Tag Archives: Science

#365PictureBooks Day 12 : Gravity

“What keeps objects from floating out of your hand? What if your feet drifted away from the ground? What stops everything from rising up into space?


In this unusual, innovative, and beautiful book, Jason Chin introduces young readers to this fundamental force, taking a complex subject and making it understandable. The perfect book for all young scientists. ”

Publisher: Macmillan

See the publisher page for a link to teachers notes and a slideshow of pages from the book.

This fabulous book takes a scientific principle and  portrays it simply and accurately for the youngest reader. The author pairs objects that kids will instantly recognise in the illustrations, with simple  text (sometimes only one word per page). The illustrations and the words seem to amplify the meaning, going from objects around us to what happens in space and the gravitational pull of big objects.The scientific explanation of the theory of gravity is explained in the back pages “More about gravity” – but this is nicely done…still simple but with clear visual to help explain the concepts of attraction, mass and distance.


Image source: MacKidsBooks.com

Each time I read this it grows on me a little more. If you serve students in your library in the lower year levels who are interested in science and ask many  ‘what if’ and ‘why’ questions, then they deserve this book! Buy it – we should all have non-fiction picture books like this in our school library collections!

Interview with Jason Chin on Radio New Zealand Nine to Noon December 2014 (Podcast)

Bibliographic details:

Gravity / Written and illustrated by Jason Chin
Published by Roaring Brook Press, 2014
32 pp.
There is also a Paperback edition available in NZ via Random House (Andersen Imprint
)ISBN: 9781783441976 NZ RRP : $19.95
Buy from good independent booksellers or library suppliers and borrow from Auckland Libraries


#365PictureBooks Day 9 – Picture books for big connections

I want to share a picture book that fits with my collection ‘vision’ of having resources for our students that stimulate curiosity, imagination and wonder and encourage questioning and thinking. You are stardust  is an incredible mix of science, imagination, environmental awareness, spirituality and hope for the future of the earth.

You are stardust written by Elin Kelsey, Artwork by Soyeon Kim

“From the water they drink to the trees
they climb, kids are connected to the natural world in big and surprising ways.”

You Are Stardust begins by introducing the idea that every tiny atom in our bodies came from a star that exploded long before we were born. From its opening pages, the book suggests that we are intimately connected to the natural world; it compares the way we learn to speak to the way baby birds learn to sing, and the growth of human bodies to the growth of forests. [Publisher]

“I wrote You Are Stardust because I didn’t just want to tell kids they are part of nature. I wanted to show them in a more personal way, by linking what happens in their own bodies to what happens in the sky, the ocean, the forests, and to other animals.” [Elin Kelsey]

The writing is almost poetry, but every beautiful, whispery sentence is backed by real science.

“Your breath is alive with
the promise of flowers”

“Scientists can now sample the microscopic world in such fine detail; they are discovering all kinds of new species of tiny plants and animals that naturally live in the air we breathe. I interviewed palynologists, scientists who study pollen grains, to ask them, “What happens to all the pollen in the air we breathe?” Every day, you breathe in more than a million pollen grains. The bigger ones get caught in the mucus or hairs in your nose and sneezed back out. Tinier ones may travel down your throat and eventually get pooped out. But a lucky few float back out when you exhale. So that’s what I meant when I wrote, “Each time you blow a kiss to the world, you spread pollen that might grow to be a new plant.” [Author Q&A]

The book is also available as an iPad app. Unfortunately this is not available in the NZ itunes store at this time.

Please see this beautiful piece at Brain Pickings about this book. It was reading this article that made me want to order the book immediately.

Bibliographic details:

You are stardust written by Elin Kelsey, Artwork by Soyeon Kim

Published by Owl Kids, 2012.

32 pages


NZ RRP $36.99

Available to purchase from Wheelers or borrow from Auckland Libraries

#365PictureBooks Day 6 – Star stuff : Carl Sagan and the mysteries of the cosmos

For every child who has ever looked up at the stars and asked, “What are they?” comes the story of a curious boy who never stopped wondering: Carl Sagan.

“Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were, but without it we go nowhere.” – Carl Sagan

“When Carl Sagan was a young boy he went to the 1939 World’s Fair and his life was changed forever. From that day on he never stopped marveling at the universe and seeking to understand it better. Star Stuff follows Carl from his days star gazing from the bedroom window of his Brooklyn apartment, through his love of speculative science fiction novels, to his work as an internationally renowned scientist who worked on the Voyager missions exploring the farthest reaches of space. This book introduces the beloved man who brought the mystery of the cosmos into homes across America to a new generation of dreamers and star gazers. “[Publisher website].

 I recently borrowed this from Auckland Libraries,  but it’s firmly on my list for purchase as soon as I return to school.  I’m going to use it in any unit of inquiry where we are looking at innovation and curiosity. This will be especially valuable for our Year 3  PYP Where we are in place and time unit of inquiry, with the central idea “Exploration and discovery leads to new understandings and opportunities” where the focus of the inquiry is on space exploration.

I’m going to shelve this with the biographies related to astronomy and space at 520.92 SAG. This is the same spot where students can find books about Galileo and right with all the really popular material on space and astronomy. The 520s are an area I’m currently trying to simplify within Dewey.

When students need to look at biographies as a genre it is easy for them to find books about the person they are interested in by searching for them by name in our catalogue. All picture book biographies in our collection are tagged BIOGRAPHY and we consistently use a subject heading like Sagan, Carl – Biography. I have found that not having all the biographies at 920, but within their subject area, is far better for browsing kids and a result, the books get checked out more often (not just when students are looking at biographies – which may only be once a year).

Awards, accolades and starred reviews:

“Carl Sagan is best known for being a renowned expert on the cosmos, but he started out as just a curious kid fascinated with the night sky, and that’s where Sisson starts this picture-book biography.” – Booklist
“Sisson’s economical narrative and lighthearted illustrations convey Sagan’s regard for the power of imagination and his generous approach to knowledge. . . Both friendly and inspiring.” – KIRKUS, STARRED REVIEW
“Told in narrative format, this beautifully designed and illustrated picture book gives readers a glimpse into the childhood wonderings Sagan experienced as he looked at the night sky and imagined possibilities. . . A gorgeous, informative offering for biography and science collections.” – School Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW and one of the SLJ Best Books for 2014
“A broader message about the role wonder plays in innovation resonates throughout this story.” – Publishers Weekly
Biographical details:

Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos / by Stephanie Roth Sisson

Published by Roaring Brook Press, 2014

40 pages.


NZ RRP: $35.50

Available for purchase from Wheelers or to borrow from Auckland Libraries.

Related posts:

On a beam of light

Coming soon…Bomb by Steve Sheinkin

alt=bomb -steve-sheinkin

I was incredibly excited to receive this book in the post today….

Bomb : the race to build – and steal – the world’s most dangerous weapon by Steve Sheinkin. Published by Macmillan, 2012. Hardback 266 pages.

From the publisher:

In December of 1938, a chemist in a German laboratory made a shocking discovery: When placed next to radioactive material, a Uranium atom split in two. That simple discovery launched a scientific race that spanned 3 continents. In Great Britain and the United States, Soviet spies worked their way into the scientific community; in Norway, a commando force slipped behind enemy lines to attack German heavy-water manufacturing; and deep in the desert, one brilliant group of scientists was hidden away at a remote site at Los Alamos. This is the story of the plotting, the risk-taking, the deceit, and genius that created the world’s most formidable weapon. This is the story of the atomic bomb.


2012 National Book Awards finalist for Young People’s Literature.

2012 Washington Post Best Kids Books of the Year title.

2013 YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults (Winner)

2013 Newbery Honor book.

2013 Robert F. Sibert Honor (Informational) Book

2013 Cybil Award Non-Fiction books

Praise and reviews: (source Macmillan website)

“This superb and exciting work of nonfiction would be a fine tonic for any jaded adolescent who thinks history is “boring.” It’s also an excellent primer for adult readers who may have forgotten, or never learned, the remarkable story of how nuclear weaponry was first imagined, invented and deployed—and of how an international arms race began well before there was such a thing as an atomic bomb.”–The Wall Street Journal

“This is edge-of-the seat material that will resonate with YAs who clamor for true spy stories, and it will undoubtedly engross a cross-market audience of adults who dozed through the World War II unit in high school.”–BCCB, starred

“…reads like an international spy thriller, and that’s the beauty of it.”–School Library Journal, starred

“[a] complicated thriller that intercuts action with the deftness of a Hollywood blockbuster.” —Booklist

“A must-read…”–Publishers Weekly, starred

“A superb tale of an era and an effort that forever changed our world.”–Kirkus, starred

BOMB by Steve Sheinkin | Kirkus Book Reviews
Read the Kirkus Review of BOMB The Race to Build—and Steal—the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon. In late December 1938, German chemist Otto Hahn discovered that uranium atoms could be split, and just a few months later the race to build an atomic bomb was on.
– Kirkus Reviews

Other goodies:

Author website: www.stevesheinkin.com

Read an excerpt here (PDF file: source Macmillan)

Teachers resources here (source Macmillan and http://www.we-love-teaching.com)

What do I think about this book?

I have yet to read Bomb in full, but I quickly read the prologue and enthusiastically scanned the chapters, indices and bibliography after opening the package today. My initial impression was WOW…this book reads like an exciting spy story. I am so keen to get this into the hands of some of my older students that chances are I won’t have time to read it before them, either that or my husband will grab it! The author is very well known in the USA because of his previous book the Notorious Benedict Arnold (this was also an award winner). However because that type of American history has no place/relevance to our NZ curriculum I haven’t had the opportunity to read it. Bomb is an extensively researched book with an impressive bibliography of primary and other sources.

Recommended age 12+.

Itch…Alex Rider meets science geek…and the result is explosive!


Itch : the explosive adventures of an element hunter by Simon Mayo published by Double Day/Random House 2012.

From the book’s website www.itchingham.co.uk:

Itchingham Lofte is an element hunter. He’s just an ordinary 14 year old boy, with one extraordinary mission – to collect all the elements in the periodic table. But as he soon finds out, some elements are so dangerous they can kill…

When Itch is given a strange rock by a mysterious man, it turns out to be something that no scientist has ever seen. Those who want the rock will stop at nothing, and if it gets into the wrong hands, the whole world could be in danger. Soon, Itch has to draw on everything he knows – and the contents of his rucksack – to keep himself and his family alive…

I had read about this book and thought it sounded great – a new, fresh and exciting storyline, that might appeal to the science lovers amongst my students. I wasn’t sure whether to buy it for my Primary School collection worrying that it might be more of a teen read. Yes, it is a more grown up read, but it is exactly the sort of book many of my year 6 and intermediate students are always looking for! This book for the most part is a thrilling ride and once I was into it, it became un-put-downable!

From the publisher:

Meet Itch – an accidental, accident-prone hero. Science is his weapon. Elements are his gadgets. This is a hero with Geek-Power!Itchingham Lofte – known as Itch – is fourteen, and loves science – especially chemistry. He’s also an element-hunter: he’s decided to collect all the elements in the periodic table. Which has some interesting and rather destructive results in his bedroom . . . Then, Itch makes a discovery. A new element, never seen before. At first no one believes him – but soon, someone hears about the strange new rock and wants it for himself. And Itch is in serious danger . . .

‘A great debut . . . you’ll be itching to read more.’ Anthony Horowitz

What do I think about this book?:

Coincidentally I started reading this book on the day I also read an article in the New York Times about the demise of the traditional chemistry set as an educational toy. It seems parents and toymakers are so risk averse these days that everything that is packaged in a chemistry or science exploration set needs to be safe enough to eat, and shouldn’t pose any danger whatsoever…to a child or their property. However the article also pointed out that modern science toys fit better with the educational  process of ‘Inquiry’ rather than being formulaic. “What we do is give kids the opportunity to learn through problem solving, …Of course, technology has also remade the experience of learning science. Children may be more likely to click on a science app than to go play outside.” (NY Times Dec 24 2012 see link to full article).

Itch (short for Itchingham Lofte) is a budding chemist/scientist and would certainly be a challenge for most parents. He takes a few risks in the beginning of the story that have disastrous consequences and are potentially life-threatening.  The beginning of the book may seem a little slow for some readers as Itch introduces us to his hobby of collecting all the elements in the periodic table. I found this fascinating, the science isn’t too overwhelming and it is more interesting than if our hero collected stamps, McDonalds toys or Pokemon cards! The author throughly describes Itch’s life at home with his family, his school and teachers as well as his limited social life (Itch doesn’t fit in with his peers easily). All these descriptions and the telling of Itch’s explosive experiments are essential to the reader’s understanding of why Itch so desperately wants to do the “right thing” later in the story and not only save his family but the world.

The author has obviously thoroughly researched the scientific aspects of this story – so much so that it feels a seamless blend of real science and a little science fiction. There is already news of a sequel “Itch rocks” – I hope it as good as this one! This copy available for loan in our library – early Term 1. In the mean time – visit the book website where you can read an extract from the book and download your own special poster of the periodic table.

For teachers: The National STEM Centre in the UK featured this book and promoted it during National Science & Engineering Week (9-18 March 2012).

The National STEM Centre has produced a special collection of resources on the eLibrary to support the release of the new novel. The Elements collection contains resources which can be used to support the teaching of elements and the periodic table.

You can also download an “itch” poster of the Periodic Table on the itchingham website here: