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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.

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Today we have not one, not two, but three fantastic children's books about bird migration nominated for the 2018 Cybils awards.

For the youngest reader we have Warbler Wave by April Pulley Sayre with contributions by Jeff Sayre.


Photographer and award-winning author April Pulley Sayre and her husband Jeff Sayre have been observing warblers during their annual spring migration for years. Now they share their experiences with this gorgeous book for children.

Warblers are tiny and elusive birds, but the Sayres have captured many wonderful photographs to fill the pages of the book. As she explains on her website, they chose photographs of birds in action to give children the experience of viewing live warblers in nature, rather than choosing those that are simply posed well.

With her succinct and elegant rhyming text, April Pulley Sayre explains where warblers go, what they eat, some of their behaviors, and that warblers migrate at night.

Four full pages of back matter explain why warblers migrate, how scientists track them, and how we can help the birds, among other things.

Warbler Wave is simply wonderful. It is likely to inspire children to take up birdwatching as a hobby or maybe even as a career!

Related:
  • See how to identify yellow warblers at All About Birds
  • April Pulley Sayre has more about the back story and detailed descriptions of each of the birds featured in the book at her website.

Age Range: 3 - 8 years
Publisher: Beach Lane Books (February 13, 2018)
ISBN-10: 1481448293
ISBN-13: 978-1481448291

Belle's Journey: An Osprey Takes Flight by Rob Bierregaard and illustrated by Kate Garchinsky follows an osprey on her migration from Massachusetts to Brazil. It is a longer book (112 pages) for older elementary-aged kids.


Ospreys are large birds that catch fish for food. They usually are seen around lakes or streams. They are known to migrate south in the fall and back north in the spring, but many of the details of their flights are still unknown.

Dr. Rob Bierregaard ( Dr. B. as he calls himself in the book) studies osprey migrations. One August he captured an osprey he named Belle on Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts. He fitted her with a radio transmitter. After he released her, the transmitter sent her location data to a computer so he could study where she went. That fall, Belle flew all the way to the rain forests of Brazil.

In the forward Dr. B. explains that "this is a mostly true story." Belle really made the flight to Brazil and he knew her location at different times, but he used creative nonfiction techniques to fill in details about her experiences and the dangers she faced. For example, while Belle fished for food in Brazil he suggests that she barely missed being captured by a caiman. Afterwards:

At the far end of the lake, she followed a narrow river winding back and forth beneath her like a piece of ribbon candy. Here she finally had better luck and plucked a piranha out of the dark water.

His descriptions of her daily activities are lush and detailed. Readers learn a lot about all the places Belle visits.

Kate Garchinsky's lovely textured illustrations also help bring Belle's story to life. They add excitement and draw the reader in.

Belle's Journey is likely to appeal to youngsters who enjoy reading fiction as well as to those who want to find out more about ospreys and bird migration.

Related:

Visit Dr. Bierregaard's website for more information and maps of osprey migrations.

Age Range: 7 - 10 years
Publisher: Charlesbridge (May 15, 2018)
ISBN-10: 1580897924
ISBN-13: 978-1580897921

Our third and final book is the middle grade title Snowy Owl Invasion!: Tracking an Unusual Migration by Sandra Markle.

In 2013, large numbers of white owls started showing up in lower Canada and along the east coast of the United States where they weren't normally seen. Why were snowy owls migrating to new places?

Sandra Markle used her research skills to track down experts and find the answers. What she discovered was that the snowy owls were experiencing an irruption, which means they migrating beyond their usual range, because their populations had swelled the previous summer. She also found out why, which I won't reveal here. Like Belle in the story above, some of the scientists used GPS transmitters to follow the birds.

The book is filled with amazing photographs of beautiful snowy owls. You can see some in this video.

Snowy Owl Invasion documents a fascinating scientific mystery. Readers of all ages who are interested in nature, science, and/or birds will enjoy this book.

Age Range: 8 - 12 years
Publisher: Millbrook Pr (January 1, 2018)
ISBN-10: 1512431060
ISBN-13: 978-1512431063

Want to read more? Check out or growing list of children's books about bird migrations at Science Books for Kids.

Disclosure: These books were provided by my local libraries. 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.