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For STEM Friday we are highlighting a fantastic book for upper elementary-aged children, Amazing Amphibians: 30 Activities and Observations for Exploring Frogs, Toads, Salamanders, and More by Lisa J. Amstutz (her website).

If you've never experienced one of the Young Naturalists series books from Chicago Review Press, you are in for a real treat. These books are designed not only for children who are independent researchers interested in a topic -- in this case amphibians -- but also for educators who need information and age-appropriate activity ideas for science lessons.

Lisa Amstutz's text covers everything readers will want to know:

  • What an amphibian is
  • What animals belong to the different families
  • Amphibian anatomy
  • What amphibians eat
  • Their life cycles
  • Some of the threats to amphibians
  • And much more!

It is also filled with amazing facts. Did you know that the North American wood frog can survive being frozen solid? How about that some amphibians can absorb water from moist soil by sitting on it because they have specially absorptive skin on their bellies? Wouldn't it be nice to be able to drink that way?

The activities (30 of them!) will keep young scientists engaged for hours. They range from making fake frog eggs from water beads to making your yard more toad friendly.

Some readers may initially think less of the book when they learn the illustrations are color stock photographs, with many coming from Wikimedia Commons. The quality of stock photographs, however, is determined by the person curating them and in this case the photographs are the highest standard, well-matched to the text and to each other.

The back matter is a treasure trove filled with goodies such as a table of the different amphibian orders, lists of resources, and a teacher's guide with even more ideas for activities.

Personal Note:  I absolutely love these Chicago Review Press books and I use them all the time. The activities encourage the type of hands-on learning that develops fine motor skills so useful later in life. They also reinforce learning. Let's face it, touching a fake frog egg made out of a water bead engages more senses than simply reading about eggs on the page.

The bottom line is Amazing Amphibians is an exceptionally well organized and well written introduction to a fascinating group of animals. It is perfect for young naturalists and scientists. It is also a must-have resource for educators. Investigate a copy today!

Related Activities:

Not that a book loaded with oodles of hands-on activities needs any more, but let's celebrate Amazing Amphibians by making a tiny book about frogs, toads, and salamanders to share with younger children.

1. Download the Tiny Amphibian Book Template (PDF) - (click on image that pops up to load).

2. Print out on white paper.

3. Fold using the instructions in the video below. Make the cut along the line shown in the photo.

4. Talk about the illustrations in the tiny book and research any questions that arise. Decorate and add information to your book to make it your own.

Please let me know if you have any problems folding it.

Older children can make a handmade scientific notebook as suggested on page 3 of Amazing Amphibians.

For more frog and toad science activity suggestions, see our previous posts:

  1. Summer Sounds: Frogs and Toads
  2. Frog and Toad Science Activities, includes toad anatomy and building a toad house
  3. A Frog's Life book and activities, includes link to a citizen's science project.

Age Range: 7 - 9 years
Publisher: Chicago Review Press; First edition (January 7, 2020)
ISBN-10: 1641600721
ISBN-13: 978-1641600729

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 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.

1

For STEM Friday we have a picture book that is much more than the usual, Book of Flight: 10 Record-Breaking Animals with Wings by Gabrielle Balkan and illustrated by Sam Brewster.

Why "more than the usual"?

At 10.5 x 12.8 inches, this book is larger than many picture books.

Inside, you will discover a challenging quiz format. The author sets up questions such as "Guess Who is the Fastest Flyer" and then gives plenty of details so the reader can figure it out. Included in the question spread is a blueprint-style illustration of the animal (like on the cover) with key features labelled. Turn the page and the answer is revealed in full color. To add a bit "more," the animal has a textured overlay on the paper that begs to be felt. Take a minute and rub your fingers over it. Then read the first person point of view story of that animal.

Although you would think that a book about flight would be about birds, the author has included insects, bats and even a fish. The last spread talks about human flight. Again, more than you expect.

Finally, the reading level is Lexile Measure: 680L, but the first book in this series (see below) got glowing reviews from the parents of preschoolers. Obviously, with a bit of help from an adult reader, these books appeal to more than the suggested age range.

Book of Flight is a perfect choice for young readers interested in animals, those in flying things, and also those trivia buffs who like facts about records. It is guaranteed to fly off the shelf!

See our related post about human versus insect anatomy.

Age Range: 5 - 8 years
Publisher: Phaidon Press (June 5, 2019)
ISBN-10: 0714878634
ISBN-13: 978-0714878638

Previous title in series:
Book of Bones: 10 Record-Breaking Animals by Gabrielle Balkan and illustrated by Sam Brewster

Wow, Book of Bones also exceeds expectations.

The format is similar to Book of Flight. Readers are asked which animal has the most bones, the biggest bone, etc. One difference is that instead of a blueprint, the illustration in the question spread is of animal's skeleton in white (and light gray) against a stark black background. What is even cooler is that in the full color answer spread that comes next, the texture overlaying the animal is in the shape of creature's skeleton. Basically, the reader can feel (and see) the skeleton as it would be positioned inside. Wow!

Other than that major difference, the rest of the highlights are similar in both books.

Book of Bones is a great introduction to comparative anatomy that is easy to swallow. Open up a copy today!

Age Range: 7 - 10 years
Publisher: Phaidon Press (September 18, 2017)
ISBN-10: 0714875120
ISBN-13: 978-0714875125

 

Disclosure: These books were provided by the publisher. 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.

1

titanosaur book coverToday we have the larger-than-life picture book Titanosaur: Discovering the World's Largest Dinosaur by Diego Pol, Jose Luis Carballido, and illustrated by Florencia Gigena.

Everything about this book is huge (and hugely impressive):

  • At 11.8 x 11.8 inches it is physically bigger than most picture books.
  • It is written by the actual paleontologists who dug up the dinosaur. Their excitement about the find bounds off of each and every page.
  • It features the biggest dinosaur ever found (so far)
  • It is likely to appeal to readers far outside its recommended age range

There is also much to admire, starting with the end papers which feature a map of South America to show where the dinosaur was discovered. It really helps readers get oriented.

The story itself starts with a gaucho and his dog discovering a big bone on his ranch. What follows is an inside look at how a dinosaur skeleton is dug up and processed.

Accompanying the main text are sidebars that pull out keywords and explain them. For example, the first sidebar explains what a gaucho is, the second defines the word paleontologist, the third discusses how dinosaur bones are fossils. Although sidebars are standard in many nonfiction texts, these are particularly well done.

Florence Gigena’s illustrations are also top notch. They give continuity to the look and and expand the story. The best image by far is one of a man lying on the ground next to a femur to show how immense it really is! Another cool feature shows the placement of certain bones inside the skeleton of a transparent dinosaur.  If that isn't enough, there are many color photographs of the finds and team nestled in the artwork.

Titanosaur rises above the competition. It will enthrall youngsters already passionate about dinosaurs, but will also grab the attention of anyone interested in science or how scientists work. Dig up a copy today!!

Age Range: 5 - 7 years
Publisher: Scholastic Press (February 26, 2019)
ISBN-10: 1338207393
ISBN-13: 978-1338207392

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.