Cybils Nonfiction 2014: How to Make a Planet

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Let’s start our exploration of some of the children’s nonfiction recently nominated for the Cybils awards by taking a look at the middle grade science book How to Make a Planet: A Step-by-Step Guide to Building the Earth by Scott Forbes and illustrated by Jean Camden.

Following a timeline set out in the beginning, this ambitious book races through the consensus of what scientists have discovered about our universe so far, from the best estimate of the time of the Big Bang (13.7 billion years ago) to when the Earth formed (4.7 billion years ago) to modern times using the premise of building a planet as a way to keep the information focused. At the same time, the text hurtles through various fields of science, encompassing astronomy, physics, chemistry, earth science, geology and even biology. Although it covers so much territory, it is still easy to read and understandable because Scott Forbes has done an excellent job of organizing and condensing the material. The book will help make big numbers and mind-blowing concepts accessible to everyone.

Young readers are likely to be drawn in by the cool cartoon illustrations by Jean Camden. Many of the illustrations help summarize or illuminate concepts as well as keeping readers hooked. The contrast between some illustrations being two dimensional and drawn with a limited range of colors versus others that are bright and three-dimensional also adds interest.

Some may criticize that Forbes did not reveal contrasting ideas about some points or even swerve into the realm of “we don’t know,” which are the things scientists work on and are most excited about. To his credit, the book is written to show the middle ground of current consensus, which is what makes it work for this audience. To properly consider other options would have required a much longer book and would have necessarily restricted the scope of information he was able to cover.

The book ends with a chapter about taking care of our planet. One thing that comes out of reading is how unique the formation of the earth is, and how unlikely it is that we could ever find a replacement. When you look at it that way, taking care of our home is the only way to go.

How to Make a Planet is a great jumping off point for units on astronomy, the solar system, and the planets. It is also a fabulous resource for budding scientists trying to get a handle on the big picture of our universe. See what it takes to build a planet and scientific understanding at the same time.

Age Range: 8 – 12 years
Grade Level: 3 – 7
Publisher: Kids Can Press (March 1, 2014)
ISBN-10: 1894786882
ISBN-13: 978-1894786881

Disclosure: Book provided by my local library. I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at not extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.

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Searching for Children’s Books? Try the 2014 Cybils Nominations

October is always a great month for finding quality children’s and young adult books because that is when the Cybils nomination lists are released. Cybils-Logo-2014-Round-Sm1

The Cybils website has been revamped a bit, so here are direct links to some of the lists at the Cybils website and a few books I have chosen to highlight in an Amazon widget. Note: If you click on the books in the widget it will take you to Amazon. Clicking only the arrows allows you to view the books without leaving this blog.

Fiction Picture Books

 

Easy Readers/Early Chapter Books

Poetry

I hadn’t seen some of these poetry books. They look really good.


Elementary/Middle Grade Nonfiction

I will be reviewing a number of the elementary and middle grade nonfiction books (the ones that I haven’t previously reviewed) over the next few weeks.

Young Adult Nonfiction

By the way, Eyes Wide Open: Going Behind the Environmental Headlines by Paul Fleischman has been nominated for the AAAS/Subaru SB&F awards in the middle grade category this year and it is on the young adult list here.

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Middle School Book Tackles Climate Change

Just in time for the UN Climate Summit (and after the hottest summer on record), is a new middle grade book Lug, Dawn of the Ice Age by David Zeltser that brings awareness about climate change by comparing it in a funny way to what our ancestors may have experienced during an ice age.

No one will listen to Lug the caveboy when he says that there is an ice age coming. After all, he spends more time painting cave walls than catching big beasts. After he gets banished, he meets a helpful girl named Echo from another tribe. Will they be able to save his people from the saber-toothed tigers and from freezing?

With a humorous tone and cartoon-like illustrations – similar to some other popular series for this age group – Zeltser pulls off a difficult message without making it too heavy. The story has some other serious themes as well, such as dealing with bullying, being different, and animal rights.

As a scientist who prefers nonfiction, I was a bit disappointed with some of the elements, such as dodo birds running around (they were only found on the island of Mauritius) and Lug being a caveboy (there is a general consensus that our ancestors probably weren’t in caves a lot). For readers who fit the middle grade target audience, however, and who prefer fiction, this book is likely to be a hit.

Lug, Dawn of the Ice Age is perfect for the reader who likes a mix of humor and adventure. It might just strike the funny bone of young readers and at the same time let them see denying climate change for what it is.

Check out the the book trailer for a better feel for the book:


Private note: Thanks to Rowan! :-)

Age Range: 8 – 12 years
Grade Level: 3 – 7
Hardcover: 192 pages
Publisher: EgmontUSA (September 9, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1606845136
ISBN-13: 978-1606845134

Disclosures: This book was provided by the publisher for review purposes. I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at not extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.

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Informational Books about Oceans for Kids

When a child sees the ocean for the first time, he or she is likely to be very curious about it. One way to satisfy that curiosity is to pull out some great informational books and read.

Beginning readers might be ready to explore Oceans and Seas (Acorn: Water, Water Everywhere!) by Diyan Leake, available soon.

oceans-and-seas

In Oceans and Seas, the reader will find out what an ocean is, what lives in the ocean, and how waves form, all of which are introduced with short sentences and carefully controlled vocabulary. Needless to say, it is illustrated with beautiful color photographs and includes a map with the five oceans labelled. The best part is on the last page, where parents and teachers can find suggestions for appropriate hands-on activities to do before and after reading the book. You definitely want to read that page first.

Reading Level: Grades PreK-1
Publisher: Raintree (October 9, 2014)
ISBN-10: 140628386X
ISBN-13: 978-1406283860

Slightly older children might enjoy Oceans (Habitat Survival) by Claire Llewellyn.

After identifying the world’s oceans as habitats, the text explains the kinds of animals and plants (really algae, which are protists) found there and how the various types of organisms are interrelated in a food web. The book is illustrated with color photographs, with explanations that are set off and highlighted nicely.  The dangers to sea life and how we might protect it are also included.

Oceans would be appropriate for a unit or report on oceans, habitats or marine ecology.

Grade Level: 2 – 4
Publisher: Raintree Perspectives (August 1, 2012)
ISBN-10: 141094607X
ISBN-13: 978-1410946072

This week we are highlighting more ocean science books and activities for kids at Growing with Science blog (posts to be added throughout the week).

Do you have any ocean science books or activities to share? Let us know in the comments and we’ll pin them to our Ocean Science Pinterest board.

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We also have a growing list of ocean and beach science-themed children’s books at our sister blog, Science Books for Kids.

Disclosure: These books were provided by the publisher for review purposes. I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at not extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.

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Looking for more children’s nonfiction books? Try the Nonfiction Monday blog.

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Physical Sciences for Kids: It Matters!

This summer I have been teaching chemistry to some high school students. While gathering information, I have been amazed at the books that are available to introduce chemistry concepts to very young children.

For example, All about Matter (Science Builders) by Mari Schuh introduces the three most common states of matter:  solid, liquid and gas, as well as explains what matter is in such a way that a preschooler could understand. Even more astounding, she does this all in only 151 words!

As you can see from the cover, it is illustrated with big, colorful and visually-interesting photographs.

Age Range: 4 – 8 years
Grade Level: Preschool – 1
Series: Science Builders
Paperback: 24 pages
Publisher: Pebble Plus (August 1, 2011)
ISBN-10: 142967105X
ISBN-13: 978-1429671057

I was also pleased to find The Solid Truth about Matter (LOL Physical Science) by Mark Weakland and illustrated by Bernice Lum for slightly older children.

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Books in the LOL Physical Science series are full of cartoons, jokes and funny asides. That doesn’t mean the science is less than serious, however. The concepts are there, the vocabulary is there, and the explanations are clear.

This book is perfectly tailored for reluctant readers. What better way to learn about the common states of matter than through the life cycle of a snowman (pg 19). Brilliant! (Although the reverse of going directly from solid to gas (sublimation) is actually more commonly known as desublimation or deposition.)

In any case The Solid Truth about Matter is a good, solid book to have on hand for science units.

Age Range: 8 – 10 years
Grade Level: 3 – 4
Publisher: Fact Finders (August 1, 2012)
ISBN-10: 1429693029
ISBN-13: 978-1429693028

popular-chemistry-books-for-kids

Want more? Try our growing list of popular chemistry books for kids.

Disclosures:  These books were provided by the publisher for review purposes. I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at not extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.

Nonfiction Monday is a blogging celebration of nonfiction books for kids. Join us at the Nonfiction Monday blog.

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