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You may have noticed a few more posts about children's STEM books lately. That is because I'm a judge for the nonfiction category of the 2018 Children’s and Young Adult Bloggers’ Literary Awards or Cybils. Over the next few months I'll be sharing some of the fantastic children's books which have been nominated for the award.

Let's start with the new picture book Cute as an Axolotl: Discovering the World's Most Adorable Animals (The World of Weird Animals) by Jess Keating and with illustrations by David DeGrand.

The premise of this book is simple. Find 17 incredibly cute animals from around the world. Include close up stock photographs to show readers what the animals look like and talk about their characteristics. Present details such as where the animals are found, what they eat, and what eats them in a colorful sidebar that will please kids writing reports. It's an easy formula.

Although the axolotl on the cover might not meet everyone's definition of cute, most the author's included will make you say, "Aww!"

For example, check out the Japanese dwarf flying squirrel in this video. (You might want to turn down the sound before playing).

Yes, that is beyond adorable.

So, where's the science? In the back is a discussion of the features that make an animal look cute to us and why it might benefit the animal. For example, why is this flying squirrel so cute? Not only does it have big eyes, but it also has a ring of black fur around them to make the eyes look even larger. Large eyes is one trait that humans find appealing.

Cute as an Axolotl is sure to melt the heart of the most reluctant of reluctant readers. Add in the science potential and this book ticks all the boxes for great nonfiction.

Age Range: 5 - 8 years
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (August 28, 2018)
ISBN-10: 1524764477
ISBN-13: 978-1524764470

 

Disclosure:  The book was provided by my local library.  Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.

One of the animals featured is a bee fly. Do you think it is cute? Why might the authors have chosen it?

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Today we have a new STEM title that is sure to elicit a variety of reactions. Before we start, however, I should disclose that I've blogged with one of the authors, Sue Heavenrich, at STEM Friday blog for a number of years. Sue writes about science at Archimedes Notebook.

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Let's take a look at the young adult book (grades 8 through 12)  Diet for a Changing Climate: Food for Thought by Christy Mihaly and Sue Heavenrich.

We all know the food we eat can determine our health, but what about change the health of our planet? Mihaly and Heavenrich make a case that eating certain plants and animals -- a few that are not normally on the menu -- might do just that.

The authors start by revealing some of the plants we think of as weeds were brought to North America from Europe on purpose as food and/or herbal remedies. Dandelions and purslane, for example, are thought to have been been imported and grown intentionally before they escaped from gardens and were labeled as weeds.

Perhaps it is time to turn back the clock and consider eating them again. What could be more local than eating plants that grow readily in almost any yard? To entice the reader to try them, the authors offer recipes, such as for dandelion flower pancakes.

The next step is to consider eating some of the species that have become invasive, for example Asian carp or garlic mustard, which is a weed. They also suggest eating insects and other invertebrates as alternative protein sources.

The authors have thought this through because they offer plenty of cautions. For example, people who are allergic to shellfish may also be allergic to insects. Although kudsu is edible, the plant is a three-leaved vine that closely resembles and grows in the same locales as poison ivy. The ability to identify these plants and animals accurately is critical.

The book has a modern look sure to entice young people. The art director writes about decisions about the cover design on the Lerner blog, which might interest future artists. Inside a number of color stock photographs catch the eye.

Diet for a Changing Planet is definitely "Food for Thought." Given that some young people think meals arise spontaneously and have trouble telling a turnip from a red onion in the grocery store (true story), the idea of foraging for food outdoors and preparing it themselves may be a hard sell. Even so, reading this book may plant some seeds of ideas that will come to fruition later on.

Suggested Activities:

(Edited 10/14/2018)

1. Check out some weed and bug recipes online

(Garlic mustard)

Caution: According to The New York Times, garlic mustard does have traces of cyanide and they recommend limiting consumption and/or blanching the leaves.

2. Foraging for survival

Did you ever read My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George? It's about a boy who goes to live in the Catskill Mountains for a year. He learns how to forage for food in order to survive.

Even if you aren't going to run away from civilization, knowing what is edible in your environment is a good idea. If you become lost in the wilderness, being able to identify sources of food can keep you alive until help arrives.

Research, make a plan, and list what foods you would collect and eat if you are ever lost. Note:  hiking and hunting guides often include information about survival foods.

Curious about how the book came about? Check out Writing as a Team at GROG.

Library Binding: 128 pages
Publisher: Twenty First Century Books (August 1, 2018)
ISBN-10: 1512481211
ISBN-13: 978-1512481211

Disclosure:  Digital ARC was supplied for review via NetGalley. Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.

Come visit the STEM Friday blog each week to find more great Science, Technology, Engineering and Math books.

I meant to post these photographs of flies over a month ago, but instead they've been sitting on my desktop, just waiting.

That's what the flies were doing, too.

They were basking in the sun in the early morning, just waiting.

Adult flies on live for weeks, or maybe a month or so. Don't they know that time flies?