Elem. – What Was It? (Series NF)

McCurry, Kristen. What Was It? Pebble, 2020. Unpaged (32). $21.99 ea. Pre-K.

What Was It Before It Got Wet? 978-1-9771-1334-4.
What Was It Before Melted? 978-1-9771-1332-0.
What Was It Before It Was Cut? 978-1-9771-1331-3.
What Was It Before It Was Smashed? 978-1-9771-1333-7.

These “turn and see” books encourage critical thinking in the very young. What Was It Before It Got Wet presents readers with vibrant close-up photographs of a wet substance, and challenges them to identify what the substance was in its dry state. Many of the illustrations are of familiar items – soapy lather, hot chocolate – but some are more challenging to recognize, including a drenched koala. A photo of a seedling may really stretch young minds to determine the answer. The graphic design of the volume is gorgeous, with bright “what was it?” photos set off by wide margins, and answer photos on the reverse side full-page images.

THOUGHTS: This book begs to be read one-to-one, with enthusiastic discussion to ensue. 

530.02 Physics and Matter          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD

Elem./MG – Accidental Archaeologists

Albee, Sarah. Accidental Archaeologists. Scholastic Press, 2020. 978-1-338-57579-8. 210p. $23.31. Grades 3-6.

Pompeii and Herculaneum, the Rosetta Stone, the cave paintings of Lascaux, the Dead Sea Scrolls. All incredible archaeological finds. And all found by ordinary people. Author Sarah Albee starts in 1709 with workmen digging a well and discovering some cut marble that leads to the excavation of Herculaneum and Pompeii, and works her way through the centuries to 2013 and two cavers in South Africa who navigate some tight quarters to discover bones belonging to a previously unknown species of early human. The last chapter speculates about what is still out there to be uncovered, including the final resting place of Genghis Khan. Each chapter details the find, its place in history, and also why it matters today. Readers will also appreciate the photographs that accompany the text.    

THOUGHTS: Students will enjoy reading the story behind some of the important archaeological finds they hear about in social studies class, as well as learning about previously unknown discoveries. A great addition to any elementary or middle school library. 

560 Paleontology          Melissa Johnston, North Allegheny SD

Elem. – Cool Paper Art

Cool Paper Art. Abdo Publishing, 2020. $20.95 ea. $125.70 set of 6. Grades 3-6.

Borgert-Spaniol, Megan. Accordion Folding: Simple Paper Folding. 978-1-532-11943-9.
—. Karakuri: Paper Made to Move. 978-1-532-11944-6.
—. Papermaking: Handmade paper and Paper Products – 978-1-532-11947-7.
Thomas, Rachael L. Kirigami: Paper Cutting and Folding. 978-1-532-11945-3.
—. Origami: Classic Paper Folding. 978-1-532-11946-0.
—. 3-D Origami: Paper Building Blocks. 978-1-532-11948-4.

Karakuri: Paper Made to Move is an introductory book for readers to the Japanese art of making movement with paper. Provided with specific directions and photographs to match, readers are able to take paper and create different types of movement, including slides, levers, cranks, and cams. These simple mechanisms can be used to introduce readers to different movements and higher level ideas of physics with paper.

THOUGHTS: I am excited to provide this book to our district’s STEM teacher, who can teach many of these concepts through paper and art! This series offers a great way to bridge science and fine arts across the curriculum!

736.98 BOR                                        Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD

MG – Tracking Pythons: The Quest to Catch an Invasive Predator and Save an Ecosystem

Messner, Kate. Tracking Pythons: The Quest to Catch an Invasive Predator and Save an Ecosystem. Millbrook Press, 2020. 64 p. $24.04 978-1-541-55706-2 Grades 4-8.

Once native only to Asia, Burmese pythons have invaded Florida!  Researchers speculate that animals kept as pets were released and quietly flourished undetected in the lush, protected swamps of Florida. Native animals such as alligators and mink, herons, deer, possums and more, are being affected by the insatiable appetite of the pythons. “People will ask me what pythons eat. The question should be, What don’t they eat?” says Bartoszek (44). Kate Messner follows researchers Ian Bartoszek and his colleagues from the Conservancy of Southwest Florida as they explain the scope of the problem and their efforts to control it. Scientists can respond to an invasive species in four ways: prevention, eradication, containment, or control. The burmese python population in Florida, estimated to be in the tens if not hundreds of thousands, is well beyond the first three responses, and even controlling the population is proving difficult.  Bartoszek and colleagues track the pythons using radio telemetry, capture them for analysis and transmitter implantation, and try to better control the population. “Another big goal is to advance snake science in general. We kind of owe it to the pythons. We have tremendous respect for this animal, so we try to gather as much scientific information as possible” (44).  Each chapter includes segments on “How to Catch a Python” (some surprising stories and methods) as Messner shares lessons learned, “python CSI,” and the wonder of the undetectable python, even when standing atop one! The book includes QR codes showing python releases and telemetry flights, and extensive back matter.

THOUGHTS: A compelling look at an amazing animal and its effects on an ecosystem, this book will engage readers with an interest in animals, the environment, and scientific careers.  A top example of narrative nonfiction.

597.96 Burmese Pythons        Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

MG – Astronauts: Women of the Final Frontier

Ottaviani, Jim. Astronauts: Women of the Final Frontier. First Second, 2020. 978-1-626-72877-6. 157 p. $19.99. Grades 5-8.

From page one this graphic novel challenges sexist thinking showing an astronaut taking off their suit to reveal Mary Cleave, one of the first women in space. Throughout the story astronauts like Mary Cleave and Valentina Tereshkova work hard and accomplish many feats despite the sexism they face in their daily lives. At one point John Glen and other famous male astronauts laugh at the possibility of having women join men on space missions. The story explores the diverse paths that led these astronauts to their jobs at NASA and the impressive talent, work ethic, and intense training these astronauts had to be able to operate a spaceship. The illustrations are fun, and the format allows readers of all abilities to be introduced to the incredible science behind space exploration. After reading about the lives of these trailblazers, readers will be inspired to overcome obstacles, seize opportunities, and pursue their passions.

THOUGHTS: A good addition to any graphic novel collection. The story will be appreciated by readers of nonfiction and graphic novels and will encourage readers to learn more about space flight and the history of women in space.

629.45 Manned Space Flight          Jaynie Korzi, South Middleton SD

Elem. – Old Rock (Is Not Boring)

Pilutti, Deb. Old Rock (Is Not Boring). G.B. Putnam’s Sons, 2020. 978-0-525-51818-1. 32 p. $17.99. Grades K-4. 

Old Rock happily sat at the edge of the forest “for as long as anyone could remember. And even before that” until one day friends begin to brag about their many adventures. Hummingbird’s stories of flight remind Old Rock about what it was like to sit in darkness before erupting from a volcano. Spotted Beetle’s tales of scaling trees to watch animals and ships remind Old Rock of times when dinosaurs roamed before giant glaciers covered the land. Tall Pine’s dancing in the wind inspires rock to recant what it was like to tumble down a ridge and land in a vast grassland full of mastodon. Old Rock’s friends are finally convinced that staying in one place for as long as anyone can remember might not be that bad when Old Rock shares what it has been like to watch seedlings grow into tall pine forests while listening to stories of adventure and travel from good friends. Anthropomorphic flora, fauna, and rock illustrations paired with occasional conversation bubbles add whimsy to the story. The final page consists of an illustrated timeline spanning from 18 million years ago to present day providing additional facts about Old Rock’s journey.

THOUGHTS: Connect this book to a science lesson about the rock cycle, geology, earth history, or just read it aloud for fun. I think students will enjoy the humor of this book while also appreciating the geological facts rooted in Old Rock’s stories. SEL connections can also be made with Old Rock’s contentedness to be still and live in the present.

Picture Book          Jackie Fulton, Mt. Lebanon SD

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. – Izzy Gizmo and the Invention Convention

Jones, Pip, and Sara Ogilvie. Izzy Gizmo and the Invention Convention. Peachtree, 2020. 978-1-682-63164-5. Unpaged. $17.99. PreK-3.

Young inventor Izzy Gizmo returns for a second outing (Izzy Gizmo 2018), showcasing her creative mind and determined spirit. Izzy is delighted to receive an invitation to Technoff Isle’s Invention Convention. She arrives at Technoff Isle with grandpa and pet crow, Fixer, in tow, and meets her fierce, determined competition. With only one day to create an amazing invention, Izzy gets to work, but is quickly stymied at every turn by the ultra-aggressive Abi von Lavish. Left with limited supplies, Izzy’s frustration grows as each idea is quickly discarded. However, watching (obviously spoiled) Abi discard broken tools and supplies, Izzy becomes inspired to build a tool-recycling machine and gets to work. As the hours tick down, her temper flares when the invention fails to work, and Izzy snaps at those attempting to help her. Eventually she gets the message, and Fixer’s advice saves the machine and the day. The book is a credible entry in the STEM market, nicely emphasizing the need for trial and error when inventing. Ogilvie’s illustrations are charming, imbuing all the characters with delightful personalities and clearly, amusingly, displaying Izzy’s emotions. While the story is cute, the narration is hindered by unnecessary rhyming; a prose text would better suit the theme and message of the story (like Ashley Spires’ The Most Magnificent Thing).

THOUGHTS: A fun addition to a STEM collection, introducing several themes, including recycling, creating, and accepting help. This book could generate discussion prior to starting a Maker Space unit.

Picture Book          Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD