Posts Tagged nonfiction

STEM Tuesday– Evolution– Book List

Evolution has shaped — and continues to shape — our world in countless ways. The titles on this month’s list explore both the scientific and social impacts of evolutionary theory (including two books launching in spring 2023!).

 

cover image of "Evolution: The Story of Life on Earth," featuring the earth on orange background

Evolution: The Story of Life on Earth by Jay Hosler, illustrated by Kevin and Zander Cannon 

This is a brilliantly illustrated graphic novel, perfect to get students engaged on the topic of evolution in a comical and accessible way. It introduces intrepid alien scientist Bloort-183 (from The Stuff of Life: A Graphic Guide to Genetics and DNA) as the alien visits earth and unravels the fundamentals of the evolution of life on earth. In addition to the humor, the text is informative and factually correct, starting with earth’s primordial soup and then venturing inside modern humans.

 

 

 

book cover featuring a jungle scene. Text reads "Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species, Young Readers Edition, Adapted by Rebecca Stefoff

Charles Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species” adapted by Rebecca Stefoff 

Charles Darwin’s famous theory of natural selection shook the world of science to its core, challenging centuries of orthodox beliefs about life itself. Darwin published his treaty, entitled On the Origin of Species, in 1859, and author Stefoff does a great job of capturing its essence in an accessible way for young readers, and also examines the treaty through the lens of modern science. The book includes contemporary insight, photographs, illustrations, and more.

 

book cover of "How to Build a Human," featuring a sketch of the human body

How to Build a Human  by Pamela Turner,  illustrated by John Gurche

How did we become who we are? This book examines an age old question but does so with incredible humor and wit. Turner uses milestones of human evolution to engage young readers, where she breaks down the evolutionary steps in comical ways such as “stand up” and “smash rocks.” In addition to being funny, the text is well written and informative. It’s perfect for middle grade and up, with plenty of thoughtful insights for older readers and extensive resources for those who want to explore further. Who knew that evolution could also be funny!

 

cover of the book "Evolution" featuring a multicolored chameleon on white background

Evolution: How Life Adapts to a Changing Environment with 25 Projects by Carla Mooney, illustrated by Alexis Cornell

This book explores the theory of evolution, its history, how we think it works, examples of creatures that evolved in response to specific circumstances, and what this might mean for the future of our planet. The text is well written and includes “Did You Know?” sections detailing informational concepts. Each chapter ends with information on “Good Science Practices” and a thought provoking question, as well as an activity allowing students to apply the concepts discussed. Perfect for young readers who wonder about things like why humans walk on two legs or why fish have gills.

 

copy of the book "When the Whales Walked," feauturing a land animal at the top, on top of whales and fish in an ocean environment

When the Whales Walked: And Other Incredible Evolutionary Journeys by Dougal Dixon, illustrated by Hannah Bailey 

The first in a series of five, this book won Outstanding Science Trade Book for Students: K–12 by the National Science Teachers Association and the Children’s Book Council in 2019. It allows readers to step back in time and discover a world where whales once walked, crocodiles were warm-blooded, and snakes had legs. The focus is on animals and how they came to be the version they are today, and the fascinating text is paired with annotated illustrations, illustrated scenes, and family trees.

 

 

 

cover image of "Amazing Evolution" featuring many different animal species in a circle

Amazing Evolution: The Journey of Life by Anna Claybourne, illustrated by Wesley Robins

With gorgeous illustrations and clear scientific explanations on every page, this book celebrates the wonder of evolution in our world. It provides both a big-picture perspective about how life began as well as an up-close look at how specific structures, like hands and eyeballs, developed over time. The final section, called “Amazing Adaptations Fact File,” highlights some of the planet’s most awe-inspiring species.

 

 

cover of the book "One Beetle Too Many," featuring an illustration of Charles Darwin peeking through leaves at insects

One Beetle Too Many: Candlewick Biographies: The Extraordinary Adventures of Charles Darwin by Kathryn Lasky, illustrated by Matthew Trueman

From his childhood in England to his travels around the world, Charles Darwin loved being outside, observing nature, and collecting specimens. Kathryn Lasky’s illustrated biography is fast-paced and fun, filled with sensory details from Darwin’s adventures and discoveries. Readers will love following along with Darwin as he asked questions, looked for evidence, and ultimately developed his theory of evolution. 

 

 

 

 

book cover of "Charles and Emma," featuring silhouettes of a chimpanzee, man, and woman

Charles and Emma: The Darwins’ Leap of Faith by Deborah Heiligman

This young adult book is a love story about Charles Darwin and his devoutly religious wife, Emma Wedgwood. Their marriage epitomized the tension between science and faith, with Emma both supporting her husband and fearing for his eternal soul as he published his groundbreaking theory. Heiligman’s narrative weaves in primary sources from the couple, giving readers a firsthand glimpse at how the Darwins made sense of their work and marriage. This book was both a National Book Award finalist and Michael L. Printz Honor book.

 

 

 

 

cover image of "The Monkey Trial," featuring a photograph of three men

The Monkey Trial: John Scopes and the Battle over Teaching Evolution by Anita Sanchez (to be released in March 2023)

During the summer of 1925, the small town of Dayton, Tennessee, took center stage in a national battle over science, religion, civil rights, and education. At the center of the chaos was John Scopes, a high school teacher who had violated a state law by teaching his students about evolution. In this engaging nonfiction story about the Scopes Monkey Trial, Sanchez captures the zeitgeist of the town as it became overrun by reporters, lawyers, scientists, fundamentalist Christians … and even a few chimpanzees! With its memorable cast of characters and straightforward explanations of the legal and philosophical principles underpinning the case, this book would make a great conversation starter among young readers.   

 

 

cover image of "Evolution Interrupted" featuring a rhinoceros on a green background

Evolution Under Pressure: How We Change Nature and How Nature Changes Us by Yolanda Ridge, illustrated by Dane Thibeault (to be released in May 2023)

This unique book examines how humans are accelerating the process of evolution around the world. From farming to poaching to urban development, Ridge explores the phenomenon of “not-so-natural selection” and its impact on the environment today. She integrates perspectives from biology, sociology, and anthropology, challenging readers to think about their presence and impact in the world around them. Each chapter contains practical suggestions for individual action, discussions of systemic solutions, and profiles of environmental changemakers.

 

 

 

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

Author Lydia Lukidis

Lydia Lukidis is the author of 50+ trade and educational books for children. Her titles include DEEP, DEEP, DOWN: The Secret Underwater Poetry of the Mariana Trench (Capstone, 2023) and THE BROKEN BEES’ NEST (Kane Press, 2019) which was nominated for a Cybils Award. A science enthusiast from a young age, she now incorporates her studies in science and her everlasting curiosity into her books. Another passion of hers is fostering a love for children’s literacy through the writing workshops she regularly offers in elementary schools across Quebec with the Culture in the Schools program. For more information, please visit www.lydialukidis.com.

 

 

 

author Callie DeanCallie Dean is a researcher, writer, and musician living in Shreveport, LA. She writes stories that spark curiosity and encourage kids to explore their world. Follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/CallieBDean.

STEM Tuesday gift recommendation– Buy STEM/STEAM books for the holidays!

 

Happy Holidays!!

It’s that time of year where people scramble to find gifts. We, at STEM Tuesday, recommend you give the gift of CURIOSITY. DISCOVERY. ADVENTURE… Buy a STEM/STEAM book for someone! Not only will you be opening a child’s eyes to the wonder of the world around them, you’ll also be supporting a STEM author, too. 

But what topic? And where do I find a great book? While your first thought might be to look at award lists (which also start to come out this time of year),  we recommend that you look further than that. The award books are great, but there are also plenty of other STEM/STEAM books out there that don’t win awards. So look widely and take a gander at our monthly book lists. They are chock-full of great titles!

author christine Taylor-butler

Our own Christine Taylor-Butler did a post on where to find great STEM books and how to support STEM authors last year. Since it’s very pertinent to today, I’m re-posting it here. (Thanks, Christine!)

Over the past two years authors I interviewed for STEM Tuesday have taught me about spider silk made from genetically modified goats, women who were denied a spot in the astronaut program despite performing better than their male counterparts, and implicit bias in archeology that may skew what we know about ancient civilizations. One author/illustrator judged an MIT contest showcasing implausible scientific ideas. Another learned to dive with a photographer in order to better understand the nature of ocean conservation. And while the world knows about the women showcased in Hidden Figures, one author published a book about fifty additional African American women whose STEM contributions changed the world.

If I were to ask you to name the above authors, would you be able to do it without looking at my interviews? That’s my concern in a nutshell. A select few of these authors have been recognized with awards, but most have not. Nonfiction is a staple for helping young readers develop executive functioning and learn more about the world around them, but the authors are not often celebrated in proportion to their contributions to children’s literature. Even with awards, most authors are still struggling to become household names let alone achieve financial stability.

Writing STEM is hard. The research often rivals an academic research paper. Many of us write for magazines, textbooks, trade publishers and educational publishers. What is often true is that authors need to log a lot of hours in the library, speaking to experts and researching in the field to determine how to best present the subject matter in a way a student can understand. In a sense, we have to do a deep dive to understand the material before we can explain it coherently to someone else. Unique to children’s publishing there are additional rules to follow. There’s an art to working within those constraints. I’ve been asked to do planet books of 4,000 words for upper elementary students and recast those same facts for a beginner readers using only 300 words. It’s not just the word count but the choice of words. For instance, with younger students we have to be mindful about sentence length, how many multisyllabic words in a sentence, and words common for that reading level and Lexile range.

After the books are printed and in circulation, awards are tricky. For every author that receives recognition, there are many equally skilled authors that don’t. And remember, the industry celebrates winners, not runners up. A different committee, on a different day, might have picked a different book entirely from the same pile. I know, because I’ve been on a number of awards committees. There are epic battles and painstaking discussions before a consensus is reached.  I’ve also noticed that the attention paid to award winning fiction authors is sustained much longer than for nonfiction authors. Those awards often translate into more work for fiction authors and higher compensation but not necessarily for their nonfiction counterparts.

I’ve been luckier than most of my peers in this respect. I’ve published more than 90 books for children and have more under contract. So I wanted to raise my voice to challenge the readers of this blog to change the nature of the game. The industry pays attention to where the money is flowing. Publishing pays attention to social media chatter and reviews. You can help my STEM peers by doing the following.

Once a month:

  1. Check out a book (or two) from the library. If you need a place to start, we have great recommendations on our STEM Tuesday site. Books that are checked out stay in circulation longer.
  2. If you’re in a school district, consider adding a book to the school library or classroom. I know budgets are small, but even one book is a boon for that author.
  3. Write a review. It only takes five minutes. Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes and Noble.
  4. Give a shout out to an author whose work you admire. Try to pick someone who isn’t getting a lot of marketing support from publishers. The ones the awards committees didn’t announce. I’m all for boosting underdogs. That shout-out will make an author’s day.
  5. Buy a STEM book as a gift for the holidays! 

 

Win a FREE copy of the book of your choice from me, Jennifer Swanson.

It’s the holiday season so let’s do something positive to end 2022.

This month, instead of us telling you what we found fascinating…this time you tell us.

What nonfiction book have you loved?

What’s next on your wish list?

Enter the giveaway by leaving a comment below.

The randomly-chosen winner will be contacted via email and asked to provide a mailing address (within the U.S. only) to receive the book.

Good luck!

 

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Jennifer Swanson, author
Jennifer Swanson dreams of one day running away to the Museum of Science and Industry- then maybe she could look at all the exhibits and try out all the gadgets without competing for them with her kids. An author of fifty nonfiction science books for kids, Jennifer’s goal is to show kids that Science Rocks! She lives in sunny Florida with her husband and Great Pyrenees dog, Sasha. When not writing she’s on the hunt for fun science facts. www.jenniferswansonbooks.com

STEM Tuesday– The Science of Art– Author Interview with Karen Latchana Kenney

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

Today we’re interviewing Karen Latchana Kenney, author of FOLDING TECH: Using Origami and Nature to Revolutionize Technology. Booklist says, “From folded cranes to collapsible solar sails, this offering provides an enticing look at a unique STEAM crossover.”

Mary Kay Carson: How did you come to write Folding Tech?

Karen Latchana Kenney: My editor Domenica DiPiazza at Lerner Publishing approached me with this topic after watching the PBS documentary The Origami Revolution. I loved the idea of connecting art with technology and wanted to expand it even more. I had questions—what other influences could help engineers find new folding techniques? And why is folding technology so important—what is it used for?

I found that folding technology is important in space, due to the spatial and weight restrictions necessary for rockets to reach Earth’s escape velocity. So, to get large solar arrays needed to power telescopes into space, they had to be able to fold up compactly within a rocket’s body and then unfold efficiently (without direct human assistance) when in space. Another area where folding is important is inside the human body, where it is useful to have compact tools enter small wounds and then expand inside the body. Smaller wounds are not only more aesthetically desired, but they decrease healing time and possibilities for infections.

Folding Tech covers not only where folding technology is needed in our lives, but also the artistic and natural inspiration for new folding techniques and the mathematics behind different kinds of folds. I spoke with and researched mathematicians (like Tom Hull, professor at Western New England University), professional origamists (including Robert J. Lang, who’s worked on a foldable space telescope lens), software engineers, and entomologists. I also included folding activities for kids to try, such as the natural folding patterns created through a force folding technique developed by Biruta Kresling. It was especially fun to connect these ideas with developing technology, like deep-sea collection tools inspired by origami.

MKC: Anything special about the book you’d like us to know?

Karen: I really like the interactive nature of this book, with origami folding exercises to try and Lerner’s AR app. The app brings images to life, like NASA’s InSight Mars lander image in Chapter 5. It shows how the lander’s solar arrays unfold from their compact shape. It’s really cool!

MKC: Care to share a favorite research discovery from Folding Tech?

Karen: One of the most fascinating bits of research I found was related to the folding mechanisms of insect wings, particularly the study of ladybug wings. Beetles have these delicate and large wings compactly folded underneath hard elytra, which rapidly unfold (in less than 1/10th of a second!) when they want to take flight and escape predators. Because they are hidden under elytra, it was difficult to study their folded shapes and the ways they unfolded and then folded back again. The scientists could not take high-speed photographs or videos of the unfolding process.

source: Saito et al. (2017)

The solution came from someone not involved with the research—a secretary working with the researchers. She proposed replacing an elytron with a prosthetic made from UV-cured clear resin (commonly used in nail art). It worked, and the researchers were able to see and record how the wing unfolded and folded back again! They found that the wings’ veins stored energy like a spring when folded. That’s how the wings popped out so quickly to unfold. I love how a surprising idea from an unexpected source was key to solving this mystery. Here’s a diagram from the study that shows how ladybugs fold their wings.

MKC: Why do you choose to write STEM books?

Karen Latchana Kenney’s award-winning and star-reviewed books have been named a YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers, a 2015 Book of Note from the TriState Review Committee, a 2011 Editor’s Choice for School Library Connection, and Junior Library Guild selections. Visit her website or follow @KLatchanaKenney.

Karen: I love the curiosity and wonder inherent in working with STEM topics—the initial moment when scientists find the question they want to answer, the methodical experimentation and documentation they undergo to find clues to the mystery they want to solve, the collaboration across multiple disciplines needed to fully understand a problem, and often the surprising accidental discoveries scientists make when trying to find their answers.

Part of my interest in STEM is simply that I enjoy learning more about science and the natural world and writing about these topics helps me learn about unusual discoveries and scientific connections. I like seeing how concepts connect across multiple contexts—like the way ancient arts can influence space technology. Another big part of my interest in writing about STEM topics is my desire to promote respect and awe for the wonders of our world. I hope that my books will help kids have more respect for the environment and see what may have become mundane in the natural world in a new and exciting light. I hope these kinds of books initiate new questions that need to be solved by our future scientists.

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Your host is Mary Kay Carson, author of The River that Wolves Moved, Wildlife Ranger Action Guide, The Tornado ScientistAlexander Graham Bell for Kids, Mission to Pluto, and other nonfiction books for kids. @marykaycarson