Elem. – Usha and the Big Digger

Knight, Amitha Jagannath. Usha and the Big Digger. Charlesbridge, 2021. 978-1-623-54202-3. Unpaged. $15.99. Grades K-2.

Usha loves trucks of all shapes and sizes, so when her big sister shows her the Big Dipper constellation in the sky one night, Usha has a different point of view. She sees a Big Digger, a front loader ready to scoop up the sky. This leads to a fight between the girls, who cannot see the other’s vision. Then cousin Gloria sees the constellation as a kite. Who’s right? Well, it literally depends on your point of view – where each girl is laying on the ground. As Usha rotates through the various positions, she sees a dipper and a kite, before finally finding her Big Digger again. Additional activities at the back of the book discuss how cultures in different parts of the world have a variety of names for the same set of stars, while “Exploring the Math” encourages adults and children to further explore rotation, orientation, and perspective. While the literal interpretation of the book deals with perspective in space, it will also work as a discussion starter on individual point of view and how we should work to understand another’s vision. Usha and her family are Black.

THOUGHTS: A cute, visual introduction to the constellations, as well as talking about point-of-view. Usha, as a young girl who loves trucks, delightfully breaks stereotype.

Picture Book          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD

Elem. – 13 Ways to Eat a Fly

Heavenrich, Sue. 13 Ways to Eat a Fly. Charlesbridge. 2021. 978-1-58089-890-4. $16.99. Grades K-4.

Science and math combine to make an icky, yummy, tasty counting book filled with insects and ways they can be consumed! As a swarm of flies go by, one-by-one they are consumed in a variety of ways by a variety of animals. Don’t be sad, however, as the flies are consumed, for more will be born and the process will continue! You will laugh and be shocked at the icky ways these bugs are consumed, in ways humans may not want to know about!

THOUGHTS: This is a very fun book all about how insects are consumed! This book is filled with great details, scientific facts, and fun pictures.

595.77 Other Invertebrates            Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

Elem. – The Leaf Detective: How Margaret Lowman Uncovered Secrets in the Rainforest

Lang, Heather. The Leaf Detective: How Margaret Lowman Uncovered Secrets in the Rainforest. Calkins Creek, 2021. 978-1-68437-177-8. Unpaged. $18.99 Grades 2-5.

From childhood Meg was always interested in nature, opting to spend time outside studying plants. As an adult she moved from her Elmira, New York hometown to Australia where she pioneered rainforest studies. In 1979, she invented a slingshot harness allowing her to study trees from the canopy of branches sitting up to one hundred and fifty feet tall. From dizzying heights Meg studied the rainforest in ways scientists had not previously attempted prior to her invention. Nearly a decade later, Meg was instrumental in developing plans for the first canopy walkway making rainforest ecology accessible to more people and fostering an understanding of its importance to Australian citizens. In her quest to learn even more about rainforests,  Meg joined a team in Cameroon who launched a hot air balloon permitting the scientists a view from the top of the canopy. It was here that Meg realized conservation as her next calling. She began traveling the world, pioneering conservation preservation projects in Cameroon, Western Samoa, and Ethiopia. Mesmerizing full color digital illustrations saturate every page with rainforest scenery. Animals, plants, trees, insects and birds emphasize the biodiversity of the rainforest. Leaf-shaped text boxes nearly blend into the scenery, rewarding a close reading with  additional facts about the rainforest.

577.34 Rain Forest Ecology          Jackie Fulton, Mt. Lebanon SD
Picture Book

MG – Inquire and Investigate (Series NF)

Inquire and Investigate. Nomad Press, 2021. $17.95 ea. $71.80 set of 4. 128 p. Grades 6-9.

Danneberg, Julie. The Science of Fashion. 978-1-64741-027-8.
Danneberg, Julie. The Science of Weather and Climate. 978-1-61930-850-3.
Taylor, Daian C. The Science of Natural Disasters. 978-1-61930-858-9.
Wood, Matthew Brendon. The Science of Science Fiction. 978-1-61930-470-3.

Science, especially STEM, is a hot topic in all educational institutions. This set of four books reveals the science behind topics such as fashion, science fiction, and natural disasters. This reviewer had the opportunity to read The Science of Fashion. Each chapter, six in total, is chock full of information, comics, experiments, photos, facts, and timelines. The author makes sure to include the science behind textiles, design, accessories, and even color. Another interesting feature in each chapter is the QR codes leading to primary sources on the topic discussed on the page. Throughout the book, the author prompts thinking and encourages the reader to work through the engineering design process. Perhaps the most interesting chapter explains how fast fashion causes damage to the environment but with science and engineering, sustainable, environment-friendly fashion is possible. Back matter includes a glossary, metric conversions, resources, and an index.

THOUGHTS: The titles in this collection would be a good purchase for a library serving upper middle grade students. These books also would serve as an instructional tool in a science, engineering, or even a consumer science classroom.

746.9 Engineering and Technology           Danielle Corrao, Manheim Central SD

Elem. – Flip! How the Frisbee Took Flight

Muirhead, Margaret. Flip! How the Frisbee Took Flight. Charlesbridge. 978-1-580-89880-5. 32 p. $17.99. Grades K-3. 

Toss, glide, catch, repeat! Frisbees are some of the top-selling toys of all time, and this title explores their history. In the 1920s, east-coast college kids began flinging empty pie plates from the Frisbie bakery. The fad soon spread from campus to campus. Around the same time, in California, a high school football player named Fred Morrison began tossing a flat, tin popcorn lid with his girlfriend. They were amazed how the lid hovered, dipped, and glided through the air. When the tin lid became too dented to fly straight, the pair experimented with pie plates and cake pans. When someone offered to buy the cake pan from Fred after seeing him tossing it around on the beach, Fred was hooked with the idea of introducing the fun to others. Over the next several years, Fred tweaked the materials for the flying discs and capitalized on America’s obsession with aliens and flying saucers. Eventually, he sold his design to the Wham-O toy company who helped give the toy national recognition. Full-page retro-style gouache illustrations capture the excitement of a game of frisbee from all angles, making readers feel like they are ready to fling the flying disc themselves. An Author’s Note includes details about other colleges that claim to have invented the game of frisbee as well as additional information about Fred’s persistence and creative energy. 

THOUGHTS: This title will be an asset to units about inventions, and it also highlights STEM concepts, particularly ideas about creating prototypes and perfecting designs. It also can be integrated into social-emotional discussions, particularly those centering on resilience and perseverance. 

Picture Book          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD
796.2 Activities and Games

Elem. – Picture Book Science

Perdew, Laura. Picture Book Science. Nomad Press, 2021. $8.96 ea. $116.48 set of 13. 29 p. K-3.

The Earth: One-of-a-Kind Planet. 978-1-619-30984-5.
The Moon: Small-but-Mighty Neighbor. 978-1-619-30988-3.
The Stars: A Gazillion Suns. 978-1-619-30988-3.
The Sun: Shining Star of the Solar System. 978-1-619-30992-0.

Endearing alien narrators tell the story of the sun, moon, Earth, and stars. The narrators discuss how they were all formed and how they are all related. Hands-on activities and glossaries are included in the end matter of each book, giving readers even more opportunities for learning. These informative, easy-to-follow narratives of our solar system are a solid addition to any elementary science collection.

THOUGHTS: I personally received and reviewed The Moon: Small-but-Mighty Neighbor, but there are actually four new releases in the Picture Book Science series (listed above). Additionally, there are 9 other previously published books in the series on topics such as energy, animal adaptations, and more. I especially like how these books bring scientific topics down to a level easily understood by elementary schoolers, and I appreciate the extension activities included in the books.

523 Solar System          Julie Ritter, PSLA Member

Elem. – Sounds All Around: The Science of How Sound Works

Hughes, Susan. Sounds All Around: The Science of How Sound Works. Kids Can Press, 2021. 978-1-525-30250-3. Unpaged. $17.99. Grades K-3. 

Students occasionally can be loud and noisy, but do they understand how sound works? Sounds All Around aims to explain the concept of sound to young readers. The book opens with a young boy relaxing in a field on a summer day when a bee buzzes by. Readers then follow the boy throughout various settings, including nature, the city, and inside his home as he (and his dog) experience various sounds. Readers will learn about how sound is created through vibrations in the air which travel through the ear and are translated into signals to the brain. The science of pitch is introduced by discussing the hearing range of various animals and a chart outlining their hearing ranges (measured in Hertz) is included. Sound measurement (decibels) is also described and several examples provided. The book ends with the boy and his dog walking to the beach as a bee once again buzzes by. The text is enhanced by Ellen Rooney’s charming paint, pencil crayon, and digital illustrations. Backmatter includes a glossary as well as a craft in which children can make a bee buzzer (to mimic the sound of buzzing bees) with a few simple materials.

THOUGHTS: Sounds All Around successfully breaks down the science of sound in a relatable way for young readers. The text allows for reader experimentation/demonstration at prescribed points–for example, readers are asked to clap their hands to hear sound, and to hum while touching the side of their throats to feel vibrations. Highly recommended for those libraries looking to add titles to explain science/STEM concepts to young readers.

534 Science          Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg 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

Elem. – Wingmaker

Cameron, Dave. Wingmaker. Illustrated by David Huyck. Kids Can Press, 2021. Unpaged. 978-1-525-30237-4 $17.99 Grades K-2.  

Leaf and Leo are two ants who have daily work in their anthill home, but they find time to visit caterpillar “Gramma Tinker,” so named for her clever inventions made to help her friends. On this visit, they find her building a pillow-like contraption she calls the Wingmaker 77 (77 for the number of days she’s been alive). “Why do you need it?” they ask. “All I know for sure is that I’m preparing for a new adventure.” Gramma Tinker knows that when it’s finished, she will rest inside it for two weeks, and wake up changed. Leaf and Leo return the next day to find Gramma asking questions of various flying creatures, noting such important ideas as weight, wingspan, wing speed, direction, taking off, landing, and gliding. Then she says goodbye to Leaf and Leo and tells them to return in two weeks. The two friends wait, working in the anthill and wondering what will happen next. In two weeks, they return and find that Gramma Tinker the caterpillar has changed into a moth! A final page in the book explains the metamorphosis of eastern tent caterpillars into (nocturnal) lappet moths, and urges readers to keep a light on at night to attract and observe these moths.

THOUGHTS: This is a creative way to interest readers in this enormous creature change. Some readers may guess what is coming. This would make a good addition to instruction about metamorphosis.

Picture Book          Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

Elem. – Engineered by Nature (Series NF)

London, Martha. Engineered by Nature (series of 8). Abdo Publishing, 2021. 32 pp. $21.29 each. Set of 8 $170.32 set of 8. Grades 2-5.

Cave of Crystals. 978-1-5321-92845.
Arches National Park. 978-1-5321-92838.
Giant’s Causeway. 978-1-5321-92852.
Grand Canyon. 978-1-5321-92869.
Great Barrier Reef. 978-1-5321-92876.
The Great Blue Hole. 978-1-5321-92883.
Mount Everest. 978-1-5321-92890.
Uluru. 978-1-5321-92906

These STEM oriented books focus on natural wonders and how they were formed. In Cave of Crystals, the author discusses this little known place in Mexico. Discovered by a mining company under the Sierra de Naica Mountains in the year 2000, the cave is just about as deep as the Eiffel Tower is tall. Once the water was pumped out, miners were surprised to see giant selenite crystals, some 36 feet tall. The largest of the interconnecting caverns is called Cave of Crystals. The author describes how these crystals were formed, what the conditions were like inside the cave, and which microorganisms lived inside the crystals. This natural wonder was only seen by scientists and is no longer accessible because the water is no longer being pumped out. The text contains a glossary, index, table of contents, map, and suggested resources. QR codes take readers to websites that contain teacher resources, as well as a site for children. There is also a quote from a scientist, which is labeled a primary source. The photographs are striking, especially the one that shows the size of the crystals compared with a human.

THOUGHTS: This series will appeal to those budding earth scientists. Although it is short with simple text, there is enough information for reports. Good resources for elementary STEM units.

Geography, Earth Science          Denise Medwick, Retired, PSLA Member
(917.24, 979.2, 914.1, 979.1, 551.4, 994.3, 954.96, 994.29)