of auroras.
It’s a surprisingly informative mix. For example, on page 18 we learn that the Sami (also called Laplanders) call the aurora “The Light You Can Hear.” This might not make sense until the sidebar on page 30, when we learn people for centuries have reported hearing crackling and hissing sounds during bright auroras. In 2012 scientists were able to verify the sounds and lights were related and began to piece together how they are created.
Auroras making sounds is just one of the cool things readers will discover in Stories of the Aurora. This award-winning title will surely light up the faces of youngsters interested in finding out more about their world.
For the full review and activity suggestions, see Growing with Science blog.
50 Cities of the U.S.A.: Explore America’s Cities With 50 Fact-Filled Maps by Gabrielle Balkan and illustrated by Sol Linero is a fun new book coming out in September. Let’s take a look at what’s inside and focus on one of the featured cities, Tucson, Arizona.
This book gives information-packed tours of fifty prominent cities from throughout the United States. Each city is presented in huge two-page spread (the book is an extra-large 11 inch x 13.4 inch format).
For each spread, the location of the city is given on a map in the upper right hand corner. Interesting historical information, places to see, and famous citizens of that city are scattered over the pages. If that wasn’t enough, the illustrator has included fun visual searches to some spreads, plus the author gives recommendations for children’s books set in each city.
From airplane museums to majestic saguaros, there’s a lot to see and do in Tucson. Want to learn more? Check out the full review at Wrapped in Foil blog.
50 Cities is a great book to have on hand if you’re planning a trip, moving to a new place, or studying the geography and history of the United States. It’s the kind of reference book kids will return to again and again.
Over at Growing with Science blog today we are featuring The Hidden Life of a Toad by biologist and photographer Doug Wechsler.
Many books feature what we commonly call frogs, but hardly any concentrate on their less colorful, bumpy cousins the toads. The Hidden Life of a Toad brings deserved attention to these fascinating creatures. In addition to filling a neglected niche, the book has a great deal more going for it.
First of all, Wechsler went to great lengths to capture high quality images of every step in the toad life cycle, and his photographs are stellar. You can read about what he did to take the photos in the back matter.
Next, as a biologist, his facts are impeccable.
Finally, what is even better is that he has studied children’s literature and his writing is spot on, too. It is full of lively verbs.
One embryo wiggles.
It jiggles about.
The main text concentrates on toad development and life cycle. Back matter is filled with supplemental information, including a glossary, toad facts, and suggestions for helping toads.
The Hidden Life of a Toad delivers all you can ask for in nonfiction and more. Share it with a budding naturalist today.
See Growing with Science for related activity suggestions.
This week at Wrapped in Foil blog we have another new picture book for National Poetry Month, Feel the Beat: Dance Poems that Zing from Salsa to Swing by Marilyn Singer and illustrated by Kristi Valiant.
You can tell from the title right off the bat this is going to be a fun and upbeat book. Who doesn’t like to dance? But Feel the Beat is also full of surprises.
First of all, we expect poems to have a distinct rhythm. Prolific author Marilyn Singer takes things a step further and incorporates the beats of the particular dance she is highlighting into the poem about it.
The second surprise: The copy I found at the library has a CD in the back with the poems read by the author. They are set to appropriate music for each dance. What a treasure!
The illustrations are fabulous. They are so energetic that they bounce off the page. Each captures the flavor of the dance it portrays without being too busy or visually overwhelming.
Do you want to use the book to teach about different cultures? There are historical and cultural notes about each dance in the back matter.
In conclusion, you’ll want to pick up Feel The Beat for Poetry Month and then enjoy it throughout the year.
Today at Wrapped in Foil blog we are highlighting the children’s picture book biography Stand Up and Sing! Pete Seeger, Folk Music, and the Path to Justice by Susanna Reich and illustrated by Adam Gustavson.
Why read about Pete Seeger? First of all, he was a popular musician. Many people have heard — or even sung — Pete Seeger’s folk songs. In addition he was a social activist, invested in making a difference. For example, Seeger joined Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during protests in Alabama. It was a time when simply performing on the same stage with African American singer Paul Robeson made him a target of violence. By taking chances, however, he helped make changes.
It is clear author Susanna Reich is passionate about her subject. She explains her feelings of personal connection in the “Author’s Note” in the back matter. She lives in the Hudson Valley near where Pete Seeger lived and attended many of Seeger’s concerts. Although she’s a big fan, when she started writing this book she probably had no idea how timely it would be.
Stand Up and Sing! is a rousing tribute to a popular folk singer. It is sure to appeal to young musicians and history buffs, alike. Time to sing its praises.
For related activity suggestions and more information, be sure to visit Wrapped in Foil.
Are you getting ready to share books for kids for National Poetry Month? The new children’s book Animal Ark: Celebrating our Wild World in Poetry and Pictures by Kwame Alexander, with Mary Rand Hess, Deanna Nikaido, and photographs by Joel Sartore should be at the top of your list.
Animal Ark is an amazing combination of image and text. Full of vibrant verbs, the poems leap off the page:
listen to the rumble
giant stomping feet
calling brothers … sisters
This isn’t old rehashed material, either. Alexander is is referring to the fact elephants communicate through vibrations, which scientists discovered in 1997.
Not only does he reveal interesting facts about animals, but also the importance of conservation.
The words aren’t all that make this a powerful book. The photographs by National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore are incredible, too. Every detail stands out crisp against simple black or white backgrounds. How do you fit over 100 gorgeous photographs into one children’s book? The secret is fold out pages. In the back, a fold shows the name of each animal in the book, as well as its IUCN status.
Animal Ark is so moving, it just might leave you breathless. Perfect to share the main pages for story time with a class, or cuddle up with at bedtime with kids and go through the fold outs. At the very least, expect children to want to go back to it again and again.
Visit Wrapped in Foil blog for the must-see book trailer narrated by Kwame Alexander and suggestions for related activities.
Over at Growing with Science blog today we’re highlighting a new Middle Grade book, Insects: The Most Fun Bug Book Ever by Sneed B. Collard III.
How much fun is the book? Let’s take a look.
Starting out, it is written in an animated conversational tone, with a touch of silliness thrown in. Here’s a brief quote as a sample:
“Fireflies light up because they’re afraid of the dark. Not really!”
The information is handled in a less-than-serious way, as well. For example, there is a table in the introduction comparing the known number of species of different animal groups. Kids might not look too closely until they realize one of the categories is comic-book superheroes (there are more than 1,000 different comic-book superheroes according to the author.) The conclusion that the number of insect species far exceeds that of other animal groups comes through loud an clear, regardless, and if adding superheroes makes a reader pay more attention, then good for Mr. Collard.
Some parts are as the reader might expect. The illustrations are color photographs, mostly taken by the author. On the other hand, on page ten is an illustration of an insect’s anatomy hand-drawn by the author’s son. The back matter includes the standard glossary and index, but no list of books or websites to learn more. Instead the author encourages kids to go outside and observe insects in the real world.
All in all, Insects: The Most Fun Bug Book Ever is a must-have title for budding entomologists and kids interested in biology. It will also appeal to kids who enjoy their nonfiction on the lighter side, making it an excellent choice for reluctant readers. Be sure to check out a copy today.