Posts Tagged kidlit

STEM Tuesday — Astronomy/ Eclipse — Book List

This is an active month for sky-watchers. Not only will the “Great North American Eclipse” happen on April 8, but the night sky will feature a comet that you should be able to view without a telescope.

Eclipse Chaser: Science in the Moon’s Shadow (Scientist in the Field) by Ilima Loomis, photos by Amanda Cowan

This is a story about the last “Great North American Eclipse” – August 2017 – and how a science team studies eclipses. Not only do they have to find the best place for observing the event, they have a lot of instruments to set up and test prior to the day. Plus, a bagel production line on the morning of the Big Day.

Casting Shadows: Solar and Lunar Eclipses with The Planetary Society by Bruce Betts

This book uses straightforward language aimed at younger middle grade readers. Beginning with shadows, it then shows how eclipses happen and how you can observe them. One chapter focuses on lunar eclipses and one on solar eclipses.

The Science Behind the Wonders of the Sun: Sun dogs, Lunar Eclipses, and Green Flash by Suzanne Garbe

This is also a lower middle grade text discussing the cause and cycle of sunspots, solar and lunar eclipses, solar winds, flares, and ejections, As well as the reason for, and places to find, the green (and rarer blue) flash. Photo illustrated, it also includes fascinating “fact sidebars,” a link to activities, and critical thinking questions.

Astronomy for Curious Kids: An Illustrated Introduction to the Solar System, Our Galaxy, Space Travel – and More! by Giles Sparrow

This browsable book is divided into six chapters, each highlighting some aspect of astronomy. The first two introduce the study of astronomy and tools astronomers use. Others focus on the solar system, stars, and galaxies. There’s a great spread on eclipses and another showcasing comets, plus a section about life in the universe.

Can’t Get Enough Space Stuff: Fun Facts, Awesome Info, Cool Games, Silly Jokes, and More! by Julie Beer and Stephanie Warren Drimmer (National Geographic)

Another browsable astronomy book with engaging photos, a matching game glossary, space puns and riddles, space guessing games, a plethora of amazing facts, “Rad Records” on planets and astronauts, and lots of activities to try.

Sky Gazing: A Guide to the Moon, Sun, Planets, Stars, Eclipses, Constellations by Meg Thacher

A browsable book, divided into sections that focus on the sky, the moon, the sun, planets, and stars and constellations. Each section includes activities, including how to make a pinhole eclipse-viewer and there is a list of upcoming solar and lunar eclipses through 2030.

Stargazing for Kids: An Introduction to Astronomy by Jonathan Poppele

This handy hand-held guide is a wonderful color introduction to astronomy and the observation and mapping of the night sky. Conversational “What can I see?’ and “How do we know?” sections offer ways to spot the planets, stars, galaxies, and satellites. In addition to mini biographies of scientists and scholars, it offers a detailed sky map and guide for each season.

Asteroid vs Comet by Dr. Marc Kuchner, illustrated by Matt Schu

This book is aimed at younger MG readers, written as a fight match with sections that compare and contrast various properties of asteroids and comets. Who’s heavier? Who’s the fastest? And who will come out the winner? End pages feature named asteroids and comets and back mater gets into more details about comets and asteroids.

Out Of This World: Star-Studded Haiku by Sally M. Walker; illustrated by Matthew Trueman

Yes, there IS a haiku about a solar eclipse (with tiny nibbles / the moon gobbles down the sun …) There are also tiny poems about Saturn’s rings, nebulae, and shooting stars. Plus, wonderful back matter. This book will inspire readers to create their own eclipse (or comet) haiku.

The Day the Universe Exploded my Head: Poems to Take You Into Space and Back Again by Allan Wolf, illustrated by Anna Raff

From a “Solar Sunnet” (sonnet) to a “Poem for Three Meteors,” and a black hole shape poem to “The Children of Astronomy” (with their profiles outlined by stars), whimsical illustrations make learning poetry forms and space facts fun. Includes fun side by side solar and lunar eclipse poems, as well as “Notes on the Poems” with additional scientific facts and information on the various poems.

When the Sun Goes Dark by Andrew Fraknoi, illustrated by Eric Freeberg

This story, published by the National Science Teacher’s Association, uses fiction to introduce young people to the science behind eclipses. It includes some hands-on activities for re-creating eclipses in your living room using a lamp, a tennis ball, and a couple hula hoops.

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

Sue Heavenrich, author

Sue Heavenrich, who writes about science for children and their families on topics ranging from space to backyard ecology. Bees, flies, squirrel behavior—things she observes in her neighborhood and around her home—inspire her writing. Visit her at

Maria Marshall, a children’s author, blogger, and poet who is passionate about making nature and reading fun for children. When not writing, critiquing, or reading, she watches birds, travels the world, bakes, and hikes. Visit her at

April Showers New Books on Middle-Grade Readers!

It’s raining awesome new middle-grade titles for young readers! This month’s releases include fantasy, adventures, a memoir, a fun creative art book, fascinating book on the octopus, and a collection of stories from award-winning authors. Check them out!

The Deadlands: Survival by Skye Melki-Wegner, Henry Holt Books, April 2.

Wings of Fire meets Jurassic Park in the thrilling finale of this action-adventure series about five outcasts—and former enemies—who are the only hope to save their warring dinosaur kingdoms from impending doom.As bloody battle rages between the two surviving dinosaur kingdoms, Eleri and the other young exiles—including a peppy stegosaur, a stoic sauropod, a testy triceratops, and a mysterious spy—have temporarily thwarted the Carrion Kingdom, a conniving cabal of carnivores, and destroyed their secret stronghold.

Fearing that their cunning enemies will soon regroup and seek vengeance, the exiles must risk their lives by returning home to unite and lead the war-torn herds that turned their backs on them into one final, all-out battle for the very future of the land of Cretacea. Will they convince their kingdoms to follow them into battle against the true enemy, or will Cretacea be overrun by an army of predators?

Running in Flip-Flops From the End of the World, by justin a. reynolds, Scholastic, April 2

A hilarious middle-grade from justin a. reynolds that asks: What happens when five unsupervised kids face the apocalypse under outrageously silly circumstances?

When twelve-year-old Eddie Gordon Holloway and his friends are left home from Beach Bash, aka the greatest party of the year, only to realize that everyone in town has disappeared without a trace, they do what any smart, responsible kids would do . . . have the best day ever!

No parental supervision sounds fun for a while, but forever is a long time. And soon the gang starts to notice strange things happening around town, and they’re only getting stranger. They have to figure out what happened to their families. It seems like getting to the beach will answer all their questions . . . but the only problem is that some mysterious force seems determined to prevent them from making it there.

Eddie knows that this is a clear sign — obviously they should be focused on having as much fun as possible for as long as possible. But everyone deals with the fear differently, and soon the friendships begin to fracture. Can Eddie find a way to get all his friends on the same page? And will they ever make it to the beach?

Lightning Born (Storm Dragons Book 1) by Julie Kagawa, Disney Hyperion, April 2

In a world in the clouds where only the rich own dragons, a poor boy named Remy finds a wild baby dragon–believed to be extinct–and becomes the focus of an evil pirate’s vengeance.

REMY spends his days trying to survive the mean streets of Cutthroat Wedge–one of the many islands floating in the gravitational pull of the magical Maelstrom raging below. But his life changes forever when a violent storm brings a baby dragon to his doorstep, and he feels a bond he has never felt with anyone. Remy names the dragon Storm and vows to protect this new friend, no matter the cost.

GEM longs for the day when she call herself a true mage. That is, if she can convince her teachers and peers that just because she’s a princess doesn’t mean she’s lazy and spoiled. But when Gem learns that the floating islands that make up her kingdom are rapidly sinking into the Maelstrom, she makes it her mission to save her world. Against the king’s wishes, she accesses forbidden research and discovers the secret to saving humanity may lie in a True Dragon–a dragon capable of intelligent thought and able to cast and use magic. But True Dragons are extinct . . . aren’t they?

Remy’s and Gem’s lives will never be the same when their fates collide, thanks to Storm. With an evil pirate mage named Jhaeros determined to claim the rare dragon for himself, the two must learn to trust in each other as they team up with a shifty pirate captain and her crew, stand together against impossible odds, and embark on the adventure of a lifetime.

Make Art With Nature: Find Inspiration and Materials from Nature, by Pippa Pixley, DK Publishing, April 9

Artist Pippa Pixley shows children how to make amazing art with materials found in nature in this hands-on book.

Get creative and make incredible pieces of art using rocks, wood, berries, flowers, and leaves in this nature craft book for children.

Find out how the very earth beneath your feet can be used to make paints and pastels, and how flowers can be repurposed to create inks. Children can learn how to pour paint onto a canvas, how to put pencil to paper and draw, how bits of old paper can make a beautiful collage, and how different mediums can come together to create incredible prints through nature.

Three Summers: A Memoir of Sisterhood, Summer Crushes, and Growing Up on the Eve of War, Written by Amra Sabic-El-Rayess and Laura L. Sullivan, Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, April 9

An epic middle-grade memoir about sisterhood and coming-of-age in the three years leading up to the Bosnian Genocide.

Three Summers is the story of five young cousins who grow closer than sisters as ethnic tensions escalate over three summers in 1980s Bosnia. They navigate the joys and pitfalls of adolescence on their family’s little island in the middle of the Una River. When finally confronted with the harsh truths of the adult world around them, their bond gives them the resilience to discover and hold fast to their true selves.

Written with incredible warmth and tenderness, Amra Sabic-El-Rayess takes readers on a journey that will break their hearts and put them back together again.



The Incredible Octopus: Meet the Eight-Armed Wonder of the Sea, by Erin Spencer, Storey Publishing, April 16

Packed with mesmerizing undersea photography, this book invites kids to explore the fascinating behavior and intelligence of this remarkable creature of the deep.

The Incredible Octopus combines amazing photos with in-depth facts to get kids aged 7 and up excited about octopuses and the underwater world in which they live. Readers are introduced to the fascinating biology of the octopus, from its 3 hearts and 9 brains to suction cups and how they work, and learn all about what it’s like to be an octopus: how they use camouflage and ink, what they eat, and how they reproduce (nests and eggs!). The book also explores the intelligence and playfulness of this animal–and, of course, the famous stories of octopuses who escaped their tanks. Readers will meet 13 different species of octopuses and find out what makes them unique, from the most venomous and best disguised to the deepest and coldest. They’ll also get a glimpse into exciting octopus research, technology inspired by octopuses, and ways to help conserve our oceans.

The Door is Open: Stories of Celebration and Community by 11 Desi Voices by Hena Khan,  Veera Hiranandani, Supriya Kelkar, Maulik Pancholy, Simran Jeet Singh, Aisha Saeed, Reem Faruqi, Rajani Larocca, Naheed Hasnat,  Sayantani Dasgupta, Mitali Perkins, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, April 23

Discover stories of fear, triumph, and spectacular celebration in the fictional town of Maple Grove, New Jersey, where the local kids gather at the community center to discover new crushes, fight against ignorance, and even save a life.

Cheer for Chaya as she wins chess tournaments (unlike Andrew, she knows stupid sugary soda won’t make you better at chess), and follow as Jeevan learns how to cook traditional food (it turns out he can cook sabji– he just can’t eat it).

These stories, edited by bestselling and award-winning Pakistani-American author Hena Khan, are filled with humor, warmth, and possibility. They showcase a diverse array of talented authors with heritage from the Indian subcontinent, including beloved favorites and rising stars, who each highlight the beauty and necessity of a community center that everyone calls home.

STEM Tuesday — Animal Perceptions– Interview with Author Stephanie Gibeault


Welcome to STEM Tuesday: Author Interview, a repeating feature for the last Tuesday of every month. Go Science-Tech-Engineering-Math!

Today we’re interviewing Stephanie Gibeault, author of Making Sense of Dog Senses: How Our Furry Friends Experience the World It’s a fascinating look at how dogs use their senses, often better than the people around them. The School and Library Journal said, “A fun, quirky book about dogs and their many abilities; great for animal lovers, young and old.


Christine Taylor-Butler: Welcome to STEM Tuesday, Stephanie. I’m always excited to talk to a woman with a STEM background. Were you a science person as a child?

Stephanie Gibeault: Yes, I was particularly interested in biology. I had all kinds of pets and loved observing animals in the wild. Catching them too. I would trap snakes and keep them in my tent or show my amphibian-fearing mother every frog and toad I could collect. I also loved fishing with my uncle. I remember after he had cleaned the pickerel, I would take the carcass and dissect what was left to learn how the fish’s body worked. But I did a lot of physics too, thanks to my dad. He helped me create some mind-blowing science fair projects like the time we built a set of elliptical gears.

Christine: You received an undergraduate degree in Ecology and Evolution and a Master of Science in animal behavior. Afterwards, you became a certified dog trainer. Did you have dogs as pets when you were a child? Do you have any now?

Chi stumpStephanie: My parents had a border collie named Sox when I was born, and he used to push me around in my baby carriage. Then came Snoopy who was supposed to be a beagle but must have been a mix of breeds because he was huge. He used to sleep in my bed at night and had a tendency to follow his nose and wander off. Now I have a six-pound chihuahua cross named Chi Chi Rodriguez (after a particularly funny episode of the TV show WKRP in Cincinnati). Believe it or not, when I had his DNA tested, I found out he’s part mastiff! We used to do agility and trick training together, but now that he’s over 17, his favorite activity is cuddling on the couch.

Christine: You’ve written more than 300 articles about dogs for the American Kennel Club. How do you decide what topics to include?

Stephanie: You would think I would have run out of topics by now, but dogs are endlessly fascinating to me. I also write about them for other sites, like Cottage Life and Reader’s Digest. Sometimes I’m assigned topics by editors, but often I pitch ideas I find interesting. I love reporting on the latest canine cognition research or explaining dog behavior to help people better train and understand their pets. Freelance writing is a bit like pitching agents or editors. You pick the topics you’re passionate about then try to convince them your ideas are worth publishing.

Christine: Making Sense of Dog Senses: How Our Furry Friends Experience The World is one of two books you are doing for OwlKids Books that talk about the ability of dogs to navigate the world. The other is Dogs Versus Humans: A Showdown of the Senses. Your book is packed with information and colorful illustrations. Where did you get the idea?

Stephanie: I’ve always been interested in how different animals sense their environment. Just as no two people perceive the world in exactly the same way, different species have evolved their own particular sensory experience or umwelt. Then, through my work as a dog trainer, I realized how many dog owners didn’t understand their dog’s point of view. They would interpret everything through a human lens rather than appreciating canine culture and their dog’s evolutionary heritage. That’s where the idea for the book came from. I wanted to help middle grade readers understand this animal we share our homes with and have evolved beside for thousands of years. After all, dogs may be humanity’s best friend, but we sure don’t have a lot in common.

Christine: You make great comparisons. For instance, that a dog’s sense of smell is thousands of times more sensitive to humans and why they sniff everything. Dogs have far fewer taste buds than humans, so it’s no wonder they eat things we would never dream of, like garbage and dirty socks. There’s an enormous amount of research in this book.

Stephanie: This was a research-intense book because I didn’t just need to understand dog senses but human senses as well. I read a lot of books, both those for kids and those for adults, but most of my facts came from scientific studies in academic journals. Thanks to my background in biology, I felt comfortable digging into the latest canine science. I did my utmost to find the most up-to-date research, but dogs have only recently become a hot subject, so many of these topics, such as their color vision or olfactory capabilities, are still being studied. Scientists are discovering new things about dogs all the time.

Christine: And yet there are a few things that humans can do better than dogs. For instance, you discuss visual acuity which is how sharp and clear things look from a distance. Do you expand on those types of comparisons in your second book?

Stephanie: The second book, Dogs Versus Humans: A Showdown of the Senses, is a picture book that pits the sensory abilities of pooches against people to see who comes out on top. There are comparisons between the species for each of the five main senses as well as a lesser-known sense known as magnetoreception. The book looks at dogs’ sensory abilities in general as not all dogs are the same. For example, those with upright ears may be able to hear better than those with droopy ears, and some dogs lose their sight or hearing as they age. Of course, the same is true for people – we aren’t all the same. But the point of the book is to appreciate the differences and see the world through a dog’s eyes (or nose would be more accurate).

Note: Dogs versus Humans is coming in 2025!

Christine: Skill and perseverance are key in publishing. Most people don’t know what authors go through. Can you tell our readers a bit about your journey?

Toby tootles coverStephanie: Although I wrote academic papers as a biologist, my journey into kidlit started in 2011 when my niece and nephew were picture book age. I wrote silly stories for them about animals and ninjas and whatever else I thought might make them laugh. I even made the embarrassing mistake of submitting one of those stories to publishers. Then, in 2015, I began writing freelance and realized how much I didn’t know. In 2016, I attended my first writing conference, joined my first critique group, and threw myself into learning the craft of writing. I started querying agents (too soon) in 2019, then signed with my incredible agent Jacqui Lipton in January of 2021. We sold my first manuscript, a picture book called Toby Tootles, a few months later. And not long after that I co-wrote my first nonfiction middle grade called Can’t Get Enough Dog Stuff for National Geographic Kids.

Christine: In your article for NF Ninjas, you point out that three of your books were sold on proposals. They weren’t written until after the contract was signed. You provide a list for others to follow when preparing their own. Was writing on proposal more difficult or was it freeing?

Stephanie: I wouldn’t say writing by proposal is more freeing because you need to plan the entire book and sell your idea to an editor even if you’ve only written a few chapters. You need to include a solid and enticing overview and outline in your proposal which means knowing exactly what you intend to do. But I also don’t find book proposals more difficult because I’m not a pantser. I’m an organization fanatic, so figuring out content, structure, and subject matter down to the last sidebar suits my brain. However, once you’re working with an editor the project can change, so you need to stay flexible and open to new ideas.

Calculating chimpanzeesChristine: You have also have a book coming out with MIT Kids Press/Candlewick Books. Calculating Chimpanzees, Brainy Bees, and Other Animals with Mind-Blowing Mathematical Abilities. In it, you talk about how hyenas can count, and chimpanzees can do calculations, and many other animal examples. The chapters include interviews with researchers and activities the readers can try. Tell our readers a bit about how this book came about.

Stephanie: If you had told me when I was a teenager that I would write a book about math one day, I would never have believed you. But I love learning about how animals think, and I remember discussing animal number sense with my supervisor in graduate school. For example, I wondered if a bird knows how many babies are in her nest. This project was my chance to dive deep into this topic I had always been curious about. I was also able to use my biology background to look at why animals have evolved various number abilities and help bust the idea that math is a uniquely human domain.

Christine: Was there a particular animal or researcher that you enjoyed investigating for this book?

Irene and parrotStephanie: It was thrilling to speak to animal cognition scientists I had admired for years as well as to meet people doing cutting edge studies. I was particularly excited to learn more about Irene Pepperberg and her African grey parrot Alex. Through her studies with Alex, Dr. Pepperberg proved the term “bird brain” is the opposite of an insult. She taught Alex over 100 English labels for objects, including their color and shape, and discovered he could do simple math and use Arabic numerals. It was amazing to hear her stories about Alex’s personality including how he would have a temper tantrum when he got bored with repeating the same experiments too many times.

Christine: Before we go, I noted that you’ve been a movie extra! That’s a dream on my wishlist. How did that happen? Which movies?

Christine: We’re excited about your books and your passion for explaining science to children. Do you have anything else coming up we should be watching out for?

Stephanie: I have another nonfiction picture book scheduled for release in fall 2025. The Dog That Saved the Bees is about Cybil Preston, the Chief Apiary Inspector for the State of Maryland, and her rescue dog Mack. Thanks to Cybil, Mack went from a lonely life in a garage to becoming the only certified beehive disease detection dog in America. He is responsible for inspecting Maryland’s commercial beehives before they travel around the United States to pollinate crops like almonds and blueberries. Without Mack’s incredible nose, many foods would never make it to your table.

Editors note: Stephanie is a prolific children’s and freelance author. In addition to the American Kennel Association, she’s written for Readers Digest, Cottage Life, Pet Sitters International and the Old Farmers Almanac.


Stephanie headshotStephanie Gibeault is a children’s author and award-winning freelance writer. As a former biologist and certified professional dog trainer, she loves writing about dogs and other animals. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in ecology and evolution and a Master of Science in animal behavior. Her time in academia involved grunting with gorillas and stinking like marmoset monkeys. Years later, dog training meant being covered in fur and drool. Now she spends her days just outside of Toronto, Canada, convincing her clumsy cat Heton not to take over her keyboard. For more information, visit


Author Christine Taylor-ButlerYour host is Christine Taylor-Butler, a graduate of MIT and author of The Oasis, Save the… Tigers, Save the . . . Blue Whales, and many other nonfiction books for kids. She is also the author of the STEM based middle grade sci-fi series The Lost Tribes. Follow @ChristineTB on Twitter and or @ChristineTaylorButler on Instagram. She lives in Missouri with a tank of fish and cats that think they are dogs.