Posted in environment, nonfiction, science, storytime

Under the Kapok Tree

Or, what happens after a children’s librarian visits the rainforest?

robinI first explored a trees theme in Wonderworks in the Spring of 2013:

Yesterday we revisited the theme with a different twist. On a trip to Costa Rica the previous week, I saw a kapok (ceiba) tree. Of course I’m familiar with Lynne Cherry’s The Great Kapok Tree(Harcourt Brace…

View On WordPress

Posted in engineering, nonfiction, science, storytime

Space, Rockets & Gravity


The morning of this storytime, Wednesday, March 11 at 11:30 a.m., I checked the NASA site looking for a good video clip to show to accompany the books I had chosen. Turns out, NASA was conducting a solid rocket booster test, broadcast live, at 11:30 a.m.! I couldn’t believe my luck! So I pulled up the link on the new SmartBoard, Internet was working beautifully, and had the NASA TV live…

View On WordPress

Posted in science, storytime

Preschool STEM Storytimes

are so much fun! You can catch me blogging about a recent STEM storytime on wind today over on the Westerville Public Library Kids Blog: Feel the Wind

You can also find out about some of other preschool STEM themes on the kids blog. They include:

Trees (Trees in the Library!

Bones (The Foot Bones Connected to the Ankle Bone: It!


Birdwatching (This one’s for the birds!

Bridges (Marshmallow Bridges & Building Fun:

Shapes: Circles (Round in a Circle:

Posted in environment, nature, nonfiction, picture books, science

Under the Sea

Another voyage of the imagination from the author of Redwoods. This time a little girl picks a book off the library shelf on Coral Reefs, and as she begins to read, coral begins to grow on library tables in the Reading Room of the New York Public Library. The ceiling mural even features fish, and water seeps across the floor at first, then flows in with a tidal wave on the following pages.  Now she is swimming, book still in hand, around the coral reefs, exploring the amazing variety of life that makes a home here along with the reader. The text is factual, and while the illustrations do support the text, they also extend it in a whole other narrative as well. Predator relationships, like those of the whale shark and reef fish, as well as symbiotic partnerships, like that between the coral and the algae that makes the reefs possible, are highlighted.

The details in this book are extraordinary, from pencil sketches of different species of coral and reef inhabitants on the endpapers to the adjacent books on the library shelf (including Treasure Island, Robinson Crusoe, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and The Voyages of the Beagle, among others). An endnote explains the very real dangers that threaten these stunning parts of our ecosystem today, along with a list of things you can actually do to help. A stunning non-fiction picture book that elementary age children will enjoy. Older readers can delve into the details and hopefully be inspired to read more about coral reefs.

See the artist/author’s website for a preview:

Posted in environment, nonfiction, photography, science

The Air up There

Amazing photographs and a very accessible narrative by wildlife photographer Robert Haas combine in I Dreamed of Flying Like a Bird: My Adventures Photographing Wild Animals from a Helicopter (National Geographic, 2010.) Though at first the photographers’ job seems quite glamorous, all of the gear, safety precautions and cold made me appreciate the task more. Now I might like to accompany him on a trip, but don’t have a desire to be an aerial photographer, hanging out of a plane, wearing two safety harnesses and multiple layers of clothes, even a ski mask, to stay warm. I’m glad someone had this dream, because the pictures are amazing. I find it really interesting how a different physical perspective also gives different perspective to our thoughts and knowledge about these animals. The shapes the flamingo flocks take is amazing (bording on unbelievable) and the great shots of ocean animals were surprising as well.

This book is a visual treat that children will enjoy looking at and perhaps be inspired to learn more — about a certain type of animal, environment, or photography. Read more about Robert Haas on the National Geographic web site:

Posted in biography, nonfiction, picture books, science

Becoming Jane

Every once in a while a book comes along that touches your heart. Me . . . Jane by Patrick McDonnell (Little, Brown 2011) is one of those books for me. From the title page, which shows a photographs of a young girl, wide smile on her face, holding her stuffed toy chimpanzee, this book grabbed my attention. Though it doesn’t say officially until the last page, this is Jane Goodall. Somehow I felt that. (Her picture is on the back cover as well.) I can’t quite explain why I was so moved by this image. It was many things: I wondered how much it says about how we parent; who gave Jane that chimpanzee? was a stuffed chimpanzee a usual toy in the 1940s? how do some people know from such a young age exactly what they want to do? how does environment shape us? And the adult in me reflects on how Jane Goodall has changed our view of chimpanzees and continues to lead the call for conservation today. What a difference she has made by following her dreams. All of these thoughts at once. I was overwhelmed.

Some of Jane’s sketches and notes from her childhood — games she made up for the Alligator Club are included. The paper is thick and heavy, and even a little yellowed at the edges. McDonnell’s watercolor illustrations are delightful, with a winsome, determined young girl and charming animals. The illustrator also incorporated ornamental engravings (leaves, maps, astronomy diagrams and more) from the 19th and 20th centuries on the pages with text, which add depth and visual interest. There’s plenty to pour over here. Another sketch of Goodall’s at the very end shows Jane sleeping in a tree, with a chimp sleeping in her tent!

The Watcher: Jane Goodall’s Life with the Chimps by Jeannette Winter(Schwartz & Wade, 2011) goes into a little more depth about Goodall’s life. This introductory biography is great for elementary age readers.  The story details how young Jane carefully watched all the animals in her world, big and small. I love the example of the robin, who slowly grows comfortable enough to build a nest on Jane’s bookshelf! The small book is beautifully designed. After Goodall travels to Africa, Winter’s illustrations break the confines of a small central box to flow across the pages. I loved how the reader could spot the chimps hiding, before they were willing to show themselves to Goodall. The paper is thick and heavy. The text is deceptively simple; it is clear Winter has chosen her words carefully. The prose is nicely spaced with short length, spacing between the words, and could probably be read by a beginning reader (would love to see this book considered for the Geisel Award!)

Both books describe Goodall’s childhood love of the outdoors, her constant companion, Jubilee, and her dreams of Africa. Winter’s biography takes us further, adding details of her remarkable scientific observations at Gombe. We get to meet David Greybeard. Winter descibes Goodall’s first night at Gombe: “Jane lay awake listening to new sounds – the croak of a frog, the hum of crickets, the laugh of a hyena, the hoot of an owl – and looking up at the stars. She knew she was Home.”


You can find out more about Jane Goodall at her website: and from her own writings about her work, including My Life with the Chimpanzees.

In this CNN interview from April 2011, Goodall talks about Jubilee, her childhood stuffed animal, that she still has.

Posted in environment, nature, nonfiction, science

Let’s Go Outside!

These two picture books are perfect for encouraging young children to explore nature and observe the natural world around them. You don’t have to travel somewhere — you can explore right in your own backyard, neighborhood or park. Insect Detective is by Steve Voake, with illustrations by Charlotte Voake (Candlewick, 2010) in her usual appealing pen and watercolor style. The font is large and friendly, with ample white space, and other factual details in smaller print. The text encourages children to look closely to discover what is going  on right in their own backyard.
 Bugs for Lunch by Marjory Facklam (Charlesbridge, 1999) has a short rhyming text that reveals what creatures might enjoy eating bugs for lunch (birds, fish, turtles, frogs, etc.). There’s plenty of child appeal with the engaging rhythm of the text and the concept itself, which provides a perspective many young children may not have previously considered. Brightly colored illustrations by Sylvia Long add to the appeal. Use this one in storytime with finger rhymes such as “I Had a Little Turtle” and “Five Green and Speckled Frogs” — most delicious bugs indeed!
 Have fun exploring! 
Posted in nonfiction, picture books, science

Watching the Earth Turn

At the entrance to COSI (Center of Science and Industry) in Columbus, Ohio is a beautiful pendulum. We live fairly close by and COSI is a familiar place to my children. The pendulum has always fascinated them and now that they are older, it is a place they can wait while I stand in the ticket line. You do have to wait for several minutes to see the pendulum at work. After reading Come See the Earth Turn I have a much greater appreciation for the pendulum. I understand much better what the pendulum is demonstrating — that it actually proves the earth turns. What a wonder.

Come See the Earth Turn: the Story of Leon Foucault is written by Lori Mortensen, illustrated by Raul Allen (Tricycle Press, 2010) and was included on the National Science Teachers Association’s 2011 list of Outstanding Science Trade Books. It tells the story of Leon Foucault, an unlikely hero. A sickly infant, a slow child in school, but also a boy who was good at building things, gifted with his hands. Though not formally trained as a scientist, he made some amazing discoveries through his adeptness with machinery and, even more importantly, his keen sense of observation and wonder about the world around him. Many others had tried unsuccessfully to prove that the earth turned on it’s axis, but Foucault was the one to find a way to demonstrate it.

The huge pendulum at COSI knocks over a small pin every few minutes. Crowds of children gather around it. Do they realize they are actually seeing the earth turn?

For more great nonfiction books, check out today’s Nonfiction Monday! And come back next week, Monday, July 4, when I’m hosting! I’m so excited!

Posted in environment, nature, nonfiction, picture books, science

All the Water in the World

All the water in the world really is all the water in the world, and this concept is the basis for George Ella Lyon‘s latest book, All the Water in the World.  New water is not made or manufactured. It can be found in different forms — frozen in the ice pack, streaming over a waterfall, sitting in a tall glass waiting to be drunk. But the water present on earth is the same. It’s quite an amazing concept. Is the water you are bathing in the same water that dinosaurs once drank? Maybe the water in your soup is the same water that Leonardo da Vinci drank. This idea is explained quite poetically in a short text  that children will be able to understand. Katherine Tillotson‘s bright illustrations are appealing — striking, even watery at times,  and the large size makes this nonfiction picture book a great choice for reading aloud at storytime. The fonts change size and shape, adding drama and emphasis. It is clear that Lyon has chosen every word carefully, crafting them with a rhythm: “Tap dance/avalanche/stampede/of drips and drops and drumming — a wealth of water.” For places that are waiting for water, the palette turns into shades of tan and brown, where people and animals wait for “rain sweet and loud.” The importance of water to all forms of life on earth really cannot be overstated; the text concludes emphasizing the life-giving preciousness of water.

A few of my other favorite books about water are Barbara Kerley’s A Cool Drink of Water (National Geographic, 2002)

and Walter Wick’s A Drop of Water: A Book of Science and Wonder (Scholastic, 1997).