Were Early Computers Really the Size of a School Bus?

Were Early Computers Really the Size of a School Bus? And Other Questions about Inventions by Deborah Kops and illustrated by Colin W. Thompson is part of the growing Is That a Fact? series.

In the books in this series, common ideas or urban legends are put the the test. Did Henry Ford really invent the car as you might have heard? No, Henry Ford’s main contribution was in developing ways to mass produce cars (and some of that he borrowed from other sources as well.) Some questions are common, like this one, but others were new to me. I did not know about Clarence Birdseye was the person who invented a new technique for freezing food. I thought Birdseye was only a brand name.

The research and writing for this book are top notch, and the two-page spreads for each question addresses the main points, but don’t linger to the point of overkill. It’s a really nice format for this age group.

Were Early Computers Really the Size of a School Bus? is a wonderful way to delve into science, technology and history. It is also a perfect way to introduce topics of critical thinking and fact checking. Check one out today!

Reading level: Ages 9-12
Library Binding: 40 pages
Publisher: Lerner Publications (January 2011)
ISBN-10: 0761360980
ISBN-13: 978-0761360988

Stem Friday is at Chapter Book of the Day today. Click through for links to more excellent STEM books.

If you would like to participate in STEM Friday in the future, go to the new STEM Friday blog for more information.

Science Fair Season

Science Fair Season: Twelve Kids, a Robot Named Scorch . . . and What It Takes to Win by Judy Dutton isn’t the usual fare. What it is, however, is a one of a kind book about kids getting ready for and participating in the 2009 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair(R).

Sound like it might be dry? It is anything but! Judy Dutton really gets to know each of the the kids she highlights. She delves into their motivations, their struggles, and the implications of their projects. Every single story compelling.

Every story also emphasizes how important science fairs have become to the lives of kids. Basically, colleges and companies alike are scouting these science fairs for new talent, just like athletes are scouted at big games. Wondering how things will turn out for kids who futures depend on the outcome adds suspense and excitement.

Whether you are interested in science or not, this book is fun to read. If you are interested in science, or even more importantly, are likely to be assisting with or participating in a science fair, it is a must read.

Science Fair Season: Twelve Kids, a Robot Named Scorch . . . and What It Takes to Win is not listed as a children’s book. Because the main characters of the book are are kids, however, I’m sure it will appeal to older or mature middle grade students and it is definitely appropriate for young adults (there is an “adult” word, if that is an issue.)

For more information:

Science Fair Season was brought to my attention by a review by Abby the Librarian.

Author Judy Dutton takes part in the Talking Science blog group.

Growing With Science has more information about science fairs.

Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: Hyperion; 1 edition (April 19, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1401323790
ISBN-13: 978-1401323790

Stem Friday is at Ana’s Nonfiction Blog today. Click through for links to more excellent STEM books.

If you would like to participate in STEM Friday in the future, go to the new STEM Friday blog for more information.

The Cat in the Hat Science: Why Oh Why Are Deserts Dry?

The Cat in the Hat might not be the first book/character that comes into mind when you think of science, but it should be. Take a look at Random House’s The Cat in the Hat’s Learning Library®, and the PBS TV series The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That! and you will find a whole new way to introduce science to preschoolers and beginning readers.

Why Oh Why Are Deserts Dry?: All About Deserts by Tish Rabe and illustrated by Aristides Ruiz and Joe Mathieu is a lively new addition to the series. As the title suggests, the Cat in the Hat character takes two children (with Thing 1 and Thing 2) on a learning adventure through deserts throughout the world told in the famous Seussian rhyming text (yes, I made that word up, but Seuss does that, too).

Because I live in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona, I was curious to see how the book stacked up against traditional nonfiction science titles. I was pleasantly surprised. Tish Rabe has obviously done her research, and presents a number of interesting and relevant facts.

How does the rhyming work? Is it too light for serious science? Again, it works well. In fact, reading rhyme is a wonderful way for beginning readers to learn new vocabulary. If the readers come to an unfamiliar word, often it falls into place if they can relate it to another rhyming word. Thing 1 and Thing 2 hold up signs in the illustrations with pronunciations of unusual words, such as saguaro.

These books are definitely worth consideration. As the blurb on the back of the book says, “…The Cat in the Hat’s Learning Library® shows young readers that books can be entertaining and educational at the same time.”

Related science activities:

  • Although the desert book isn’t included, there is a Activity Brochure on this page packed with ideas for earlier books
  • The PBS site has more in depth lesson plans (click on the linked titles), again for other books in the series
  • Saguaro cactus investigation

Reading level: Ages 5 and up
Hardcover: 48 pages
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers (January 11, 2011)
ISBN-10: 0375858687
ISBN-13: 978-0375858680

Other books in the series:

Stem Friday is at A Life in Books today. Click through for links to more excellent STEM books.

If you would like to participate in STEM Friday in the future, go to the new STEM Friday blog for more information.

Ant Antics

As some of you may know, I am wild about ants, so naturally I had to pick up Ant Antics by Deborah Lock. This DK Reader is full of the fabulous full color photographs you have come to expect from DK, and it is told in a lighthearted way using the point of view of the ants that is sure to pull in young readers.

Deborah Lock has done her research and her portrayal of the six types of ants she chose is accurate and realistic. Although she does move into some mild sensationalism as times (“…we each use our lethal weapon- a poisoned stinger!”), her text is for the most part balanced and is thoroughly readable.

A note to those of you with sensitive children:  there is one photograph of a dead lizard with ants crawling on it that could be disturbing.

According to the DK scale, Ant Antics is level 3, which means it is meant to be read alone. The vocabulary and sentence structure are more complex than a beginning reader, and it contains a full glossary and index.

Overall, Ant Antics is definitely a book that will interest young scientists and naturalists. Although I picked up the book I reviewed at the library, I will be on the lookout for a copy for my personal ant book collection.

Reinforce learning with some ant-related hands-on activities

Reading level: Ages 7 and up
Paperback: 48 pages
Publisher: DK CHILDREN (August 1, 2011)
ISBN-10: 0756689325
ISBN-13: 978-0756689322

Stem Friday is at Picture Book of the Day today. Click through for links to more excellent STEM books.

If you would like to participate in STEM Friday in the future, go to the new STEM Friday blog for more information.