Bugs and Bugsicles

Bugs and Bugsicles: Insects in the Winter is such a great title, you just know that children are going to want to pick it up to see what it “bugsicles” are. The topic is appealing, too. Who hasn’t at one point or another wondered where do insects go in the winter? The answers are here in stories filled with interesting facts.bugs-and-bugsicles

Author Amy S. Hansen and Illustrator Robert C. Kray have put together an irresistible package. Kray’s acrylic paintings capture each season with autumn oranges and yellows in the fall, and cool blues and grays in the winter scenes. Hansen has chosen eight types of insect to investigate in detail. Some stories are fairly unique in the insect world, such as the long migrations of the monarch butterfly. Others are common strategies also used by many related insects, such as the cricket laying eggs underground. She saves the best for last with the story of how the artic woollybear caterpillar overwinters. Kids will love that one!

Although winter is coming to a close, spring is a wonderful time to pull out this book. Children can look for insects that are just coming out of their winter hibernation and think about where they were hiding. For example, when you see the first honey bee of the season, remember that honey bees cluster together in the hive and shiver to keep warm. Now it is time for them to gather the nectar they will need to replenish their honey stores that they used to get through the winter.

A real selling point for this book is that Hansen has included two fun hands-on experiments in the back to explore the properties of water when it freezes. The first examines how water expands when it freezes, one of the problems insects face when exposed to extreme cold. The second experiment points the way to a possible “solution” to that problem.

If you intrigued to find out more about bugsicles, then this is the book for you.

For more activities:

Shirley also has a review and activities at Simply Science.

Anastasia has a review and mini-lesson at Picture Book of the Day

I have related activities at Growing with Science.

Reading level: Although Amazon says Ages 9-12, I would say a bit younger.
Paperback: 32 pages
Publisher: Boyds Mills Press  (January 2010)
ISBN-10: 1590787633
ISBN-13: 978-1590787632

This book was provided by the author.

Can Old Dogs Learn New Facts?

Kudos once again to Buffy Silverman for her new book Can Old Dog Learn New Tricks? And Other Questions About Animals (illustrated by Colin W. Thompson).

Are bats blind? Does the early bird really catch the worm? Silverman’s book takes the approach of the TV show “Mythbusters,” but without the explosions. She examines seventeen common truisms or sayings, and finds out whether science backs them up or not.Can-an-old-dog

What is important about this book, as with the others in the Is That A Fact? series, is that it encourages the young reader to fact-check information. Yes, it is easy to find almost anything on the Internet these days, but how can you sort the truth from the urban legends, myths, rumors, and general misinformation? By discussing what scientific investigations tell us, and also showing that we still don’t know all the details about certain things, Silverman teaches the importance of critical thinking and research.

I admit I love Buffy Silverman’s writing style. She knows how to find exactly the right word and convey the information in a clear, concise way. She also passed my personal test for accuracy when she nailed the “Does a Female Praying Mantis Really Eat Her Mate?” question. When scientists first studied this question, they used hungry females kept under stressful conditions and came up with the idea that the female had to eat her mate in order to produce eggs. Later observations showed, however, that under more natural conditions the female usually doesn’t eat her mate. The earlier idea was more startling, so it has persisted. Silverman does her part to set the record straight.

The best part about this book is that it is fun and enjoyable to read, (well, except maybe about the worm in the brain).Can an Old Dog Learn New Tricks? definitely got the tween boy stamp of approval.

Reading level: Ages 9-12
Library Binding: 40 pages
Publisher: Lerner Publications (March 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0822590832
ISBN-13: 978-0822590835

(In case you were wondering, I picked this book up at the library and had no idea that Lerner Books was hosting today when I chose it.)


Nonfiction Monday is a blogging celebration of nonfiction books for kids. For more information, stop by Picture Book of the Day. This week’s post is at Lerner Books Blog.

Life Size Zoo is Life Size Fun

Life-Size Zoo: From Tiny Rodents to Gigantic Elephants, An Actual Size Animal Encyclopedia by Teruyuki Komiya (Creator), Kristin Earhart (Editor), and Toyofumi Fukuda (Photographer) was a Cybils finalist in the 2009 Nonfiction Picture book category and has won the Parents’ Choice Gold Award.

life-size-zooThe premise of Life Size Zoo is deceptively simple. Each spread shows fantastic life size photograph of an actual zoo animal, its head in the case of the biggest animals. The name of each animal, its gender and age are included. The spare words on the page point to a distinctive feature, such as the tiger’s rough tongue. The sidebar points out a few facts and asks some simple questions. It seems straightforward.

Once you start using the book, however, its real charm and value emerge. Every time I read this book to a group or with an individual child, the story has been different. Often I hear of trips to various zoos, individual animals that are favorites, the child’s observations of each animals, etc. Each time we find something new in the photographs. Often the discussion leads to more questions, which in turn lead to more stories. It is definitely a fun, kid-friendly book that is very much an open-ended story prompt. You won’t get bored reading this one again and again.

A note  to parents:  some of the sidebars include information about the animal’s bodily functions (a selling point to fourth grade boys :-)).

Reading level: Ages 4-8
Hardcover: 48 pages
Publisher: Seven Footer Press (April 7, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1934734209

Nonfiction Monday is a blogging celebration of nonfiction books for kids. For more information, stop by Picture Book of the Day. This week’s post is at Practically Paradise.

Little Black Ant on Park Street

As some of you may already know, I studied ants in graduate school and I still find them fascinating. Therefore, I was thrilled when I received a copy of Little Black Ant on Park Street by Janet Halfmann and illustrated by Kathleen Rietz, the newest installment in the Smithsonian’s Backyard series published by Soundprint. Our family already had several titles from the series that we had enjoyed and we were looking forward to seeing one on ants. Little-black-ant

We were not disappointed. As you would expect with a book labeled with the venerable Smithsonian name, it is a quality nonfiction picture book. As with the other books in this series, it also has a fictional flavor. What do I mean by fictional flavor? The author has created a main character, the little black ant, who experiences rising levels of conflict and finally resolution. Overlaying this rich story is amazingly accurate and up-to-date information about the biology of ants.

The name “little black ant” may sound generic, but it is an actual common name of a species of ant. The choice of this species is interesting because they aren’t the usual fare. The ants are tiny, occasionally considered to be pests, and they don’t have the typical ant lifestyle. For example, the colonies of little black ants have multiple queens, rather than a single queen as many ant colonies do. Tiny might mean they are less noticeable to children in real life, but on the other hand, you have to root for these feisty little ants when a big carpenter ant comes to steal their food.

Janet Halfmann is an experienced writer of children’s books and this is her ninth book with Soundprints. She has done a superb job translating technical jargon into age-appropriate language without losing meaning. I can’t emphasize enough what a wonderful job she did of this difficult task.

The illustrator, Kathleen Rietz, created big, vibrant scenes to tell the story at another level. The large illustrations are perfectly scaled for holding the book up and reading to a group. Everyone will be able to see the action. In the back is a list of “Points of interest” in the book that identify the elements in the illustrations, such as the type of flower shown.

We read the softcover version, but the book comes in a wide variety of options. Both the hardcover and the softcover are available, with or without read-along CD’s. The book also comes in a “microbook” format, with or without a plush toy ant. We have several of the microbooks. They are 5 7/8 inches by 4 3/4 inches, a size which definitely attracts youngsters.

Little Black Ant on Park Street is a marvelous little book, sure to inspire children to learn more about ants and the world around them. With so many options, I’m sure you can find a version that fits your needs.

For related activities, try making marshmallow ants and guarding an ant nest at my Growing With Science blog. Here’s more about the biology of the little black ant.

Reading level: Ages 4-8
Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Soundprint (December 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1607270021
ISBN-13: 978-1607270027

This book was supplied by the publisher.


Nonfiction Monday is a blogging celebration of nonfiction books for kids. For more information, stop by Picture Book of the Day. This week’s post is at Wild About Nature.