Elem. – Martha Maps it Out

Hodgkinson, Leigh. Martha Maps it Out. Kane Miller, 2022. 978-1-684-64412-4. $14.99. 40 p. Grades PK-3.

Martha greets the day and the universe with a bright hello as she explains her place within the universe. Martha creates a series of maps showing our solar system, Earth, Martha’s city, street, apartment building, apartment, and room. Martha then creates a mind-map of her thoughts, dreams, aspirations, and questions, again expanding her viewpoint to the entire universe. As Martha bids the universe good-night, it is clear Martha has a world of opportunities and adventures to explore as she grows up. Bright and colorful illustrations with nonfiction text features (maps, keys, labels, captions, etc.)  creatively are woven throughout.  

THOUGHTS: A spunky and fun look at the world through the eyes of a young child. The weaving of Martha’s fictional story with nonfiction text features is perfect for teaching about these devices. The mind-mapping sequence is particularly intriguing, and is an element not often included in typical books about maps and nonfiction illustrations. A great STEAM resource.

Picture Book          Anne McKernan, Council Rock SD

Elem. – Franz’s Phantasmagorical Machine

Anderson, Beth. Franz’s Phantasmagorical Machine. Kids Can Press, 2022. 978-1-525-30325-8. 32 p. $18.99. Grades K-3. 

“Imagine. Discover. Create.” Throughout his childhood, these whispers call to Franz Gsellmann. The words run through his mind even as his parents rely on him to do the more practical work of helping out on the family farm. As Franz busies himself milking cows, gathering eggs, and picking apples, the whispers continue calling to him. One night, many years later, he wakes from a dream with an idea for a fantastical, magical, phantasmagorical machine. Unsure about how to make his dream machine a reality, he draws inspiration from the World’s Fair in Belgium. For the next 23 years, he visits flea markets and junkyards, filling bags and carts with odds and ends of all kinds. He hauls everything back to his workshop where he tinkers in secrecy. When he finally reveals his creation to his family and neighbors, he’s crushed when they don’t understand his vision. They want to know what the machine does, but they miss the point that sometimes, a creation doesn’t need a practical purpose. Some things can be appreciated simply for their artistic beauty, ingenuity, and creativity. Backmatter pages include a brief biography of Franz Gsellmann as well as black and white photos of him with his machine. 

THOUGHTS: This title will be a thought-provoking addition to STEAM lessons as it highlights the ideas of perseverance, experimentation, creativity, and optimism. It also draws connections between science and art and shows the value of thinking outside the box. Share this with art teachers too to kickstart units about recycled art or self-taught artists. 

621 Applied Physics          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD
Picture Book

Elem./MG – The Science of Song: How and Why We Make Music

Cross, Alan, Emme Cross, and Nicole Mortillaro. The Science of Song: How and Why We Make Music. Kids Can Press, 2021. 978-1-771-38787-3. 48 p. $17.99. Grades 4-8.

A concise and colorful historical and psychological foundation of sound that starts with the origin of music over 40,000 years ago and how we hear to digital and artificial music makes this book a great addition to intermediate and middle school libraries. The content is broken into 19 one page chapters that summarizes the topic at hand. Each section also has engaging images and a three song playlist to accompany it. The book ends with a timeline, glossary, and index that can be helpful for curious young minds. 

THOUGHTS: A fun and low stakes way to introduce younger minds to the psychology and importance behind the music we all hear on a daily basis. This title would be a great addition to an elementary, intermediate, or middle school library looking to refresh their nonfiction collection.

780 Music          Samantha Hull, Ephrata Area SD

Elem. – Over and Under the Canyon

Messner, Kate. Over and Under the Canyon. Chronicle Books, 2021. 978-1-452-16939-2. 56 p. $18.99. Grades K-3. 

Discover the wonders of a desert ecosystem in the newest edition of Kate Messner’s ecology-based Over and Under series. This story is about one family’s hike through a real-world desert habitat. Messner’s book Over and Under the Canyon aligns perfectly with national science standards with excellent and amazing facts about the animals, wildlife, and wonders that inhabit the desert world. With colorful and vivid illustrations by award-winning artist Christopher Silas Neal, this picture book is undoubtedly driven by an engaging narrative packed with STEM content. In addition, the content within the story provides many opportunities to discuss the importance of natural habitats and ecosystems and how to preserve our natural wonders. As a result, readers will be engaged in every page turn. 

THOUGHTS: Science-loving readers will want to explore this fact-filled story about animals and wildlife. Curiosity may grow with each page, and educators will be able to dive into the well-researched content. Messner’s other books in this series include: Over and Under the Pond and Over and Under the Rainforest. Add this gorgeous book to your science collection! 

Picture Book          Marie Mengel, Reading SD

MG – Build It Yourself Science Biographies (Series NF)

Build It Yourself Science Biographies. Nomad Press, 2021. 128 p. $22.95 (HC) $17.95 (paper). Grades 5-8.

Klepeis, Alicia Z. The Science & Technology of Ben Franklin. 978-1-647-41018-6.
Knutson, Julie.The Science & Technology of Marie Curie. 978-1-647-41022-3.
Pagel-Hogan, Elizabeth. The Science & Technology of Leonardo da Vinci. 978-1-647-41014-8.

Knutson’s book on Marie Curie showcases Curie’s intelligence and scientific contributions, while encouraging readers to try their own scientific experiments. Despite social and economic restrictions on women, Curie persevered in her scientific endeavors, working with her husband Pierre, and continuing their work after his death. Her work earned her a Nobel Prize.  When World War I began soon thereafter, Curie easily could have worked to build better weapons to win the war, but instead she decided to use her knowledge to promote health and peace. When she learned that doctors at the front were often amputating injured soldiers’ limbs simply because they could not pinpoint the location of shrapnel, she used all her clout and contacts to get small X-ray machines to the front. These ‘petit Curies’ were small vehicles staffed by three medical persons, and their x-rays saved untold lives. A later affair with a married man brought disgrace upon Curie (but not the man), but she continued throughout her life to work for greater scientific knowledge for peace. This book includes black and white photos, humorous comic style sidebars, and frequent experiments for readers to try.

THOUGHTS: This is an engaging look at Marie Curie’s life and scientific work. This book is part of the many popular “Build It Yourself” biographies by Nomad Press, and the most recent three focus on Marie Curie, Ben Franklin, and Leonardo da Vinci.      

540 Chemistry          Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD
Biography

Elem. – Isobel Adds it Up

Everington, Kristy. Isobel Adds it Up. Penguin Random House Studio, 2021. 978-0-593-17810-2 p. 40. $17.99. Grades K-2.

Isobel is a math fanatic! She thinks in numbers and thrives when she can connect with addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division in her daily routines. Isobel is also a problem solver but trying to figure out who is causing the noise in her neighbor’s house is one problem she cannot figure out. Is it a marching band? Is it a basketball team? Isobel doesn’t know what to do about all the noise, but she needs to figure out how to end the nonsense to concentrate on her math homework. Just when Isobel reaches frustration in solving the problem, the solution comes from a most surprising place!

THOUGHTS: I adore this STEAM picture book that connects literacy and math in a fun and engaging way with a fierce little girl at the center of the story. This story would make a great read-aloud in classrooms, libraries, or at bedtime! My favorite part of the book is that the solution to Isobel’s problem is dealt with a gesture of kindness– an appropriate response from the main character herself.

Picture Book          Marie Mengel, Reading SD

Elem. – The Thingity-Jig

Doherty, Kathleen. The Thingity-Jig. Peachtree Publishing Company, 2021. 978-1-7972-0282-2 p. 32. $17.95. Grades K-3. 

What happens when you make a curious discovery? A discovery that is springy, bouncy, and oh-so joyous to sit and jump on! It is so special that you run home to tell all of your friends that you discovered a Thingity-Thing! However, the discovery is so cumbersome to move that Bear, the main character in this story, needs help from his friends to get the exquisite piece home. So when no one in Bear’s life wants to be bothered, Bear takes matters into his own hands (or paws) and builds a Rolly-Rumpity to wheel the Thingity-Jig home. But of course, there are bumps in the road, and Bear needs to invent the Lifty-Uppity to overcome the next obstacle. Author Kathleen Doherty creates an adorable, curious, and inventive character in her picture book The Thingity-Jig and cleverly combines wordplay and STEAM into her storyline. A delightful read-aloud for young children, The Thingity-Jig is both quirky and hilarious and so fun to read!

THOUGHTS: Author Katleen Doherty is a reading specialist and former classroom teacher for over 30 years. The Illustrator, Kristyna Litten, studied art at the Edinburgh College of Art and has illustrated several children’s books. Her style, heavily influenced by animation and illustrative art, is the perfect vibe for this charming picture book. An ideal read-aloud for STEAM or growth mindset!

Picture Book          Marie Mengel, Reading SD

Elem. – Geology Rocks! Set 2 (Series NF)

Hansen, Grace. Geology Rocks! (Set 2) Abdo, 2020. $20.95 ea. $125.70 set of 6. 24 p. Gr. K-2. 

Crystals. 978-1-532-18556-4.
Igneous Rocks. 978-1-532-18557-1.
Metamorphic Rocks. 978-1-532-18558-8.
Mineraloids. 978-1-532-18559-5.
Organic Gems. 978-1-532-18560-1.
Sedimentary Rocks. 978-1-532-18561-8.

Adbo has expanded their Geology Rocks! series for young readers with the addition of these six titles. Sure to be of interest to students with an interest in rocks and/or minerals, each title features simple text that explains the science behind geology. This reviewer had the opportunity to read the Igneous Rocks volume. The text broke down and described the steps in the igneous rock cycle in an easy to understand manner aimed at primary students. Numerous photos as well as charts accompanied the text in order to illustrate the formation and composition of the rocks. Back matter included a glossary, a chart that shows different types of igneous rocks and a link to Abdo’s extension activities and materials for the volume.

THOUGHTS: This series is an excellent choice for primary libraries looking to update or expand their geology-related collections. The titles offer a great way to introduce the topic of geology to young readers and the oversize books with high-quality photos will hold great curb appeal to browsers. As always, Abdo’s online supplemental content is a cut above what is provided by many publishers and could easily be incorporated into classroom lessons.

549-553 Minerals and Geology          Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD

Elem. – Boxitects

Smith, Kim. Boxitects. Clarion Books, 2020. 978-1-328-47720-0. Unpaged. $17.99. K-3.

Meg is a talented “boxitect.” She makes all sorts of things out of boxes, from houses to towers to tunnels. When her mother sends her to Maker School, she is very excited to learn all about boxitecture. However, this all changes when Simone shows up. Simone is also a boxitect, and she puts Meg’s work to shame. When Meg and Simone are forced to work together on a group project, their inability to agree results in disaster. In order to salvage their project, the two must learn to compromise and work together. An encouraging story about the power of creativity and teamwork, this book is sure to delight young artists and makers.

THOUGHTS: I absolutely love the incorporation of STEAM elements into this story, and the fact that the protagonist is a female is an added bonus. I could see this being used in the classroom to introduce a STEAM project or experiment, perhaps even one that involves creating something out of cardboard boxes. The back matter even includes an experiment that demonstrates the durability of cardboard, as well as directions for creating both a tunnel and a castle out of boxes. This book would pair nicely with Antoinette Portis’s Not A Box (2006). It would be an excellent addition to any elementary collection.

Picture Book          Julie Ritter, PSLA Member

Elem. – Fun STEM Challenges (Series Nonfiction)

Ventura, Marne. Fun STEM Challenges. Pebble, 2020. $20.49 ea. Set of 6 $122.94. 24 p. Grades K-3.

Building Boats that Float.  978-1-977-11297-2.
Building Marble Runs 978-1-977-11300-9.
Building Simple Traps. 
978-1-977-11298-9.
Building Strong Bridges. 978-1-977-11299-6.
Building Sunshades. 978-1-977-11301-6.
Building Tough Towers. 978-1-977-11296-5.

In this book, we learn all about Marble Runs! In text young readers can understand, this book informs us as to what a marble run is, why we can build them, how we make our own, and a review of what we learned! This book also contains a glossary for important key words, both text and Internet sites where we can obtain more information, and even some critical thinking questions. This informative book will have young readers creating their own marble runs out of a variety of materials!

THOUGHTS: This is a must have for any STEM/STEAM teacher who works with young grades! A simple book to allow students to begin thinking about his/her own marble run and how to make it work. (Title Reviewed: Building Marble Runs)

507.8 Inventions          Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD