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Today we are participating in a blog tour for the fabulous new picture book biography The Leaf Detective: How Margaret Lowman Uncovered Secrets in the Rainforest by Heather Lang and illustrated by Jana Christy. I'm so excited about this book, I'm offering a giveaway via Rafflecopter below.

If you are familiar at all with rainforest biology, you know that the forests are structured into layers.

The Leaf Detective book is as multilayered as a rainforest.

The trunk of the book is the biography of Margaret Lowman, an incredibly brave and determined biologist who developed new methods for studying the tops of trees, the canopy and emergent layers. Using ropes and a harness of her own design, she climbed up into the great unknown.

We had already been to the moon and back and nobody had been to the top of a tree.

The branches of the story are Meg Lowman's findings. For example, she discovered that most of the herbivores in the rainforest she studied were nocturnal, eating leaves at night and hiding during the day. To learn more, she climbed up into the trees at night.

The roots of the story comes after Meg realized that for all people didn't know about trees, they were still destroying them at an alarming rate. She started to come up with innovative ways for people to use intact forests as a source of income and thus making it economically viable to save them.

Let's not forget the leaves. Sprinkled throughout are leaf-shaped sidebars filled with interesting facts and additional details. So cool!

The illustrations are as green and lush and complex as a rainforest, too. The reader could get lost and spend hours in them. My favorite shows Meg sitting in her office, but the wall has disappeared and has become part of the natural world outside. It emphasizes that we aren't separate from the natural world, but we are part of it.

The bottom line? The Leaf Detective is perfect for young readers who are budding scientists, adventurers, conservationists, interested in women's history, the list goes on and on. Pretty much everyone will find something to explore in it. Pick up a copy and see how it resonates with you.

Activity Suggestions to Accompany the Book:

1. Investigate Leaf Age

One way Meg Lowman studied trees was to investigate leaf ages.

In areas where trees lose all their leaves in the fall, leaf age isn't a big question. However, some trees may be evergreen, or in warm climates may keep their leaves year around.

If you’d like to find out how long the leaves live on trees or shrubs in your neighborhood, choose some freshly emerged leaves and mark them with an acrylic marker. The young leaves are a lighter, brighter green color and are often softer in texture.

If you don't have a marker, you could also mark the leaves with tags or ties, anything that won’t wear or fall off or interfere with normal leaf development and photosynthesis. Record how many leaves you tag, when you tag them, and roughly where they are in the tree.

Check your leaves periodically. You might want to mark more leaves each time if you see new, fresh ones. This is a long-term project, so be patient.

We marked some of the new leaves on our lemon tree, which is evergreen here, a few years ago. Our marked leaves remained on the tree through one entire year. The tree dropped a lot of leaves a couple of times, but our marked ones held on. Unfortunately, our marked leaves were lost before the experiment was finished when someone -- who didn't know about our experiment -- trimmed the tree.

Let us know what kind of tree or shrub you choose and how long the leaves last.

2. Be a Fallen Leaf Detective

If you live in an area where the leaves come off in the fall, you can do a lot of leaf investigations. For example, you can figure out which leaves came from which trees.

Gather a good tree identification guide that shows both leaf shape and bark patterns. Identify the leaf by its shape, then find the tree by its bark pattern, color, and general shape.

Start with some trees you know well to practice then move on to unknowns. Remember that leaves blow around. Look for nuts/seeds to match with the trees that produced them, as well. Treat it like a game.

During a quiet moment, take a good look at the trees. Once the trees have lost their leaves, other aspects of their structure are revealed, such as the texture of the bark, the shape of the branches, even the leaf scars on the twigs. Compare different trees. Close your eyes and feel the bark. Listen. Smell the wood. Do trees smell differently? Talk about your findings.

Related:

 

Reading age : 7 - 10 years
Publisher : Calkins Creek; Illustrated edition (February 9, 2021)
ISBN-10 : 1684371775
ISBN-13 : 978-1684371778

Disclosure: This book was provided electronically 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.

See more about the book in this trailer.

Check out the other stops on the blog tour for interviews with the author, activity suggestions, and giveaways ending soon at Mrs. Knott's Book Nook and Unleashing Readers!

The Giveaway

Please let me know if you have any difficulty entering.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

We're also participating in:

Come visit the STEM Friday blog each week to find more great Science, Technology, Engineering and Math books.

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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.

5

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.