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Right in time to celebrate Women's History Month we have two brand new picture book biographies of women pioneers in STEM. For Nonfiction Monday, let's start with The Stuff Between the Stars: How Vera Rubin Discovered Most of the Universe by Sandra Nickel and illustrated by Aimée Sicuro. We liked this one so much, we're offering a giveaway in the Rafflecopter window below.

About the Book:

Vera Rubin was an astronomer who discovered some cool and important "stuff".

From a young age, she was captivated by stargazing.

As she got older, she began to investigate swirling clusters of stars, gases, and dust known as galaxies.

Public domain image of a galaxy from Wikimedia.

She studied where galaxies were found in space and how they moved relative to each other. When she saw the stars within galaxies move at different speeds than she thought they should, she demonstrated there was something in between the stars that we can't see or detect, something pulling the stars. That "something" had been previously named dark matter and there is a lot of it!

Discussion:

In addition to revealing groundbreaking science, author Sandra Nickel also celebrates Vera Rubin's passion for her work and how she kept going in spite of numerous obstacles, including others not understanding her work.

It is not easy to explain big concepts like galaxies and dark matter for young readers. Sandra Nickel has nailed it.

Aimée Sicuro's illustrations are out of this world. They vacillate between concrete and abstract, contrasting how grounded Vera was even when her thoughts were in the galaxies. You can see what I mean in the page spread below.

If you are a regular reader, you know how we love back matter and this book does not disappoint. It includes an Author's Note, which puts Vera's discoveries in context, a Timeline of Vera Rubin's Life, Notes about quotes used, and a Selected Bibliography for young scholars who want to delve more deeply.

The Stuff Between the Stars is sure to thrill budding astronomers. It would be perfect to accompany a trip to a planetarium, as well as for Women's History Month discussions. Gaze into a copy today!

Activity Suggestions:

    1. NASA Space place as a fun Galaxy Pinwheel to print out and make, as well as more information about what a galaxy is and more about dark matter.
    2. Galaxy jar craft:  Sandra Nickel describes the movement of stars in a galaxy as "like glitter caught in an invisible halo." Check the internet for instructions for a galaxy jar craft that involves swirling glitter in a paint-filled bottle or jar. One example at Crafty Morning.
    3. Find more biographies of Women in STEM at Science Books for Kids.

    About the Creators:

    Sandra Nickel says that story ideas are everywhere; you just have to reach out and grab them.  She holds an MFA in writing for children and young adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her first book, Nacho’s Nachos: The Story Behind the World’s Favorite Snack, was a Golden Kite Award finalist. Sandra lives in Chexbres, Switzerland, where she blogs about children’s book writers and illustrators at whatwason.com. To learn more, visit Sandra's website.

    Twitter:  @senickel
    Facebook: @sandranickelbooks
    Instagram: @sandranickelbooks

    Aimée Sicuro is an illustrator, picture book maker, and surface pattern designer who received a BFA in Illustration from Columbus College of Art and Design. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and young sons. Visit her website to learn more.

    Twitter: @aimeesicuro
    Instagram: @aimeesicuro

    Book Trailer

    Reading age : 6 - 9 years
    Publisher: Abrams Books for Young Readers (March 2, 2021)
    ISBN-10 : 1419736264
    ISBN-13: 9781419736261

    A giveaway!
    One lucky winner will receive a copy of The Stuff Between the Stars courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers (U.S. addresses).

    a Rafflecopter giveaway

    Disclosure: This book was provided by Blue Slip Media 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.

     


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

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Today we are featuring a lovely STEM picture book that has made many of the best of 2020 lists, The Nest That Wren Built by Randi Sonenshine and illustrated by Anne Hunter.

This gently rhyming book about Carolina wrens building a nest follows the style of “The House That Jack Built.”

This is the bark, snippets of twine,
spidery rootlets, and needles of pine
that shape the nest that Wren built.

The text goes into detail about how the wrens gather materials to make the nest. Some of the ingredients are expected, like soft moss for a lining the inside. Others are very surprising, like draping a snakeskin on the outside (to ward off predators). After the nest is built, the story follows the eggs and baby birds through development.

Anne Hunter's illustrations are a fascinating combination of whimsical and realistic. Young readers will have fun looking for little things hidden in each page.

The back matter includes a glossary and additional interesting facts about wrens.

The Nest That Wren Built will enchant nature lovers, especially budding ornithologists. Surprise yourself with a copy today.

Related STEM activities:

1. Child-sized Bird's Nest

Let your young makers assemble their own child-sized bird nest. (This is best as an outdoor activity, although some of the materials could be used inside.)

Gather materials to create nests, using items you can recycle or compost. Here are some suggestions:

  • Cardboard strips
  • Hay or straw (pet supply or craft stores)
  • Grapevines (craft stores)
  • Shredded paper
  • Fallen leaves
  • Branches

Show the children some photographs of nests or the real thing if there are some nearby. Always leave the nests where you found them. Even if they are empty, birds can reuse the nesting materials.

This one fell out of a tree after a wind storm:

bird nest

Talk about some of the reasons birds build nests.

  • Place to raise young
  • Shelter from adverse weather
  • Place to rest

Now have the children build their own human-sized nest. They can work in groups. Young children may need some adult assistance. Be prepared for messy fun.

Note:  If you are working with a number of children, they may remove materials from the nests of others. Decide how you want to deal with this in advance. I told them that birds in nature really do take materials from other birds’ nests. Eventually they decided to leave one member of a group in the nest while the others went to gather supplies, just how birds sometimes handle the problem.

Make sure you have your camera ready. You will find there are many creative ways to make nests. Take pictures of your “birds” sitting in their nests.

 

2. See our previous post with several nest-related STEM activities

3. Consider joining the upcoming Great Backyard Bird Count, Feb 12-15, 2021. Share It Science has a free bird counting printable.

4. Want to find out more? Over at Science Books for Kids, we are building a list of children's books about Animal Architects.

Reading age : 4 - 8 years
Publisher : Candlewick; Illustrated edition (March 10, 2020)
ISBN-10 : 1536201537
ISBN-13 : 978-1536201536

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.

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What do you notice when you see the owl on the cover of the new nonfiction picture book Whooo Knew? The Truth About Owls by Annette Whipple? Maybe the huge eyes? What do you think of? The sound they make? Have you ever seen an owl in real life?

The book starts out with these observations and a stirring question:

"You recognize an owl when you hear or see one, but do you really know these birds?"

From there, each double-page spread features gorgeous color photographs with text in a question and answer format. You will find out what owl's eat, how they hunt, whether they sleep during the day, where they live, and what's up with owl pellets. My favorite questions was whether owls can spin their heads around. Do you know the answer?

The formatting is super engaging, with eye-catching design elements and fun dialogue bubbles with cool facts. Great for visual learners.

Here at Growing With Science, we love back matter and the book does not disappoint. There's a section on how to help owls, explanation of owl anatomy, owl pellet dissection discussion, and a glossary. The hardcover version even includes an Owl Superpowers poster, which you can see at Annette's website.

Whooo Knew? The Truth About Owls is nonfiction at its best. It will obviously appeal to young birdwatchers and nature lovers, but also to anyone interested in the world around them. Reading it will make you wiser <wink>.

Note for sensitive young readers:  Owls eat small rodents and the book contains pretty graphic photographs of that natural process. There's also a close up of an owl pellet.

This book is part of The Truth About series. Annette tells us there's Woof! The Truth About Dogs and another untitled book about spiders coming next year.

 

Related Activities:

  1. Owl pellet dissection

We previously talked about owl pellets when we reviewed Melissa Stewart's Bird-acious, a book that comes with an actual owl pellet attached to the cover (see post).

2. Write an Owl Story

Have you ever seen an owl in real life? Write a short story about what you saw and how it made you feel. Do some research and learn more about them to add details to your story. Need help? Check Annette's website for a lesson about the writing process.

If you post your story online, please leave a link in the comments.

For example:

One snowy day while cross-country skiing at a nature preserve in South Dakota, I passed a thicket of pine trees, dark green against the wintry white. A brownish blur passed in front of my face. It was an owl, flying. The stillness of the snow, the peacefulness of the setting, the silence of the owl in flight have all stayed in my mind since that day.

Other owls we have encountered:

We sometimes see small owls called burrowing owls here in Arizona. Because they nest in animal burrows, which have become rare, conservationists have started making artificial tunnels for them to nest in.

What do you think these owls are doing?

great horned owlWhat about this great horned owl? I saw it in a cottonwood tree early one morning. We often hear them calling softly to each other just before dawn.

3. Interested in birds in general? Consider joining the Audubon's 121st Christmas Bird Count which runs from Monday, December 14, 2020 through Tuesday, January 5, 2021. Details at their website.

4. Read more books about birds.

We have a growing list of excellent children's books about birds at Science Books for Kids.

Reading ages : 6 - 10 years
Publisher : Reycraft Books (September 30, 2020)
ISBN-13 : 978-1478869627
ISBN-10 : 1478869623

Disclosure: ARC 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.