Skip to content

Let’s explore another of the fantastic nonfiction children’s books that have been nominated for 2018 Cybils awards.

Someone must have squirreled away Rodent Rascals:  From Tiny to Tremendous -- 21 Clever Creatures at Their Actual Size by Roxie Munro because it took a long time to get it at the library. The good news is it was worth the wait.

What are rodents? Munro lets the reader know right in the Introduction. Named for the Latin verb rodere = to gnaw, members of the order Rodentia are furry mammals that are defined by having a single pair of long incisors on their upper and lower jaws that continue to grow throughout their lifetimes.

The rest of the book goes on to explore rodent diversity. The author/illustrator features examples ranging from the tiny pygmy jerboa to the large dog-sized capybara, all of which are drawn with India inks and colored acrylic inks at life size. Accompanying each illustration is a detailed discussion of the history and biology of each kind of rodent. Although this looks like a picture book, the text is written at a high level and Rodent Rascals has been placed in the middle grade category for the Cybils contest.

People have a divided relationship with rodents. One of my relatives hates both mice and squirrels because they steal bird food and chew wiring. He spends his free time devising traps and barriers to exclude them. Our family is on the opposite end of the spectrum because we've enjoyed having several different kinds of rodents as pets. Rodent Rascals is likely to enthrall children who already appreciate rodents and possibly entice a few more skeptical readers to join their ranks. Scurry on out and get a copy today!

Activity Suggestions:

1. Explore the diversity of rodents

Research the life styles of different rodents, both those kept as pets and those in the wild.

Some rodents live in dry environments like the Mongolian gerbil, which is the ancestor of the gerbils now kept as pets.

Other rodents live in and around water all their lives, like the muskrat or the beaver.

Photo by Steve at Wikimedia

(See our previous beaver science post for information and activities)

Although we think of rodents as being small, some can be large.

Capybaras can reach 100 pounds or more.

We also think of rodents as solitary creatures, but capybaras, beavers, and others are quite social.

Guinea pigs are close relatives of capybaras. They thrive better if you keep more than one. (See our previous post of activity suggestions with pet guinea pigs.)

Rather than living in the trees, some squirrels live in the ground.

And, some squirrels can fly!

Let us know about any surprising things you find out about rodents.

Related previous posts:

Fun science activities with your pet mice

  1. Identification/Classification of Rodents
  2. Food/Nutrition
  3. Making Houses and Toys
  4. Animal Behavior
  5. Mouse Development

Activities for Groundhog Day, most recent and older (shadows)

Age Range: 6 - 9 years
Publisher: Holiday House (January 16, 2018)
ISBN-10: 9780823438600
ISBN-13: 978-0823438600
ASIN: 0823438600

Disclosure: This book was provided by our 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.

Come visit the STEM Friday blog each week to find more great Science, Technology, Engineering and Math books. Note: this is a new link as of 10/2018.

2

Good things come in threes. For STEM Friday and the Year of the Dog, we have the third National Geographic Kids book about dogs published this year,  Dog Science Unleashed: Fun Activities To Do With Your Canine Companion by Jodi Wheeler-Toppen and with photographs by Matthew Rakola. (See our previous review of the first two.)

Building on common activities that dog owners already do with their pets like bathing them, playing with them and feeding them, Jodi Wheeler-Toppen has come up with over 20 science explorations to discover more about dog biology and behavior. For example, you can learn more about what colors dogs see by hiding different colored balls in a grassy lawn and watching how easy it is for the dog to find them. Another activity involves making dog treats for your dog.

Safety is first with all these activities. The author remind kids to watch for signs the dog is upset or uncomfortable, and to quit the activity if the dog is unhappy. Also, make sure the dog has access to water and plan lots of breaks even if the dog is enjoying himself.

In addition to the activities, the book is full of cool scientific information. Did you know that dogs have a special vomeronasal organ (also called Jacobson's organ) in their noses that allows them to smell special pheromones?

As to be expected from National Geographic, the photographs are fantastic. The photographer followed kids and their super-photogenic dogs as they tried out the activities. The results are inspiring.

The bottom line is that Dog Science Unleashed is a great choice for dog lovers, as well as budding zoologists and veterinarians.

Delving Deeper:

More about the Vomeronasal Organ

Recently scientists and veterinarians have been able to synthesize some of the pheromones (scents used by animals to communicate with one another) detected by this special organ in a dog's nose. For example, pheromones may be added to puppy potty training pads to help attract the puppy to them. Other pheromones, called "dog appeasing pheromones," may help calm dogs down. You can now find products at pet supply stores in the form of sprays, wipes, and even special collars. Think of ways you can learn more about dog pheromones.

Want to read more about dogs? Try our growing list of children's books about dogs and dog science at Science Books for Kids.

Age Range: 8 - 12 years
Publisher: National Geographic Children's Books (August 7, 2018)
ISBN-10: 1426331533
ISBN-13: 978-1426331534

Disclosure: This book was provided by the publisher's representatives 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. Note: this is a new link as of 10/2018.

Recently, Donna Strickland won the Nobel Prize in Physics. It turned out she was only the third woman to win the prize in 117 years. Who was the first? It was Marie Curie, who also later won a Nobel Prize in Chemistry. That is an incredible achievement.

Let's celebrate women scientists in the fields of physics and chemistry with the picture book biography Marie Curie by Demi.

Marie Curie was a pioneer as well as an amazing scientist. As discussed above, in addition to being the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, she also was the first person to win a second Nobel prize. She discovered not only one, but two elements, plus coined the term "radioactive." Although we don't hear as much about her, Marie Curie's daughter Irène Joliot-Curie was also a scientist and won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1935, the year after her brilliant mother died of leukemia.

Demi is both an illustrator and an author. Her multimedia and watercolor illustrations have a glowing quality that is so appropriate for the biography of the scientist who is known for having purified radium, an element which glows. The gold lettering of the title on the cover adds to the luminescent effect. Note:  One scene includes a stylized depiction of Curie’s husband’s death (he was run over by a horse and carriage in the street.) It might be disturbing to some sensitive younger readers.

The no-nonsense text reveals many details of Curie’s life. The vocabulary level and subject matter pushes this to the older range of picture book readers (7-8 years.) The back matter includes a timeline and glossary.

Marie Curie is a wonderful resource for young people who enjoy reading about history and science. Share a copy today and see a child's face light up.

Be sure to pair the book with some fun hands-on science.

Suggestions for Related Activities:

This title was nominated for a 2018 Cybils award in the Elementary and Middle Grade Nonfiction category.

Age Range: 4 - 8 years (see review)
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR) (February 20, 2018)
ISBN-10: 1627793895
ISBN-13: 978-1627793896

Disclosure: This book was provided by our 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.

Come visit the STEM Friday blog each week to find more great Science, Technology, Engineering and Math books. Note: this is a new link as of 10/2018.