Archive for Science

Baby on Board: How Animals Carry Their Young

Written by Marianne Berkes
Illustrated by Cathy Morrison

“Pick me up, pick me up,” our children say. Then as they get a bit older, they begin to carry around their own stuffed animals, dolls, or action figures. This leads in well to a discussion of animals and their babies. Teachers, parents and librarians can use this beautifully illustrated book of how animal babies are carried to introduce or supplement any animal unit of study. Close-ups of each animal pair make it easy to see how the baby is transported from one place to another. Young children will enjoy this immensely.

Short rhyming lines introduce each animal pair followed by a slightly more in-depth description. A glossary gives even more detail.

Following the narration, a matching game is provided as a culmination of the story. For teachers, there are several suggestions for cross-curricular activities in language arts, math, engineering and movement. There are also web links to provide additional activities.

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  • Baby on Board.jpgTitle:  Baby on Board: How Animals Carry Their Young
  • Author:  Marianne Berkes
  • Illustrator:  Cathy Morrison
  • Publisher:  Dawn Publications, 2017
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format:  Paperback, 32 pages
  • Genre: nonfiction, science
  • Grade level: PreK to 3
  • ISBN:  978-1-58469-593-6
  • Extras: Teacher guidelines for use in language arts, math, engineering, movement and math. An extensive glossary, extended reading lists and web links. It also contains a matching game for young readers to complete after reading the book.

Who We Are! All About Being the Same and Being Different

Written by Robie H. Harris
Illustrated by Nadine Bernard Westcott

Another in the series “Let’s Talk About You and Me.” In this trip to Funland, Harris explores the physical characteristics that make us the same and make us different. As a read-aloud, this is great for kids just learning about the wider world. Illustrated with a lot of detail, the book shows many examples. On the very first page, the reader sees a wheelchair, a stroller, and a kid riding in a backpack. Clothing is another highlight – from shorts, T-shirt, and baseball cap to a tunic, pants, and a head scarf. Bodies are big and small, all with heart, muscle, and belly button. Most with ears, nose, and mouth. Hair comes in all shades and stages of curly. So does skin. Eyes are all different shapes and colors. Skin color depends on melanin. Many characteristics come from your family. Feelings are important and are things we share with everyone. So be aware of the feelings of those around you. We were all somebody’s baby once.

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  • Who We AreTitle: Who We Are! All About Being the Same and Being Different (Let’s Talk About You and Me)
  • Author: Robie H. Harris
  • Illustrator: Nadine Bernard Westcott
  • Published: Candlewick Press, 2016
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 40 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 1
  • Genre: Nonfiction, Science
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-6903-4

Noisy Bird: Sing Along

Written and Illustrated by John Himmelman

Different kinds of birds sing different songs. The sounds, habitats and diets of a few birds are told in simple direct sentences. The contrasting colors used by John Himmelman make each page an individual beauty. Correct details of each habitat and every bird described will provide young readers with things to find and study in each picture for a long time. This entertaining book will also draw teachers and librarians to seek out other books by the same author.

Second grade readers will be able to read the text independently, in many cases, but much younger children will enjoy having it read to them. Older children may use it for science reports or for ideas to use in building dioramas.

Children who love to draw or paint might be encouraged to try illustrating things from their own backyard after studying these realistic illustrations.

The sounds included provide teachers, parents and readers an opportunity to practice the literacy skill of onomatopoeia while learning about birds.  What fun it would be to have different children assigned to make the call of a particular bird.

This is a good introduction to reading nonfiction books and picking out important details. After reading it, students might write a nonfiction sentence of their own.

The activities and facts at the end of the book will encourage and aid young readers to broaden their knowledge of birds and birding.

This book will be a great addition to classroom, school, and home libraries for children ages 3 -8.

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  • Noisy BirdTitle: Noisy Bird: Sing Along
  • Author/Illustrator:  John Himmelman
  • Publisher: Dawn Publications, March 1, 2015
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Paperback, 32 pages
  • ISBN:  978-1-58469-514-1
  • Genre: Nonfiction, animals
  • Grade level: Preschool to 3
  • Extras: Fun facts, birding activities, resources and related information

The Magic School Bus Presents: Our Solar System: A Nonfiction Companion

Finally, Scholastic is helping to clear up the debate about the validity of calling the “Magic School Bus” books nonfiction. For so many children and adults, the magic ability of the school bus to change size and function caused confusion about whether or not the information in the book was true. Here scholastic has come out with a paperback set of nonfiction companions to the popular series. This is one of many of their new nonfiction companion books.

The use of photographs from NASA and others, makes this a truly believable set. There are occasional throwbacks to the original series with Frizzle Facts and some questions and answers on the familiar yellow notebook paper, but none of that distracts from the science validity. Purists might still quiver at the interjected comic graphics of Arnold and his pals as well as the sketches of Liz the lizard in her space ship. However, this set of books is much more likely to be used to support the common core standards than the previous ones.

In teaching literacy skills, there are the requirements for nonfiction writing, such as: the use of real dates, proper names of explorers and space crafts, and actual photographs. The text of the book is nonfiction. While that will be explainable to the second and third grade readers, for preschoolers, kindergarteners and first graders the discrepancy between the truth of the text and the fiction of the illustrations will continue to cause confusion. Therefore, it could be a valuable book for teaching and sorting out the differences between fact and fiction.

Librarians and parents can use these books to engage reluctant readers into the realm of science, but then should move rapidly into solely nonfiction texts.

  • Magic School Bus Solar SystemTitle: The Magic School Bus Presents Our Solar System: A Nonfiction Companion
  • Author: Tom Jackson
  • Illustrator: Carolyn Bracken
  • Publisher: Scholastic, 2014
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Paperback, 32 pages
  • ISBN:  978-0-545-68365-4
  • Genre: Nonfiction
  •  Grade Level: 1 – 3
  • Extras: Photographs, glossary

Stripes of All Types / Rayas de todas las tallas

Written and Illustrated by Susan Stockdale

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Where can you find striped animals?

Prowling the prairie / rondando por las praderas
Perched on a peak / y encaramadas en altas cumbers.
Crawling on cactus / Caminando sobre el cactus
And camped by a creek / y echadas junto al arroyo.

This English/Spanish bilingual edition is the latest offering from the author. Using minimal text, the book covers a variety of striped mammals, insects, and aquatic creatures posing in their natural habitat. We see ring-tailed lemurs drink from rivers, poison frogs propped on logs, zebra moray eels twist in the sand, and a tabby cat curled in a child’s arms. Stockdale never names the animals, but their identity is revealed in the back pages along with the answers to why animals have stripes (one or two sentences of information are provided for each animal). Readers will also enjoy guessing which stripe belongs to which animal in a memory matching game.

In the classroom, this informational book could be used in both science and literature lessons. It’s a great introduction to patterns, animal markings, and camouflage, while the short rhyming text uses alliteration to enhance the literary skills of young readers. Stockdale’s illustrations are sure to mesmerize a first grade audience. Using bold colors and thick lines, her acrylic artwork really pops off the page.

Visit the authors website for more information and other nature titles:

  •  Stripes of all typesTitle: Stripes of All Types / Rayas de todas las tallas
  • Author/Illustrator: Susan Stockdale
  • Publisher: Peachtree Publishers, 2014
  • Reviewer: Lauren Abbey Greenberg
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-56145-793-9
  • Genre: Picture Book, Nature, Science

About Birds: A Guide for Children

Written by Cathryn Sill
Illustrated by John Sill

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This beautiful little book packs a lot into a very few words and pictures. It allows first graders and older to see common birds (cardinal, American robin) up close and to learn about birds in other parts of the world (common murre, magnificent hummingbird). It is a valuable introduction to the English/Spanish bilingual world. And it contains a wealth of information for those who want to know more. As a read aloud or for independent study, this volume of the “About” series provides a solid basis for comprehension of nature and conservation plus a boost to literacy skills.

It is presented as a picture book with a short sentence for each bird, translated into Spanish. e.g., “Some birds build nests on the ground. / Algunos párajos hacen sus nido en la tierra.” is followed by a realistic painting of an ovenbird and its nest. The afterword has longer explanations of each picture, a glossary, and bibliography with books and websites.

Detailed and realistic illustrations make the reader feel like they have actually seen the birds. As birds move fast and are shy of humans, it helps children to recognize our feathered friends.

  • About BirdsTitle: About Birds: A Guide for Children
  • Author: Cathryn Sill
  • Illustrator: John Sill
  • Publisher: Peachtree  Publishers, 2014
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Paperback, unpaged
  • Genre: Nonfiction, nature, bilingual
  • ISBN: 978-1-56145-783-0

And the Winner Is… Amazing Animal Athletes

Written by Etta Kaner

Illustrated by David Anderson

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Get ready for the World Animal Games hosted by Walrus and Cockatoo! And the Winner Is… gives first grade readers a fun and fantastic opportunity to learn about the super power of animals. And it turns out that animals really are amazing athletes – especially in comparison to humans!

The events are high jump, sprinting, weight lifting, swimming, long jump, aerobatics, and the marathon. In each category there are four competitors.  Readers are asked to predict who will win and the results are often surprising!

The layout of each spread invites readers to pick and choose between small pieces of text according to their reading level. With commentary at the top by Walrus and Cockatoo, game cards for each competitor that give stats on the creature’s class, home, habitat, and food preferences, and witty banter between the athletes and the crowd, there really is something of interest to every reader.

One spread introduces the competitor and the next spread declares the winner.  This is followed by a comparison of how the winning result compares to the average human.  The flea, for example, wins the high jump contest by leaping 150 times its own height.  The human high jump record, in comparison, is less than two times the jumper’s height.  And the delightful and humbling fact is that the human doesn’t come close to winning in any of these categories.

Author Etta Kaner makes use of every opportunity to provide additional information about the animals and their amazing abilities without ever making it feel forced. As an illustrated guide, And the Winner Is… is perfectly suited to the first grade level but will also find appeal among younger and older students (and even adults!)

  • Winner IsTitle: AND THE WINNER IS… Amazing Animal Athletes
  • Author: Etta Kaner
  • Illustrator: David Anderson
  • Publisher: Kids Can Press, 2013
  • Reviewer: Yolanda Ridge
  • Format: Hardcover, 36 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-55453-904-8
  • Genre: Science, Nature
  • Lexile Score: IG550

Storm Song

Written by Nancy Viau

Illustrated by Gynux

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Storm Song  is a rollicking read-aloud, great for first grade and will help youngsters appreciate rainstorms. The book brings a rain storm to life through alliteration and strong sensory language. With phrases such as “Pitter, pat, pound!” Viau uses rhythm and language brilliantly to build tension and excitement about a universal experience, being scared yet fascinated by the power of a storm. Through an exploration of many aspects of the storm (the whisking of leaves, the sparkle of lightning, the ticking of a clock in the calming aftermath), the book avoids what could be just another book about rain.

When the lights go out, readers experience the confusion of the main characters, two young girls, one boy and an amiable dog, and feel the relief provided by a creative mother who quickly has them pretending to “Row, row, row your boat,” eating popcorn heated over flames, and snoozing comfortably on the couch together. The concluding spreads present the passing of the storm, the dog splashing in the puddles, and the peaceful calm washing over all.

The digital images by Gynux complement the text beautifully. From the leaves sweeping across the yard to the expressions of the young characters entranced by lightning, the illustrations capture the emotional energy of the text.

First grade teachers will appreciate the “Teacher’s Guide” available at ( With activities appropriate for K-2nd grade, language arts, drama, art and science, there is something for everyone in this activity collection created with the Common Core in mind. The guide includes pre and post reading questions, a list of other books about storms, reading games that play with onomatopoeia, and lightning experiments.

  •  Storm SongTitle: Storm Song
  • Author: Nancy Viau
  • Illustrator: Gynux
  • Publisher: Amazon Children’s Publishing, 2013
  • Reviewer: Heather L. Montgomery
  • Paperback: 24 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1477816462
  • Genre: Picture book
  • Lexile Score: 660