Homeschool Resource

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.

 

 

Diversity in MG Lit #36 May 2022

Here’s the roundup of some of the many diverse MG books on sale in May. Diverse titles have increased dramatically. I will be concentrating more attention on debut authors, beginnings of new series, and underrepresented elements within diverse books. As always if I’ve missed a May title, please drop a mention in the comments on this page.
cover Because of you John LewisI love a MG appropriate picture book like Because of You, John Lewis: the true story of a remarkable friendship by Andera Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Keith Henry Brown. John Lewis was a lifelong champion of justice. Unlike his companion Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, who was struck down in his prime, John Lewis went from the Civil Rights movement of his youth to a very long life of service and witness. Pinkney has chosen to highlight the friendship between King and Lewis in light of a connection Lewis made late in his life with a young activist Tybre Faw. Emphasizing the role of mentorship is a powerful choice for readers at an age to seek mentors. Back matter includes historic photographs, a timeline, additional resources, and the text of the poem “Invictus” which Tybre Faw read at Lewis’s funeral.
book cover The Wonders We SeekIslam is a much larger and more diverse faith than is often represented on the page. The collected biography– The Wonders We Seek: Thirty Incredible Muslims who helped shape the world by Saadi Faruqi & Aneesa Mumtaz, illustrated Saffa Khan –is a collection of well known Muslims who may be less known in mainstream America. The book contains a good mix of scientists, activists, artists, athletes and even a spy! It offers a useful perspective on world events. They are arranged chronologically from the scientist Al-Ma’mun of Baghdad born in the 700s to education advocate Malala Yusufzai who was born in 1997 in Pakistan.
book cover HummingbirdDepictions of disability are the least common representation in diverse books for kids. I was delighted to find
Hummingbird by Natalie Lloyd. It’s about Olive Martin, a wheelchair using middle schooler, who has brittle bone disease. This makes her highly vulnerable to fractures and limits her physical growth. Her emotional and social growth knows no such bounds as Olive navigates public school for the first time. The author Natalie Lloyd has brittle bone disease herself and based the story on some of her own experiences.
Future Hero: race to fire mountain by Remi Blackwood is the first in a series of chapter books featuring an African American boy who finds a portal to a fantastical world in his cousin’s barbershop. Regular illustrations and an inviting layout make it a good choice for readers of the Ranger In Time series and fans of the Black Panther.
Book cover Lia ParkAnd finally Jenna Yoon has a debut MG novel, Lia Park & the Missing Jewel. This twist on the child-goes-to-wizard-school story is about a girl who just wants to go to normal school and attend normal parties like any other 12 year old. But in sneaking out to the party of the year, Lia is kidnapped by evil forces. Now she has to dust off her under-appreciated wizard skills to find the jewel of power. A journey which takes her to Korea and to an undersea dragon kingdom. Delicious!
Going on sale this month are graphic novels
Swim Team: small waves big changes by Johnnie Christmas and Lowriders to the Rescue by Cathy Camper illustrated by Raúl the Third
New MG novels include
Must Love Pets: friends fur-ever by Saadia Faruqi
Shine On Luz Véliz by Rebecca Balcarcel
Last Gate of the Emperor by Kwame Mbalia & Prince JoelMakonnen
Moonflower by Kacen Callender
Small Town Pride by Phil Stamper
The Secret Battle of Evan Pao by Wendy Wan-Long Shang

Steve Jenkins’ Books: a Middle-Grader’s Treasure

Author/Illustrator Steve Jenkins’ recent and sudden death surprised and saddened fans of his informative, engaging books about animals and the natural world

Now is a good time to celebrate and enjoy the many books we have by him (they never go out of print) and to share them with young readers. I’ll speak of Steve here in the present tense, because he is still very much alive in his books, and there are more to come!

Steve Jenkins’ career and  books combine in marvelous ways his life-long love and understanding of science, of art, and of children, how they think and wonder. He’s never lost his playfulness or his own childhood curiosity about the natural world. His book ideas often begin with an irresistible question that kids (including his own) have asked.  Or one that he has asked himself. How do different animals see? What do animals do on their first day? What animals are the stinkiest? What are tails actually for?

A great place to start reading or re-reading Jenkins is with The Animal Book: A Collection of the Fastest, Fiercest,Toughest,Cleverest, Shyest–and Most Surprising–Animals on Earth. Imagine a 208-page picture book! The Animal Book is a kind of Steve Jenkins compendium and masterwork. It combines hundreds of his stunning cut-and-torn paper collage images of animals–living, endangered, and extinct. His illustrations are so lively you expect to feel their texture when you touch the flat page. Facts in his clear language, both basic and believe-it-or-not, accompany these stunning animal portraits.

Jenkins expected The Animal Book to be one a reader could browse in, starting anywhere. But he has also organized it in a progression of themes and subtopics–from a definition of animal to family relationships, senses and defenses, to an outline of animal evolution in “Story of Life.” Jenkins always strives to lead his readers to an understanding of how the world works and how these facts fit into a larger picture. The time-lines and other infographics in the book are beautifully clear.  His seamless book design makes the topics and their subtopics easy to follow.

A real treasure comes as an extra at the end of the book.  In a section simply called “Making Books,” he shows readers how he gets his ideas and  how he does his research.

Photo by Kevin Moloney, NYT

Then he takes us into his studio, with his collection of textured papers filling color-coded drawers. We learn how he selects just the right paper to cut or tear for a jaguar’s fur or a toad’s belly, a terror-bird’s beak or a rhino’s hide.  He also includes a graphic timeline of bookmaking from idea to finished publication. This book belongs on every public, school, and home library bookshelf.

So what are the new titles  from Steve and his wife and collaborator Robin Page that we can look forward to in 2022? One of them obviously began with a question. The Animal Toolkit: How Animals Use Tools explores some surprising ways we’re discovering that animals solve problems and interact with the world.  Disasters by the Numbers came out this month, and there will be two more By the Numbers titles this year. The series has included Earth by the Numbers, Dinosaurs by the Numbers, Insects by the Numbers, and Solar System by the Numbers. These books are chock-full of accessible infographics and are a middle-grade trivia buff’s gold mine. The 2022 additions will be One Day by the Numbers and Animal Facts by the Numbers.

Steve Jenkins has always had great, serious fun deepening his knowledge of animals and the natural world. His readers will, too. When you buy a Jenkins book for a child–or for yourself–get the hardback version if you can. His books are keepers.