An Illustrated Timeline of Inventions and Inventors

Let’s put the T for Technology in STEM Friday this week with An Illustrated Timeline of Inventions and Inventors by Kremena T. Spengler and illustrated by Rick Morgan.

“Did you know that people used needles and thread to sew together clothes before the first clay pot was made? Bet you didn’t know that…” I hear these words a lot when children read this book. Not only is the book full of discoveries about inventions and inventors, but it is also full of revelations about when these inventions came about. It’s exciting, entertaining and fun to find out when things were first made.

Seeing inventions unfold page by page as a timeline really does put things in perspective. For the first 1000 years AD the Chinese dominated the invention scene. Things then moved to Europe during the Renaissance, The reader can see the Industrial Revolution take off as major new inventions are made every few years rather than over centuries or decades. Children also begin to see that inventions they take for granted came about in their parents’ lifetime, and some even within their own lifetimes!

Of course not every invention can be included, but the author did a fine job of picking interesting as well as important ones. I like that she included a number of inventions by women.

An Illustrated Timeline of Inventions and Inventors is a resource book that appears to be deceptively simple and yet can be used in a multitude of ways, and will be picked up again and again. It is sure to spark an interest in the reader to find out more.

You can see sample pages at Google Books.

Related activities:

Reading level: Ages 7 and up
Paperback: 32 pages
Publisher: Picture Window Books (August 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1404870172
ISBN-13: 978-1404870178

This book was provided by the publisher for review purposes.

Capstone Connect is hosting the Stem Friday meme this week. Be sure to visit for links to more excellent STEM books.

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

Animal Planet’s Weird and Wonderful: Show-Offs

Animal Planet’s Weird and Wonderful: Show-offs by Margaret McPhee is about intriguing animals that are sure to surprise and delight young readers. It has been recommended by the National Science Teacher’s Association.

The eye-catching color photographs and illustrations will be what attracts the reader’s attention first, which is appropriate. After all, the book is about animals that use bright colors and flashy behaviors to attract attention of mates, warn off predators and, believe it or not, blend in with their surroundings. However, the book is also full of interesting facts and amazing stories about animals that are both familiar and exotic.

Sometimes with “showy” books like this the concepts get lost between the pretty pictures, but that isn’t the case with Show-offs. Each new section builds on the previous ones, providing a sound conceptional framework for those that take the time to read the captions. The photographs and illustrations are sure to draw in the reluctant reader, making them want to know more. They will be enticed to read the text and to turn the next page.

In addition to a useful book for the science classroom, Show-offs would be a very nice gift book for youngsters interested in animals.

For more information and related activities:

Reading level: Ages 6 and up
Hardcover: 64 pages
Publisher: Kingfisher (September 27, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0753467224
ISBN-13: 978-0753467220

This book was provided by the publisher for review purposes.

Rovingfiddlehead Kidlit is hosting the Stem Friday meme this week. Be sure to visit for links to more excellent STEM books.

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

Elephant Talk: The Surprising Science of Elephant Communication

Elephant Talk: The Surprising Science of Elephant Communication by Ann Downer is a comprehensive look at elephant social behavior, including a detailed overview of exciting recent findings about how elephants communicate. This book has been nominated for a Cybils award in the MG/YA nonfiction category

In the first chapter Downer explores many aspects of elephant biology, laying a firm foundation for the chapters on elephant communication that follow. She discusses the three species of elephant found in the world today, the African, Asian and forest elephants, as well as their distribution.

Once the groundwork is laid, she reveals many amazing new scientific findings. Did you know that elephants regularly make sounds that humans can’t hear? Did you know that elephants can “talk” to one another via their feet? How about that some “chirp” and other “shake hands”? It turns out that elephants are incredibly intelligent social creatures.

In one example not found in the book, a scientist tested elephants tendency to cooperate by creating a rigging that gives a reward of a banana snack only if two elephants work together to pull on ropes. An article in Wired Science discusses how one elephant not only learned to cooperate to get a snack, but it also learned a shortcut by standing on the rope instead of tugging it. Wow!

In the final chapter of her book, Downer examines some of the complex relationships between humans and elephants throughout the world. Although some of the facts are grim, there are reasons for hope that elephants will be able to survive to be a source of wonder for future generations.

Simply Science has another great review and several related links and activities.

This has been a good year for elephant books. We also reviewed The Elephant Scientist by Caitlin O’Connell and Donna M. Jackson, and Beco’s Big Year:  A Baby Elephant Turns One by Linda Stanek with related activities at Growing With Science.

Reading level: Ages 8 and up
Library Binding: 112 pages
Publisher: Twenty First Century Books (January 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0761357661
ISBN-13: 978-0761357667

Stem Friday is at Booktalking. Click through for links to more excellent STEM books.

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

The Manatee Scientists: Saving Vulnerable Species

The Manatee Scientists: Saving Vulnerable Species by Peter Lourie, part of the respected Scientists in the Field series, follows scientists from around the world trying to learn more about manatees in a race protect them from extinction.

Manatees are fascinating. Distantly related to elephants, these large, lumbering herbivores live exclusively in warm waters. They are found in Florida, the Caribbean, the Amazon, and West Africa.

As the title suggests, the book follows leading manatee scientists in their studies. Peter Lourie documents the techniques the scientists use and the problems they encounter. In the Amazon River basin, the author accompanies Fernando Rosas on a boat trip to follow radio-tagged manatees that have been released from captivity.  He flies with John Reynolds, who does an aerial count of manatees in warm Florida waters, and shows researcher Lucy Keith rescuing West African manatees trapped behind a dam in Senegal. Sadly, one of the problems the scientists encounter in trying to preserve the wild populations is that the people who live along the rivers in both South America and Africa rely on manatees for food.

Peter Lourie is a photographer as well as author, and took many of the numerous color photographs. His narration adds a real sense of adventure to what the scientists are doing.

Cybils notes: It would have been nice to see a bit more about what the scientists were finding out. By that I mean I wondered what their results were, not just their methods. For example, it would be nice to learn if manatees really are useful to keep down vegetation in lakes that serve hydroelectric plants. Also, it would probably have been appropriate to mention the Steller’s sea cow, a relative of the manatees that really did go extinct.

The Manatee Scientists: Saving Vulnerable Species has been nominated for a Cybils award in the MG/YA nonfiction category. It will be a big hit with nature lovers and budding scientists. For informal science, use the book to accompany a trip to an aquarium that houses manatees, or even better, a trip to Florida to see manatees in the wild.

Video of Florida manatees in action:

Reading level: Ages 9 and up
Hardcover: 80 pages
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children (April 11, 2011)
ISBN-10: 054715254X
ISBN-13: 978-0547152547

Stem Friday is at Celebrate Science today. Click through for links to more excellent STEM books.

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