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

MG – Unconventional Science

Unconventional Science. ABDO Books, 2020. $23.00 ea. $138.00 set of 6. 48 p. Grades 5-8. 

Burling, Alexis. Turning Poop Into Power. 978-1-532-11901-9.
Hand, Carol. Controlling Invasive Species with Goats. 978-1-532-11898-2.
Hustad, Douglas. Cleaning Up Plastic with Artificial Coastlines. 978-1-532-11897-5.
McCarthy, Cecilia Pinto. Capturing Carbon with Fake Trees. 978-1-532-11896-8.
—. Eating Bugs as Sustainable Food. 978-1-532-11899-9.
—. Harvesting Fog for Water. 978-1-532-11900-2

This series expertly presents new scientific ideas that many adults and students never may have considered, and aims to give some explanation about the pros and cons of each idea. In four chapters, readers learn about the environmental problem which led to the idea being considered, how well the idea could work, and problems with adopting the idea as a solution. The gross factor of Eating Bugs or Turning Poop into Power may turn off readers or prove irresistible to them.  Chapters end with either compelling deeper thinking questions, or segments linking other documents to the text, again with thoughtful questions. The end matter includes glossary, index, fast facts, and further resources, and is notable for the “Stop and Think” section and the ABDO Book Links website (readers scan QR code to access resources for each specific book).

THOUGHTS: This is a well-presented, engaging format with refreshing and unusual ideas, perfect for middle school learners. ABDO has paid attention to what young learners (and their teachers) need. Librarians may want to give more attention to the various series in ABDO’s Core Library (“nonfiction for grades 3-6”). Free teaching resources are available for download via Follett’s Titlewave. (Title reviewed: Eating Bugs as Sustainable Food.)

363; 628 Science, Engineering        Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

MG – Engineering Disasters

Engineering Disasters. ABDO Books, 2020. $23.00 ea. $138.00 set of 6. 48 p. Grades 5-8. 

Huddleston, Emma. Ford Pinto Fuel Tanks. 978-1-532-19-072-8.
—. The Johnstown Flood. 978-1-532-19073-5.
—. The New Orleans Levee Failure. 978-1-532-19074-2.
Kortemeier, Todd. Air France Flight 447. 978-1-532-19070-4
—. Chernobyl. 978-1-532-19071-1.
—.  The Space Shuttle Challenger. 978-1-532-19075-9.

This series looks at well-intentioned concepts which ultimately failed in some way. The solid format covers the disaster, the search for the cause, and the changes enacted to avoid further disasters. The text is clear and factual, with various sidebars and charts adding meaningful supplemental perspectives. A full-page “Straight to the Source” occurs twice in the book, linking another text with useful questions for further thinking and writing, while a “Stop and Think” segment is part of the well-rounded back matter of Fast Facts, glossary, index, and ABDO’s free online resources.

THOUGHTS: This is a well-presented series on major failures and how the engineering in question has changed. (Title reviewed: The Space Shuttle Challenger.)

363 Manmade Disasters            Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

Elem. – Women Artists A to Z

LaBarge, Melanie. Women Artists A to Z. Dial Books for Young Readers, 2020. 978-0-593-10827-7. 32 p. $19.99. Grades PreK-5.

A coffee-table art book for the youngest readers, Women Artists A to Z provides an overview of twenty-six diverse female artists. Deceptively simple at first, each vignette features illustrations inspired by a woman’s distinct style, a simple portrait, and a brief (two-to-three sentence) explanation of her art. Alphabetic titles are assigned to describe a method, medium, or element of the depicted work, making this book easy to devour in one sitting yet fun to page through multiple times. “B is for Box” headlines Betye Saar’s assemblage celebrations of Black history and culture while “H is for Horse” introduces Jaune Quick-To-See Smith, a Native American artist whose collage often incorporates horses. “W is for Wood” introduces Polish artist Ursula Von Rydingsvard, known for cedar sculpture. Authors notes at the back of the book include birth/death dates, associated city/country, a slightly extended biography, and a question to prompt discussion or creation. In this way, readers have the opportunity to form a basic association with each artist and her style for a diverse collection of international women in modern and classical art. Colorful computer generated illustrations fill the pages and end-pages with examples of the artists and tools highlighted. The simplicity of the text makes art accessible for elementary level students while also leaving the door open for incorporating STEAM connections, research opportunities, maker activities, and writing/drawing prompts. In addition to those mentioned in this review, artists discussed include: Mirka Mora, Helen Frankenthaler, Yayoi Kusama, Kay Sage, Georgia O’Keefe, Agnes Martin, Elizabeth Catlett, Judith Leysterm, Carmen Herrera, Edmonia Lewis, Maya Lin, Hilma Af Klint, Maria Martinez, Gee’s Bend Collective, Frida Kahlo, Louise Bourgeois, Lois Mailou Jones, Alice Neel, Helen Zughaib, Ursula von Rydingsvard, Dorthea Lange, Xenobia Bailey, and Maria Sibylla Meria.

THOUGHTS: Women Artists A to Z is not a stand-alone reference. Despite the A to Z arrangement, it also is not a traditional picture book. Still, I feel it would be a great addition to an elementary library, particularly as part of  interactive display or conversation starter. At first, describing a life’s work in only a few sentences deceptively oversimplifies the artists and left me wanting more information. Yet, I found myself returning to page-through again, jumping from Maya Lin (“N is for Nature) to “K is for Kitchen” (Lenora Carrington) each time soaking in new details. A great way to build curiosity and encourage research skills for students who seek  more in-depth information.

700.8 Women Artists          Jackie Fulton, PSLA Member 

Elem. – Sonny’s Bridge; Snail and Worm All Day; Tow Truck Joe; I Am Someone Else; Hum and Swish

Wittenstein, Barry. Sonny’s Bridge. Charlesbridge, 2019. 978-1-580-89881-2. 32 p. $21.99. Grades K-4. 

In the early 1960’s, if you were on the Williamsburg Bridge in New York City at night you might have heard the sounds of Sonny Rollins’ saxophone floating through the air. Sonny’s Bridge is a poetic biography of the jazz legend and his path to recording his third album ‘The Bridge.” Born during the Harlem Renaissance, Sonny is influenced by the jazz greats. When he starts playing the saxophone, Sonny is a teeneager living through WWII and the Jim Crow movement. He hits the music scene just in time for the bebop revolution. An overnight success, Sonny Rollins even plays at Carnegie Hall, but the fame is too much and Sonny takes a two-year sabbatical where he spends his nights practicing on the bridge to avoid waking his neighbors. On the bridge Sonny plays his own way until he finally feels ready to record his famous comeback album. An author’s note and timeline at the back of the book provide more insight into Sonny’s life and notable accomplishments through 2018. A bibliography along with a list of quotes and websites for more information are also included. The digitally created illustrations add to the historical significance of the story while also embracing the legendary status of Sonny Rollins. 

THOUGHTS: An excellent picture book biography with plenty of historical connections and an introduction to jazz. This book is versatile and can serve both as a read aloud for younger audiences while also allowing room to discuss deeper historical significance with older students.  A welcome addition to any school library.  

92; Picture Book          Jackie Fulton, Mt. Lebanon SD


Kugler, Tina. Snail and Worm All Day. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019. 978-0-358-06364-3. $16.99. 32 p. Grades K-2. 

Snail and Worm have three adventures to share in their second book together. Snail points out all the accomplishments of their friends when a little cheering up is needed for the day. Together the two friends barely escape a dragon (which turns out to be a turtle hiding in its shell) and then take a nap. When Snail is sleepy, Worm agrees to tell a bedtime story that isn’t too scary and includes both friends. The three short stories are excellent examples of friendship for young readers. Although the text is deceptively brief, there is plenty of humor and feeling packed into the stories. The bright acrylic, pastel and collage illustrations give the comfortable feeling of a picture book while the text is suitable for early readers. 

THOUGHTS: A lovely hybrid text for emerging readers who are ready to graduate to reading on their own. This picture book is a bridge in the gap to early readers while providing some opportunities to teach about friendship. 

Picture Book          Jackie Fulton, Mt. Lebanon SD


Sobel, June. Tow Truck Joe. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019. 978-0-358-05312-5. 32 p. $17.99. Grades Prek-1. 

A friendly red tow truck named Joe and his dog Patch spend a day in town helping their neighbors with flat tires and dead batteries. As they cruise around town Patch and Joe say hello to many other working vehicles including the grocery truck, cement mixer, and ice cream truck. When a rushing milk truck collides with the cookie cart causing a traffic jam, Patch and Joe help all of the vehicles work together and find a sweet solution to get everyone rolling again. The brightly colored illustrations of a busy small town filled with working vehicles will be a hit with very young readers. Rhyming text, lots of honking hellos, and a repeating red light/green light verse will make this a fun addition to storytime for a preschool crowd. 

THOUGHTS: Trucks are always a hit at storytime, and this is a good addition to any preschool collection. It’s a fun, engaging read aloud with many opportunities to incorporate movement. This book also can be used to teach young children about cooperation and community. 

Picture Book          Jackie Fulton, Mt. Lebanon SD


Hopkins, Lee Bennett. I Am Someone Else: Poems about Pretending. Charlesbrisdge, 2019. 978-1-580-89832-4. 32 p. $16.99. Grades K-4.

Playing pretend is universal among children, and this illustrated anthology of poetry about imagining embraces that commonality. A brief introduction reminds the reader that “there is nothing better than being yourself” then goes on to explain that it is fun to think about being someone else at times. Poetry is divided into three categories, each of which features a unique heading poem. “Wish! Be a Storybook Character” features poems about fantasy role play such as wizards, pirates, and even what it might be like to be a giant’s wife, courtesy of Lois Lowry. “Support! Be a Person who Helps” includes poems about career role play such as pilot, veterinarian, and police officer. “Invent! Be a Person Who’s a Maker” is a collection of poems related to STEAM professions featuring a builder, poet, and chef. Even video game designers get a poem in this section. Ethnically diverse illustrations with each poem depict children dressing up to match their imaginary scenario. Refreshingly, the illustrations also support imaginary play as an ungendered activity by depicting both boys and girls dressing up in various costumes such as a male nurse and a female video game designer. 

THOUGHTS: This anthology is a great contemporary way to incorporate poetry into STEAM lessons in the elementary library. I would definitely add this title to update a poetry collection. A table of contents would make this title more functional, but the lack of one doesn’t distract from the overall reading experience. 

811; Picture Book        Jackie Fulton, Mt. Lebanon SD


Myers, Matt. Hum and Swish. Neal Porter Books, 2019. 978-0-823-44286-7. 32 p. $18.99. Grades K-3. 

Waves gently crash over the sand on a perfect beach day. Jamie sits quietly humming and playing in the sand as the wind tousles her hair. Here she finds some rocks. There is a puddle left by the waves. Jamie digs, crafts, and collects, content to be in her own world by the sea. People pass by and ask questions about her project. Uninterested in visitors, Jamie keeps her focus. It seems like only the ocean truly understands her. Eventually, another artist sets up shop nearby. The artist has no questions and no answers. The two work in parallel amongst their understanding of each other and the ocean. Museum quality acrylic and oil paintings frame the story, masterfully conveying the serenity and strength of the ocean. Hum and Swish has managed to create a time capsule of a few preciously perfect  hours spent playing next to the ocean. 

THOUGHTS: A fantastic addition to any school library collection. STEAM connections can be made using Jamie’s building with sand and found objects as inspiration. 

Picture Book          Jackie Fulton, Mt. Lebanon SD