STEM Friday Book Review: The Case of the Vanishing Golden Frogs

The Case of the Van­ish­ing Gold­en Frogs: A Sci­en­tif­ic Mystery
(Excep­tion­al Sci­ence Titles for Inter­me­di­ate Grades series)
by San­dra Markle (Author)
Mill­book Press (Lern­er), Octo­ber 2011
48 pages
Ages: 9–12
From the pub­lish­er’s web page:

Pana­man­ian gold­en frogs aren’t just cute, lit­tle, and yel­low. They’re also the nation­al sym­bol of Pana­ma. But they start­ed to dis­ap­pear about fif­teen years ago. What’s killing them? Could it be a change in their habi­tat? What about pol­lu­tion? Might it be a result of cli­mate change? Fol­low a team of sci­en­tists work­ing to save these frogs and pro­tect frog pop­u­la­tions world­wide in this real-life sci­ence mystery.

San­dra Markle is one of my favorite authors, and frogs are high on my list of favorite ani­mals, so I was thrilled to have a chance to pre­view this title. And I was­n’t dis­ap­point­ed. The text is infor­ma­tive and easy to under­stand, but also tells a fas­ci­nat­ing and com­pelling story.
Markle does a great job of cap­tur­ing both the impor­tance and the fun of sci­ence. First, she explains why the dis­ap­pear­ance of these tiny crea­tures mat­ters. Then, she lays out how the mys­tery unfold­ed: what ques­tions dif­fer­ent sci­en­tists asked, and how the answers led to the next piece of the puzzle–and more ques­tions, for oth­er sci­en­tists, etc.
In fact, that’s one of the things I appre­ci­at­ed most about this book: it does­n’t fol­low just one sci­en­tist and his or her unique work. It demon­strates how one per­son­’s find­ings sparked oth­ers to advance the sci­ence, and how each used his or her own exper­tise and knowl­edge to con­tribute the next vital step in the ongo­ing process. To me, that makes sci­ence feel more acces­si­ble to kids by show­ing that suc­cess­ful sci­en­tists don’t need to solve a whole big prob­lem, they just need to learn some­thing new and tell others.
Aside from the mas­ter­ful text, the stun­ning lay­out and design and big, bold pho­tographs on every page make the book visu­al­ly engag­ing through­out and are more than enough to keep young read­ers turn­ing the pages to see what’s next.
In the author’s note, Markle adds this:

No tale of find­ing a ser­i­al killer could be more excit­ing than this true sto­ry.… But the sto­ry isn’t over yet. The amphib­ian killer is still at large. Per­haps, one day, one of you will become the sci­ence detec­tive who final­ly stops this killer.

The book also includes a table of con­tents, “how to help” sec­tion,  glos­sary, age-appro­pri­ate rec­om­mend­ed resources, index, and pho­to credits.

To check out the rest of today’s roundup of books for kids about top­ics in sci­ence, tech­nol­o­gy, engi­neer­ing, and math­e­mat­ics, head on over to this week’s STEM Fri­day host, Ras­co From RIF!

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