Tag Archives: science

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

 

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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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Sea Otter Heroes on Amazon

Sea Otter Heroes on Goodreads

Sea Otter Heroes on JLG

Sea Otter Heroes Publisher Page

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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A Dog in the Cave on Amazon

A Dog in the Cave on Goodreads

A Dog in the Cave on JLG

A Dog in the Cave Publisher Page

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

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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

Exoplanets by Karen Latchana Kenney

Exoplanets: Worlds Beyond Our Solar System by Karen Latchana Kenney. March 1, 2017. Twenty First Century Books, 88 p. ISBN: 9781512400861.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 1120.

As of March 2016, planetary scientists have discovered almost 2,000 exoplanets – planets that orbit stars other than the Sun. Readers will learn about high-powered orbiting telescopes such as NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope and the Spitzer Space Telescope; observatories such as the Geneva Observatory in Switzerland; and upcoming missions such as the 2018 launch of the James Webb Space Telescope, all of which aid scientists in their work to discover more solar systems and exoplanets. Profiles of and quotes from top planet hunters include those of Debra Fischer, Gordon Walker, and Geoffrey Marcy, among others.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

Booklist (December 15, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 8))
Grades 8-11. As space exploration technology steadily advances, astronomers are discovering vast new reaches of space, and this slim, accessibly written volume sheds some light on a particularly thrilling area of research: planets far outside our solar system. After a tidy history of our ever-expanding understanding of the universe, Kenney clearly explains the many ways exoplanets are detected and some of the limitations of current tools and methods. The real star of the show, though, is the mind-­boggling number of exoplanet discoveries—more than 3,000 confirmed—and the wild variety of planets scientists have found, such an exoplanet with so little density it could float in water. The implications of these discoveries, such as habitable planets and the possibility of extraterrestrial life, will likely dazzle the imaginations of space-mad students, and a closing chapter on the future of exoplanet research, including citizen science projects accessible to anyone with a home computer, puts the science easily in reach of enterprising teens. Though the text is occasionally dry, illustrations, photos, diagrams, and the fascinating content add plenty of verve.

Kirkus Reviews (December 1, 2016)
An enticing overview of tools, techniques, and discoveries in what the author rightly characterizes “a red-hot field in astronomy.”Alas; it is perhaps too red-hot. Not only is Kenney’s count of accepted and potential exoplanets (as of May 2016) well out of date already, but her claim that “Wolf-1061” (sic: that’s actually the name of the star and its system) is the nearest Earthlike planet in the habitable “Goldilocks Zone” has been trumped by the recent discovery of a closer candidate orbiting Proxima Centauri. Still, along with describing in nontechnical terms each tool in the researcher’s kit—from space- and ground-based telescopes of various types to instruments that detect subtle stellar wobbles, spectrum changes, microlensing, and other telling signs—the author fills in the historical background of exoplanet research and profiles some of its weirder findings. She also casts side glances at extremophile life on Earth and other, at least tangentially related, topics. The small format gives the assortment of photos, artists’ renditions, diagrams, and generic star fields a cramped look, but readers curious about how researchers could possibly detect such dinky, distant objects as planets belonging to other star systems will come away satisfied and intrigued. A concise companion and update to Vicki Oransky Wittenstein’s Planet Hunter (2010). (index, source notes, bibliography, websites) (Nonfiction. 12-16)

About the Author

My favorite book as a child was an educational book titled I Want to Be a Reporter. It was about the job of a reporter and described the skills needed to tell stories in writing. I asked my mom to read it to me every night. It was fascinating to me! Since discovering that book, I have loved the idea of writing for a living.

As a K-12 educational writer and editor, I get to work on books and teaching materials that inform and inspire students. I have written about everything from the underwater home of a spider to the history of hip-hop music and WWI history. While I love researching and writing about all kinds of subjects, my experience so far has been mostly in science, social studies, biographies, music, and arts and crafts topics.

Her website is latchanakenney.wordpress.com.

Teacher Resources

Exoplanets Lesson Plans from NOVA

Around the Web

Exoplanets on Amazon

Exoplanets on Goodreads

Exoplanets on JLG

Exoplanets Publisher Page

The Ebola Epidemic by Connie Goldsmith

The Ebola Epidemic by Connie Goldsmith. February 1, 2016. Twenty-First Century Books, 112 p. ISBN: 9781467792448.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 1160.

An ordinary blue thermos holding blood samples from a sick nun in Zaire reached Belgium’s Institute of Tropical Medicine in September 1976. From the samples, researchers discovered a new virus, which they named the Ebola virus after a river in Central Africa. The virus killed two hundred eighty people before it seemingly disappeared into the jungle. No one suspected the virus would erupt in West Africa nearly four decades later to cause an unprecedented epidemic.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Clinical discussion of death and dying

 

Reviews

Booklist (December 1, 2015 (Vol. 112, No. 7))
Grades 7-10. The 2014 outbreak of Ebola in West Africa may have caused widespread—and, in some areas, overblown—panic about the disease, but in many ways, medical response to the epidemic was underwhelming. This comprehensive guide begins with the story of the initial discovery of the virus, in 1974, and elaborates on the nature and dangers of the disease before going into the most recent occurrences and their aftermaths. Though it doesn’t make light of the very real and devastating effects Ebola can have on families and entire communities, this is also careful not to contribute to sensationalism: Ebola is a dangerous virus, yes, but not a particularly efficient one, with diseases like the flu killing many more people each year. Goldsmith cites an editorial that compared the Ebola paranoia in the U.S. to that of fearful attitudes during the AIDS crisis before discussing the initial, inefficient international response to the incident and the ongoing search for a cure. A solid, valuable look at a still-mysterious illness and a tumultuous time in recent history.

Kirkus Reviews starred (November 1, 2015)
Welcome to the you-better-be-Brave New World of emergent viruses. Much of this crisp and informative book chronicles the Ebola outbreak that savaged Liberia and parts of neighboring countries in September 2014. Goldsmith, a veteran health/science writer, knows how to invest readers in her story. Here, with the help of a swarm of photographs and maps, she explains how the virus found its way to Liberia–an engrossing story in itself–which necessitates a little background information. Goldsmith delivers science in a serious yet welcoming tone (no one gets talked down to); pathology can be fascinating in its own right, but Goldsmith makes the development of vaccines and rapid-result Ebola tests just as absorbing. There is good material on Doctors without Borders as well as on the locals who took part in the effort to educate people about the nature and transmission of the virus. There is also a pithy explanation of viruses–“Not really alive, yet not quite dead, viruses are the zombies of the microscopic world”–including their ability to shift shape, which makes designing a vaccine so difficult. Meanwhile, a creepy image of the virus snakes across the pages, innocent-looking as spaghetti or yarn, deadly as a blue-ringed octopus. An arresting, illuminating, and unlikely-to-be-forgotten story. (Nonfiction. 12-18)

About the Author

Connie Goldsmith writes books about history, health, and science for older children. An RN with a master’s degree in health, Ms. Goldsmith lives near Sacramento, California.

Her website is www.conniegoldsmith.com.

Teacher Resources

Ebola Outbreak Lesson Plans

Around the Web

The Ebola Epidemic on Amazon

The Ebola Epidemic on Goodreads

The Ebola Epidemic on JLG

The Ebola Epidemic Publisher Page

Last of the Giants by Jeff Campbell

Last of the Giants: The Rise and Fall of Earth’s Most Dominant Species by Jeff Campbell. March 1, 2016. Zest Books, 272 p. ISBN: 9781942186045.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 1180.

Today, an ancient world is vanishing right before our eyes: the age of giant animals. Over 40,000 years ago, the earth was ruled by megafauna: mammoths and mastodons, saber-toothed tigers and giant sloths. Of course, those creatures no longer exist, due to the evolution and arrival of the wildly adaptive human species, among other factors. Many more of the world’s biggest and baddest creatures—including the black rhino, the dodo, giant tortoises, and the great auk—have vanished since our world became truly global. Last of the Giants chronicles those giant animals and apex predators who have been pushed to extinction in the modern era.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Harsh realities of the wilderness

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (April 15, 2016 (Vol. 112, No. 16))
Grades 8-12. Bigger is better—except when it comes to wildlife. Or at least that’s how mankind has reacted against giant species, causing what scientists are now calling “the sixth extinction.” Campbell opens with an explanation of this widespread wave of extinction and our crisis of coexistence with wildlife. He then focuses on 13 giant species that once thrived—until humans arrived. Using the unscientific term giant loosely, he includes 10 megafauna (a scientific term referring to animals 100 pounds or larger) as well as smaller species that dominated their surroundings. Also representing a variety of species alive in the modern era (the last 500 years), individual chapters are devoted to a range of animals, from lions, tigers, and the California grizzly to the giant tortoises of the Indian Ocean, baiji (a river dolphin), and the passenger pigeon. Complemented by graphic novel–style illustrations, each chapter looks at what life was like when humans were introduced to the animal and the role they had in the animal’s extinction. Campbell is careful, however, to place the human activity in its historical context. Emphasizing the connection between extinction and conservation throughout, the author also relates how scientists are trying to save similar, sub-, and hybrid species of those now extinct. These timely, important, and fascinating stories will encourage readers to save all life, no matter its size.

School Library Journal (April 1, 2016)
Gr 9 Up-The extinctions of giant (both in size and number) species at the mercy of nature and humanity turn out to be a fascinating and jarring lesson for our present. Chronicling the fates of aurochs, moa, passenger pigeons, and sea cows, alongside the unresolved destinies of today’s lions and tigers, this work gazes back at evolutionary history through a retrospect that, with the aid of Campbell’s humorous and scientific tone, is truly 20/20. Thankfully, the text’s explorations of these annihilated species are complex and perceptive and go beyond the usual worn conclusion of human-wrought woe. Mixing geology, ethnography, history, zoology, biology, industry, and sociology, Campbell demonstrates how interconnected Earth’s species and societies-human and nonhuman-are. By examining the complex web of evolution through the misfortunes of these lost species, the author drives home that our present is not a final, linear result of history but rather an ever-evolving system that needs care and attention. To that end, a “Call to Action” section laden with resources for the aspiring activist appears at the end; though there is no index, an extensive list of works cited illuminates a path for those who wish to read further. VERDICT Required reading for the budding naturalist and a good pairing for a STEM or history curriculum, too.-Chelsea Woods, New Brunswick Free Public Library, NJ

About the Author

Jeff Campbell is a freelance writer, book editor, and creative writing teacher. Most recently, he’s published two nonfiction books for young adults: Last of the Giants (Zest, 2016), about extinct and endangered animals, and Daisy to the Rescue (Zest, 2014), about animals saving humans and animal intelligence. For twelve years he was a travel writer for Lonely Planet, coauthoring over a dozen guidebooks to US destinations. As an editor for over twenty years, he has specialized in pop culture, self-help, sports, and YA fiction. He also teaches creative writing to kids and adults with the Writers Circle (NJ).

Her website is www.jeffcampbellbooks.com.

Teacher Resources

Last of the Giants Educator’s Guide

Around the Web

Last of the Giants on Amazon

Last of the Giants on Goodreads

Last of the Giants on JLG

Last of the Giants Publisher Page

Mission to Pluto by Mary Kay Carson

Mission to Pluto: The First Visit to an Ice Dwarf and the Kuiper Belt by Mary Kay Carson. January 10, 2017. HMH Books for Young Readers, 80 p. ISBN: 9780544416710.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.8; Lexile: 940.

In July of 2015 a robotic spacecraft reached Pluto after a nine-and-half-year journey. New Horizons is the first spacecraft mission to Pluto and revealed its five moons as never before seen. Images from the mission show a reddish surface covered in ice-water mountains, moving glaciers, and hints of possible ice volcanoes and an underground ocean. Pluto is geologically alive and changing!

This addition to the Scientists in the Field series goes where no person or spacecraft has ever gone before. Follow along with the team of scientists as they build New Horizons, fly it across the solar system, and make new discoveries about a world three billion miles away.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (December 1, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 7))
Grades 5-8. This thrillingly up-to-date entry in the acclaimed Scientists in the Field series traces the history and progress of the exploration of Pluto, with special attention paid to the recent and still ongoing flyby mission, New Horizons. Bolstered by excited interviews with some of the scientists and engineers involved in the New Horizons mission, Carson covers the inception of the project, the construction of the probe, the physics gymnastics involved in collecting data once it finally arrived, and some of the groundbreaking discoveries garnered from those findings. Carson’s descriptions of the concepts are crystal clear and nicely supported by the many color photographs, plenty of which are part of the trove of photos taken by the probe, and diagrams charting, among other things, the probe’s path, Pluto’s geological makeup, and the solar system far beyond the usual eight planets. This enthusiastic, accessible look at both cutting-edge scientific discovery and the dynamic work behind the scenes will be an easy sell to space-mad kids and a valuable addition to any school library.

Kirkus Reviews starred (November 15, 2016)
A team effort sends a space probe to the edge of our solar system.When New Horizons flew by Pluto and sent home data and images in 2015, it was the culmination of a 26-year campaign (and a nine-year journey) and the first-ever exploration of that far-distant ice dwarf planet. Science writer and self-described “space geek” Carson and her photographer husband introduce their comprehensive description of this collaborative mission by showing the jubilant scene at the mission operations center as the spacecraft revealed its first close-up images. Then, chapter by chapter, they explain its purpose; the makeup of the craft and the instruments it carries; the journey across the solar system to Pluto, which was demoted from planet to dwarf planet during the 9 years but turned out to have 4 more moons than previously thought; some major discoveries from this first encounter; and the continuation of the mission into the Kuiper belt of small planets. Sidebars and longer sections called “Mission Briefs” provide additional information. The author’s enthusiasm shines through her clear, conversational narrative, and she quotes from personal interviews as well as press conferences and releases, extending the book’s intimacy. Uhlman’s well-captioned photographs of the team members (mostly white and male) are nicely mixed with photos from NASA and elsewhere and occasional digital illustrations. A worthy companion to Catherine Thimmesh’s Team Moon (2006) with similar appeal. (glossary, web resources, sources, index) (Nonfiction. 10-14)

About the Author

Mary Kay Carson is an award-winning children’s nonfiction author. She has written more than thirty books for young people about wildlife, space, weather, nature, and history. Her recent non-fiction titles include Emi and the Rhino Scientist, about the Cincinnati Zoo’s famous rhino mom; Exploring the Solar System, recipient of the 2009 American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Children’s Literature Award; The Wright Brothers for Kids; Inside Tornadoes; and the Far-Out Guide to the Solar System series. The author also gives presentations at schools and libraries about space, animals, history, and writing.

Her website is www.marykaycarson.com.

Teacher Resources

Mission to Pluto Discussion and Activity Guide

New Horizons “Plutopalooza” Toolkit — extensive resources on the Pluto mission.

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Mission to Pluto on Amazon

Mission to Pluto on Goodreads

Mission to Pluto on JLG

Mission to Pluto Publisher Page

Dead Zones by Carol Hand

Dead Zones: Why Earth’s Waters Are Losing Oxygen by Carol Hand. January 1, 2016. Twenty-First Century Books, 80 p. ISBN: 9781467775731.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 1230.

Times are tough for shrimpers and fishers in the Gulf of Mexico. The animals they rely on for their livelihood are harder to find. Every summer a dead zone—a region of low oxygen—emerges in the waters along the Gulf Coast. Where oxygen is low, fish and others animals cannot survive. Currently the world has more than 400 identified dead zones, up dramatically from the 49 dead zones identified in the 1960’s.The good news is that people can eliminate dead zones by changing agricultural practices and reducing pollution. Using real-world examples, this book looks at the impact of pollution on global water resources, and discusses the interconnectedness of ecosystems and organisms.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

Booklist (December 1, 2015 (Vol. 112, No. 7))
Grades 7-10. Emphasizing the interconnectedness of global ecosystems, Hand dives into the growing problem of dead zones: vast regions of earth’s oceans that suffer from decreased oxygen levels, which devastate marine plant and animal populations. She clearly explains how dead zones arise—fertilizer washes into the ocean, propagating algal blooms, which overwhelm the ecosystem with decaying plant matter and bacteria, which in turn consume the water’s available oxygen—before getting into the causes of the problem. Large-scale agriculture, climate change, and increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are all major culprits. Occasionally Hand’s use of statistics overshadows her salient points, but her discussion of both the effects of dead zones and the counterintuitive efforts of government and conservation organizations effectively communicates how complicated and wide-ranging an issue this is. Maps and diagrams helpfully illustrate some of the science, and the straightforward, unsparing text will encourage students to think critically about their own choices, even if they live far away from the ocean. An illuminating introduction to a complicated, dire ecological problem that deserves more attention.

Kirkus Reviews (November 1, 2015)
An experienced science writer explains the growing phenomenon of dead zones in the world’s waters, describing their effects, their likely causes, and efforts to reduce their spread. Hand focuses on the Mississippi-Atchafalaya River Basin and the Gulf of Mexico, but she also touches on the Chesapeake Bay, the Great Lakes, and other areas around the world. She selects relevant information and organizes her material clearly, introducing the problem with some personal stories and including quotations from scientists throughout. In straightforward expository prose, she explains why oxygen is necessary in water and connects its disappearance to the increased cultivation of corn and the overuse of nitrogen fertilizers. She mentions other causes as well, including natural ones, oil spills, and global warming. In a chapter called “Success and Failure” she describes efforts at decreasing nutrient runoff and restoring wetlands before offering some hypotheses about why these efforts have not been as successful as people had hoped. Her language is often technical but appropriate to the subject. Photographs are well-captioned, but these explanations are made less legible by the design decision to print some of them directly on the image and the rest in a tiny red font. Deeply depressing and not for casual readers, but older students will find this an informative introduction to a serious environmental issue. (Nonfiction. 12-16)

About the Author

Carol Hand grew up in Arkansas and moved to Alaska when she was nineteen. After marrying and raising her family in the Alaskan bush, she still resides there 44 years later.

Around the Web

Dead Zones on Amazon

Dead Zones on Goodreads

Dead Zones on JLG

Dead Zones Publisher Page