Spring After Spring: How Rachel Carson Inspired the Environmental Movement by Stephanie Roth Sisson

Published by Roaring Brook Press

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Summary:  Rachel Carson loved nature from the time she was a child.  She spent a lot of time outside, looking and listening to the wonders around her.  Although she grew up far from the ocean, she loved to read about it and imagined what it would be like.  She also enjoyed writing, and planned to study it in college. But after seeing tiny sea creatures through a microscope, she changed her major to biology.  After graduation, she combined her two interests, writing popular books about the ocean. Her most famous work, though, was Silent Spring, based on her research on the effects of pesticides on the environment.  Although not everyone agreed with her conclusions, enough people were concerned that real changes occurred as a result, including the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency and the first Earth Day.  Includes author’s note, notes, and bibliography. 40 pages; grades K-4.

Pros:  A charming introduction to Rachel Carson’s life, emphasizing her lifelong love of nature, especially the ocean, and illustrated with cartoon-style illustrations.

Cons:  The notes gave a lot of interesting information about Carson’s life, but are written in a small, cramped font, and are likely to be overlooked by young readers.

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Saving Fiona: The Story of the World’s Most Famous Baby Hippo by Thane Maynard

Published by HMH Books for Young Readers

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Summary:  When Fiona the hippo arrived two months prematurely, her caretakers at the Cincinnati Zoo sprang into action to save her.  At 29 pounds, she was about one-third the healthy weight for a newborn hippo, and was too weak to climb on her mom’s back or to nurse.  The staff watched over her day and night, creating a hippo formula based on her mother’s milk to feed her. When she was a few months old, she began gradually transitioning to her parents’ care.  Fiona became something of a social media sensation, and a Google News search reveals that as recently as two weeks ago, her growth spurt was making headlines. Includes four pages of back matter with additional information about hippos.  48 pages; ages 4-10.

Pros:  This is my favorite kind of animal nonfiction book…an engaging story, lots of adorable photos, and plenty of information that would make it a good research resource.  I was surprised to read that hippos are the most requested animals at the zoo, but after seeing the photos of Fiona, I can understand why.

Cons:  Some resources about hippos for additional research would have been a nice addition.

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Kiki Greenbriar?

Nothing Stopped Sophie: The Story of Unshakable Mathematician Sophie Germain by Cheryl Bardoe, illustrated by Barbara McClintock

Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

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Image result for nothing stopped sophie mcclintock

Summary:  Growing up during the French Revolution, Sophie Germain faced a number of obstacles to a career in mathematics.  Girls received little education, and Sophie’s parents tried discourage her late-night studies by taking away her candles and warm clothing.  She was undaunted, though, and they finally realized there was no way to stop her from studying math. When she grew up, she corresponded with other mathematicians under a pen name, but they tended to lose interest when they discovered she was a woman.  She kept studying any way she could, and when the Academy of Sciences offered a medal worth 3,000 francs to find a mathematical formula that would predict patterns of vibration, Sophie was determined to find a solution. It took her several years, but in 1816, she became the first woman to win a grand prize from the Royal Academy of Sciences.  Her work helped other mathematicians and engineers build modern skyscrapers, including the Eiffel Tower. Includes additional information about Sophie and the problem of vibration she solved. 40 pages; grades 2-5.

Pros:  Perseverance is the theme of Sophie Germain’s story, and readers will enjoy learning of her eventual success in the face of daunting obstacles.  The illustrations do an amazing job of incorporating numbers and mathematical formulas into Sophie’s world.

Cons:  I really didn’t understand the vibration problem that Sophie was working on.

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The Dinosaur Expert (Mr. Tiffin’s Classroom series) by Margaret McNamara, illustrated by G. Brian Karas

Published by Schwartz and Wade

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Summary:  Kimmy loves science, collecting rocks, leaves, shells, and even owl pellets.  But her favorite collection is her fossils. So she’s excited about her class’s field trip to the natural history museum and eager to share her dinosaur knowledge with the other kids.  But when Jake tells her, “Girls aren’t scientists”, and backs up his statement with photos of male fossil hunters, Kimmy is suddenly less interested in sharing. Mr. Tiffin notices, and leads Kimmy to an exhibit about Zulma Brandoni de Gasparini, a female paleontologist who discovered a dinosaur that was named for her (Gasparinisaura Cincosaltensis).  Even Jake is impressed, and Kimmy regains her confidence and enthusiasm for dinosaurs.  “When I grow up, I want to be just like her,” Kimmy says at the end of the trip. “I think,” replies Mr. Tiffin, “you already are.”  Includes profiles of seven women paleontologists, including one who discovered a fossil from a new species of pterosaur when she was only four years old.  40 pages; grades K-3.

Pros:  Another charming tale featuring Mr. Tiffin working his magic with another member of his class.  There’s plenty of dinosaur information woven into the story for fossil fans.

Cons:  I hope Jake gets his own story so we can learn why he’s so obnoxious.

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Marie Curie by Demi

Published by Henry Holt and Co.

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Summary:  When Marie Curie was born in 1867 Poland, life was difficult.  She had a loving family, but her mother and older sister died when she was still a child.  She and another sister, Bronya, wanted to go to the Sorbonne in Paris, but the family could only afford to send one of them.  Bronya went first, became a doctor, and supported Marie when she was through. Not only did Marie complete degrees in physics and math at the top of her class, but she met another brilliant scientist, Pierre Curie.  They married and pursued their work together, unlocking the secrets of uranium and radium. They won the Nobel Prize in physics; after Pierre’s tragic death, Marie continued their work and won another Nobel in chemistry. The dangers of radiation were unknown at the time (illustrated on the two pages showing women drinking radium and using it in beauty products), and Marie eventually died at the age of 66 from her long exposure to it.  40 pages; grades 1-5.

Pros:  An excellent introduction to Marie Curie’s life; complete, but straightforward enough for primary graders.  Demi’s illustrations are gorgeous, especially the patterns she uses for clothing, curtains, and carpets.

Cons:  Spending four years trying to determine the atomic weight of radium sounds like kind of a drag.

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How to Code a Sandcastle (A Girls Who Code Book) by Josh Funk, illustrated by Sara Palacios

Published by Viking Books for Young Readers

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Summary:  The narrator has been trying to build a sandcastle all summer, but for one reason or another, hasn’t been successful.  On the last day of vacation, she brings her robot Pascal to the beach with her to help build the castle. She explains to the reader what she is doing as she codes Pascal to find a good spot, create a big pile of sand, gather decorations, and shape and embellish the castle.  She makes mistakes as she goes, but figures out what she’s done wrong and corrects them. When the tide comes in and washes her sandcastle away, she can uses the program she’s created to have Pascal build another one, this time with a moat around it. At the end, she and Pascal are ready to create an entire kingdom of sandcastles.  Includes an explanation of code, sequences, loops, and if-then-else statements. 44 pages; grades K-3.

Pros:  A fun introduction to coding terms for the picture book crowd.  The foreword, by Reshma Saujani, founder of Girls Who Code, explains the importance of introducing coding concepts to young children.  The illustrations and different fonts add to the educational value.

Cons:  It would have been helpful to see the entire program for the sandcastle written out somewhere.

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The Sockeye Mother by Hetxw’ms Gyetxw (Brett David Huson), illustrated by Natasha Donovan

Published by Highwater Press

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Summary:  The life of a sockeye salmon is described from the time she hatches from an egg until she returns to the same spawning ground two years later to lay her eggs before dying.  The sockeyes’ connection to the Gitxsan, indigenous people of British Columbia, is alluded to, as well as the reverence these people have for the fish that help sustain them.  The balance of nature is also described in a section called “A Replenishing Death”, when the salmon’s body becomes fertilizer for the flora in and around the water. 32 pages; grades 2-6.

Pros:  The author grew up in the Gitxsan Nation and imparts both scientific and cultural information in this brief story of a sockeye salmon.  The close-up illustrations vividly bring to life the different stages of the fish’s life, as well as the people and animals around her.

Cons:  This may not be a book many kids will pick up on their own, but with some guidance, they will find it an interesting resource.

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