The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires (Kids Can Press, April 2014) is a STEM book. (For those not in the “know,” as I was not until recently, STEM is educational slang for something relating to Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mechanics.) A creative girl heads out to make the “magnificent thing,” but cannot seem to get it right for quite a while. Trial and error, experimentation. She keeps going. It is not easy, and finally she succeeds!
I loved how the author-illustrator included multiple pictures per page. You can see the girl’s growing frustration as she works, creates, and starts anew. I also enjoyed how we could see her creations throughout the story, but we could never quite see what she was making until the very end. Her facial expressions can show the reader (and young STEM workers) that creation takes lots of work, lots of mistakes, and lots of concentration. She had a great idea, but it took quite a while to get to her finished “magnificient thing.”
I see lots of educational value in this book for schools, but I also believe it is a strong, fun story with clever illustrations. Non-readers can still enjoy it by reviewing the pictures. This will be a winner with kids, for sure!
Note: I received a digital copy for review consideration.
Frank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor by Jon Scieszka (Abrams, August 2014) is a bizarre and amusing story about a boy scientist named Frank Einstein who, with his best friend sidekick and two intelligent robots, is determined to win his science fair project. Of course with a grandfather named Al Einstein (no, not that one but still…), Frank’s project is destined to be the best of them all! Or will it? His arch nemesis is determined to stop him. (more…)
The Case of the Vanishing Little Brown Bats by Sandra Markle (Millbrook Press, September 2014) is another fascinating scientific mystery. As with The Case of the Vanishing Tree Frogs, which I read and reviewed a few years ago, Little Brown Bats is about a species of animal that is mysteriously disappearing in the world. In this case, it is the little brown bats of Eastern North America, bats about 5 cm in length, that are awakening from hibernation and dying at an unprecedented pace. (more…)
Whatever Happened to the Metric System?: How America Kept Its Feet by John Bemelmans Marciano (Bloomsbury, August 5, 2014) is a glimpse into the complicated history behind the rise of the metric system, especially the impact of the metric system on America. Why is America the only country in the world who has not converted to a base-ten system of measurement? Why are Americans resistant to the fact?
Marciano’s text only tries to answer those questions in the final chapter. The rest of the book provides an historical overview of the metric situation, from it’s birth in revolutionary France to the current status quo as the dominant measurement system of the world. (more…)
I am an active Christian. I believe God created the world. I also believe we do not know how God created the earth, and I do not believe in a literal, seven-day creation. All I have learned about the big bang theory and the evolutionary history of the earth has only solidified that testimony that I have that God is behind it all.
That said, I’m always careful about which books I share with my kids that deal with the big bang, the expanding universe, and evolutionary biology. Some of these texts for kids disparage those that believe in God as creator, or otherwise dismiss the possibility of both creationism (i.e., God created the earth) and the evolutionary sciences as evidenced by science as possibly co-existing.
How to Make a Planet by Scott Forbes (Kids Can Press, March 2014) teaches about the big bang and early evolutionary history just right. It focuses on the science, based on the evidence we can see around us. Even the title seems to underscore that someone could make a planet. While the book does not have discussion of God or a “creator” in a religious sense, it also does not eliminate the fact that it could have been created by a higher power purposefully. The “instructions,” although written to the two children that appear on each of the pages, could just as easily have been directed toward God creating the world in His way. (more…)