Archive for Science

Green Bean! Green Bean!

Written Patricia Thomas
Illustrated by Trina L. Hunner

Poetic and rhyming, this new book highlights the life cycle of the lowly bean.

A hoe to help grow.

      And a curlicue catching dew.

   Curlicue catching dew.

      Oh no! Wind roars. Rain pours.

A young girl plants beans, with the help of her dog. As the garden grows, the girl discovers all the aids and perils for her burgeoning plants. Beetles and snails chew on the leaves. Moisture, hoeing, and stakes help the plants grow. A rabbit comes for a snack, but is thwarted by netting. Patience and sharing with birds and bees bring forth a bountiful harvest. And rejected beans make sure the cycle begin again. Wonderful, lively illustrations accompany this sweet story.

This is a great companion for a first or second grade unit about the life cycle and could easily include kids sprouting their own beans, potatoes, or avocadoes. Some of the activities even encourage eating the beans and other fruits and vegetables!

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  • Green BeanTitle: Green Bean! Green Bean!
  • Author: Patricia Thomas
  • Illustrator: Trina L. Hunner
  • Published: Dawn Publications, March 1, 2016
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 3
  • Genre: Science, Agriculture
  • ISBN: 978-1-58469-544-8
  • Extras: Many, including “Life Cycle,” “Words to Know,” and “Fun Things to Do”

Wild Ones: Observing City Critters

Written by Carol L. Malnor
Illustrated by Cathy Morrison

Nature and its variety of animals are everywhere, even in the city. The author follows a dog as he explores many of the scenes present in every city. A squirrel and an opossum lurk near a shed. Ducklings are in danger on a ledge. A beaver and a gull are busy near the water. Starlings raid a trash bin. A rabbit snacks in a garden. Geese gather near a pond. Foxes, owls, and bats fascinate the dog. This approach is both captivating and enlightening.

As always, Morrison’s illustrations are lively, accurate, and fun to look at. With each illustration, more details are revealed about the natural world of the city.

Second graders will learn a lot about the critters they pass every day. In addition to learning more about the creatures, many reading activities are suggested by the text, including looking for squirrels and their activities on every page. Kids can make observations and maps in their own backyard. Many facts and resources for further learning are listed after the story ends.

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  • Wild OnesTitle: Wild Ones: Observing City Critters
  • Author: Carol L. Malnor
  • Illustrator: Cathy Morrison
  • Published: Dawn Publications, March 1, 2016
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Paperback, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 3
  • Genre: Fiction, science, environment
  • ISBN: 978-1-58469-553-0

Arctic White

Written by Danna Smith
Illustrated by Lee White

How many shades of white do you see around you?

Danna Smith introduces the nuances of white in the beauty of the arctic using short melodic sentences. Lee White does an exquisite job of illustrating various whites amid classic winter blue hues.

But grandfather has a secret about something extra special he can only show the children in the darkest dark. He leads them out on an adventure. What might it be?

Something sure to delight every reader. The double-paged spread depicting the Northern Lights is glorious.

But the story doesn’t end yet. The children hurry home to recreate marvelous full color pictures to display inside their igloo. The double meaning of colors existing on the inside, will intrigue adults and children alike. It could lead to interesting discussions.

While this book easily fulfills core curriculum standards in literacy, geography and science; the art teacher might get the most mileage from it. Surely the children can produce wonderful colors from any part of the world to decorate their winter hallways.

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  • Arctic WhiteTitle: Arctic White
  • Author: Danna Smith
  • Illustrator: Lee White
  • Publisher: Henry Holt & Co, 2016
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-62779-104-5
  • Genre: Picture Book
  • Grade level: PreK to 2

Never Insult a Killer Zucchini

Written by Elana Ezose and Brandon Amancio
Illustrated by David Clark

The setting is a science fair and the participants are exceptional. Each and every project is unusual, advanced, and possibly impossible. There are twenty-six projects in total, one for each letter of the alphabet. But each project also represents a basic concept in physics, concepts that explained in detail in the last pages of this fun book. Some of the projects are not only possible but currently in use in some form. From Antimatter and the Bionic Limb to the Youth Serum and Zero Gravity, Mr. Farnsworth must judge them all. The Killer Zucchini comes in at “K,” where Mr. Farnsworth threatens to put ranch dressing on it. AT “D,” the student is eager to demonstrate his Doomsday Device. At “M,” the Mind Control project receives a promise from Mr. Farnsworth for first prize.

The cartoon-style illustrations are wonderful and detailed. They help to make this a delightful experience.

Second graders can read the main text with a little help and can learn a little physics along the way, especially with the help of the explanations. Older students can use this as an introduction to many of the concepts presented. All in all, a fantastic way to spur interest in science.

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  • Killer ZucchiniTitle: Never Insult a Killer Zucchini
  • Author: Elana Ezose and Brandon Amancio
  • Illustrator: David Clark
  • Published: Charlesbridge, February 9, 2016
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: 2 to 4
  • Genre: Early reader, Science, Humor
  • ISBN: 978-1-58089-618-4

My Leaf Book

Written and Illustrated by Monica Wellington

Leaves change color and fall breezily to the ground every year. Children love to catch them, collect them and figure them out.

Monica Wellington’s new book helps them identify leaves and put them in a book of their own making. While this book is fiction because the little girl is not real, Wellington has included a great deal of authentic science. Her depiction of various leaf types is well done and the leaves are matched with the names of the trees from which they come.

Grade one, grade two, and even grade three readers will be able to use the book for basic leaf identification. However, the scientific notes placed in text boxes on the pages illustrating true leaves are done in tiny print that will require adult help for some children to read and decipher.

Librarians and teachers can use this book successfully as a read aloud for pre-school through first grades. While the book meets core curriculum standards for literacy in the areas of picture clues, comparing and contrasting, separating fact from fiction, it also fulfills standards for natural science in the elementary grades. This book deserves a second look as first glance will sell it short of its educational value.

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  • My Leaf BookTitle: My Leaf Book
  • Author/Illustrator: Monica Wellington
  • Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers/ Penguin, 2015
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-8037-4141-6
  • Genre: Picture Book
  • Grade level: PreK to 3
  • Extras: End pages contain a list of leaf projects for readers to do

No Monkeys, No Chocolate

Written by Melissa Stewart and Allen Young
Illustrated by Nicole Wang

Natural processes never exist in isolation from all the other natural forces around them. In this fun and interesting nonfiction picture book, the authors take an inventive approach to pointing out why this is true. If it weren’t for monkeys, we wouldn’t have chocolate bars. Actually, if it weren’t for midges, maggots, lizards, and fungus, we wouldn’t have chocolate either. The story of cocoa production is slowly worked through from the beans to the pods to the roots to the monkeys that help plant new seeds. The tiny bookworms in the corner of each two-page spread add the touch of humor that will ensure holding the attention of kids. The illustrations are realistic and colorful.

This is a perfect beginning reference for second graders learning about nature and science. It will hopefully promote further study. The reading level will be a bit challenging but should enhance literacy skills and comprehension. The suggestions for what kids can do next includes many easy tips.

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  • No Monkeys No ChocolateTitle: No Monkeys, No Chocolate
  • Author: Melissa Stewart and Allen Young
  • Illustrator: Nicole Wang
  • Publisher: Charlesbridge, 2013
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • Grade Level: K to 3
  • Genre: Nonfiction, nature, humor
  • ISBN: 978-1-58089-287-2
  • Extras: More detailed information in “Cocoa and Rain Forests,” “What You Can Do to Help,” and “Author’s Note”

As An Oak Tree Grows

Written and illustrated by G. Brian Karas

Seasons and generations all pass by as the acorn planted by a supposed Native American child grows. While the text is clear and sparse, the illustrations are full of detail that will delight kindergarten readers as well as third grade readers.

The oak tree grows while people clear the land around it and begin to build houses and families. A timeline across the bottom of the pages lets readers correctly interpret the historical changes in transportation, architecture and clothing shown in the pictures.

For the youngest readers, it is enough to see the tree grow and the seasons change. Older readers will quickly notice the more subtle changes in lifestyle recorded in the illustrations.

This book will satisfy the common core standards for science, history, nature, and literature in several of the elementary grades. It is a beautiful springboard into studies of community development.

Readers will get attached to the tree and feel some sadness at its passing, but hope wins out as a new little acorn sprouts right next to where the old tree stood.

The poster that is in a pocket in the back of the book is full sized and has the stump of the tree enlarged. The rings of the tree are marked with historical markers to show how each ring of the tree represents a complete year. It will make it more understandable for young readers to see how this one tree was present for two hundred years of America’s history.

On the back of the poster are several activity sheets that go along with the book and only help to enhance the information included. This would be an excellent addition to any classroom, school or home library.

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  • As An Oak Tree GrowsTitle: As An Oak Tree Grows
  • Author/Illustrator: G. Brian Karas
  • Publisher: Nancy Paulson Books/Penguin, 2014
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-399-25233-4
  • Genre: Historical fiction, realistic
  • Grade Level: K-3
  • Extras: Poster of the tree trunk, with historical labels on various rings, worksheets that go with the book are on the back of the poster.

About Parrots: A Guide for Children

Written by Cathryn Sill
Illustrated by John Sill

Brightly colored feathers draw young children to watch parrots in pet stores. This book for beginning readers will draw them in much the same way with its beautiful, full color illustrations. Various types of parrots are shown in diverse habitats. Each plate clearly shows the information stated on the text pages right down to the details like putting food in their mouths with their feet. Children and adults alike will enjoy studying the pictures.

The large, bold black font makes the one sentence of text at a time, non-threatening for young readers. Also on each page in much smaller print is the number and name of the illustration plate. For more detailed information, a higher functioning reader can turn to the back of the book and find more in-depth information. This section offers background information for teachers, librarians and parents to use when sharing this book with children. There is also a list of books for further reading and some current web-sites for use in further research.

Second grade readers as well as independent first grade readers will be able to enjoy this book on their own.

This volume is a new addition to the About…Series from the Sills. Each of these books could be used to fulfill core curriculum standards in the area of science and nature. They would give children enough information and interest in the subject to continue to study animals.

Extras: Afterword contains detailed explanations of each illustration plate that are on a much higher reading level. This section would be helpful for research projects.

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  • About ParrotsTitle: About Parrots: A Guide for Children
  • Author: Cathryn Sill
  • Illustrator: John Sill
  • Publisher: Peachtree, 2014
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: hardcover
  • ISBN:  978-1-56145-795-3
  • Genre: Nonfiction
  • Lexile: 640L  / GrdK-3


What’s New? The Zoo! A Zippy History of Zoos

Written by Kathleen Krull
Illustrated by Marcellus Hall


Children love zoos and wondering how they got started is sure to amaze young readers.

Not surprisingly, it became the sport of the very rich and powerful. Kathleen Krull has done her research. The scant text tells of zoos from 4,400 years ago, in what is now Iraq to one 3,000 years ago in China, and one in 2009 in San Diego, California. Many others in between are included. She clearly explains that while zoos used to be mainly for showing off wealth or power, they are now used to protect animals. They are no longer placed in cages, but specific habitats are built to resemble their natural environments as much as possible.

Large colorful, watercolor illustrations enhance this brief history and development of zoos in the world. Children will be able to recognize the animals, parts of the world and approximate times in history from these carefully prepared images.

Teachers and librarians will be able to fulfill educational standards in the areas of science, history, literacy, geography, cultures, and art using this one text.

After reading this book, children will be ready and anxious to visit the zoo either online or in person. The list of sources in the back of the book provides many great zoo sites to visit.

  • Title: What’s New? The Zoo? A Zippy History of Zoos
  • What's New The ZooAuthor: Kathleen Krull
  • Illustrator: Marcellus Hall
  • Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic, July 2014
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN:  978-0-545-13571-9
  • Genre: Nonfiction picture book
  • Grade level: Preschool to 3
  • Extras: Bibliographic Sources

The Dandelion Seed’s Big Dream

Written by Joseph Anthony
Illustrated by Cris Arbo

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Call it “the little seed that could.”

A dandelion seed floats in the air and rides the wind, patiently waiting to be deposited onto the rich soil below. But in an unfortunate landing, the seed finds itself stuck in an open Styrofoam container. Many seasons pass, but the lonely seed never gives up its dream of becoming a flower. Then one day, the seed’s luck changes. It falls out of the container and is pushed into the ground. It grows into the golden yellow flower it has been wishing for all this time.

In what could otherwise be a basic introduction to the plant cycle, Anthony uses anthropomorphism, giving the seed feelings and desires, to spruce up this tale. Readers and listeners will find themselves routing for the little seed and will feel satisfied with its happy ending. Arbo’s realistic artwork is rich with detail for children of all ages to examine and enjoy.

If used as a classroom read aloud, there are many opportunities for discussion and comprehension: Why are some plants considered flowers while others are called weeds? How does littering interfere with nature? Themes of courage, patience, and perseverance will allow second and third graders to make connections to their own lives. Back pages include a diagram of a dandelion and its different life stages, as well as related DIY activities to do with children. More classroom resources can be found on the publishers website:

  • Dandelion SeedTitle: The Dandelion Seed’s Big Dream
  • Author: Joseph Anthony
  • Illustrator: Cris Arbo
  • Publisher: Dawn Publications
  • Reviewer: Lauren Abbey Greenberg
  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-58469-496-0
  • Genre: Picture Book / Nonfiction / Science / Nature
  • Publication date: September 1, 2014
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