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STEM Tuesday — A River Runs Through It– Book List

Wherever rivers flow, they don’t just change the landscape — they also influence culture, economy, politics, and ecology. These 10 books highlight fascinating river systems from around the world.

 

fish splashing in a rapidly moving river

A River’s Gifts: The Mighty Elwha River Reborn by Patricia Newman, illustrated by Natasha Donovan

This inspiring book chronicles the story of the Elwha river. For thousands of years, it provided salmon which helped feed the bears, otters, and eagles. It also nourished the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, known as the Strong People located in the Pacific Northwest. But in the 1790s, all that came to a grinding halt. Strangers came to build dams, and disastrous environmental consequences ensued. The Strong People did not back down, and fought tirelessly to restore the river and their way of life. This is a must read for children to learn the value of rivers, as well as how the ecosystem is related to people, plants, and animals.

 

cover image of "Amazon Adventure"

Amazon Adventure: How Tiny Fish are Saving the World’s Largest Rainforest by Sy Montgomery, photographs by Keith Ellenbogen

This incredible book follows an expedition through the waters of Brazil’s Rio Negro, a tributary of the Amazon River that boasts a thriving tropical fish industry. Local fishermen catch tiny fish, called piaba, sell them at a market in the town of Barcelos, and ship them to aquariums all over the world. The fish trade is vital not only to the local economy and culture but also to important environmental conservation efforts. With vibrant photos on every page, this book offers an up-close look at the complex relationship between people and piaba.  

cover image of "10 Rivers that Shaped the World"

Ten Rivers That Shaped the World  by Marilee Peters, illustrated by Kim Rosen 

As the rivers of our world twist and turn, they also mold our history. Readers can take a metaphorical dive into 10 fascinating rivers that shaped our lives and learn fun facts along the way such as why people in India have gathered to bathe in the Ganges for thousands of years. The book shows readers that rivers can be extraordinarily powerful, not simply because of their fast-flowing currents, but because of their ability to make civilizations rise or crumble. Through a colorful and engaging layout, this book teaches both geography and world history.

 

 

book cover image with steamboat going down the Mississippi River

Where is the Mississippi River? by Dina Anastasio, illustrated by Ted Hammond

Part of the popular Where Is? series, this chapter book traces the history of the Mississippi River from its formation during the Ice Age into the present day. Over time, the “mighty Mississippi” has been a home for wetland wildlife, an important route for trade and military campaigns, and an inspiration for classic literature. Engineering connections are embedded into a section about flooding disasters and various efforts to design flood-prevention structures like levees and spillways.

 

 

book cover image with alligator, dragonfly, fish, and other wetland wildlife

 

Pond and River (DK Eyewitness Books) by Steve Parker

This in-depth browsable book introduces freshwater plants and animals with photo illustrations and short captions. Each page spread features a different category of organisms, from midsummer plants to waterfowl to dragonflies and damselflies.

 

 

book cover with a river landscape

Endangered Rivers: Investigating Rivers in Crisis by Rani Iyer

Around the world, river ecosystems are threatened by pollution, climate change, overfishing, and invasive species. As a result, many river species are now endangered, and many communities face shortages of clean drinking water. This short book provides a concise introduction to the problems facing rivers as well as the policies and practices that aim to provide solutions.

 

 

 

book cover with a waterfall flowing into a river and a butterfly flying above

Amazing Rivers: 100+ Waterways that Will Boggle your Mind by Julie Vosburgh Agnone, illustrated by Kerry Hyndman

A boiling river so hot you can cook an egg in it? A multicolored river that flows like a liquid rainbow? In this book, readers will go on an adventure as they tour the world, learning about 100 of the most extraordinary rivers. Along the way, they will learn about the incredible wildlife that rivers sustain, from brown bears catching salmon that swim upstream to anacondas large enough to eat a pig. They will also learn about the societies that rely on these rivers, as well as the environmental issues that threaten them along the way.

 

 

book cover featuring a sea turtle swimming through water

Going Blue: A Teen Guide to Saving Our Oceans, Lakes, Rivers & Wetlands by Cathryn Berger Kaye, M.A. and Philippe Cousteau with EarthEcho International

Written in conjunction with ocean spokesperson Philippe Cousteau, grandson of the illustrious Captain Jacques Cousteau, this call-to-action book is both interesting and commendable for its well-researched content. The book educates readers about the earth’s water crisis and gives them tangible tools and inspiration to transform their ideas into action. This includes practical suggestions they can implement today in order to benefit our planet’s water system. The content is not only theoretical but also experience based, as it shows readers of the value of community service. The book also includes many stories, interviews, and resources on the topic

 

book cover featuring a girl standing in front of a river

My River: Cleaning up the Lahave River by Stella Bowles and Anne Laurel Carter

This engaging book tells the story of Stella Bowles, a sixth grade Nova Scotia student who became an environmental activist. She focused her science fair project on her campaign against sewage pipes draining straight into the LaHave River. She doggedly advocated for all three levels of government (municipal, provincial, and federal) to step up and do something about the issue, and after fighting for two and a half years, she succeeded in rallying supporters into funding a $15.7 million cleanup. This is an excellent book about not only environmental activism but also having the courage to stand up and speak out when you see something that isn’t right.

 

cover image of "Great Rivers of the World"

Great Rivers of the World by Volker Mehnert, illustrated by Martin Haake

This gorgeous atlas travels down 17 rivers in six continents, from the Rhine in Europe to the Murray in Australia. Each river is introduced with a full-page map, a short narrative, and  fascinating facts about its history and ecology. With eye-popping icons of landmarks, animals, plants, and people, readers will always find more to discover and explore.

 

 

 

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This month’s STEM Tuesday book list was prepared by:

Author Lydia Lukidis

Lydia Lukidis is the author of 50+ trade and educational books for children. Her titles include DEEP, DEEP, DOWN: The Secret Underwater Poetry of the Mariana Trench (Capstone, 2023) and THE BROKEN BEES’ NEST (Kane Press, 2019) which was nominated for a Cybils Award. A science enthusiast from a young age, she now incorporates her studies in science and her everlasting curiosity into her books. Another passion of hers is fostering a love for children’s literacy through the writing workshops she regularly offers in elementary schools across Quebec with the Culture in the Schools program. For more information, please visit www.lydialukidis.com.

 

 

 

Callie Dean

 

Callie Dean is a researcher, writer, and musician living in Shreveport, LA. She writes stories that spark curiosity and encourage kids to explore their world. Follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/CallieBDean.

A Case for New Beginnings

Writing Excuses is in its 17th season!

For years now I’ve listened to a podcast called Writing Excuses. It’s a show that focuses mainly on writing technique, and it’s hosted by a plethora of veteran authors, one of whom is the very talented Brandon Sanderson. A few seasons back, Brandon made a comment about deleting the early chapters of a manuscript and rewriting them completely (in fact, Brandon talks about this often and even includes many of the deleted scenes on his website).

As a writer who barely scrapes together enough time to write a first draft at all, the idea of deleting entire chapters was (okay…is) pretty terrifying. All that work, all that setup, all those precious words just…gone. 

I have beginnings on the brain this month largely because I’m a middle school teacher, and September is a month of beginnings. New classes, new students, new Spongebob Squarepants socks. As I think about it now, there have definitely been school years that could’ve used a better introductory chapter. Life, of course, doesn’t allow us to delete and redraft, but as a writing technique this is something I’m warming up to.

Maybe you’re like me — balking at the thought of trashing entire sections of a manuscript. With that in mind, I’d like to make a case for new beginnings by highlighting a few authors who aren’t shy about laying their work on the chopping block.

The 10% Rule

In his book, On Writing, Stephen King recalls early advice from an editor that suggested his second draft should be 10% shorter than the first. The idea that much of editing is deleting transformed King’s writing and helped propel him to the success he has today. Writer and editor Erin Whalen digs into the details of this strategy on her blog, and it’s definitely worth a look.

Short Chapters

Another wildly successful author who’s recently branched out to middle grade is James Patterson. In countless interviews and articles about his craft, Patterson’s notoriously short chapters are often highlighted and pondered. So much of what gives Patterson’s books the punch and the pace they have is his willingness to sometimes say as little as possible. The underlying mantra here is not too dissimilar from my own mindset when I have to stop by a fellow teacher’s classroom on my way out at the end of the day — get in, get to the point, and get out!

 

Murder Your Darlings

This is perhaps one of the most well-known ideas where writing and editing is concerned, but just to be clear, no one is advocating for actual murder here. The phrase, which has taken various forms and been attributed to several different authors (William Faulkner among the most famous of them), centers on the idea that sometimes deleting the things most precious to us is the best way to advance a story. There are, of course, exceptions to this rule (Margery Bayne at the writing cooperative does a great job unpacking this idea more fully), but the takeaway for me, both as a writer and as a human, is to edit objectively. Getting swept up in the emotion of something is a surefire way to keep stuff around that probably needs to go, whether it’s chapters in a manuscript, junk in the attic, or toxic people in my life (but just to reiterate, actual murder is bad).  

The writing graveyard isn’t as scary as it sounds!

Whether you’re writing a new book or just starting a new season in life, a willingness to remove the unnecessary and even start over entirely is profoundly helpful. I’ve already got a few chapters in my new manuscript that need to go, and thanks to techniques like the writing graveyard, I don’t necessarily have to toss anything permanently (though I suspect some of it should definitely be tossed permanently). 

Best of luck as you embark on new beginnings this fall, and feel free to drop other editing strategies in the comments. Happy writing!

New Releases: September 2022

It’s back to school season . . . and back to the school library too! Which books will be filling those shelves? Maybe some of these great new middle grade releases. Here are a few to check out, releasing this month. Happy back-to-school reading!

How to Find What You’re Not Looking For by Veera Hiranandani

Releases September 13 from Kokila

Twelve-year-old Ariel Goldberg’s life feels like the moment after the final guest leaves the party. Her family’s Jewish bakery runs into financial trouble, and her older sister has eloped with a young man from India following the Supreme Court decision that strikes down laws banning interracial marriage. As change becomes Ariel’s only constant, she’s left to hone something that will be with her always–her own voice.

 

 

 

Adventuregame Comics: Leviathan by Jason Shiga

Releases September 13 by Amulet Books

Adventuregame Comics is a new series of interactive graphic novels in the vein of Jason Shiga’s hit graphic novel Meanwhile. Readers follow the story from panel to panel using tubes that connect them, and sometimes the path will split, giving readers the chance to choose how the story unfolds.

Leviathan is set in a medieval coastal village, where residents live in fear of a giant sea creature. Your goal as a reader is simple: defeat the Leviathan! As you wander through the open world, the town’s backstory is revealed. You can attempt to visit the library to try and learn why the Leviathan destroyed it years ago. You can stop by the castle to discover the town was once riddled with crime and theft—and how that’s stopped as the Leviathan will wreak havoc on the town for the smallest misdeeds. If you’re lucky, you may find your way to the old wizard who may possess the one thing that could keep the Leviathan at bay. But not everything is as it appears in this village. Can you discover the secrets and stop the Leviathan before it’s too late?

 

The Midnight Brigade by Adam Borba

Releases September 13 from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Carl Chesterfield wishes he could speak up—whether that means being honest with his father about the family’s new (and failing) food truck, reaching out to a potential friend, or alerting others to the fact that monsters might be secretly overrunning his hometown of Pittsburgh. There’s plenty to fret over. And plenty to question.

When a flyer about a mysterious monster-seeking group called the Midnight Brigade catches his eye, Carl sees an opportunity to find answers. Little does he know, his curiosity will lead him to find an incredible discovery under one of his city’s magnificent bridges and to be bolder than he ever imagined. Chock-full of humor and heart, this is the quirky tale of three unexpected friends and the crankiest troll with a heart of gold.

 

Meet Me Halfway by Anika Fajardo

Releases September 13 from Simon & Schuster

Meet Me Halfway is the story of seventh-graders Mattie Gomez and Mercedes Miller. Despite looking alike, they have nothing in common, and finding out that they’re half-sisters, doesn’t help them get along. But when they discover that their Colombian father—whom neither has met—is a visiting professor at a nearby college, they have to figure out how to work together as they embark on a road trip/adventure to find him.

 

 

 

 

Duet: Our Journey in Song with the Northern Mockingbird by Phillip Hoose

Releases September 13 from Farrar, Straus and Giroux

The Northern mockingbird’s brilliant song―a loud, bright, liquid sampling of musical notes and phrases―has made it a beloved companion and the official bird of five states. Many of our favorite songs and poems feature mockingbirds. Mockingbirds have been companions to humans for centuries. Many Native American myths and legends feature mockingbirds, often teaching humans to speak. Thomas Jefferson’s mockingbird, “Dick”, was the first White House pet. John James Audubon’s portrait of a rattlesnake raiding a mockingbird’s nest sparked outrage in the world of art. Atticus Finch’s somber warning to his children, “Remember, it’s a sin to kill a Mockingbird,” is known throughout the world. Some jazz musicians credit mockingbirds with teaching them a four-note call that says, “Break’s over.” And mockingjays―a hybrid between jabberjays and mockers―are a symbol of the rebel cause in the Hunger Games trilogy.

But in the early 1900s the mocker was plummeting toward extinction. Too many had been trapped, sold, and caged. Something had to be done. To the rescue came a powerful and determined group of women. Now, National Book Award and Newbery honor-winner Phillip Hoose brings the story of the important and overlooked connection between humans and mockingbirds―past, present, and future. It is the third volume of his bird trilogy.

 

The Door of No Return by Kwame Alexander

Releases September 27 from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

11-year-old Kofi Offin dreams of water. Its mysterious, immersive quality. The rich, earthy scent of the current. The clearness, its urgent whisper that beckons with promises and secrets… Kofi has heard the call on the banks of Upper Kwanta, in the village where he lives. He loves these things above all else: his family, the fireside tales of his father’s father, a girl named Ama, and, of course, swimming. Some say he moves like a minnow, not just an ordinary boy so he’s hoping to finally prove himself in front of Ama and his friends in a swimming contest against his older, stronger cousin.

But before this can take place, a festival comes to the villages of Upper and Lower Kwanta and Kofi’s brother is chosen to represent Upper Kwanta in the wrestling contest. Encircled by cheering spectators and sounding drums, the two wrestlers from different villages kneel, ready to fight. The match is over before it has barely begun, when the unthinkable–a sudden death–occurs… As his world turns upside down, Kofi soon ends up in a fight for his life. What happens next will send him on a harrowing journey across land and sea, and away from everything he loves.

 

The Museum of Odd Body Leftovers: A Tour of Your Useless Parts, Flaws, and Other Weird Bits by Rachel Poliquin, Illustrated by Clayton Hammer

Releases September 27 from Greystone Kids

Did you know your amazing, incredible body is a walking, talking museum of evolution? In The Museum of Odd Body Leftovers, tour guides Wisdom Tooth and Disappearing Kidney lead readers through a wacky museum dedicated to vestigial structures: body parts that were essential to our ancestors but are no longer useful to us—even though they’re still hanging around.

From goosebumps and hiccups to exploding organs and monkey muscles, each room in the museum shows us that these parts have stories to tell us about our past. By the time we make it to the gift shop, we’ll understand that evolution is not only messy and imperfect, but also ongoing. Our bodies are constantly changing along with the environment we live in—and there’s so much that is still unknown, just waiting to be discovered.

 

Cuba in My Pocket by Adrianna Cuevas

Releases September 20 from Square Fish

When the failed Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961 solidifies Castro’s power in Cuba, twelve-year-old Cumba’s family makes the difficult decision to send him to Florida alone. Faced with the prospect of living in another country by himself, Cumba tries to remember the sound of his father’s clarinet, the smell of his mother’s lavender perfume.

Life in the United States presents a whole new set of challenges. Lost in a sea of English speakers, Cumba has to navigate a new city, a new school, and new freedom all on his own. With each day, Cumba feels more confident in his new surroundings, but he continues to wonder: Will his family ever be whole again? Or will they remain just out of reach, ninety miles across the sea?

Detector Dogs, Dynamite Dolphins, and More Animals with Super Sensory Powers by Cara Giaimo, Illustrated by Daniel Duncan

Releases September 20 from MIT Kids Press

Fly alongside a photo-delivery pigeon, discover a honeybee’s electric secrets, and sail the high seas with a poop-sniffing dog detective on a mission to save endangered killer whales. All of these animals use their super senses, from echolocation to electroreception, to help human coworkers tackle real-world problems like pollution and global warming. Each chapter introduces a different animal, such as Cynthia, the pipe-fixing ferret, and Rosita, a goat who helps prevent wildfires. With bright and entertaining text alongside colorful photos and illustrations, this book examines how each animal’s behavior and biology makes it perfectly suited for the job it does. At the end of each chapter, curious young scientists are invited to explore their own human senses through fun guided experiments.

 

Iveliz Explains It All by Andrea Beatriz Arango, Illustrated by Alyssa Bermudez 

Releases September 13 from Random House Books for Young Readers

Seventh grade is going to be Iveliz’s year. She’s going to make a new friend, help her abuela Mimi get settled after moving from Puerto Rico, and she is not going to get into any more trouble at school. . . .Except is that what happens? Of course not. Because no matter how hard Iveliz tries, sometimes people say things that just make her so mad. And worse, Mimi keeps saying Iveliz’s medicine is unnecessary—even though it helps Iveliz feel less sad. But how do you explain your feelings to others when you’re not even sure what’s going on yourself? Powerful and compassionate, Andrea Beatriz Arango’s debut navigates mental health, finding your voice, and discovering that those who really love you will stay by your side.