This year I’m continuing my monthly kidlit book reviews. Each month I will spread a little love for some lovely books. Usually, they will come out on the first Thursday of the month, but between holiday craziness and being on deadline, I’m already a little behind. Such is the writing life.
It’s sleeting out here on the prairies today. And as much as I want to pout and stomp my feet because I do. not. like. cold, I think I have to admit defeat. So this month for my Kidlit Karma books reviews, I’m sharing winter picture books with STEM content. Because books make everything better.
Science: Over and Under the Snow by Kate Messner and Christopher Silas Neal
I have recommended Over and Under the Snow before, but it’s worth reviewing again. Children love being let in on a secret and here the secret is hiding right under the snow beneath their boots. I love the way this book weaves together a sweet story of a child with STEM facts about animals in winter.
The simple, lyrical text makes this story a good choice for even the youngest preschool scientists, but the beefy backmatter make this a good choice for older child scientists, too. The beautiful photograph illustrations invite reads to observe nature in great detail (without leaving the warmth).
Earlier this month, I Pray Today, my second book for babies and toddler was published. Today is the last day of the blog tour to celebrate.
I’ve been working on book reviews all year, though. Each month I gather up a few books I love and share them with my readers. I call it Kidlit Karma. This month I’m sharing some of my favorite books for babies and toddlers. I’m also going to dive into child development to explain why these books work.
Babies can’t see that well. Newborns’ vision is hazy – they like high contrast because it’s easy to see. You’ll often find the youngest babies staring at, say, a black object against a white background. Or a dark ceiling fan moving against a white ceiling.
By a few months old, babies vision has improved a lot but they often have a hard time understanding 2-D representations of objects.
So, books for babies and toddler often have high-contrast, easy-to-interpret pictures. For the youngest, single images on white backgrounds can be a good choice.
Babies love “baby talk” and it’s good for them. Forget what Great Aunt Bertha told you about only talking to your baby like a grown-up. Baby talk exaggerates the sounds of speech which makes it easier for babies to figure out the sounds they’re hearing and put those together into words. So go ahead and talk to babies in whatever way feels natural to you.
The sing-songy cadence of many rhyming books, help capitalize on this tendency. (Writers: be aware that babies are not less discerning than adults. If you write in rhyme, it needs to have PERFECT rhyme and meter.)
Babies love repetition. They drop the same toy over and over to see if dad will still pick it up, they never tire of peekaboo, and they will gladly have you read the same book over and over and over. While at times it’s infuriating (like the 5th time the bowl of oatmeal gets dropped to the floor), it has an important purpose: babies and toddlers learn best through repetition. Like little scientists, they’re testing if the oatmeal really drops every time. They’re also learning social information: “Will dad pick it up every time?” “Why is his mood changing as I keep dropping this?”
So many books use some kind of repetition: like the repeated phrase “Ciao!”
Speaking of actions, getting a toddler to sit still is a lost cause. They’re busy little beings. It’s easy to read with an immobile baby – harder to keep a toddler still and focused. So many books for toddlers include some kind invitation to action to help keep them engaged with the book.
That could be an action built right into the page, such as lifting a flap or holes designed for little fingers to poke into.
Babies and toddlers are also still working on fine motor skills – such as the ability to grasp and flip a book page without tearing. They need to explore the world and practice these fine motor skills – but it can be murder on a book.
So most baby and toddler books are board books – those chunky cardboard-style book pages that can withstand chewing, banging, other forms of baby love. They even have rounded corners to prevent an eye or mouth from being poked.
Adults Have to Like Them Too
Since your baby will be asking to reread the same book 10,000 times (and they will), books also have to please the adult doing the reading. A newer trend is to write book series’ that focus on topics of interest to a parent (like science, great literature, etc.), but at a level simplistic enough for a baby. No, your toddler won’t be doing astrophysics calculations in their crib. They’re in it for the baby faces and birdies, but the parent can appreciate the science.
Today’s post will cover the ins and outs of viewing this eclipse. We’ll also take a small detour through eye anatomy and sunlight experiments along the way.
Next time I’ll share some hands on activities to try.
WHERE TO SEE THE ECLIPSE
The 2017 full eclipse will be viewable in the Continental US. As I explained in the last post, a solar eclipse happens when the moon moved between the sun and the Earth. The moon blocks out the light from the sun so it casts a shadow on the Earth. Since the moon is moving, the shadow moves, too.
That means that people all across the country will have a chance at seeing a full eclipse.
If you are traveling to see the Eclipse make sure to check availability of lodgings in advance. Many prime locations are booked up solid. I had to call 5 campgrounds to find a campsite. And I was calling last January. Even I didn’t know people were that passionate about eclipses.
DON’T BE THE TOY SOLDIER!
If you’re going to watch the eclipse, make sure you do it safely. Looking directly at the sun is a bad idea. Here’s why:
Remember that scene in Toy Story where the little boy next door uses a magnifying lens to focus the sun’s light and melt a toy soldier? I’m not sure about the melting point of toy soldiers but you can use a magnifying glass to start a fire:
It works because the lens changes the path of the sunlight. All the light then comes together at a single point which makes things super bright and super hot. Put something flammable right at that point and it will catch fire. Like this:
Now let’s take a peek at a normal human eye and see what we find:
Yep. Your eye has a lens in it. Just like the lens in a magnifying glass, it changes the path of light so that it focuses on a single point. If your lens doesn’t focus the light just right, you’ll need even more lenses (glasses or contacts) to help with focus.
But the human eye is not really designed for the super brightness of direct sunlight. So let’s look at what happens when you look directly at the sun:
OUCH. No, your eye won’t actually catch fire but you can cause permanent blindness.
Be safe. Do not be the toy soldier.
So hopefully I have convinced you not to look directly at the solar eclipse. Luckily, there’s a simple solutions.
Regular sunglasses won’t do. You’ll need eclipse glasses like these to protect you. Luckily they’re fairly cheap and easy to get. Get a pair for the whole family!
All the eclipse viewing wonder without the ouch.
Next time I’ll post about other fun activities you can do for the eclipse.
If you’re not living under a rock, you’ve probably heard about the upcoming solar eclipse. Which I like to call eclipsapocalypse. (If you do live under a rock, I don’t judge.)
I’ve gathered together some resources so the children (and inner children) in your life can have enjoy the eclipsapocalyse in style. In this first post, we’ll look at resources for learning about solar eclipses. Scroll down for videos and book recommendations.
Later posts will cover viewing the eclipse and hands-on eclipse activities.
LEARN ABOUT SOLAR ECLIPSES
A solar eclipse happens when the moon moves between the Sun and the Earth. The moon blocks the sun’s light and casts a shadow on the Earth. If you’re standing on the part of the Earth where the shadow falls, you’ll see the moon move in front of the Sun and block out the light.
It’s a big deal because full solar eclipses are rare. It’s been nearly a 100 years in In a full eclipse the moon lines up exactly with the sun to completely cover it. Around the area of the full eclipse there’s a much bigger area that will see a partial eclipse. The sun and moon don’t line up exactly, but part of the sun’s light will still be blocked.
Yesterday marked one year since the New Horizons space probe made it’s flyby of Pluto. That also means it’s been over a year that I’ve been working on writing a book about the mission. Uhm, wow.
It’s been quite a year. The New Horizons mission was historic. It was the first mission to Pluto and the first to visit anything that far away in our solar system.
Scientists made many amazing discoveries. First off, Pluto has a heart. And it has a heartbeat! (Ok, not really, but it makes a good headline.) The heart is known as Sputnik Planum and it’s made of nitrogen ice. On Earth nitrogen exists as a gas in our atmosphere, but Pluto is cold enough for it to freeze into ice. Nitrogen periodically bubbles up out of the planets crust and spreads out over the heart. The rest of the planet may be roughed up with craters and mountains, but the heart is nice and smooth. These “heartbeats” are like spreading a layer of frosting over a cake – it gives it a nice smooth finish. A frigid, icy heart would be a bad thing for a person, but for a planet it’s just plain cool.
It’s no secret I’m a space lover. If you follow we on Facebook and Twitter you know that half my posts are about space. Lots of kids love space, too. There are oodles of lists of space picture books. There are even whole lists of Pluto picture books. While picture books aren’t just for little kids, older kids crave more. More information, more depth, more excitement. There are lots of great books for the 4th-8th graders but there aren’t many lists to help you find them. This post goes out to my fellow space-lovers just looking for a good book to read.
These books are my top picks for 4th-8th graders. I love a true story told well. All of these books are nonfiction but most are written as engaging stories, rather than textbooks. They’ll let you experience what it’s like to roam the red planet, Mars, or sit on Earth sweating bullets when things go wrong far out in space.
The tale of the Mars Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, two rovers that were only supposed to work for a couple of months but kept going for years. (Mighty, indeed.) Along the way they taught us a lot about Mars and about problem solving.
Buzz Aldrin wasn’t just the second man on the moon, he’s also a space researcher who is helping to plan the first mission to put people on Mars. This book will tell you all about what it will be like to be one of those first few Martian pioneers.
This book is a fascinating read about black holes, quite possibly some of the coolest (and scariest) things in our universe. Black holes hold our galaxy together and have such strong gravity that they can even bend light.
Lots of books will tell you about the astronauts that went to the moon. This is the only book that tells you about the seamstresses that sewed their suits or the photographer than taught them to take those amazing photos. This book is all about the people who made it possible for the astronauts to go to the moon.