Garter Snake at Willow Creek Lane

Garter Snake at Willow Creek Lane by Janet Halfmann and illustrated by Anne Wertheim, the newest in Smithsonian’s Backyard Book series, is an engaging overview of one season in the life of Garter Snake.

The text models a fiction format with the Garter Snake being the main character who experiences rising conflict, which keeps the story interesting and memorable. The story starts dramatically with Garter Snake’s birth on the first page (yes, some snakes give birth rather than lay eggs). She overcomes several challenges that include encounters with Bingo the dog, but all ends well with her finding a safe, warm place to overwinter. In between, the reader learns a great deal about the life history of garter snakes in general, including what they eat and how they defend themselves. Note:  there is a scene where Garter Snake plays dead, which might be slightly disturbing to sensitive children.

Anne Wertheim’s bright illustrations illuminate the page. The close-up versions of Garter Snake looks like she is going to slither right off the page.

We read the larger softcover version, which is a perfect size to share with others, but Soundprints provides the book in variety of options. You can download an audio version. The book also comes in a “microbook” format, with a plush toy snake. We have several of the microbooks from the series. They are 5 7/8 inches by 4 3/4 inches, a size which is definitely attractive to youngsters with little hands.

Garter Snake at Willow Creek Lane is just what you would expect from the high-quality Smithsonian Backyard series, sure to inspire children to learn more about snakes and nature in general. With so many options, I’m sure you can find a version that fits your needs.

We previously reviewed Little Black Ant on Park Street from the same series.

Make a snake craft and learn more about garter snakes at Growing With Science.

Reading level: Ages 4-8
Paperback: 32 pages
Publisher: Soundprints (July 15, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1607272091
ISBN-13: 978-1607272090

This book were supplied by the publisher for review purposes.

Stem Friday is at Shelf Employed 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.

What Do We Know About Stars and Galaxies?

To round out our celebration of World Space Week with books, let’s take a look at some new nonfiction books about galaxies. What Do We Know About Stars & Galaxies? by John Farndon and Milky Way and Other Galaxies (The Solar System and Beyond) by Megan Kopp are two books sure to excite children about exploring space.

Quick, what is dark matter? Did you know that our galaxy may be the victim of a galaxial* car crash in the future, as we come closer and closer to the Andromeda galaxy?  If you studied astronomy before the 1990’s you might not have heard of many of the exciting new advances. Using numerous colorful artist’s renditions and actual photographs, these books take children far into space to reveal what science is discovering about how galaxies form and behave.

In Milky Way and Other Galaxies, Kopp delves more into the technology that is used to study galaxies. She covers the Hubble Telescope, the James Webb Telescope, the Spitzer Space Telescope, which senses infrared radiation, and the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer-2, affectionately known as the AMS-2.

What Do We Know About Stars & Galaxies? is available at two different reading levels, level 3 in Express and reading level 6. (Interestingly, Amazon lists the reading level of the Express version as young adult. Hum…) Farndon is an experienced science writer with over 300 books, and his expertise is evident. I definitely learned a few things from this book.

Several of the books I shared earlier in the week were appropriate for future astronauts. These book are must-reads for future astronomers.

The World Space Week website

Growing With Science will has a few related hands-on activities.

*(Caution:  made-up word)

What Do We Know About Stars & Galaxies? Level 6

Hardcover: 48 pages
Publisher: Raintree
ISBN-10: 1406226289
ISBN-13: 978-1406226287

What Do We Know About Stars & Galaxies? (Raintree Freestyle) level 3- Express

Reading level: Young Adult (??? – no, level 3)
Library Binding: 48 pages
Publisher: Heinemann-Raintree (August 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1410941620
ISBN-13: 978-1410941626

Milky Way and Other Galaxies (The Solar System and Beyond)

Reading level: Ages 9-12
Paperback: 32 pages
Publisher: Capstone Press (August 1, 2011)
ISBN-10: 1429672277
ISBN-13: 978-1429672276

These books were supplied by the publisher for review purposes.

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 the new STEM Friday blog for more information.

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.