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For STEM Friday, we have a brand new middle grade title, Woodpeckers: Drilling Holes and Bagging Bugsby Sneed B. Collard III.

An overview of the twenty-two different species of woodpeckers found in North America, it covers what woodpeckers eat, where they live, and reveals many of their unique behaviors.

If you've never read a book by acclaimed science author Sneed B. Collard III, reading Woodpeckers will send you searching for more of his titles. First of all, he and his son (at fourteen years old!) traveled around North America and took the majority of the stunning color photographs in the book. That alone shows their knowledge about and passion for their subjects. Add the fun, conversational tone of the text -- sprinkled with quotes from woodpecker experts -- and you have one amazing book!

In the back matter is a fun two-paged spread of "Woodpecker Photo Bloopers" where Sneed Collard shows all the ways that nature photography can go awry. It is a great section because it reminds us that for every prize-worthy photograph we see, there are hundreds that aren't stunning at all.

Woodpeckers is as chock full of information about these fascinating birds as an acorn woodpecker's tree is full of acorns. Recommended for nature lovers of all ages.

Activities to Accompany the Book

Activity 1. Learn About Your Local Woodpeckers

Take some time to discover what kind of woodpeckers live near you. A good place to start is the All About Birds Identification Website.

Where I grew up, we often saw downy and hairy woodpeckers on bird feeders in the winter, particularly if we provided suet. These are relatively quiet, small birds. They are black and white with only a few red feathers. You can see more about them at Woodpeckers of Western New York.

When I moved to Arizona, we took a trip to Madera Canyon. On the very first day we saw some noisy, active woodpeckers with bright red heads. They couldn't be more different than those I was used to.

We soon learned they were acorn woodpeckers.

 

Photograph of acorn woodpecker from Madera Canyon, Arizona by Alan D. Wilson, retrieved from Wikimedia

Acorn woodpeckers pick acorns off of oak trees, using their beaks. They store the acorns in holes they peck in trees, electric poles, or even the sides of the cabin where we stayed. Later, when acorn season is past, they go back to their stores and pull them out to eat.

Watching acorn woodpeckers work was incredibly entertaining. You can get an idea in the following video:

Encourage older children to take photographs of woodpeckers like Marie Read (in the video) or the Collards did. It is a good way to study woodpeckers more closely.

2. Make a woodpecker feeder

Many types of woodpeckers will visit suet (animal fat) or peanut butter feeders. Simply drill some holes in a round piece of wood and stuff the peanut butter or suet in. Hang the wood from a tree branch or pole where it is only accessible by birds.

Note:  Peanut butter or suet can deteriorate or become rancid when it is warm, so provide it in the winter and clean the feeder regularly.

See more suggestions for making bird feeders on my Pinterest Board

for-the-birds-pinterest-board

Related:

Ages:  9-12
Publisher: Bucking Horse Books (April 1, 2018)
ISBN-10: 0984446095
ISBN-13: 978-0984446094

We've added this title to our growing list of children's books for young birdwatchers at Science Books for Kids.

Disclosure: This book was provided by the publisher 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.

For Nonfiction Monday we have a new Middle Grade book, Insects: The Most Fun Bug Book Ever by Sneed B. Collard III.

It's a great title, but how much fun is the book, really? Let's take a look.

Starting out, it is written in an animated conversational tone, with a touch of silliness thrown in. Here's a sample:

"The thorax, or middle part, of an insect is its transportation center. Insect manufacturers always attach an insect's legs to its thorax. If you see an insect with legs on its head, don't buy it!"

The information is handled in a less-than-serious way, as well. For example, there is a table in the introduction comparing the known number of species of different animal groups. Kids might not look too closely until they realize one of the categories is comic-book superheroes (there are more than 1,000 different comic-book superheroes according to the author.) The conclusion that the number of insect species far exceeds the number of species in other animal groups comes through loud an clear, regardless of any humor. If adding superheroes to the mix makes a reader pay more attention, then good for Mr. Collard.

Some parts appear to be serious. The illustrations are color photographs, most taken by the author. On the other hand, on page ten is an illustration of an insect's anatomy hand-drawn by the author's son. The back matter includes the standard glossary and index, but no list of books or websites to learn more. Instead the author encourages kids to go outside and observe insects in the real world.

All in all, Insects: The Most Fun Bug Book Ever is a must-have title for budding entomologists and kids interested in biology. It will also appeal to kids who enjoy their nonfiction on the lighter side, making it an excellent choice for reluctant readers. Check out a copy today.

Related:

Age Range: 9 - 12 years
Publisher: Charlesbridge (March 21, 2017)
ISBN-10: 1580896421
ISBN-13: 978-1580896429

Disclosure: This book was provided by the publisher 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 or cover links 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.

Looking for more children’s nonfiction books? Try the Nonfiction Monday blog.

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Many people have heard about the plight of polar bears, having to swim farther and farther to find food because of the melting sea ice in the Arctic. Professor Scott Mills is studying the effects of climate change on a smaller, cuter animal:  the snowshoe hare.

For STEM Friday we have Hopping Ahead of Climate Change by Sneed B. Collard III, which chronicles Professor Mills's studies.

Have you heard of snowshoe hares? They are one of a small number of animal species that have different colored fur in the summer versus the winter. In the summer they are brown and look very much like a cottontail rabbit. In the winter, their fur is mostly white.

arctic_harePublic Domain Photograph By Unknown retrieved from Wikimedia

How is climate change a threat? As with other animals that change from brown to white, the hares are triggered to molt their hair by changes in day length rather than temperature. That means when the nights start to get longer, the hares change to white, regardless of whether it has started to snow or not. Recently, the snows have been coming later and later in the season where snowshoe hares live. As you might imagine, a stark white hare is probably more vulnerable to predators on bare ground than on snowy ground. Professor Mills and his students test that hypothesis.

The book is illustrated with color photographs of hares and their habitats, as well as helpful graphs, charts, and maps. Although it may look superficially like a picture book, this is a solidly middle grade title for readers 10 years old and older.

Pick up Hopping Ahead of Climate Change for students interested in environmental issues, animals, or science. You will be glad you did.

Activity:  Create a Chart of the Characteristics of Hares versus Rabbits

Why are the animals called hares rather than rabbits? In Arizona we have both types, so here are some differences:

Hares:

  • Babies born with fur
  • Larger, longer hind legs and often have longer ears (although not snowshoes)
  • Ears with some black fur
  • Live on the surface
  • Haven't been domesticated

Rabbits:

  • Babies born without fur
  • Shorter hind legs
  • Most live in burrows in the ground, but not all
  • Burrows are often near other rabbits, more social
  • Some varieties domesticated

Gather some images of hares and rabbits and create a chart. See if you can find even more differences between hares and rabbits.

This video shows some of Professor Mills's students research. Note:  There are scenes of animal fur left behind by predators and also of animals in live traps. You should always preview videos to make sure they are appropriate for your child.

Related:

  1. Camouflage-related science activities at PBS Parents.

2. Review of Sneed Collard's Fire Birds at Wrapped in Foil blog. See other books by the same author, such as

Snakes, Alligators, and Broken Hearts by Sneed B. Collard III, in which he describes his adventures growing up during the 1960s and 1970s, particularly when visiting his dad who was a biologist.

 

Age Range: 8 - 12 years
Publisher: Bucking Horse Books (November 1, 2015)
ISBN-10: 0984446060
ISBN-13: 978-0984446063

3. Growing list of children's books about polar habitats

polar-habitats
Disclosure: This book was provided by the publisher/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.