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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.

Recently, we featured a story time about the solar system for preschoolers. Today our activities are inspired by the upper-elementary/middle grade book Dr. Maggie’s Grand Tour
 of the Solar System by Dr. Maggie Aderin-Pocock 
and illustrated by Chelen Écija. Check out our sister blog, Wrapped in Foil, for a review/details.

Suggested Activity to Accompany the Book: Stargazing

When is the last time you have gone outside at night and looked up at the stars? With less pollution haze, stargazing can be a fun activity right now. Be sure to follow local safety guidelines.

Some things you can point out to youngsters:

  1. The Moon - The Moon is currently waxing, which means you will gradually see more as it heads to the full moon on May 7, 2020. It will be the last "supermoon" of the year and is called the flower moon.
  2. Planets - Venus has been bright lately as the sun sets in the west. You should also be able to spot Mars, Saturn and Jupiter.
  3. Constellations - Different constellations will be prominent depending on how clear your viewing is. Pollux and Castor show up in the west near nightfall. See various websites linked below for details.
  4. Comets- There are three comets in the skies this month; Atlas, Swan, and T2PANSTARRS. They probably won't be bright enough to see without a telescope, but keep an eye on news reports just in case.
  5. Meteor showers- Last week the Lyrid meteor shower was in the news, but the lesser known Eta Aquarid meteor shower should be at its peak right before dawn Tuesday. Unfortunately, the moonlight will probably interfere with viewing all but the brightest meteors. Other large showers include the Perseids in mid-August and the Geminids in December.
  6. Human-made items - Most of us can recognize an airplane flying at night because of the blinking lights. What you might not have seen, however, are the Starlink satellites. These look like points of light that travel quickly in a definite path across the sky ( a photo). Once you spot one, you are likely to see them again and again. According to reports, they should be less visible as they tilt over time and later launches will have built in shades that are supposed to reduce visibility. See them while you can.

For more see our Astronomy category, starting with Three Hands-On Astronomy Activities.

Websites for adults to learn more:

Ages: 8+
ISBN:  978-1-68464-034-8

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

See our growing list of children's books about the solar system at Science Books for Kids.

Have you looked into nonfiction picture books about the solar system for preschoolers lately? There's a trend to use less-than-serious illustrations to capture the reader's attention, for example images of the earth, moon, sun, and other planets with expressive faces, mixed with text that contains serious science vocabulary, facts, and concepts.

At a recent STEM story time for preschoolers, I read Nerdy Babies: Space by Emmy Kastner.

 

Follow the "Nerdy Baby" astronauts as they travel into space (floating), orbit around the sun, go back to the moon, then discover each of the planets in the solar system, with one significant fact noted about each.

The format is question and answer. For example:

Do you love the moon?
Earth sure does!
They travel around space together.

The pacing, vocabulary, and information presented all work perfectly for preschoolers in the 4-5 year old range.

The only thing that was off-putting was that the author included the Nerdy Baby branding in the text, which starts with:

"Hello, Nerdy Babies!"

Preschoolers might not like to be called babies (or nerdy), so decide how you want to deal with that part.

Overall, Nerdy Babies: Space is a sweet, well-paced introduction to our solar system.

Related Activity:

Find the coloring sheet at the author's website. Color the planets, then cut them out. Use the planets to make puppets (tape to craft stick), a solar system mobile (tape string to back and hang), or create a solar system poster to mount on the wall.

Series: Nerdy Babies
Board book: 32 pages
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press (May 7, 2019)
ISBN-10: 1250312051
ISBN-13: 978-1250312051

Our second book is Moon! Earth's Best Friend by Stacy McAnulty and illustrated by Stevie Lewis.

On the surface this picture book looks similar to the one above. There's a moon with a sweet face on the cover. Open it up and begin to read, however, and you've entered an entirely different world, one more appropriate for older children.

First of all, Moon! is narrated by the Moon (in first person). Next you will find some big numbers.

Average distance between Earth and me:  238,855 miles.

There's also a summary or the most recent ideas about how the moon formed when a planet-like rock the size of Mars crashed into the Earth.

On the other hand, there's a lighthearted discussion of why cows can't really jump over the moon.

Overall, Moon! is for serious young readers who enjoy learning science facts. However, it might also be a good choice for older reluctant readers who will be sucked in by the more creative aspects.

Related:

If you enjoy this book, check out the others in the series, Sun! One in a Billion by Stacy McAnulty and illustrated by Stevie Lewis, and Earth! My First 4.54 Billion Years by by Stacy McAnulty and illustrated by David Litchfield.

Also, check out our STEM Story Time space activities,

and be sure to visit our growing list of children's books about the moon and lunar landings


plus our list of children's books about planets and the solar system
at Science Books for Kids.

Age Range: 4 - 8 years
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR) (June 11, 2019)
ISBN-10: 1250199344
ISBN-13: 978-1250199348