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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.


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.


With Halloween just around the corner, our thoughts turn to the creatures of the night. To learn more, let's take a look at two new children's books about bats.

Our first title is the picture book The Secret Life of the Little Brown Bat
by Laurence Pringle and illustrated by Kate Garchinsky, which came out in September.


Follow Otis the bat pup as he grows into an adult bat. Explore how he feeds, learns about dangers, finds a place to hibernate, and even how he lands upside down.

In the back matter, Pringle explains that the little bat's name comes from the generic name for the species:   Myotis lucifugus. Although the text appears to be deceptively simple, it is full of detailed scientific information dressed up in an easy-to-follow story.

Garchinsky's pastel illustrations are mesmerizing. She says in the dedication that she was inspired by her new nephew's smile. The joyous faces of the bats reflect that.

The Secret Life of the Little Brown Bat is a perfect introduction to bats for young readers.

Age Range: 6 - 9 years
Publisher: Boyds Mills Press (September 11, 2018)
ISBN-10: 9781629796017
ISBN-13: 978-1629796017

Public domain image of little brown bat by Moriarty Marvin, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Yes, little brown bats are cute.

Next we have a title for middle grade readers, Bat Citizens:  Defending the Ninjas of the Night by Rob Laidlaw.

The "bat citizens" from the title are young people from around the world who study bats and let others know how they can help conserve them. Meet Truth Miller from New York, Dara McAnulty from Northern Ireland, and Eleanor and Samson Davis from Australia, among others.

In between the descriptions of the kids and their projects are interesting facts about bats. The center features a fold-out illustration of the anatomy of a hoary bat. The back matter includes lists of 14 ways you can help bats and organizations that help bats.

Bat Citizens introduces young ambassadors for bats in a way that is likely to inspire others to get involved in science and conservation efforts. It is a great choice for budding scientists and conservationists alike.

Age Range: 8 - 12 years
Publisher: Pajama Press (May 11, 2018)
ISBN-10: 1772780391
ISBN-13: 978-1772780390

Activity Suggestions:

First, see our previous post with five bat science activity suggestions.

Bats and Plants

We've all heard about how important bats are because they eat a lot of insects, but bats also help out plants.


Here in the Sonoran Desert, lesser long-nosed bats are nectarivores, which means they feed on the sweet fluids produced by saguaro cactus flowers. As the bats fly from plant to plant they pick up pollen and transfer it to the next flower. This pollinates the saguaro.

Over 300 species of plants, and possibly more than 500, are pollinated by bats. For example, fruit bats are the main pollinators of African baobab tree. To entice bats to visit, the flowers open at night when bats are active. They are often white and many emit strong odors that help the bats locate them.

Seed dispersal

Other bats are frugivores, which means they eat fruit. Using their large eyes and noses, the bats find and eat bananas, mangoes, guavas, figs etc. When digestion is completed, they drop the seeds with their excrement, spreading the seeds around to grow in new places.

Do your own research

Investigate a few plants that are pollinated by bats. Find out what species of bats pollinate them, where the plants grow, and what time of year they flower. Try to discover what disperses the seeds of the plant. Are there any plants that bats both pollinate and disperse the seeds?

Gather images of the plants and bats, and use them to create a poster or slide show. Be a "bat citizen" and communicate to others what you have found out about the benefits of bats .

Want to learn more? Check out our growing list of children's book about bats at Science Books for Kids.

For STEM Friday this week we have a middle grade science book, The Secret of the Bird's Smart Brain. and More! (Animal Secrets Revealed!) by Ana Maria Rodriguez.

Using a fun format where each chapter reveals a surprise about a different group of animals, the author has found five science stories which often turn conventional wisdom upside down. In the first chapter, the term "bird brain" has a whole new meaning when scientists find that small size has nothing to do with power. In the following chapters readers discover whether birds have a sense of smell, how and why mama bears act during different seasons, and how pig grunts and alligator bellows may have more to say more than we originally thought. The last chapter ends with a hands-on activity for kids to try.

Although it is the animals that draw young readers in (the kunekune pigs are adorable!), the true stars of each chapter are the scientists who are discovering their secrets. The book shows details of how each group of scientists studies the problems, from counting brain cells to recording pig grunts.

The Secret of the Bird's Smart Brain...And More! is the next best thing to taking a field trip with a biologist. Check out a copy today.

Related Activity Suggestions:

Investigate Kunekune Pigs (Chapter 4)

Kunekune pigs are a rare breed from New Zealand. They are prized because of their small size and ability to use grass (to graze) as their main source of food.

Here are two kunekune piglets from the Dallas Zoo:

What do you think the little "tassels" of hair under the chin is all about?

The scientists in the book studied the grunts. You can hear the sounds the pigs make in this video.

Can you hear other sounds in the area besides the pig, like the kids and the chickens? How do you think scientists tune in to just the pig sounds when they want to study them? (See answer below.)

Don't these pigs have interesting colors?  The New Zealand Kunekune Association's page on coat color genetics has a detailed explanation of how genes interact to produce coat colors.

Investigate Bird Brains and Bird Behavior

Age Range: 8 - 11 years
Publisher: Enslow Pub Inc (August 15, 2017)
ISBN-10: 0766088529
ISBN-13: 978-0766088528

Answer:  Scientists trained the pigs they wanted to study to go one at a time into special sound-insulated huts so they could record individual pigs without a lot of extra background noise. Read chapter 4 to find out more.

Disclosure: This book was provided by the author for review purposes. 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.