Nonfiction

STEM Tuesday — A River Runs Through It– Writing Tips & Resources

 

 

Margo here, working to keep the (A) in STE(A)M. Science purists might think the (A) is unimportant but I’m here to argue that it is Very Important. and I will present reasons why.

For instance, this month’s theme is “rivers.” This week, I have examples of books about rivers that are superior at delivering content to youngsters because of that (A). I selected these books because they are perfect examples of using (A) – creativity in BOOK DESIGN that makes the content easier to understand and enjoy. Remember the spoonful of sugar? Plus having students make their own books is the perfect way to evaluate their learning and understanding of the subject matter (more on that below).

The first book is World Without Fish by Mark Kurlansky, illustrated by Frank Stockton. Take a look at this page. The book designer has made the page speak by using color, type design, and compositional tricks. Let’s back up a bit.

In the study of art, you will find that “art” has three components: subject, form, and content. Subject is, well – what it’s about. Subject in a painting might be an apple, in a book – rivers. Content is deeper meaning – the deeper meaning of the apple might be hunger depending how the apple is portrayed. In the book, content could be environmental impact. And form refers to the physical aspects, such as medium (paint or pencil) or such observable concepts as composition and color. Book design comes under the component of form. I argue that appropriate and creative FORM enhances the subject and content. And that (A) art is an essential ingredient in STE(A)M.

In World Without Fish, the subject is of course fish. The content is what is happening to fish, the impact of fishing, and possible solutions to maintaining the oceans environmentally and economically. Now this might be exciting to read just the text, but to some students, it might not. So the publishing team has taken creativity to the form – the book and type design, the colors, the styles and size – to make a book where the content fairly jumps off the page and engages young readers with energy. It includes a comic series that appears at regular intervals throughout the book. So we have the art of “visual narrative” to further the content and engage all types of learners.

The illustrations and creative use of type all serve to draw the reader in.

 

The next book, Explore Rivers and Ponds, by Carla Mooney, illustrated by Bryan Stone, is an activity book with more examples of creative arrangement of content. The design makes the material easier to understand. It’s almost conversational. It pauses to explain vocabulary and includes activities such as ‘bark rubbing,” which looked like a great active art project for getting kids out into nature and interacting directly with the environment. It’s an activity that requires no “art” experience and can produce some great drawings.

 

 

 

 

 

One of my favorite activities with students is making books. It offers a creative and very satisfying way for students to “show off” what they have learned. Let the students try their hand at creative book design. A very friendly and ecologically conscious guide to making books with kids is Susan Kapuscinski Gaylord’s Handmade Books for A Healthy Planet. An enthusiastic environmental artist, she offers many ideas for book projects. Visit her website for many free activities or visit her YouTube channel. https://www.youtube.com/user/skgaylord.

 

A project I did with university students requires publishing software skills, but it’s a great project that combines research, writing, collaboration, proper citing of sources, and, of course, art, and can be scaled down for younger children. I partnered with Dr, Esther Pearson, a member of the Echota Cherokee Tribe and we produced a coloring book called “Native American Lore.” The students did the research and artwork and had the satisfaction of seeing their work in print. We presented it at an educational symposium and proceeds are donated to a non-profit that provides school expenses for the children of migrant workers in Veracruz, Mexico. The students had an amazing sense of accomplishment to see their research and artwork out in the world. This would be great for science topics and promote teamwork and cooperation. You can still find our book on Amazon.

 

 

 

 

Please don’t think because you are not an artist, you can’t work (A) into STEM projects. You will find your students have a good sense of art and many will be delighted to help plan. There are plenty of resources such as Susan Kapuscinski Gaylord’s book, and you may find you have more (A) in you than you realize.

 

Books can be found here:

World Without Fish by Mark Kurlansky, Frank Stockton (Illustrator) ISBN-13: 9780761185000, Publisher: Workman Publishing Company. https://bookshop.org/books?keywords=9780761185000

Explore Rivers and Ponds! Carla Mooney (Author) Bryan Stone (Illustrator) 9781936749805. Nomad Press (VT) https://bookshop.org/books/explore-rivers-and-ponds/9781936749805

Handmade Books for a Healthy Planet – Sixteen Earth-Friendly Projects From Around The World, Susan Kapuscinski Gaylord, ISBN-10: 0984231900, makingbooks.com. https://www.susangaylord.com/store/p7/Handmade_Books_For_A_Healthy_Planet.html

Native American Lore An Educational Coloring Book: Class Research Project Paperback – November 5, 2018 by Dr. Esther Pearson (Author), Margo Lemieux (Author), Riverside Studios Publishing, ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1731183933 . https://www.amazon.com/Native-American-Lore-Educational-Coloring/dp/1731183933/ref=sr_1_1?crid=2N6YKOA8ZYDBD&keywords=Native+American+lore+lemieux&qid=1662756358&sprefix=native+american+lore+lemieux%2Caps%2C94&sr=8-1

Kaleidoscope for Kids https://www.amazon.com/Kaleidoscope-Kids-Magic-Storymakers-Present/dp/B0B3S1Y4XN/ref=sr_1_1?crid=2PBZG4RAZRH13&keywords=Kaleidoscope+for+Kids+book&qid=1662989345&sprefix=kaleidoscope+for+kids+book%2Caps%2C111&sr=8-1

 

 

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Margo Lemieux is professor emerita at Lasell University, former regional advisor for SCBWI New England, and a lifelong learner. Her publishing credits include picture books, poetry, articles, and illustration. Her latest publishing project is an anthology with her writers’ group, the Magic Storymakers, titled Kaleidoscope for Kids.

 

 

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.

New Releases for May 2022!

May brings a bounty of new middle grade books, fiction and nonfiction, covering many different perspectives and cross-cultural voices. Here is just a sampling of what’s new this month.


José and the Pirate Captain Toledano

by Arnon Z. Shorr (Author) Joshua M. Edelglass (Illustrator)

Set in the shadows of the Spanish Inquisition, this is the coming-of-age story of José Alfaro, a young refugee who forms a powerful bond with the mysterious Pirate Captain Toledano. It’s also a dynamic pirate adventure on the high seas, with hand-to-hand combat and ship-to-ship action, and the powerful story of a dark time in history when people took different paths to survive.

 

 

 


Rise of the School for Good and Evil

by Soman Chainani

The battle between Good and Evil begins. Two brothers. One Good. One Evil. Together they watch over the Endless Woods. Together they choose the students for the School for Good and Evil. Together they train them, teach them, prepare them for their fate. Then, something happens. Something unexpected. Something powerful. Something that will change everything and everyone. Who will survive? Who will rule the School? The journey starts here. Every step is filled with magic, surprises, and daring deeds that test courage, loyalty, and who you really are. But they only lead you to the very beginning of the adventures that are THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL.

 

 


The Lion of Mars

by Jennifer L. Holm

Life on Mars is pretty standard…. until a mysterious virus hits.  Don’t miss this timely and unputdownable novel from the bestselling author of The Fourteenth Goldfish.
Bell has spent his whole life–all eleven years of it–on Mars. But he’s still just a regular kid–he loves cats and any kind of cake, and is curious about the secrets the adults in the US colony are keeping. Like, why don’t they have contact with anyone on the other Mars colonies? Why are they so isolated? When a virus breaks out and the grown-ups all fall ill, Bell and the other children are the only ones who can help. It’s up to Bell–a regular kid in a very different world–to uncover the truth and save his family…and possibly unite an entire planet.

Small Town Pride

by Phil Stamper

Jake is just starting to enjoy life as his school’s first openly gay kid. While his family and friends are accepting and supportive, the same can’t be said about everyone in their small town of Barton Springs, Ohio.When Jake’s dad hangs a comically large pride flag in their front yard in an overblown show of love, the mayor begins to receive complaints. A few people are even concerned the flag will lead to something truly outlandish: a pride parade.

Except Jake doesn’t think that’s a ridiculous idea. Why can’t they hold a pride festival in Barton Springs? The problem is, Jake knows he’ll have to get approval from the town council, and the mayor won’t be on his side. And as Jake and his friends try to find a way to bring Pride to Barton Springs, it seems suspicious that the mayor’s son, Brett, suddenly wants to spend time with Jake. But someone that cute couldn’t possibly be in league with his mayoral mother, could he?

 


Kings of B’more

by R. Eric Thomas

Two Black queer best friends face their last day together with an epic journey through Baltimore in this magnetic YA debut by bestselling author of Here for It R. Eric Thomas. With junior year starting in the fall, Harrison feels like he’s on the precipice of, well, everything. Standardized testing, college, and the terrifying unknowns and looming pressures of adulthood after that—it’s like the future wants to eat him alive. Which is why Harrison is grateful that he and his best friend, Linus, will face these things together. But at the end of a shift at their summer job, Linus invites Harrison to their special spot overlooking the city to deliver devastating news: He’s moving out of state at the end of the week.

To keep from completely losing it—and partially inspired by a cheesy movie-night pick by his Dad—Harrison plans a send-off à la Ferris Bueller’s Day Off that’s worthy of his favorite person. If they won’t be having all the life-expanding experiences they thought they would, Harrison will squeeze them all into their last day together. They end up on a mini road trip, their first Pride, and a rooftop dance party, all while keeping their respective parents, who track them on a family location app, off their trail. Harrison and Linus make a pact to do all the things—big and small—they’ve been too scared to do. But nothing feels scarier than saying goodbye to someone you love.

 


Singing with Elephants

by Margarita Engle

A powerful novel in verse from Newbery and Pura Belpré Award-winning author Margarita Engle about the friendship between a young girl and the poet Gabriela Mistral that leads to healing and hope for both of them. Cuban-born eleven-year-old Oriol lives in Santa Barbara, California, where she struggles to belong. But most of the time that’s okay, because she enjoys helping her parents care for the many injured animals at their veterinary clinic. Then Gabriela Mistral, the first Latin American winner of a Nobel Prize in Literature, moves to town, and aspiring writer Oriol finds herself opening up. As she begins to create a world of words for herself, Oriol learns it will take courage to stay true to herself and do what she thinks is right–attempting to rescue a baby elephant in need–even if it means keeping secrets from those she loves. A beautifully written, lyrically told story about the power of friendship– between generations, between humans and animals–and the potential of poetry to inspire action and acceptance.

 


This Is My America

by Kim Johnson

The Hate U Give meets Just Mercy in this unflinching yet uplifting first novel that explores the racist injustices in the American justice system. Every week, seventeen-year-old Tracy Beaumont writes letters to Innocence X, asking the organization to help her father, an innocent Black man on death row. After seven years, Tracy is running out of time–her dad has only 267 days left. Then the unthinkable happens. The police arrive in the night, and Tracy’s older brother, Jamal, goes from being a bright, promising track star to a “thug” on the run, accused of killing a white girl. Determined to save her brother, Tracy investigates what really happened between Jamal and Angela down at the Pike. But will Tracy and her family survive the uncovering of the skeletons of their Texas town’s racist history that still haunt the present?

 


History Comics: The National Parks: Preserving America’s Wild Places

by Falynn Koch

In this volume, turn back the clock to 1872, when Congress established Yellowstone National Park as an area of unspoiled beauty for the benefit and enjoyment of the people. Meet the visionaries, artists, and lovers of the American wilderness who fought against corruption and self-interest to carve out and protect these spaces for future generations. See for yourself how the idea of National Parks began, how they’ve changed, and how they continue to define America.

 


Made in Korea

by Sarah Suk

Frankly in Love meets Shark Tank in this feel-good romantic comedy about two entrepreneurial Korean American teens who butt heads–and maybe fall in love–while running competing Korean beauty businesses at their high school.

There’s nothing Valerie Kwon loves more than making a good sale. Together with her cousin Charlie, they run V&C K-BEAUTY, their school’s most successful student-run enterprise. With each sale, Valerie gets closer to taking her beloved and adventurous halmeoni to her dream city, Paris.

Enter the new kid in class, Wes Jung, who is determined to pursue music after graduation despite his parents’ major disapproval. When his classmates clamor to buy the K-pop branded beauty products his mom gave him to “make new friends,” he sees an opportunity–one that may be the key to help him pay for the music school tuition he knows his parents won’t cover… What he doesn’t realize, though, is that he is now V&C K-BEAUTY’s biggest competitor.Stakes are high as Valerie and Wes try to outsell each other, make the most money, and take the throne for the best business in school–all while trying to resist the undeniable spark that’s crackling between them. From hiring spies to all-or-nothing bets, the competition is much more than either of them bargained for. But one thing is clear: only one Korean business can come out on top.

 


The Peach Rebellion

by Wendelin Van Draanen 

From the author of The Running Dream comes a heart-swelling historical tale of friendship, family, and the power of sisterhood to help heal the wounds of the past and step boldly into the future.

Ginny Rose and Peggy were best friends at seven, picking peaches on hot summer days. Peggy’s family owned the farm, and Ginny Rose’s were pickers, escaping the Oklahoma dust storms. That didn’t matter to them then, but now, ten years, hard miles, and a world war later, Ginny Rose’s family is back in town and their differences feel somehow starker. Especially since Peggy’s new best friend, Lisette, is a wealthy banker’s daughter. Still, there’s no denying what all three girls have in common: Families with great fissures that are about to break wide open. And a determination to not just accept things as they are anymore. This summer they will each make a stand. It’s a season of secrets revealed. Of daring plans to heal old wounds. Of hearts won and hearts broken. A summer when everything changes because you’re seventeen, and it’s time to be bold. And because it’s easier to be brave with a true friend by your side.

 


Land of the Cranes

by Aida Salazar

From the prolific author of The Moon Within comes the heart-wrenchingly beautiful story in verse of a young Latinx girl who learns to hold on to hope and love even in the darkest of places: a family detention center for migrants and refugees.

Nine-year-old Betita knows she is a crane. Papi has told her the story, even before her family fled to Los Angeles to seek refuge from cartel wars in Mexico. The Aztecs came from a place called Aztlan, what is now the Southwest US, called the land of the cranes. They left Aztlan to establish their great city in the center of the universe-Tenochtitlan, modern-day Mexico City. It was prophesized that their people would one day return to live among the cranes in their promised land. Papi tells Betita that they are cranes that have come home.

Then one day, Betita’s beloved father is arrested by Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) and deported to Mexico. Betita and her pregnant mother are left behind on their own, but soon they too are detained and must learn to survive in a family detention camp outside of Los Angeles. Even in cruel and inhumane conditions, Betita finds heart in her own poetry and in the community she and her mother find in the camp. The voices of her fellow asylum seekers fly above the hatred keeping them caged, but each day threatens to tear them down lower than they ever thought they could be. Will Betita and her family ever be whole again?

 


 

Hope you enjoy these and the many other middle grade books releasing in May! Happy reading . . .