Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Four STEM Picture Books (that we read and loved)

Summer is here and before we go our separate ways for a while, I thought it would be a good time to introduce my young readers to the idea of STEM books. Here are four books that we particularly enjoyed reading and talking about. 
Honeybee Rescue: A Backyard Drama
by Loree Griffin Burns, photographs by Ellen Harasimowicz
Charlesbridge, 2022, 40 pages
Mr. Connery is an experienced beekeeper, maintaining wooden hive boxes in his backyard. So when he discovers a bee swarm in his ramshackle barn, Mr. Connery knows that his bees have outgrown their hive and it is time to stack an additional hive box on top of the older one so the bees can spread out. But first he needs to deal with the swarm in the barn. And for that he calls Mr. Nelson, a beekeeper who specializes in removing bee swarms so that people don't exterminate these important pollinators. In between the account of Mr. Connery and Mr. Nelson saving the barn swarm, Burns provided all kinds in bee information from why they swarm, the structure of a hive, how a bee vacuum works so the bees are kept safe, and how a bee rescuer gets the bees and any honeycomb they may have started safely into hive boxes. We just had a bee swarm in Manhattan the other day, so this was a great time to read this book to my young readers. The writing is simple but informative, and generative lots of discussion. The photographs, with some great bee close-ups, really add so much to the information and framing the bee rescue in a story helped my young readers, some of whom are afraid of bees. Back matter includes an interview with Mr. Nelson, and a Glossary of terms used, as well as an Author's Note about her interest in bee rescue. Burns does a brilliant job of sticking with the concept of bee rescue, so if you want to know more about the life and work of honeybees, pair this with Candace Fleming's Honeybee: The Busy Life of Apis Mellifera.
Our latest bee swarm (Photo: Peter Gerber)

Diego: The Galápagos Giant Tortoise
Book 5 in the Another Extraordinary Animal Series
written by Darcy Pattison, illustrated by Amanda Zimmerman
Mims House, 2022, 32 pages
Giant tortoises were in abundance in the late 1600s when pirates landed on Española Island, a small Galápagos Island off the coast of Ecuador. When sailors discovered that these giant tortoises could live without food and water for up to a year, they began packing them in the holds of their ships to provide food on their journeys, so that by the early 1960s, it was believed that the Española tortoises were extinct. But by 1974, scientists discover there were actually 14 giant tortoises left in the world - 12 females and 2 males. Taken to the Tortoise Breeding Center on Santa Cruz Island, scientists learned out to successfully breed healthy tortoises, and by 1970-71, 20 Esanñola tortoises hatched and five years later, 17 were returned to Española Island. With only two males, breeding was limited until they discovered Tortoise Number 21 at the San Diego Zoo. Names Diego, at 65 he was brought to the breeding center. It didn't take long for Diego to become a father - in fact, it's estimated that he fathered about 900 to 1000 of the 2, 354 tortoises populating Expañola Island in 2019. It was time to send Diego, now about 110 years old, and the original 14 tortoises home to their island. The Española tortoise was not longer on the verge of extinction. This is such an interesting look at how the threat of extinction could be reversed for the endangered species around the world. The book is chockablock with information and it is totally accessible for young readers without overwhelming them. This was important to me. I was a little hesitant about introducing the idea of extinction and conservation to my young readers who are a little younger than the suggested target age of 7+, but they loved hearing about Diego. What really helped them to understand the plight of the tortoises were the detailed illustrations of each two page spread. In the back matter, Pattison give more information about tortoises and efforts at conservation, plue a bit about telling the difference between tortoises and turtles, plus a map of the Galápagos Islands, which was very useful. I expect this is a book we will return to again and again as we begin our STEM explorations.

What a Shell Can Tell by Helen Scales, 
illustrated by Sonia Pulido
Phaidon Books, 2022, 48 pages 6-9
The first time I took my Kiddo shelling on the Jersey shore, she filled her pail with all kinds of shells and declared "we're rich!" Since I still have some of those riches, they came in handy when I introduced this book to my young readers. It is incredibly well-organized, each section beginning with a question, and the questions following a very logical order, beginning with what a shell is, what a shell's shape and pattern can tell you as well as what it's color and texture reveal. On of the most interesting facts I learned was how a shell is created by the mollusks that live in it. Additionally, Scales goes into how mollusks move and what they eat, and who else uses a shell (and it's not always to original mollusk who created it), and where the various shells can be found around the world. Each question gets a digitally created two-page colorfully illustrated spread. One of the things I did very much like is how Scales brought together past, present and future and how the things like how global warming, increases in carbon dioxide, uses of mines in the deep ocean, and heavy nets used for catching shelled mollusks for increased consumption are all taking their toll on the ocean's ecosystem. This is a great book kids who are curious about the oceans and what lives in them, and will hopefully spark some real interest in conservation and preservation. Since NYC's beaches aren't far away for most of my young readers, they are anxious to see if they can find some shells this summer. Maybe that's just the beginning interest that this book is aiming for.  
One of my Kiddo's riches

Sea Lions in the Parking Lot: Animals on the Move in a
Time of Pandemic by Lenora Todaro,
illustrated by Annika Siems
mindedition, Astra Publishing, 2021, 48 pages
I found this book to be a fascinating look at what happened in the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic, when people took to their homes and seldom went outside. With deserted streets, parks and parking lots, stores and restaurants, the animal world ventured into places they are not usually found in and "reclaimed ancient habitats as their own - temporarily, at least." Todaro takes readers on a world-wide tour beginning with Australia, where a kangaroo left its parklands and hopped into the city of Adelaide, where it was free to explore with human interference. In Nara, Japan, a herd of deer, hungry for the treats humans always fed them, took to the street and noshed on leaves and grass, even potted plants, then had a romp in the subway. In South African savanna, a pride of lions lazed one the roads usually full of vehicles and tourists. There are more stories like this, and it is kind of interesting to see how easily the animals could take back their territory is there were no human interference. In her Epilogue, however, Todaro points out that not all animals fared as well as they ones spotlighted in her book and offers suggestions for how to go forward and make the world a safer, better place for the all the different species. Back matter includes Notes on Habitats, Biomes, and Wildlife Behaviour of the animals that appear in this book, and Some Further Resources. The illustrations are just spectacular, often with a hint of humor, but like the text, always reminding the reader just how much human behavior impacts animal behavior. 
Deer in Japan riding an escalator

1 comment:

  1. All of these books look fascinating to me. I love the last one and the interesting facts it has about animals taking back the land that was theirs long ago. Thanks for sharing all of these. Nature is awesome! :) ~Jess


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