Posts Tagged book clubs

STEM Tuesday — Pets! — Book List



Pretty soon we will be entering the “dog days” of summer, so why not let our STEM Tuesday blog reflect our love of dogs and other pets this month?

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit Support Independent Bookstores - Visit Dog Science Unleashed and Cat Science Unleashed by Jodi Wheeler-Toppen

These two titles offer readers fun science-based activities and experiments to do with their pets based on how the animals think, move, drink, and more.



Support Independent Bookstores - Visit Mercy: The Incredible Story of Henry Bergh by Nancy Furstinger, illustrated by Vincent Desjardin

This biography about the founder of the ASPCA demonstrates how one person can make a difference in the world. His work led to the acceptance of the protection of animals.


Support Independent Bookstores - Visit Support Independent Bookstores - Visit How to Speak Cat and How to Speak Dog by Aline Newman and Gary Weitzman, DVM

Why do cats purr? Why do dogs wag their tails? These two titles will help readers understand what their cats or dogs are trying to communicate with their body language and behavior.


Support Independent Bookstores - Visit Dog Days of History: The Incredible Story of Our Best Friends by Sarah Albee

Delve into the history of our lives with our beloved canines with this book filled with interesting tidbits of historical pet facts.



Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgEverything Dogs: All the Canine Facts, Photos, and Fun You Can Get Your Paws On!  by Becky Bains

Examine everything about dogs in this great resource book. Readers will explore breeds, history, and more to discover what makes dogs our “best friends.”


Support Independent Bookstores - Visit Sniffer Dogs: How Dogs (and Their Noses) Save the World by Nancy Castaldo

Why and how do dogs use their noses to help us in so many ways? Delve into the science and the extraordinary tales of these super sniffing canines.



Support Independent Bookstores - Visit Puppy Training for Kids: Teaching Children the Responsibilities and Joys of Puppy Care, Training, and Companionship by Colleen Pelar and Amber Johnson

This is a great book for families with a new puppy. Get training tips, advice, and more in this title for young dog owners.


Support Independent Bookstores - Visit Poop Detectives: Sniffer Dogs in the Field by Ginger Wadsworth

Discover dogs helping scientists in the field in this well-researched book about conservation canines.



Support Independent Bookstores - Visit National Geographic Kids 125 True Stories of Amazing Pets: Inspiring Tales of Animal Friendship and Four-legged Heroes, Plus Crazy Animal Antics by Nat Geo

A perfect book of heart-warming and hilarious stories for the animal-loving reader who may or may not have their own pet. These stories will inspire and entertain.


Support Independent Bookstores - Visit Inside of a Dog, Young Readers Edition: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know by Alexandra Horowitz, illustrated by Sean Vidal Edgerton  

This young readers edition of the popular adult nonfiction book gives children a glimpse into understanding a dog’s behavior. A great book for budding animal cognition scientists and dog trainers.


Support Independent Bookstores - Visit Finding Gobi: Young Reader’s Edition: The True Story of One Little Dog’s Big Journey by Dion Leonard and Aaron Rosenberg

An inspiring and heartfelt look at one dog’s rescue. This edition brings this fantastic story of friendship to younger readers, who will appreciate the challenges of an 80-mile race and the struggle to give Gobi a real home.


STEM Tuesday book lists prepared by

Nancy Castaldo has written books about our planet for over 20 years including, THE STORY OF SEEDS: From Mendel’s Garden to Your Plate, and How There’s More of Less To Eat Around The World, which earned the Green Earth Book Award, Junior Library Guild Selection, and other honors. Nancy’s research has taken her all over the world from the Galapagos to Russia.  She strives to inform, inspire, and empower her readers. Nancy also serves as the Regional Advisor of the Eastern NY SCBWI region. Her 2018 multi-starred title is BACK FROM THE BRINK: Saving Animals from Extinction. Visit her at  

And she is the proud mom of a rescued Bichon named Boo Radley. 

Patricia Newman writes middle-grade nonfiction that empowers young readers to act on behalf of the environment and their communities. A Sibert Honoree for Sea Otter Heroes, Newman has also received an NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Book Award for Eavesdropping on Elephants, and a Green Earth Book Award for Plastic, Ahoy! Her books have also received starred reviews, been honored as Junior Library Guild Selections, and included on Bank Street College’s Best Books lists. During author visits, she demonstrates how young readers can use writing to be the voice of change. Visit her at




STEM Tuesday– Tiny Worlds (Microscopic/Nanotech)- Book List


This month we delve into the world of the TINY… the microscopic even. Then we go even further to the world of the nanoparticle. Dive into these books and learn about the world that you can’t even see with your own eyes but is found all around you.




Tiny Creatures: The World of Microbes by Nicola Davies

This book is perfect for the curious kid who wants to know how microbes work. 

All around the world—in the sea, in the soil, in the air, and in your body—there are living things so tiny that millions could fit on an ant’s antenna. They’re busy doing all sorts of things, from giving you a cold and making yogurt to eroding mountains and helping to make the air we breathe.


It’s Catching: The Infectious World of Germs and Microbes by Jennifer Gardy 

Good for readers who want to learn all about germs

Don’t be afraid to delve into the good, bad, and sometimes truly ugly world of germs. Microbiologist Jennifer Gardy, who calls herself a disease detective, picks up her microscope to bring expert insight to the microbes that are all around us but are too small to see.



Many: The Diversity of Life on Earth by Nicola Davies

A great companion book to the Tiny Creatures book above.

The more we study the world around us, the more living things we discover every day. The planet is full of millions of species of plants, birds, animals, and microbes, and every single one — including us — is part of a big, beautiful, complicated pattern.



Hidden Worlds: Looking Through a Scientist’s Microscope (Scientists in the Field Series) by Stephen Kramer

Ever wonder what you’ll find looking through a microscope? This book can help with that!

There are hidden worlds in nature—places you can visit only with a microscope. For more than twenty-five years, Dennis Kunkel has been exploring these worlds. Through the lenses of powerful microscopes, he has examined objects most people have never even thought about: a mosquito’s foot, a crystal of sugar, a grain of pollen, the delicate hairs on a blade of grass.



It’s a Fungus Among Us: The Good, the Bad & the Downright Scary by Carla Billups and Dawn Cusick

All about Fungus! Who wouldn’t want to read this book? 

In It’s a Fungus Among Us, you’ll meet the wild group of organisms that can turn ants into zombies and eat trillions of pounds of feces every day. They’re not all gross though, these are the same types of organisms that make cheese stretchy, add sour tastes to candy, and make bread rise!



Nanoparticle level 


Super Gear: Nanotechnology and Sports Team Up by Jennifer Swanson

A fun look at the science of nanotechnology and something the majority of us do every day — play sports! 

Take a close-up look at sports and nanotechnology, the cutting-edge science that manipulates objects at the atomic level. Nanotechnology is used to create high-tech swimsuits, tennis rackets, golf clubs, running shoes, and more. It is changing the face of sports as we know it.



Nanotechnology (Cutting-edge Science and Technology) by Janet Slingerland

Nanotechnology — it’s everywhere! Check out this great book to learn more! 

Examines the current status of the field of nanotechnology, including recent work and new technological developments, and discusses noted individuals and controversial issues.



Looking for a way to STEAM up the month? Take a listen to this rap about photosynthesis by Mr. D. Learn some amazing facts about the microscopic processes of how plants get energy.



Jennifer Swanson is the creator and administrator of the STEMTuesday blog. She is also the award-winning author of over 35 nonfiction books for kids. A self-professed science geek, Jennifer started a science club in her garage when she was 7 years old. While no longer working from the garage, Jennifer’s passion for science and writing is evident in her many books and also her presentations at the World Science Festival and the National Book Festival (2019). You can find Jennifer through her website,

Promoting Summer Creativity: The Historical Fiction Premise for Middle Graders

Most middle grade readers will soon have a months-long opportunity to reboot their imaginations after a busy school year. Summer is a great time to offer up creative writing activities to MG readers: through summer programs at the local library, at camps or enrichment workshops, in the homeschool activity center on a rainy day, or as a mid-summer pick-me-up when boredom starts to creep in. Many kids pursue their own writing projects when on break from school, free of classroom guidelines and assessment rubrics… but others might need an idea or two to ignite the creative fire. This post details a writing activity for middle grade readers and writers that has worked well for students in my 5th through 8th grade classes—and it can be adapted for younger or older writers as well.

Your group might include middle graders for whom the task of writing a whole tale is too daunting, along with those who would happily write an entire novel if given the chance, as well as everyone in between. Here is a plan and suggestions for kids of varying interests and language skill levels: Creating historical fiction premises.

Just a cautious word before we proceed: Kids generally don’t want to hear assignment or work while on break from school, and even activity and writing can send up flags of alarm. So take care with the pitch (story crafting, authoring, and premise design are upbeat and interest-piquing descriptions) and the stakes (no grades…no deadlines…sharing aloud is completely optional).

Step One. Explain that a premise is the idea behind a story, without the details or the actual words of the tale. Premises can take lots of shapes, such as the blurb on a paperback, or the inside jacket copy on a hardback. In a short form, writers try to sum up the premise of their story in a logline or “elevator pitch.” A tagline on a movie poster or book trailer can serve as a hint of the story’s premise.

However, a good premise reveals attention-grabbing info about each part necessary for a well-developed story. These parts are the story elements: Plot (Conflict), Character, Setting, Theme, and Point of View. Middle grade readers will be very intrigued at the notion of dreaming up a story idea…without having to write the story itself. (Of course, there’s nothing to stop those interested in penning the actual tale from doing so; it’s summertime, after all!)

Step Two. Provide a quick rundown of the story elements:

Plot (Conflict): Remember, it’s just the idea of a story, so no need to get bogged down in plot details or structure! Just an explanation of the big conflict the main character faces: what’s the problem? How does it worsen?

Character: A brief character design is enough for a premise: age, gender, name, background, occupation or talents; any character traits that are important to the conflict.

Setting: Here’s where you get to add a bit of history! Have writers brainstorm historical events they recall from recent studies, movies, documentaries, or books. Then they can narrow their list, and choose a time, place, and historical event for their premise. This is a great chance to do a bit of searching or use library resources for research, depending on skill and interest level. Let your MG-aged writers know that a historical element can add to (and not limit) speculative genres like sci-fi, fantasy, and action/adventure (examples include The Inquisitor’s Tale by Adam Gidwitz, historical fantasy set in 1242; and several superhero blockbusters in recent years set during historical wartime).

Theme: In language arts classes, students learn about theme topics (“love,” “friendship,” “loyalty,” “pride”) and their more didactic accompanying theme statements (“True friendship can withstand tests over time.”) Simple, one-word theme topics work well for premise design.

Point of View: Remind middle graders that some stories are best told in the “I-voice” and others in 3rd person. As the premise designer, he or she gets to choose.

Step Three: How will your middle graders note their ideas and communicate their creative, original premise? This depends entirely on the size and abilities of your group. A handy activity sheet that you type up for distribution could list the story elements and allow lots of room for writers’ ideas, sketches, lists, and notes; this might be most efficient.  Some writers might prefer to design their premise on blank, oversized paper, sans “worksheet,” keeping in mind the story elements.

Don’t forget that middle graders can also communicate a story premise without writing a single word: they can cut and paste magazine images in a collage to represent each element. Drawings, iMovies, storyboards, and photo-journals all lend themselves to story premise design as well.

Step Four: Middle graders can share the premise aloud to the group, if they would like.

Writing JournalExtensions and adaptations:

  • Pose the premises of popular books or movies and have readers deduce the title. Or, have the readers tell a premise of a popular book or film (without character names or giveaway details) and see if others in the group can guess the work.
  • After a read-aloud session of famous opening lines–and the fun of guessing the book that is opened by it—have middle graders write the opening line of the story for which they have designed a premise.
  • Early finishers can dream up multiple premises while they wait for the group to finish. More methodical writers, ELLs, or anyone who finds the premise-design task too daunting might try focusing on just one or two story elements.
  • Story premises can easily drive drama exercises in the form of scene tableaus, character creation and development, monologue writing, or (if you provide plenty of guidelines) improv activities.

I hope you have fun adapting these ideas for your needs, whether that means a writing workshop of 25 student attendees at a library or camp, or your own child’s picnic blanket afternoons. Thanks for promoting inspiration and creativity in the sunshine of summer.