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For Nonfiction Monday we have a new Middle Grade book, Insects: The Most Fun Bug Book Ever by Sneed B. Collard III.

It's a great title, but how much fun is the book, really? Let's take a look.

Starting out, it is written in an animated conversational tone, with a touch of silliness thrown in. Here's a sample:

"The thorax, or middle part, of an insect is its transportation center. Insect manufacturers always attach an insect's legs to its thorax. If you see an insect with legs on its head, don't buy it!"

The information is handled in a less-than-serious way, as well. For example, there is a table in the introduction comparing the known number of species of different animal groups. Kids might not look too closely until they realize one of the categories is comic-book superheroes (there are more than 1,000 different comic-book superheroes according to the author.) The conclusion that the number of insect species far exceeds the number of species in other animal groups comes through loud an clear, regardless of any humor. If adding superheroes to the mix makes a reader pay more attention, then good for Mr. Collard.

Some parts appear to be serious. The illustrations are color photographs, most taken by the author. On the other hand, on page ten is an illustration of an insect's anatomy hand-drawn by the author's son. The back matter includes the standard glossary and index, but no list of books or websites to learn more. Instead the author encourages kids to go outside and observe insects in the real world.

All in all, Insects: The Most Fun Bug Book Ever is a must-have title for budding entomologists and kids interested in biology. It will also appeal to kids who enjoy their nonfiction on the lighter side, making it an excellent choice for reluctant readers. Check out a copy today.


Age Range: 9 - 12 years
Publisher: Charlesbridge (March 21, 2017)
ISBN-10: 1580896421
ISBN-13: 978-1580896429

Disclosure: This book was provided by the publisher 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 or cover links 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.


Many people have heard about the plight of polar bears, having to swim farther and farther to find food because of the melting sea ice in the Arctic. Professor Scott Mills is studying the effects of climate change on a smaller, cuter animal:  the snowshoe hare.

For STEM Friday we have Hopping Ahead of Climate Change by Sneed B. Collard III, which chronicles Professor Mills's studies.

Have you heard of snowshoe hares? They are one of a small number of animal species that have different colored fur in the summer versus the winter. In the summer they are brown and look very much like a cottontail rabbit. In the winter, their fur is mostly white.

arctic_harePublic Domain Photograph By Unknown retrieved from Wikimedia

How is climate change a threat? As with other animals that change from brown to white, the hares are triggered to molt their hair by changes in day length rather than temperature. That means when the nights start to get longer, the hares change to white, regardless of whether it has started to snow or not. Recently, the snows have been coming later and later in the season where snowshoe hares live. As you might imagine, a stark white hare is probably more vulnerable to predators on bare ground than on snowy ground. Professor Mills and his students test that hypothesis.

The book is illustrated with color photographs of hares and their habitats, as well as helpful graphs, charts, and maps. Although it may look superficially like a picture book, this is a solidly middle grade title for readers 10 years old and older.

Pick up Hopping Ahead of Climate Change for students interested in environmental issues, animals, or science. You will be glad you did.

Activity:  Create a Chart of the Characteristics of Hares versus Rabbits

Why are the animals called hares rather than rabbits? In Arizona we have both types, so here are some differences:


  • Babies born with fur
  • Larger, longer hind legs and often have longer ears (although not snowshoes)
  • Ears with some black fur
  • Live on the surface
  • Haven't been domesticated


  • Babies born without fur
  • Shorter hind legs
  • Most live in burrows in the ground, but not all
  • Burrows are often near other rabbits, more social
  • Some varieties domesticated

Gather some images of hares and rabbits and create a chart. See if you can find even more differences between hares and rabbits.

This video shows some of Professor Mills's students research. Note:  There are scenes of animal fur left behind by predators and also of animals in live traps. You should always preview videos to make sure they are appropriate for your child.


  1. Camouflage-related science activities at PBS Parents.

2. Review of Sneed Collard's Fire Birds at Wrapped in Foil blog. See other books by the same author, such as

Snakes, Alligators, and Broken Hearts by Sneed B. Collard III, in which he describes his adventures growing up during the 1960s and 1970s, particularly when visiting his dad who was a biologist.


Age Range: 8 - 12 years
Publisher: Bucking Horse Books (November 1, 2015)
ISBN-10: 0984446060
ISBN-13: 978-0984446063

3. Growing list of children's books about polar habitats

Disclosure: This book was provided by the publisher/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.


Our post today is inspired by a book I spotted at our local library: Sneed B. Collard III's Most Fun Book Ever About Lizards by, you guessed it, Sneed B. Collard III (for a full review, see Wrapped in Foil).

We have many different kinds of lizards here in Arizona. I love how this book starts out with an introduction to "Joe Lizard," a western fence lizard, which is the kind we see in our yard all the time. The author also discusses other lizards common to Arizona, such as Gila monsters, horned lizards and western whiptails.

What are lizards?

Lizards are reptiles with over-lapping scales. They also have moveable quadrate bones that allow them to open their mouths very wide. Finally most lizards (but not all) have legs, which distinguishes them from the snakes.

Lizards also have the ability to drop their tails if they are attacked by a predator. You can see the discolored area of the tail where this one has just grown its tail back.

Western fence lizards can be found climbing on trees, where they lend in perfectly with the bark, as well as on fences. The males have bright blue bellies, which they show off by doing push-ups.

Whiptails have particularly long and slender tails.

Collared lizards, named for the black band at their neck, are often brightly-colored.

Activity:  Lizard body temperature

Lizards and other reptiles are ectothermic, which means that their internal body temperature is controlled by the temperature of the environment around them. Another word for this is "cold-blooded," although lizard don't really have cold blood. Lizards move from sun to shade and place to place to keep their temperature in the optimal range.

Children may assume that when the outdoor temperature is 78° F, it is the same temperature everywhere. In fact, many surfaces will be colder or warmer than the air temperature depending on sun exposure and other factors. These differences are called "microclimates."


  • Thermometers (enough for every participant, if possible.)
  • Lamp (if doing this activity indoors), or sunny day outdoors
  • Dry play sand (or soil if not available)
  • Water
  • 2 containers to hold sand (enough for small groups of participants to share)
  • Timer or watch
  • Pencil and paper

Place a similar amount of sand into each container. Moisten the sand in one of the containers with water. Set both containers in the shade or indoors with the lamp off for a a few minutes to allow it to stabilize. Now take the temperature of the sand just under the surface with the thermometer for both containers and record the results.

Move the containers to a sunny place or under a lamp. Take the temperature after five minutes and again after ten minutes. Did it change? How did the temperature of the wet sand change in comparison to the dry sand? (The temperature of the wet sand should change less than dry sand).

If outdoors, encourage the children to check and record temperatures in several locations, both in the shade and in the sun.

If you were a lizard that should have an internal temperature about 80 °F, where would you spend your time? How about if your preferred temperature was 90°F?

What do lizards do when it is too cold out? Our Arizona lizards hibernate during the coldest months of the year.

Citizen Science:  More opportunities for studying lizards

And don't forget,

Sneed B. Collard III's Most Fun Book Ever About Lizards

Hardcover: 48 pages
Publisher: Charlesbridge Publishing (February 1, 2012)
ISBN-10: 1580893244
ISBN-13: 978-1580893244

Disclosures: The book was from our local library. Also, I am an affiliate for Amazon. If you click through the linked titles or ads and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no extra charge to you. Proceeds will be used to maintain this self-hosted blog.

Where is your favorite place to watch lizards?

(*Note: It was entirely the lizard’s own decision to climb up this person. It was not picked up or handled.)