STEM Friday review: WHY IS MILK WHITE?

Why Is Milk White cover

by Alexa Coel­ho & Simon Quellen Field
Chica­go Review Press
Jan­u­ary 1, 2013
288 pages

Did you (or any chil­dren in your life) ever won­der how soap works, why onions make you cry, or how bad it is for you to breathe in hair­spray? 11-year-old Alexa Coel­ho did, so she pulled togeth­er these and almost 200 oth­er ques­tions about her favorite sub­ject, chem­istry, and asked sci­ence writer Simon Quellen Field to write up the answers. This book is the result.
Alexa did a great job of com­ing up with a huge col­lec­tion of spe­cif­ic, rel­e­vant ques­tions that today’s kids (and adults) are sure to be inter­est­ed in, and Simon did an equal­ly great job answer­ing them in clear, easy-to-under­stand expla­na­tions. It’s fun to read straight through or to use as a ref­er­ence when­ev­er you come across some­thing inter­est­ing that you want to know more about. The book also has some nice non­fic­tion fea­tures like a detailed table of con­tents, spe­cial sec­tions with hands-on projects for young chemists (and often an adult helper), and a glos­sary of terms.
Unfor­tu­nate­ly, there are a few things miss­ing here. First, I would real­ly love to see an index in a book like this. It’s near­ly impos­si­ble to find the answer to the tit­u­lar ques­tion, for exam­ple. I only found ref­er­ence to it in a dif­fer­ent ques­tion about why hair con­di­tion­er is white, which, obvi­ous­ly, isn’t in the food sec­tion. Sec­ond, I would have liked to have seen some advice about where to find the ingre­di­ents for some of the projects. Have you pur­chased any muri­at­ic acid late­ly? Final­ly, I wish it had clear­ly stuck to chem­istry ques­tions, or at least acknowl­edged when it was depart­ing from them. Some, such as “Why is the sky blue?”, stray pret­ty far afield into oth­er areas of science.
Still, I think the good­ness here far out­weighs the flaws, and mid­dle-school sci­en­tists all the way through curi­ous adults will learn a lot about sci­ence while enjoy­ing this book.

It’s STEM Fri­day! Check out the STEM Fri­day blog for more STEM book reviews.
(STEM is Science, Tech­nol­o­gy, Engi­neer­ing, and Math­e­mat­ics)

Dis­claimer: I received a review copy from the pub­lish­er in exchange for a fair and hon­est review.

STEM Friday roundup is here!

I’m thrilled to be host­ing STEM Fri­day today! If you reviewed a STEM (Science, Tech­nol­o­gy, Engi­neer­ing, and Math­e­mat­ics) book for kids on your blog today, please leave your link in the com­ments or on Twit­ter (@lauriethompson), and I will add you to the round-up through­out the day. Thanks!

My con­tri­bu­tion to this week’s STEM Fri­day, a review of IN SEARCH OF SASQUATCH by Kel­ly Mil­ner Halls, is post­ed here.

cover1Jeff Barg­er reviews A Leaf Can Be… by Lau­ra Pur­die Salas over at NC Teacher Stuff. Read all about this poet­ry book about leaves here.

cover2On her blog, Sim­ply­Science, Shirley Duke talks about her new book, Gas­es, and shares activities.

Over at Archimedes Note­book, Sue Heav­en­rich reviews Star of the Sea by Janet Half­mann, with some insight on writ­ing from the author herself.

Anas­ta­sia Suen from Book­talk­ing joins the fun with her review of Bones: Dead Peo­ple Do Tell Tales
by Sara L. Latta.

Next week’s STEM Fri­day host will be Rober­ta Gib­son at Wrapped in Foil.

Review: In Search of Sasquatch

In Search of Sasquatch
by Kel­ly Mil­ner Halls
Houghton Mif­flin Books for Chil­dren (Octo­ber 25, 1011)
64 pages, ages 9 and up
When I was a kid, one of my favorite books was BIGFOOT: MAN, MONSTER, OR MYTH? by Car­rie Carmichael (Rain­tree, 1977). I’ve always been an ani­mal lover, and I loved the pos­si­bil­i­ty that there was one (or more?) out there clever enough to remain a mys­tery to us. I lived in rur­al north­ern Wis­con­sin and spent a lot of time in the woods, but, sad­ly, nev­er saw any Sasquatch signs.
When my son told me he thought it’d be cool to be a cryp­to­zo­ol­o­gist (nice!), I knew I had to get him this book. It did­n’t dis­ap­point. He’s read it sev­er­al times cov­er to cov­er, and I’m lov­ing the facts and crit­i­cal think­ing skills he’s demon­strat­ing as a result.
My first thought when I opened the book was how beau­ti­ful it is. The full-bleed for­est spread with the quotes over­lay­ing the trees pulls you right into the world of the sasquatch from the very first page turn (and the final one, as well). The beau­ty con­tin­ues with beau­ti­ful pho­tog­ra­phy, ele­gant illus­tra­tions, and well-done lay­out and design throughout.
Halls com­bines var­i­ous myths and leg­ends with expert opin­ions and eye­wit­ness accounts to weave a clev­er­ly craft­ed and com­pelling case for the exis­tence of sasquatch. She does­n’t come right out and tell us that it does or does­n’t exist, though. In the end, it’s up to the read­er to decide if they’ve been con­vinced or not.
This is a great book to hand to any kid with an inter­est in cryp­tids or oth­er mys­ter­ies, and ani­mal lovers and bud­ding young sci­en­tists will also enjoy it.
FUN FACT: “Accord­ing to experts at the Big­foot Field Researchers Orga­ni­za­tion (BFRO), cred­i­ble wit­ness­es have report­ed see­ing Sasquatch in every state in the Unit­ed States of Amer­i­ca except Hawaii, as well as most Cana­di­an provinces.”
There is a ded­i­ca­tion, table of con­tents, addi­tion­al resources, pho­to and illus­tra­tion cred­its, bib­li­og­ra­phy and source notes, glos­sary, and index.
SIDE NOTE: When asked her opin­ion of the book, my daugh­ter answered, “I LOVED how she crammed so many facts into this book, yet still kept it com­plete­ly inter­est­ing!” My answer: “Ahem. <cough> ‘YET STILL?’ Have I told you what I do? FACTS ARE INTERESTING!” I have failed as a parent.

This is my review for STEM Fri­day, which I’m also host­ing this week! See the com­plete roundup here.
Dis­claimer: A copy of this book was checked out from my local library for review. Thanks, King Coun­ty Library System!

Review: Bring On the Birds

Bring On the Birds cover

Bring On the Birds
writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Susan Stock­dale
Peachtree Pub­lish­ers (Feb­ru­ary 1, 2011)
32 pages, ages 4 and up

This is one of my favorite books of all the nom­i­na­tions in the Cybils Non­fic­tion Pic­ture Book cat­e­go­ry this year, and I just can’t get over how absolute­ly per­fect it is. The poet­ic text is a sim­ple but ele­gant rhyme with spot on rhythm and meter:

“Swoop­ing birds,
whoop­ing birds,
birds with puffy chests.
Danc­ing birds,
div­ing birds,
birds with fluffy crests.”

The illus­tra­tions are bright, clean, and not only depict the var­i­ous birds, but also place them in their appro­pri­ate habitats.
The 21 birds fea­tured run the gamut from the com­mon robin to the more exot­ic blue-foot­ed boo­by, from the great blue heron to the blue bird-of-par­adise. This book cov­ers an enor­mous diver­si­ty of life, then ends just right with what they all have in common:

“All of them have feathers,
and all are hatched from eggs.”

This is a won­der­ful intro­duc­tion to birds for the youngest read­ers. It could also be used to talk about diver­si­ty, habi­tats, and classification.
At the end of the book, Stock­dale includes a per­fect­ly brief and spot-on para­graph with infor­ma­tion about each bird pro­filed in the book. The book also includes a bibliography.
STEM Friday logo

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 roundup over at Anas­ta­sia Suen’s Book­talk­ing.

(Dis­claimer: I received a copy of this book from my local library. I received no mon­e­tary com­pen­sa­tion for this review. All opin­ions expressed here are mine and mine alone.)

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!