Tag Archives: science

Wicked Bugs by Amy Stewart

Wicked Bugs (Young Readers Edition) by Amy Stewart. August 8, 2017. Algonquin Young Readers, 192 p. ISBN: 9781616207557.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 7.0.

Did you know there are zombie bugs that not only eat other bugs but also inhabit and control their bodies? There’s even a wasp that delivers a perfectly-placed sting in a cockroach’s brain and then leads the roach around by its antennae — like a dog on a leash. Scorpions glow in ultraviolet light. Lots of bugs dine on corpses. And if you want to know how much it hurts to get stung by a bullet ant (hint: it really, really hurts), you can consult the Schmidt Sting Pain Index. It ranks the pain produced by ants and other stinging creatures. How does it work? Dr. Schmidt, the scientist who created it, voluntarily subjected himself to the stings of 150 species.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Insect pests, Arachnida, Insect life cycles, Insect classification, Poisonous bugs, Parasites, Disease, Destruction, Entomology

 

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Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (July 15, 2017)
This junior edition of Stewart’s lurid 2011 portrait gallery of the same name (though much less gleeful subtitle) loses none of its capacity for leaving readers squicked-out.The author drops a few entries, notably the one on insect sexual practices, and rearranges toned-down versions of the rest into roughly topical sections. Beginning with the same cogent observation—“We are seriously outnumbered”—she follows general practice in thrillers of this ilk by defining “bug” broadly enough to include all-too-detailed descriptions of the life cycles and revolting or deadly effects of scorpions and spiders, ticks, lice, and, in a chapter evocatively titled “The Enemy Within,” such internal guests as guinea worms and tapeworms. Mosquitoes, bedbugs, the ubiquitous “Filth Fly,” and like usual suspects mingle with more-exotic threats, from the tongue-eating louse and a “yak-killer hornet” (just imagine) to the aggressive screw-worm fly that, in one cited case, flew up a man’s nose and laid hundreds of eggs…that…hatched. Morrow-Cribbs’ close-up full-color drawings don’t offer the visceral thrills of the photos in, for instance, Rebecca L. Johnson’s Zombie Makers (2012) but are accurate and finely detailed enough to please even the fussiest young entomologists. Entomophobes will find all of this horrifyingly informative. (index, glossary, resource lists) (Nonfiction. 11-14)

School Library Journal (August 1, 2017)
Gr 4-8-With over one million species of insects identified globally and over 10 quintillion live insects, there are a lot of bugs in the world! Stewart writes about the creepy crawlies that most negatively impact humans in this young reader’s edition of her 2011 adult book by the same name. Dividing the content into six categories, (“Everyday Dangers,” “Destructive Pests,” etc.), Stewart begins each one with a full-page illustration. Entries are approximately three pages long and contain a mixture of scientific information (size, scientific family name, habitat, etc.) as well as human-interest anecdotes. Juicy tidbits, such as the story of a woman who thought she was undergoing brain surgery to remove a deadly tumor and instead woke up to find that a pork tapeworm had been the culprit, will keep readers engaged and turning the pages. (Finding the pork tapeworm instead of a tumor was apparently good news.) Resources listed at the conclusion include online sources to aid in insect identification, a catalog of the best insectariums, and information on pest control and insect-related diseases. VERDICT Budding entomologists and kids who marvel in the truly awe-inspiring, sometimes hair-raising, and gross natural world will be in heaven.-Ragan O’Malley, Saint Ann’s School, Brooklyn

About the Author

Amy Stewart is the New York Times bestselling author of nine books, including Girl Waits with Gun, Lady Cop Makes Trouble, The Drunken Botanist, and Wicked Plants.

She lives in Portland with her husband Scott Brown, a rare book dealer. They own an independent bookstore called Eureka Books, which is so independent that it lives in California while they live in Oregon.

You can also find her all over the country speaking to audiences at bookstores, libraries, botanical gardens, corporate campuses, and university and museum lecture series.

Her website is www.amystewart.com

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Whale Quest by Karen Romano Young

Whale Quest: Working Together to Save Endangered Species by Karen Romano Young. August 1, 2017. Twenty-First Century Books, 128 p. ISBN: 9781467792462.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 1150.

Decades of commercial whaling nearly decimated a variety of whales considered a keystone species. Keystone species are indicators of the overall health of Earth’s habitats. While whales have made a comeback through an international ban on commercial whaling, they are still threatened with extinction. Global warming, water and noise pollution, and commercial shipping and fishing are among the most serious threats to whale survival. Meet the scientists, citizen scientists, researchers, whale watching guides, and other concerned citizens who are working together to protect whale populations around the globe. Learn about whale biology, habitats, and behavior, and discover more about the high-technology tools that help researchers in their work.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

Booklist (June 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 19))
Grades 8-12. Young takes a fittingly large-scale approach to her investigation of the whale and its precarious place in the wild, which she anchors through the theme of whale watchers. After a brief introduction to this mammal’s evolutionary history and role as a keystone species, the book traces its relationship with humans over time. The discussion begins with the whaling industry, both its detrimental past practices and current protective policies. Interestingly, it was from whaling that cetology (the scientific study of whales) and the whale-watching industry were born, and from these came conservation movements. Young delves into each of these areas, peppering the text with photos, diagrams, profiles of “whales to watch,” fast-fact Q&As, and a concluding whale guide. The balanced presentation of information offers straightforward accounts of controversies, such as SeaWorld’s orca shows, and the many opportunities available to those who wish to help save the whales. Readers after a personal account of whale rescue will want to look elsewhere, but researchers will be well served by this compact volume’s breadth of information.

Kirkus Reviews (June 1, 2017)
Threats to whale populations are abundant, but there are many human allies working together around the world to protect their fragile populations.Young explores how cetologists, researchers, and citizen scientists work individually and cooperatively to protect whales from such hazards as climate change, commercial fishing and shipping, water and noise pollution, and unregulated whale-watching tourism. Before going into specifics about conservation efforts, Young explains the evolution and nature of cetaceans, how the whaling industry brought many species to the brink of extinction, and early conservation efforts that resulted in the establishment of the International Whaling Commission. She also notes how popular films such as Free Willy and Whale Rider and award-winning documentaries like Blackfish and Dolphin Cove have helped spread appreciation for cetaceans and raised public consciousness about conservation issues. One chapter explores the controversy of whale captivity, with Sea World at the center of a widespread public backlash against the practice. For those with a taste for the icky and gross, Young explores how much researchers can learn from whale feces and snot. A closing guide to whale species offers a sobering reminder of the terrible toll taken on whales by humans. The blue whale population, for example, is estimated now at 5,000, down from a pre-hunting population of 200,000. An informative, well-researched, and engagingly written look at global efforts to protect Earth’s largest mammals. (maps, photos, source notes, glossary, bibliography, further reading) (Nonfiction. 12-16)

About the Author

Karen Romano Young has dived to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean in a tiny submarine, crunched through Arctic ice in an icebreaker, and visited labs, museum workshops, and research institutions across the U.S. to write and draw about science. She was a lead science communications fellow aboard Dr. Robert Ballard’s research ship E/V Nautilus.

Karen lives with her family in the woods of Bethel, Connecticut. Her next adventure is a stint at Palmer Station, Antarctica, as the recipient of the National Science Foundation’s Antarctic Artists and Writers Grant. She has not yet traveled to space. Her website is www.karenromanoyoung.com

Teacher Resources

Whales Lesson Plans

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Chasing Space: Young Reader’s Edition by Leland Melvin

Chasing Space: Young Reader’s Edition by Leland Melvin. May 23, 2017. Amistad, 240 p. ISBN: 9780062665928.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.6; Lexile: 1020.

Meet Leland Melvin—football star, NASA astronaut, and professional dream chaser.

In this inspiring memoir, adapted from the simultaneous version for adults, young readers will get to learn about Leland Melvin’s remarkable life story, from being drafted by the Detroit Lions to bravely orbiting our planet in the International Space Station to writing songs with will.i.am, working with Serena Williams, and starring in top-rated television shows like The Dog WhispererTop Chef, and Child Genius.

When the former Detroit Lion’s football career was cut short by an injury, Leland didn’t waste time mourning his broken dream. Instead, he found a new one—something that was completely out of this world.

He joined NASA, braved an injury that nearly left him permanently deaf, and still managed to muster the courage and resolve to travel to space on the shuttle Atlantis to help build the International Space Station. Leland’s problem-solving methods and can-do attitude turned his impossible-seeming dream into reality.

Leland’s story introduces readers to the fascinating creative and scientific challenges he had to deal with in space and will encourage the next generation of can-do scientists to dare to follow their dreams. With do-it-yourself experiments in the back of the book and sixteen pages of striking full-color photographs, this is the perfect book for young readers looking to be inspired.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Racism, Hazing, Murder

 

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Author Talk

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (June 1, 2017)
Memoir of an astronaut whose road to space took an unusual twist—through the National Football League.Rewritten for younger audiences, this version of Melvin’s simultaneously publishing memoir for adults not only retraces his development from “a skinny black kid” who wanted to be the next Arthur Ashe to an engineer who flew on two space-shuttle missions, but is even capped with a trio of science projects. Though he pushes the conventional platitude that “hard work and dedication are all you need to succeed,” his experiences point more to the value of being ready to take full advantage of second chances when they come along—which they did in his (brief) NFL career, in college after he was suspended for (inadvertent, in his view) cheating, and later at NASA in the wake of a training injury that left him partially deaf. He has also enjoyed a second career as a speaker, educator, TV host, occasional poet, and songwriter with Pharrell and other musicians. Religious faith and racism sound occasional notes in his account, the latter underscored by a picture of his otherwise all-white astronaut class in one of the two photo sections, but he devotes warmer attention to tributes to his mentors, colleagues, role models—and, oddly, his dogs, whose lives and deaths make up much of what he has to say about his adult private life. A detailed picture of astronaut training and work, threaded on a decidedly unusual storyline. (Memoir. 11-14)

About the Author

A former wide receiver for the Detroit Lions, Leland Melvin is an engineer and NASA astronaut. He served on the space shuttle Atlantis as a mission specialist and was named the NASA Associate Administrator for Education in October 2010. He also served as the cochair on the White House’s Federal Coordination in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education Task Force, developing the nation’s five-year STEM education plan. He is the host of the Lifetime show Child Genius and a judge for ABC’s BattleBots. He holds four honorary doctorates and has received the NFL Player Association Award of Excellence. He lives in Lynchburg, Virginia.

His website is www.lelandmelvin.com

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Seven Wonders of the Solar System by David A. Aguilar

Seven Wonders of the Solar System by David A. Aguilar. May 30, 2017. Viking Books for Young Readers, 80 p. ISBN: 9780451476852.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 8.9; Lexile: 1070.

Travel the near and far reaches of the solar system in this lively, beautifully illustrated Smithsonian nonfiction book!

Ready for a wondrous celestial journey? How about a trip to our close neighbor Mars, home to the largest volcano in the solar system? Or to Europa, a watery lunar world with a really deep ocean? Or beyond the beyond to mysterious Planet 9, an unseen giant lurking in the far outer regions of space?

This extraordinary book puts you right there: breaking through colorful gaseous hazes; exploring the surface of red-hot or ice-cold planets; hurtling through rings of flying, frozen ice chunks; and rocketing on out to deep space. Astronomer David Aguilar is our navigator on these seven wonderful trips through our solar system—journeys that someday may actually happen!

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

 

About the Author

David A. Aguilar  is an astronomer, artist, author of several notable books on space for children, including Cosmic Catastrophes: Seven Ways to Destroy a Planet Like Earth. He is the former Director of Science Information for the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. As a member of the New Horizons Spacecraft Team, he handled the media coverage of the Pluto fly-by. He lives with his wife outside Aspen Colorado, where he’s built his own observatory. Asteroid 1990 DA was named in his honor by the International Astronomical Union.

David and wife Shirley reside outside Aspen, CO.

His website is davidaguilar.org.

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Amazon Adventure: How Tiny Fish Are Saving the World’s Largest Rainforest by Sy Montgomery

Amazon Adventure: How Tiny Fish Are Saving the World’s Largest Rainforest by Sy Montgomery. July 4, 2017. HMH Books for Young Readers, 80 p. ISBN: 9780544352995.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 7.7; Lexile: 1050.

Considered the “lungs of the world,” the Amazon provides a full fifth of the world’s oxygen, and every year unsustainable human practices destroy 2.7 million acres. What can be done to help? That’s where Project Piaba comes in.
Join the award-winning author Sy Montgomery and the photographer Keith Ellenbogen as they traverse the river and rainforest to discover how tiny fish, called piabas, can help preserve the Amazon, its animals, and the rich legacy of its people. Amazon Adventure is an eye-opening—and ultimately hopeful—exploration of how humanity’s practices are affecting and shaping not only the Amazon, but our entire environment.

Part of Series: Scientists in the Field

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (May 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 18))
Grades 5-8. Sibert Medal–winning Montgomery returns to the impressive Scientists in the Field series with this narrative account of one little fish. The Amazon, an essential part of the earth’s ecosystem, is teeming with life; new species are still regularly discovered there. Montgomery and photographer Keith Ellenbogen join forces with Boston aquarist Scott Dowd in search of piaba, a bright, shy fish that plays a large role in the preservation of the Amazon. Sold as valuable pets, the gathering of these fish has led to a flourishing trade: piabeiros who gently fish for piabas from canoes. Removing the piabas from their natural habitat may seem detrimental, but overcrowding during the dry season means almost 90 percent of piabas are stranded. Furthermore, piabeiros rely on their trade and protect their industry, keeping this stretch of the Amazon free of the industries that pollute other areas; the fishery becomes not only sustainable but mutually beneficial. Montgomery thoroughly mines the social and economic effects the piabas have on locals, alongside an in-depth exploration of the Amazon River and its ecosystems. The science and sociology are interesting and unusual, and the narrative itself enthralling: a nerve-racking section detailing the most dangerous inhabitants of the Amazon River, just before Ellenbogen submerges himself, will have readers holding their breath (those dangers are, mostly, debunked several pages later). A true-to-form installment in a valuable series.

Horn Book Magazine (May/June, 2017)
Called piaba (“which roughly translates to ‘small-fry’ or ‘pip-squeak’”) by locals, several hundred fish species are harvested from the Amazon basin using methods that have developed into a model of environmental sustainability, organized to protect the critically important Amazon ecosystems while remaining economically viable. In Brazil, author Montgomery travels up the Río Negro to the town of Barcelos with a group organized by Project Piaba, a venture that has partnered with Barcelos’s residents to promote sustainable practices. Leading the tour is Scott Dowd of the New England Aquarium, a lifelong freshwater fish enthusiast. Montgomery shares her endless zeal and scientific curiosity with readers as she meticulously details her adventures: snorkeling to see fish that “dazzle and shimmer” in the tannin-stained river, the gorgeous and elaborate costumes and floats of the annual Festival of the Ornamental Fish, and the care taken by scientists to treat fish diseases as well as teach the fishers (piabeiros) best practices in keeping the fish healthy during transport to freshwater aquariums. Inviting photographs of people, fish, and the beautiful Amazon flora bring the experience to life. Text boxes interspersed throughout the main account include profiles of other animals of the Amazon (including dangerous piranhas, electric eels, and anacondas) and an extended look at how Ellenbogen manages to produce such beautiful photographs on and under such a dark and murky river. Appended with a bibliography, websites, and an index. danielle j. ford

About the Author

Part Indiana Jones, part Emily Dickinson, as the Boston Globe describes her, Sy Montgomery is an author, naturalist, documentary scriptwriter, and radio commentator who has traveled to some of the worlds most remote wildernesses for her work. She has worked in a pit crawling with 18,000 snakes in Manitoba, been hunted by a tiger in India, swum with pink dolphins in the Amazon, and been undressed by an orangutan in Borneo. She is the author of 13 award-winning books, including her national best-selling memoir, The Good Good Pig. Montgomery lives in Hancock, New Hampshire.

Her website is symontgomery.com

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Amazon Adventure on Amazon

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Sea Otter Heroes by Patricia Newman

Sea Otter Heroes: The Predators That Saved an Ecosystem by Patricia Newman. January 1, 2017. Millbrook Press, 56 p. ISBN: 9781512426311.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 7.2; Lexile: 1060.

Marine biologist Brent Hughes didn’t think sea otters and sea grass had much in common. But his research at Elkhorn Slough, an estuary on Monterrey Bay in northern California, revealed a new and surprising connection between the two. The scientist expected this estuary to be overrun with algae due to the fertilizer runoff from surrounding fields. But it wasn’t. Why?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (February 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 11))
Grades 5-8. Though the cover of promises photographs of adorable, fluffy-faced otters, this volume packs a substantial amount of scientific detail as well. The main narrative follows marine biologist Brent Hughes and his study of Elkhorn Slough, which grew healthy seagrass while other inlets in similar conditions suffered. Eventually, careful research revealed that it was the presence of sea otters, the local apex predator, that allowed the slough to flourish. In four chapters, Newman details Hughes’ research processes and examines the workings of ecosystems in general and how its inhabitants affect it at every level. Illustrations include not only those irresistible otter photos but also scientific diagrams and photographs of Hughes’ experiments. A final chapter on conservation explains the often-damaging effect humans can have on ecosystems, while back matter includes relevant experiments, extensive secondary resources, and ways in which young people can help the environment on a daily basis. Not just an exploration of one particular discovery in marine biology, this is a comprehensive explanation of the scientific process as well.

Kirkus Reviews starred (February 15, 2017)
A young scientist’s doctoral research reveals a surprising relationship between sea grasses and sea otters in a California bay.Valuable sea grasses in Elkhorn Slough, in Northern California, were thriving in spite of heavy nutrient pollution from nearby Salinas Valley farms. When Brent Hughes began his investigation of this mystery, he looked at things directly affecting sea-grass growth, such as weather patterns. It wasn’t until he compared sea grass cover with otter population that he found a match. In discussions with other researchers, the young white biologist learned that otters like to eat big, meaty crabs, which feed on sea hares, a type of sea slug that in turn feeds on algae growth that smothers the grasses. Following usual procedures, he then designed experiments to prove his hypothesis that the thriving otter population made the sea grass flourish. This intriguing description of the problem he saw and his research process is a model of the scientific method. Interspersed with chapters describing the mystery, the development of the hypothesis, the proof, and the larger idea of “trophic cascades” (interactions among predators and prey that begin at the top of the food chain) are sections about otters and about sea-grass science in general. A map, ample photographs, and an attractive design add appeal, and there are sensible suggestions for environmental protection. A thoughtfully organized and attractively presented example of science in the field. (source notes, glossary, bibliography, suggested resources, index). (Nonfiction. 11-16)

About the Author

Writing for children is the hardest thing I’ve ever done—the field is intensely competitive. But I write because I can’t imagine not writing. I write for myself and for the kids who read my work. I write for the joy of seeing a kid sitting in the front row at a school visit, hand stretched high to answer my questions. I write for the kid who tells me he already owns one of my books and has read it 15 times.

Her website is www.patriciamnewman.com.

Teacher Resources

Sea Otter Heroes Teachers Guide

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A Dog in the Cave by Kay Frydenborg

A Dog in the Cave: The Wolves Who Made Us Human by Kay Frydenborg. March 14, 2017. HMH Books for Young Readers, 256 p. ISBN: 9780544286566.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 1400.

We know dogs are our best animal friends, but have you ever thought about what that might mean?

Fossils show we’ve shared our work and homes with dogs for tens of thousands of years. Now there’s growing evidence that we influenced dogs’ evolution—and they, in turn, changed ours. Even more than our closest relatives, the apes, dogs are the species with whom we communicate best.

Combining history, paleontology, biology, and cutting-edge medical science, Kay Frydenborg paints a picture of how two different species became deeply entwined—and how we co-evolved into the species we are today.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (February 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 11))
Grades 8-12. With vast scope and thorough research, Frydenborg (Wild Horse Scientists, 2012) explores the evolution of humans and their most constant companions. Dogs, she says, have been our most enduring partners since our earliest days, and as we tamed and domesticated them, they changed the course of our own development. Despite our long relationship with dogs, this co-evolution has been little discussed. Frydenborg begins in the Paleolithic era, explaining how fossils and cave paintings depict the first dogs, before moving on to examine the genetic history of wolves (and their fraught history with humans), the circumstances that may have led to the early partnering of canines and humans, and the ways in which dogs may have kept ancestors of the modern human from going extinct, as the Neanderthals did. Occasional insert sections provide details on some of the more scientific processes (radiocarbon dating, MRIs) and historical and modern anecdotes (the “dog fancy” that swept Victorian England; a wolf named Romeo who became friendly with residents of an Alaskan town), and full-color photos offer glimpses of scientific processes and ancient artwork, alongside images of wolves and dogs today. The tone is inviting and accessible, the topic high interest, and the research impeccable. This narrative blend of history and science belongs on all shelves.

Horn Book Magazine (January/February, 2017)
“Humankind’s best friend,” as Frydenborg amends the phrase, has been relatively understudied in scientific circles, but recent developments– particularly the 1994 discovery of dog tracks that rewrote the evolutionary timeline, DNA testing that allows us to more fully explore the connections between modern species and ancient ones, and MRI technology that allows us to monitor brain activity–have led to an increase in dog research across a variety of fields and disciplines. Those discoveries help us wonder, speculate, and understand how dogs evolved from wolves and how those dogs also helped us evolve into humans, a complicated dance of a process known as co-evolution. After setting the stage, Frydenborg goes back for a deep dive into some of these disciplines, most notably paleontology, genetics, and psychology, but she also takes frequent digressions into history and biology, some confined to sidebars, others woven into the main narrative. Evident throughout are the author’s passion and curiosity. Full-color photographs (not seen) are interspersed, while a glossary, source notes, a bibliography, and an index are appended. jonathan hunt

About the Author

Kay Frydenborg lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two dogs. She’s the author of numerous books for young readers including ChocolateWild Horse Scientists, They Dreamed of Horses, and Animal Therapist.

Her website is www.kayfrydenborg.com.

 

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Isaac the Alchemist by Mary Losure

Isaac the Alchemist: Secrets of Isaac Newton, Reveal’d by Mary Losure. February 1, 2017. Candlewick Press, 176 p. ISBN: 9780763670634.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 7.4; Lexile: 1010.

A surprising true story of Isaac Newton’s boyhood suggests an intellectual development owing as much to magic as science.

Before Isaac Newton became the father of physics, an accomplished mathematician, or a leader of the scientific revolution, he was a boy living in an apothecary’s house, observing and experimenting, recording his observations of the world in a tiny notebook. As a young genius living in a time before science as we know it existed, Isaac studied the few books he could get his hands on, built handmade machines, and experimented with alchemy–a process of chemical reactions that seemed, at the time, to be magical. Mary Losure’s riveting narrative nonfiction account of Isaac’s early life traces his development as a thinker from his childhood, in friendly prose that will capture the attention of today’s budding scientists–as if by magic. Back matter includes an afterword, an author’s note, source notes, a bibliography, and an index.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (December 1, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 7))
Grades 6-9. Isaac Newton is known as one of the most brilliant scientific minds in human history, so what was he doing studying alchemy? Losure (The Fairy Ring, 2012) paints a vivid picture of the lonely, curious young Isaac, who grew up with an insatiable appetite for reading (particularly about alchemy), which ultimately fueled his scholarly pursuits. While teaching mathematics and formulating his famous theories, for instance, he simultaneously pored over crucibles of mercury, hoping to transmute lead into gold. Of course, we know now that alchemy is nonsense, but in Isaac’s seventeenth-century existence, it was a serious scientific study and thought to be the key to unlocking the universe’s secrets. In Losure’s engaging narrative, she compellingly ties Isaac’s desire to solve the world’s mysteries through alchemy to his groundbreaking theories, which actually did lead to solving many of those mysteries. Snippets of Isaac’s notebooks and period illustrations further enliven Losure’s already fascinating, energetic writing. More than just a picture of Isaac Newton’s life, this illuminates the historical context for his work and the sea change his discoveries ushered in.

Horn Book Magazine (January/February, 2017)
In 1936, economist John Maynard Keyes bought a set of Isaac Newton’s manuscripts at auction only to discover that many of the pages had nothing to do with science, but rather alchemy. Newton, Keyes reasoned, “was not the first of the age of reasonâç¦He was the last of the magicians.” Indeed, Newton grew up in a world where it was very difficult to tell where one field of study ended and another began, a world where alchemy and “chymistry” (as it was then spelled) seemed to be related disciplines. Losure faithfully hews to this worldview, communicating the sense of awe and wonder about the natural world that Newton must have felt. This immersive experience is enhanced by historical documents that are reproduced throughout the text, along with several appendices of additional information. Perhaps even more impressive than her re-creation of Newton’s world, however, is her re-creation of the man himself–or rather, the boy who became the man–without embellishing the historical record with speculation and conjecture. Thus, the reader is left with the bare facts of Newton’s life–his difficult and troubled childhood, his prodigious talent at Cambridge, his prickly and reclusive nature, and his famous Laws of Motion–but more importantly, Losure has communicated his very essence, recalling Albert Einstein’s assertion that “imagination is more important than knowledge.” Source notes, a bibliography, and an index are appended. jonathan hunt

About the Author

Mary Losure, author of The Fairy Ring and Wild Boy, writes both non-fiction and fantasy for children. Before she was a children’s book author, she was an award-winning reporter for Minnesota Public Radio. A long-time contributor to National Public Radio, she also reported from Mexico and South America for the independent production company Round Earth Media. She lives in Minnesota.

Her website is www.marylosure.com.

Teacher Resources

Isaac the Alchemist Teacher’s Guide

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Isaac the Alchemist on Amazon

Isaac the Alchemist on Goodreads

Isaac the Alchemist on JLG

Isaac the Alchemist Publisher Page

When the Sky Breaks by Simon Winchester

When the Sky Breaks: Hurricanes, Tornadoes, and the Worst Weather in the World by Simon Winchester. January 31, 2017. Viking Books for Young Readers, 96 p. ISBN: 9780451476357.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 8.9; Lexile: 1180.

New York Times bestselling author Simon Winchester looks at which way the wind blows in this exciting book about giant storms.

Simon Winchester is an avid weather watcher. He’s scanned the skies in Oklahoma, waiting for the ominous “finger” of a tornado to touch the Earth. He’s hunkered down in Hong Kong when typhoon warning signals went up. He’s visited the world’s hottest and wettest places, reported on fierce whirlpools, and sailed around South Africa looking for freak winds and waves.

He knows about the worst weather in the world.

A master nonfiction storyteller, Winchester looks at how, when, where, and why hurricanes, typhoons, cyclones, and tornadoes start brewing, how they build, and what happens when these giant storms hit. His lively narrative also includes an historical look at how we learned about weather systems and where we’re headed because of climate change. Stunning photographs illustrate the power of these giant storms.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

About the Author

Simon Winchester is the author of Viking’s When the Earth Shakes: Earthquakes, Volcanoes, and Tsunamis, a 2016 NSTA-CBC Outstanding Science Trade Book. He is the New York Times bestselling author of adult nonfiction, including Pacific; Atlantic; The Men Who United the States; and The Professor and the Madman. Winchester was awarded an Order of the British Empire (OBE) for his services to journalism and literature.

His website is simonwinchester.com.

Teacher Resources

Hurricanes and Tornadoes Lesson Plans

Hurricanes and Tornadoes Printable Worksheets

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When the Sky Breaks on Amazon

When the Sky Breaks on Goodreads

When the Sky Breaks on JLG

When the Sky Breaks Publisher Page

Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly

Hidden Figures: Young Reader’s Edition by Margot Lee Shetterly. November 29, 2016. HarperCollins, 240 p. ISBN: 9780062662385.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 1120.

New York Times bestselling author Margot Lee Shetterly’s book is now available in a new edition perfect for young readers. This is the amazing true story of four African-American female mathematicians at NASA who helped achieve some of the greatest moments in our space program. Now a major motion picture starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, Kirsten Dunst, and Kevin Costner.

Before John Glenn orbited the earth, or Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, a group of dedicated female mathematicians known as “human computers” used pencils, slide rules, and adding machines to calculate the numbers that would launch rockets, and astronauts, into space. This book brings to life the stories of Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden, four African-American women who lived through the civil rights era, the Space Race, the Cold War, and the movement for gender equality, and whose work forever changed the face of NASA and the country.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Racism

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (March 1, 2017 (Online))
Grades 5-8. Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Christine Darden are names that have been largely forgotten. The four women worked for the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics in the mid-twentieth century. Each displayed early aptitude for math, sharp curiosity about the world around them, and marked confidence in the face of discrimination. They contributed to discoveries about space and to sending manned missions into orbit. Their life stories are the perfect impetus for discussion on a host of important historical themes germane to the 1950s, such as gender roles, racial prejudice and segregation, and scientific exploration. In any context, these women’s contributions to science and aerospace technology would be impressive, but the obstacles imposed by the norms of their society make their achievements all the more impressive. Middle-schoolers will find their story, here in a young readers’ edition of Shetterly’s 2016 adult book (the basis of a current movie), engaging and inspirational.

About the Author

I’m the author of Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race (William Morrow/HarperCollins). I’m also the founder of The Human Computer Project, an endeavor that is recovering the names and accomplishments of all of the women who worked as computers, mathematicians, scientists and engineers at the NACA and NASA from the 1930s through the 1980s.

I’m a Hampton, Virginia native, University of Virginia graduate, an entrepreneur, and an intrepid traveler who spent 11 years living in Mexico. I currently live in Charlottesville, VA.

Her website is www.margotleeshetterly.com.

Teacher Resources

Hidden Figures Teacher Resources

Hidden Figures Teaching Guide

“When Computers Wore Skirts” Lesson Plan

Around the Web

Hidden Figures on Amazon

Hidden Figures on Goodreads

Hidden Figures on JLG

Hidden Figures Publisher Page