The Elephant Scientist

The Elephant Scientist by Caitlin O’Connell and Donna M. Jackson with photographs by the first author and her husband, Timothy Rodwell

Series: Scientists in the Field

Reading level: Middle grade, 9-12

Summary:  Have you ever wondered what it would be like to study elephants in Africa? This book follows Dr. Caitlin O’Connell as she studies elephant social life and communication and at the same time works on ways to prevent elephants from ruining crops planted by local people. She discovers that elephants communicate to one another by detecting vibrations in the ground with their feet and trunks.

Illustrations:  Photographs by Caitlin O’Connell and Timothy Rodwell

Comments:  The Elephant Scientist is a wonderful new addition to the outstanding Scientists in the Field series. Because the scientist in the spotlight is one of the co-authors, this book has unprecedented access to how the science was done and what the scientist was thinking. The book not only reveals the process of science, but also gives state-of-the-art information about elephants, as well. How the elephants talk to one another is absolutely fascinating.

Related activities:

Simply Science a a review of a related book, Elephant Talk by Ann Downer. and a link where you can listen to elephants, as well as activities

Exploring Elephants at Growing With Science

Compatible fiction:  The White Elephant by Sid Fleischman and illustrated by Robert McGuire

Publisher:  Houghton Mifflin Books for Children;  (July 11, 2011)

ISBN-10: 0547053444
ISBN-13: 978-0547053448

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Today we are excited to be joining a new meme called STEM Friday at Chapter Book of the Day.

Jeff at NC Teacher Stuff shares another STEM book perfect for summer reading: How Do Waves Form?

Autism Spectrum Disorders: A New Book By Ana María Rodríguez

“Every year, one out of every 100 children in the United States—or six out of every 1,000 young people worldwide—is diagnosed with autism.” Autism Spectrum Disorders by Ana María Rodríguez is a timely young adult book that explores case studies, symptoms, diagnosis, treatments, and research. Excerpts of recent USA Today newspaper articles are included in sidebars to make the text fresh and current.

Autism Spectrum Disorders delves deeply into the topic. The book starts out with a case study of a boy who exhibits the classic symptoms of autism, and then contrasts with the story of another boy who has Asperger’s syndrome. The author then explains how both have disorders that affect the child’s brain development, especially in the areas of communication and socialization. She explains how the disorders have a genetic component, but also seem to be influenced by the environment as well. She walks us through the process of diagnosis and the alphabet soup of therapies that are used to treat autism spectrum patients. She then writes about how to cope with the diagnosis of a loved one and how overwhelming and bewildering it can seem, especially when each individual has their own unique set of symptoms and strengths.

Ana María Rodríguez is a fabulous writer (she wrote Secret of the Puking Penguins, reviewed in a previous post). She has a talent of tackling difficult informational subjects and distilling the essence in a clear and confident way. She obviously has a good understanding of the medical issues she covers in this book.

Autism Spectrum Disorders is a top notch book that could be used in many ways. It is an important resource for students studying and/or writing a paper on autism spectrum disorders. Teachers with autistic children in their classrooms, or other professionals who work with autistic individuals, might want to use it to refresh themselves on the topic quickly. Parents of children recently diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders will be thankful for a concise summary of a vast array of information and for all the additional resources in the back. Older children who have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders may want to read it to learn more about themselves.

Conclusion: If you are seeking information about autism spectrum disorders, then this is a wonderful book for you.

Reading level: Young Adult
Publisher: Twenty-First Century Books (March 2011)
ISBN-10: 0761358838
ISBN-13: 978-0761358831

An electronic copy of this book was provided for review purposes via NetGalley.


Nonfiction Monday is a blogging celebration of nonfiction books for kids. We invite you to join us. For more information and a schedule, stop by the new Nonfiction Monday blog to see who is hosting each week.

This week’s post is at Simply Science.

Silk and Venom

Silk & Venom: Searching for a Dangerous Spider by Kathryn Lasky and her husband, photographer Christopher G. Knight is a new biography of arachnologist, Greta Binford. For the spider squeamish and spider enthusiast both:  Yes, this book is filled with large, colorful photographs of spiders. In the back is a “Glossary of Spiders” that shows sixteen different kinds of spiders. This isn’t a general book about spiders, however, the story follows scientist Binford on her journey to the Caribbean to find a certain species of brown recluse spider.  She is looking into how spiders of the genus Loxosceles, the brown spiders, may have migrated and evolved.

You may recognize Kathryn Lasky as the author of the Guardians of Ga’Hoole series. She has also written a number of nonfiction titles. On the book jacket, she admits that she has always been afraid of spiders, but when she heard an interview with Greta Binford on the radio, she was so impressed with the scientist’s passion for spiders, she immediately wanted to know more. Her husband, photographer and documentary filmmaker Christopher G. Knight, revealed that he had to learn new techniques to photograph creatures as small as spiders, but his work paid off.

Greta Binford is a professor of biology at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon. After a general introduction to spiders in the first chapter, the book delves into Binford’s childhood interest in nature. The text unfolds in such a way that children will be able to relate to getting dirty and picking up earthworms, as well as her brother tricking her into eating cat food. Perhaps unexpectedly, Lasky also mentions Binford’s childhood struggles with her religious beliefs. She mentions her belief in God, but how she grappled to come to grips with the stories of the Bible.

The book then turns to Binford’s current research into the venom of the brown spiders. Venom is the poisonous fluid that spiders inject with their fangs to help subdue and digest their prey. In the case of the brown recluse and its relatives, the venom can cause open sores that are slow to heal in humans, and sometimes more severe reactions. One group of species in South America has quite different venom and Binford is interested in how that might have come about.

Silk & Venom is sure to interest budding middle grade scientists. It might also entice a spider-phobe or two to become interested in spiders, just like it did for Kathryn Lasky.

For related activities see:

Spider Webs

Baby spiders and spider books for the younger set

Reading level: Ages 4-8 (Amazon, this is probably better for 9-12)
Hardcover: 64 pages
Publisher: Candlewick (February 22, 2011)
ISBN-10: 0763642223
ISBN-13: 978-0763642228

This books was provided for review purposes.


Nonfiction Monday is a blogging celebration of nonfiction books for kids. We invite you to join us. For more information and a schedule, stop by the new Nonfiction Monday blog to see who is hosting each week. This week’s post is at The Miss Rumphius Effect.