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Looking for children's books? Have you gone to check out the Cybils website yet? The Cybils are awards created by bloggers who specialize in children's and young adult books. People have nominated their favorite books published this year by genre. It is a great way to find new things to read.

I went through the list of nominated nonfiction picture books and picked out some science and nature books that you might find interesting and/or useful. (And by the way, I am a round II judge for this category.)

Nic Bishop Butterflies and Moths by Nic Bishop

Nic Bishop is an award-winning photographer and author, and this book is sure to win him more honors. His photographs of butterflies, moths and their caterpillars are fascinating. Not only does he get close up, but from an unusual angle or catching the subject in action. The photos can stand alone, but he adds a lyrical and informative text as well. If your children are interested in insects, be sure to take a look at this one.

For a more extensive review, see my children's book blog, Wrapped in Foil.

For kids interested in space, we have books released just in time for the 40th anniversary of the moon landing.

Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11 by Brian Floca

Check out the trailers:

One Giant Leap by Robert Burleigh and Mike Wimmer (Illustrator)

Another version of the lunar landing, also well done.

This trailer is longer because it is a TV news interview with the illustrator Mike Wimmer. In the beginning they show some illustrations from the book. If your child is interested in art, the interview shows his studio and Mike painting.

Cars on Mars: Roving the Red Planet by Alexandra Siy

This one was actually nominated for the middle grade nonfiction category instead of the picture books because the text is more extensive and in depth than the usual picture book, but I thought you might want to take a look. Children's book reviewers have been raving about it since its release. It is about the two Mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity.

You Are the First Kid on Mars by Patrick O'Brien

This book really stretches the definition of nonfiction, because it details an imaginary trip to Mars. The scientific details and photorealistic illustrations are what make it credible.

Oceans/Aquatic life

Winter's Tail: How One Little Dolphin Learned To Swim Again
by Juliana Hatkoff, Isabella Hatkoff, and Craig Hatkoff

I already wrote about some of the activities surrounding the release of this book in a previous post.
Winter’s Tail is the heartrending story of a young dolphin named Winter who lost her tail after becoming entangled in a crab trap line. After she healed, she was fitted with a prosthetic tail.

Bubble Homes and Fish Farts by Fiona Bayrock and Carolyn Conahan (Illustrator)

Parents might be put off by the word "fart" this title, but don't be. It is a gem of a nonfiction book based on the scientific theme of how animals create and use bubbles. With soft watercolor illustrations and plenty of cutting-edge information, even the scientifically savvy will find something new here. For example, the "farts" are not flatulence, but Fast Repetitive Ticks (FaRTs) made by herring at night as a form of communication.

Down, Down, Down: A Journey to the Bottom of the Sea by Steve Jenkins

Steve Jenkins is an incredibly popular author of children's nonfiction. Add some out-of-this world papercut illustrations and you have one unbeatable book.

Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast blog has a more extensive review with spreads from the book.

And now, check out this really cool widget from Amazon. (I've provided information about my affiliation with Amazon in the the disclosure page - see button in the header of the blog).

Pill bugs, rolypolies, wood lice, potato bugs or isopods, these cute little crustaceans come with a bunch of common names. Add the names for their close cousins the sow bugs (the ones that can't roll up) and the shore isopods called slaters, and you have a dictionary full.

What do you call these seashore isopods?

Today we're going to be using pill bugs, the ones that look like a pill when they roll up.

Although most people associate pill bugs with moist environments,  surprisingly we have pill bugs in the desert that can tolerate a much drier climate. They are common and active residents of our back yard, although they do seem to prefer the irrigated areas.

Pill bugs are fun to investigate.  First, prepare a temporary holding container with a walnut-sized wad of moist paper towel and a few bits of carrot for food. Look outside under stones or logs for pill bugs. Note:  always return the rocks or logs to their original position when through, and be careful if you live where there are poisonous critters that live under rocks. You might want to tip them with a bar.

When you find some pill bugs, gently transfer them to the container. After they unroll, you can look at them through a magnifying lens. Study how they move and their body parts.

Check the "Using Live Insects in the Classroom" Isopod Information Sheet for a detailed description of their morphology.

1. Draw or build a model pill bug.

Gather materials such a paper, cardboard, chenilles and/or clay and create a pill bug model. Pay particular attention to what they look like, because the more details you add, the more realistic the model will be.

2. Do all your pill bugs look alike? We found some of ours were entirely dark gray whereas others had gold or yellow spots on their backs.

Any ideas why pill bugs might be different colors?

3. When the pill bugs roll up, can you still see their antennae? Our desert pill bugs can roll up with their antennae inside, other species can't. Why might that be?

4. Build a simple maze and test some of your ideas about pill bugs. We built ours out of light cardboard, like a cereal box. We taped it down with masking tape so it wouldn't fall on the pill bugs. Be careful that no sticky edges are exposed, because the pill bugs might get stuck. We also found certain pill bugs wouldn't cross the masking tape, so try to keep the tape on the outside of the maze. While planning, you might want to sketch your maze on graph paper or use a computer.

We tested the idea that pill bugs would prefer darkness to light. We also offered them different types of food.

In the video, we wondered if the pill bugs would explore a complex maze with a lot of turns to find food. We set two pill bugs in the maze entrance together. See what happened:

We had fun and learned a lot about how pill bugs behave. Hope you give it a try.

Once we were done, the pill bugs went back to nature unharmed.

For more information and great science activities with pill bugs, I highly recommend:

Rolypolyology (Backyard Buddies) by Michael Elsohn Ross, and illustrated by Darren Erickson

It seems to be out of press, but you should be able to find it at your local library. It is filled with fantastic ideas.

Other pill bug books (linked images and titles go to Amazon):

A Pill Bug's Life (Nature Upclose) by John Himmelman

The Pillbug Project: A Guide to Investigation by Robin Burnett

I'm a Pill Bug (Nature: a Child's Eye View) (Nature: a Child's Eye View) by Yukihisa Tokuda, and illustrated by Kiyoshi Takahasi

Nature Close-Up - Pill Bugs & Sow Bugs and Other Custaceans by Elaine Pascoe

Pill Bugs Up Close (Minibeasts Up Close) (Perspectives) by Greg Pyers

Compost Critters by Bianca Lavies is an excellent introduction to composting. Although it is an older book, the photographs are excellent.

Previous post on pill bugs

Mother spiders and their offspring seem to be a theme lately. Let's find out more about them.

Right about the same time I found this mother cellar spider carrying her babies last week,

cellar spider with babies

I also found this mother black widow guarding her egg sacs.

black widow with egg sacs

black widow with egg sacs

Female spiders often lay eggs in sacs, and sometimes guard them afterward. Black widows are also known to create multiple egg sacs, often three.

Some spiders, like wolf spiders, carry their babies on their backs for a while. The female cellar spider above was the first I had seen carrying her offspring in her legs.

To learn more, there are a number of great picture books about spiders. The first two are about baby spiders in particular.

Disclosures: I am an affiliate for Amazon. If you click through the linked titles or ads and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no extra charge to you. Proceeds will be used to maintain this self-hosted blog.


Sneaky, Spinning Baby Spiders by Sandra Markle

As you can tell from the cover, this book has fantastic close up photographs. It covers spiders from throughout the world. Look for my in depth review at Bouncing Baby Spiders

Up, Up and Away by Ginger Wadsworth and Patricia J. Wynne (Illustrator)

This newly released book has a totally different feel, although it covers a similar topic. Be aware, if your children are sensitive, that the trailer shows an illustration of one spider eating another and a near miss by a predator.

Nic Bishop Spiders by Nic Bishop

Time For Kids: Spiders! by Editors of Time for Kids

Are You a Spider? by Tudor Humphries

These books are always wonderful, and I love how she brings the child into the story by comparing what humans do to what spiders do.

Spinning Spiders (Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science 2) by Melvin Berger and S. D. Schindler

Spectacular Spiders by Linda Glaser

The Magic School Bus Spins A Web: A Book About Spiders  by Joanna Cole, Jim Durk (Illustrator), Bruce Degan (Illustrator)

The Magic School Bus books walk the line between fiction and nonfiction, but are always well researched and informative.

Spiders by Gail Gibbons

Gail Gibbons books are always well done.

For older kids, try:
Uncover a Tarantula: Take a Three-Dimensional Look Inside a Tarantula! by David George Gordon

For more information, see my review Tarantulas Inside and Out.