STEM Friday #Kidlit Numbers in Motion

 

 

Today’s picture book biography puts the M in STEM:  Numbers in Motion: Sophie Kowalevski, Queen of Mathematics by Laurie Wallmark and illustrated by Yevgenia Nayberg.

 

Laurie Wallmark specializes in biographies of women in STEM and for this book she has chosen a lesser-known subject for much-deserved recognition.

Sophie Kowalevski grew up observing the pages of calculus problems her father had used to paper her bedroom walls. The desire to understand the intriguing symbols propelled her to study advanced math. Later she became a prominent mathematician — the first to earn a doctorate at an European university — and professor in a time when women weren’t even allowed to enter many college campuses. Sophie broke down barriers for women who came after her.

Public domain image from Wikipedia.

Why Sophie?

In a recent interview, author Laurie Wallmark mentioned that she looks for two criteria when considering a subject for a picture book biography. First, she looks at how much material is available for research. In this case Laurie found a rich source of information because Sophie Kowalevski wrote extensively, including about her own life in her own words. Laurie found so many facts that there are four full pages of back matter,  which spills over into the end papers.

Next Laurie looks for hooks that will make the subject’s life interesting to young readers. She realized that Sophie’s work using mathematics to describe the motion of spinning tops would be fun and understandable to non-mathematicians. She was right!

Illustrations

Sophie grew up in Russia. Yevgenia Nayberg was a perfect choice to illustrate her life because she studied art in Russia. She uses a light touch with Sophie’s life, then makes Sophie’s math vibrant. In one scene the tops look like they are going to spin right out of the book. Her approach makes sense because those were the things Sophie cared the most about.

Numbers in Motion will inspire budding mathematicians and historians alike. Readers will likely end up wanting to learn more about this remarkable woman. Investigate a copy today.

Related:

For a STEM activity to accompany the book, make or find tops and play with them.

This video shows how to make a simple top with a CD and a marker. Hacks:  try to find markers with a rounded tip and the better you balance it, the better it will spin. If your marker is narrow, fill the gap by rolling tape around it as evenly as possible. No clay? Hot melt glue will also work to hold the marker in place, although it is a more permanent solution.

You can also decorate it (another video). Or if you have the DIY gene, try more methods to make spinning tops.

Visit our growing list of children’s books about women who count at Science Books for Kids.

 

Age Range: 8 – 12 years
Publisher: Creston Books (March 3, 2020)
ISBN-10: 1939547636
ISBN-13: 978-1939547637

Come visit the STEM Friday blog each week to find more great Science, Technology, Engineering and Math books.Opens in a new window Note: this is a new link as of 1/2019.

Alphamaniacs Rule the Word

Today we have a tribute to word players and geniuses, Alphamaniacs: Builders of 26 Wonders of the Word by Paul Fleischman and illustrated by Melissa Sweet.

Writers and poets often play with words in creative ways, but Paul Fleischman has gathered a collection of examples of people who have pushed the language envelope into other realms.

Examples:

1. Creative Translations from Sight to Sound

Young scholars have spent long hours translating Latin text into English, so imagine their delight to discover some Latin words sound enough like English words to write prose that means one thing in Latin and a totally different thing in English when read aloud. This is called Dog Latin (link to Wikipedia page).

2. Concrete Poetry Makes Images

Mary Ellen Solt and other poets have used letters  and words to make visual art. Search for examples of Mary Ellen Solt’s concrete poetry, like a poem about forsythia shaped like a forsythia bush or a zinna.

Intrigued at the possibilities? The collection includes:

  • The developer of stylometry or the use of computers to analyze writing style to establish authorship for anonymous works
  • A man who wrote an entire novel without using a single letter e
  • An obsessive designer of fonts
  • The man who created a new language called Esperanto

Plus many more.

As an added benefit , the illustrations are by the innovative Melissa Sweet. The collage mixture of art and word is its own contribution.

Fleischman has assembled an astonishing set of examples. The books is easily browsable and introduces fascinating subject matter. The only shortcoming is that because of the sheer number of different people he covers, he can’t delve deeply into any one topic. Each one receives only a light, breezy mention. Time and time again I wished the descriptions gave more details. Let’s face it, any one of these could be a topic for an extended essay or even a book on its own. It does help he provides references for “Further Entertainment” in the back matter. I wish a glossary had been included as well.

Overall, Alphamaniacs is the perfect choice for mature middle graders to young adults who have a fascination with words and languages. Who knows what it might inspire from future word players.

Related activities:

1. Take some poetic license.

My family has been creating poems and riddles based on car license plates for years, but it turns out we weren’t the first. Daniel Nussbaum has translated well-known stories using records of vanity plates in his book PL8SPK.

 

If you spend way too much time in the car, you probably see vanity license plates every day. Here’s a challenge: Use license plates to inspire haiku-like poems. You can add words if you choose.

For example, these actual vanity plates:

  • LEOPARD
  • FLAWLESS
  • SILENCE

can be rearranged to become the poem

Flawless leopard
Stalks its prey
Silence

In a similar theme, the license plates

  • X3X
  • ANCHOVY
  • FORTUNA

with a little “poetic license” become:

Three anchovies
Four tuna
X anchovies
X tuna

Think about it.

One day I saw these two in the same parking lot:

  • 1Run100
  • GOOD4EWE

I run 100 K
Good for you

That is a a nicer pair than:

Be a duck…
Kabob

UBETCYA

 

To accompany:  Alphamaniacs: Builders of 26 Wonders of the Word
Age Range: 12 – 16 years
Publisher: Candlewick Studio (April 14, 2020)
ISBN-10: 076369066X
ISBN-13: 978-0763690663

Disclosure: The book was provided by my good friend Cassie. Also, 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 no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.

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

#kidlit Set in New Hampshire: Take a Hike! A Donkey-Donk Story

Let’s wish a happy book birthday today to Take A Hike! A Donkey-Donk Story by Ellen F. Feld and photographs by John Cebula.

The third picture book in a series featuring the author’s adorable miniature donkey, follow Donkey-Donk as she prepares to hike Mount Washington in New Hampshire all the way to the top.

The first things that catch your eye when you pick up the book are the gorgeous photographs of breathtaking views, each with Donkey-Donk front and center. The scenery is amazing. The donkey knows how to pose.

Next you notice the lightly humorous, gently tongue-in-cheek story that will delight youngsters. The best part is that the text is sweet and succinct, not too wordy or overdone like some children’s books can be. It gives just the right amount of information using appropriate vocabulary, then moves on.

And move it does, right up the mountain. Do you know what is at the top of Mount Washington? You will find out if you read this book.

Take A Hike!  would be perfect to accompany a trip to New Hampshire or to encourage kids to get outside and take a hike in their own state. It is a must have for young horse or donkey lovers, too. Check out a copy today!

Paperback: 36 pages
Publisher: Willow Bend Publishing (May 7, 2020)
ISBN-10: 173376741X
ISBN-13: 978-1733767415

Note: I will be adding this book to my list of children’s books set in New Hampshire at the Reading Through the States website.

Disclosure:  This book was provided for reviewing purposes.

#Nonfiction Monday Dr. Maggie’s Grand Tour of the Solar System

 

Today we are featuring the fun new upper-elementary book, Dr. Maggie’s Grand Tour
 of the Solar System by Dr. Maggie Aderin-Pocock 
and illustrated by Chelen Écija.

What to Expect from the Tour

Space scientist Dr. Maggie guides the reader around our solar system, supported by incredible visual elements.

First up we learn what a solar system is. From there we take off, discovering how astronauts  get into space. As we look back at Earth, we encounter some weird human-made space junk that orbits the Earth, including a spatula and a camera. Cool!

What do we encounter next? Well, the moon of course. Then off to the sun for an in-depth look at our nearest star that doesn’t require eye protection.  Moving away from the sun, we visit each of the planets (and their moons) in order, plus travel through the asteroid belt. Does the tour stop at planet Neptune? No, it continues on through the Kuiper Belt to the Oort Cloud and beyond.

Curious for more?

Check out the Kane Miller Website for a peek inside the book or take a look at this wordless trailer:

What’s best about this book is that readers can read in order for a clear, logical progression or they can browse sections for specific topics of interest. The sidebars also break the text into delicious readable chunks.

Dr. Maggie’s Grand Tour
 of the Solar System will enthrall budding astronomers and astronauts alike. Pick up a copy for the ride of your life.

Suggested Activities:

Check out our sister blog, Growing with Science, for activity suggestions inspired by the book.

Visit Science Books for Kids for a growing list of children’s books about the solar system.

Ages: 8+
ISBN:  978-1-68464-034-8

Disclosure: The book was provided by the publisher for review purposes.

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