Common Core & NGSS

I’ll Take a Little Science with my Fiction, Please

I have a confession. I’m a huge science geek!  That’s probably why I write nonfiction books– mostly about science and engineering.  But I also like to read  fiction, too.   Even though I tend towards high stake action- adventure, mystery, humorous, and even a little fanasty on occasion, I sometimes miss seeing the science in those books.

So I have to say that I have been delighted to see the trend of science creeping into fiction books lately.  Here are a few good ones that you might want to check out if you are into science, too. These books will surely help you “get your geek on”!

 

The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm
Believe in the possible . . . with this “warm, witty, and wise” novel from “New York Times” bestseller, three-time Newbery Honor winner Jennifer L. Holm
Galileo. Newton. Salk. Oppenheimer.
Science can change the world . . . but can it go too far?
Eleven-year-old Ellie has never liked change. She misses fifth grade. She misses her old best friend. She even misses her dearly departed goldfish. Then one day a strange boy shows up. He’s bossy. He’s cranky. And weirdly enough . . . he looks a lot like Ellie’s grandfather, a scientist who’s always been slightly obsessed with immortality. Could this pimply boy really be Grandpa Melvin? Has he finally found the secret to eternal youth?
With a lighthearted touch and plenty of humor, Jennifer Holm celebrates the wonder of science and explores fascinating questions about life and death, family and friendship, immortality . . . and possibility.

 

 

Wake Up Missing  by Kate Messner

Four kids . . . Two weeks in the Florida Everglades . . . One top-secret science experiment that could change them “and “the world as they know it . . . Meet Quentin, a middle-school football star from Chicago; Sarah, a hockey player from Upstate New York; Ben, a horse lover from the Pacific Northwest; and Cat, an artistic bird watcher from California.The four have little in common except the head injuries that landed them in an elite brain-science center in the wild swamps of Florida. It’s known as the best clinic in the world and promises to return their lives to normal, but as days pass, the kids begin to notice strange side effects and unexplained changes.

 

Frank Einstein and the Anti- Motor Motor by Jon Scieszka 


Frank Einstein loves figuring out how the world works by creating household contraptions that are part science, part imagination, and definitely unusual. After an uneventful experiment in his garage-lab, a lightning storm and flash of electricity bring Frank’s inventions—the robots Klink and Klank—to life! Not exactly the ideal lab partners, the wisecracking Klink and the overly expressive Klank nonetheless help Frank attempt to perfect his Antimatter Motor . . . until Frank’s archnemesis, T. Edison, steals Klink and Klank for his evil doomsday plan! Using real science, Jon Scieszka has created a unique world of adventure and science fiction—an irresistible chemical reaction for middle-grade readers.

 Edison’s Gold by Geoff  Watson

Solving a centuries-old family mystery is Tom Edison’s only hope to stop his family from moving to Kansas. His famous name­sake and great-great-grandfather, Thomas Edison, had discovered the secret formula for changing metal into gold, and now Tom and his friends are on a whirlwind adventure to find the key to this monumental discovery. But can the three friends uncover Edison’s secret formula in time and escape the clutches of an evil billionaire?

Full of gadgetry, historical rivalries, secret societies, and bad guys galore, Geoff Watson’s Edison’s Gold is a thrilling adventure for middle-grade readers.

 

 

E ye of the Storm by Kate Messner

In the not-too-distant future, huge tornadoes and monster storms have become a part of everyday life. Sent to spend the summer in the heart of storm country with her meteorological engineer father, Jaden Meggs is surprised at the strides her father’s company StormSafe, has made with custom shelters that keep her family safe in even the worst of storms. At her exclusive summer science camp, Eye On Tomorrow, Jaden meets Alex, a boy whose passion for science matches hers. Together, they discover that her father’s company is steering storms away from the expensive neighborhoods and toward the organic farming communities that are in competition with his bio-engineered food company, NatureMade. Jaden must confront her father, but when she does, she uncovers a terrifying family secret and must call on both her scientific knowledge and her faith to save the people she loves most from one of her father’s monster storms.

Brendan Buckley’s 6th grade Experment by  Sundee T. Fraizer

Brendan Buckley is headed to middle school on a whole new adventure. When his alternative energy idea gets him paired with new girl Morgan Belcher for the national science competition, Brendan is skeptical. But their partnership clicks, and they embark on a methane-producing experiment involving bottles, balloons, and the freshest cow manure they can find.
As Brendan spends more time on the experiment, he has a lot of big questions: Does his police detective dad really think he’s a science-nerd whimp? Will he and Khalfani, his best friend and Tae Kwon Do sparring partner, remain best friends? And can Brendan prove that his scientific pursuits really “could” be world-changing?

 

 The Secret Chicken Society by  Judy Cox

When Daniel’s class hatches chicks as a science project, he adopts them. When he finds out that his favorite bird, Peepers, isn’t a hen but a rooster, and therefore illegal to keep in the city of Portland, the Secret Chicken Societyis quickly formed to save Peepers. This warmhearted chapter book about an environmentally-conscious family will provide plenty of clucks and lots of chuckles for young readers.

download (25)The Contagious Colors of Mumpley Middle School by Fowler Dewitt

Wilmer has always known that the greatest science comes from the keenest observations. So when he observes his classmates looking a little green…and orange…and chartreuse-fuchsia polka-dotted…he knows that it’s up to him to find the cause of this mysterious illness—and its cure.

But with his arch nemesis, Claudius Dill, hot on his heels; the eagle-eyed biology teacher, Mrs. Padgett, determined to thwart his plans; and a host of fluorescent classmates bouncing off the walls at increasingly dangerous speeds, can Wilmer prove he has what it takes to save the sixth grade from a colorful demise before it’s too late?

If you know of any more “science-y” middle grade fiction books, please feel free to share below. I’m sure all of us science lovers out there would be thrilled to add them to our “to be read” list!

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40891_1381959640245_1569575144_30796630_633978_nJennifer Swanson is a  self-professed science geek and the author of over 20 nonfiction books for kids. You can find her at her website at www.JenniferSwansonBooks.com

 

The Original Earth Day

2Tomorrow (March 21) is the original Earth Day. So how did April end up becoming Earth Month? I asked an expert on the environment, middle-grade author Bonnie J. Doerr, to tell us the story. Along the way, she highlights great books about the environment, so you may want to pick up copies now for your April Earth Day celebrations. And don’t forget to add Bonnie’s titles, Island Sting and Stakeout, two eco-mysteries about endangered animals.

Island StingStakeout

Read Green. Bee green.

By Bonnie J. Doerr

The origin of Earth Day is both interesting and surprising. The man who inspired Earth Day’s first official day of recognition built a plastic production factory. Seriously—plastics. But John McConnell (March 22, 1915 – October 20, 2012), was also a man with vision. In 1939, his laboratory work aroused his interest in ecology and conservation. He recognized, to protect the earth, humans would need to find ways to use the waste products from manufacturing. McConnell ultimately inspired the United Nations to proclaim March 21, 1970, the first day of spring in the northern hemisphere, as a day to honor the Earth.

One month after this day, a different day spearheaded by Senator Gaylord Nelson (June 4, 1916 – July 3, 2005), was celebrated. The first Earth Day teach-ins were held on April 22, 1970. Programs were held at schools, universities, and in communities all across the United States. For his work, Senator Nelson was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

In 1990, Denis Hayes (August 29, 1944–), who helped Senator Nelson establish the Earth Day celebrations in the United States, was tasked with launching a worldwide movement. More than 190 countries now organize Earth Day events to encourage people to help protect the environment.

last childAlthough Earth Day celebrations have expanded around the world, some believe the need to make children aware of environmental problems is greater than ever. With our fast-growing cities and technology, there is a greater separation between children and nature than ever before—a separation Richard Louv in Last Child in the Woods defines as “nature deficit disorder.” Louv argues that “this separation produces adults who don’t personally interact with nature, don’t understand the importance of our connection with it, and therefore are unlikely to care much about it.” It’s up to us as authors, parents, and educators to find ways to encourage that appreciation.

We can initiate this encouragement through books. One of the best things about reading is that it’s not weather dependent! The list of entertaining and/or meaty titles is endless, but let’s look at some I’ve found to be tasty appetizers, beginning with reference titles.

sharing natureEven if there’s no time to read the entire book, I highly recommend Last Child in the Woods. This enlightening adult title includes ways to reconnect to nature no matter your age or location. Skim through it and see if you agree.
Two classics by Joseph Cornell that parents and other educators find valuable are Sharing Nature with Children and Sharing Nature with Children II. These titles provide ideas on how to increase enjoyment and appreciation of nature in children and adults.

Green TeenTo suggest fun and creative ways for youth to live a more green life all year, try The Green Teen: The Eco-Friendly Teen’s Guide to Saving the Planet by Jenn Savedge and Generation Green by Linda and Tosh Sivertsen.
I have a tendency to get wrapped up in shiny book covers. So before that happens to you, here are three terrific links to help you find environmentally focused books, both fiction, and nonfiction.Generation Green

If you’re not yet familiar with the Authors for Earth Day organization, now is the perfect time to get to know this amazing group. Everything you need to know about them can be found at their website.They have a recommended list of middle grade and teen fiction on the environment.

The Children and Nature Network suggests books for adults and children.
Each year, the Green Earth Book Awards are presented to books that best use the power of story to teach children about our natural environment and the responsibility we all have to protect it. (Just a note: Bonnie’s book Stakeout was Green Earth Book Award finalist in 2012.)
Milkweed GuidesIt would be a disservice if I did not mention a series of unique literary field guides published by Milkweed Editions. These books travel the United States by region combining social studies and literature through stories, poetry, and essays that tell what makes each area distinct.
Adventure novels with tweens and young teens as environmental heroes are good reads any time. A virtual experience with nature may initiate interest in a real outdoor encounter.
talking earthThe late Jean Craighead George remains a favorite author who provided such experiences. She said it well in her preface to My Side of the Mountain, “Be you writer or reader, it is very pleasant to run away in a book.” A lesser known of her titles about a Seminole girl’s solo journey into the Everglades is The Talking Earth. ALA Booklist says of it, “…the story’s message that the earth is precious and we are all part of it will be well taken.”
SkinkAny young reader novel by Carl Hiaasen is a winner, though his latest, Skink No Surrender, is one of my favorites, perhaps because he’s finally put the ex-governor of Florida— Clinton Tyree (Skink) who is a fierce environmentalist—in one of his children’s titles.

Sammy KeyesSammy Keyes and the Wild Things pits Wendelin Van Draanen’s wonderful Sammy against a poacher of the endangered California Condors. What could go wrong combining a group of lost kids, limited supplies, an injured condor, and a dangerous poacher?
operation redwoodReaders more interested in plants than animals will enjoy S. Terrell French’s Operation Redwood, “a funny, fast-paced adventure that shows the power of determined individuals, no matter their age, to change the world.”
For those who’d rather be eco-minded without tackling the outdoors (we all know at least one, right?), I recommend Lisa Greenwald’s My Life in Pink & Green. Twelve-year-old Lucy, a whiz with makeup, finds a way to save her family’s business and help the environment, too.My Life in Pink

Before I go, I would like to share with you part of a personal message I received from Jean Craighead George when she was 90 years young and still writing: “That you were teaching ecology to youngsters will make all the difference in how we handle this ‘sixth mass extinction’ since the Ordovician Period—which we are causing, not lava flows or meteors. Since we are the cause, we can solve it with the help of people like you raising the awareness of the next generation… Bonnie, may you sell millions of copies.”

Let’s all “sell” reading to children, and let’s work together to raise the ecological awareness of millions of children!

Thank you, Bonnie, for this history of Earth Day and all your wonderful book recommendations. We can head into Earth Month prepared with lots of great reads. Oh, and don’t forget to add Bonnie’s titles to the reading list. They feature thirteen-year-old Kenzie Ryan, who starts Keys Teens Care (KTC) to protect the environment. KTC also serves as her cover as she and her friends track down poachers of endangered animals.

Island Sting

“An exciting adventure, highly recommended.” ~ Midwest Book Review

“Stakeout is a riveting read for younger readers and nature lovers.” ~ Midwest Book Reviews

“Stakeout is a riveting read for younger readers and nature lovers.” ~ Midwest Book Reviews

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GIVEAWAY

To help you celebrate Earth Day, we’re giving away an autographed copy of each book. To enter for the drawing, tweet or post a link on social media and post the link in the comments &/or leave a comment. One entry for each social media mention and comment.

**WINNERS will be announced on Friday, April 3, 2015.**

CONGRATULATIONS TO OUR WINNER: BROOKE

About Bonnie J. Doerr

A love of nature, travel, and working with children are the building blocks of Bonnie J. Doerr’s life. These passions inspire her books about teen guardians of the environment. You can find out more about Bonnie and her books at her website and on Facebook.

About Laurie J. Edwards

A former teacher and children’s librarian, Laurie J. Edwards is the author of more than 2200 magazine and educational articles as well as 20 books. Two recent titles include Cyber Self-Defense, which includes tips on combatting cyberbullying, and Grace & the Guiltless, the first in a YA series set in the Wild West. She is also an illustrator whose work appears in Stakeout and Island Sting, and in the picture book The Teeny Tiny Woman. Find out more about her and her books on her website, blog, and Facebook.