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GUEST POSTS: NSTA Linking Literacy, NSTA National Convention, St. Louis, MO April 12, 2019, 1-4 pm.
The National Science Teacher’s Association has invited authors of Outstanding Science Trade Books and Best Stem Books to discuss literacy and children’s books at a special Literacy Event. 23 of these authors have contributed guest posts to run from January 15-April 9.

See the full author list at GUEST POSTS BY SCIENCE AUTHORS and the date on which they will post.

Guest post by Ann Rubino

It’s always surprising to learn about technology in history. People built huge stone buildings, forged armor, ground grain in wholesale lots, designed watches with such tiny parts we need magnification to see them today. How could they do such things, with the little they had both in terms of knowledge and tools? Yet they did. A kid today, set loose in the woods, would be hard pressed to find a stick adequate to hold his roasted marshmallow, yet hundreds of years ago people found ways to cope, often elegantly. The story of technology has deep and wide roots. It is fair to show some of them to our kids. Fair to let them in on a secret: people have always used technology, just not the sort that involves pushing buttons. It’s all about the thinking, the persistence in working toward a thought-out goal and the reasoned use of materials and knowledge at hand.

Stories can make the point, and bring with them a world of historical background as well. The story is the “special sauce” that makes the facts interesting.

I imagined characters based on memories of my former students, placed in a world long gone, a world that was changing rapidly with new discoveries and inventions: the telegraph, the battery, cast iron tools of all kinds.

2019 Best STEM Book

In Emmet’s Storm I imagined my main character as one of the gifted students that I loved to teach—quirky, earnest, unevenly developed with a great grasp of theory but an inability to keep papers right side up in a binder. I put him in Iowa in a tiny town in 1887, the summer before the disastrous Children’s Blizzard of 1888. Other kids don’t like him. He collects stacks of Scientific American, then a weekly filled with news of new inventions and discoveries. He tries to replicate what he reads, usually to spotty-to-disastrous results. He manages to avoid punishment when his hot air balloon sets fire to a farmer’s hay wagon parked outside the saloon. However, when the school principal, a kindly but prim nun, gets knocked on her posterior while touching his Leyden jar experiment, it’s the final straw. He’s assigned to the country school, newly built after a lightning caused fire. “The school board rejected my advice to install a lightning rod,” nine-year-old Emmet complains. The new school is made of local limestone and is caulked “tight like drum” by a German villager with precise work habits. What happens when the blizzard hits rounds out the plot, with many “hooks” to intermediate science topics, especially electricity and weather. Ultimately dorky, misfit Emmet becomes the hero.

I was getting the feel of semi-mythical Floyd, Iowa, by the time Emmet’s Storm won the Best STEM book of 2017. My granddaughter wanted to know why grandma always writes about boys. She had a point. I had long been interested in the Orphan Train movement and it fit in with my time period, so in memory of my Swedish grandfather, a cabinetmaker and inventor “sold” by his stepmother as an apprentice at the age of nine, I invented Inga.

Inga is an 11-year old girl from Sweden who arrives in Iowa on the Orphan Train and is assigned to the blacksmith and his pie-making wife. She has all sorts of time-saving ideas, some of which work. She forms an uneasy alliance with Emmet who is assigned to help her with English. Most of her scientific challenges relate to mechanics and simple machines, though her emotional journey is difficult. She finds solace in solving problems with her amazing ideas because missing her parents, in her words, “…is too sad. I cannot think on it.”  Inga’s Amazing Ideas is a Best STEM Book 2019.

Both books aim to make use of scientific concepts in use in a true historical context, making the point that STEM is just a new acronym for what people have always done in varying degrees: use what they know to solve problems, try out solutions, discard ideas that don’t hold up to reality, and persevere in the attempts. Magic doesn’t solve problems; work does. Science grounds students in the complex and fascinating reality that surrounds them.


Ann Rubino

While teaching elementary science, Ann Rubino’s team won the OHAUS Award in 1990 for innovations in science teaching. She was an early reader for Illinois of the New Generation Science Standards; sat on the review board of Science & Children magazine; and worked as a consultant for the Museum of Science & Industry, Chicago. She holds an MT(ASCP), B.A.Ed., a M.S. Ed. and an Endorsement in Gifted Education. Her last teaching assignment was as adjunct at Lewis University, teaching science methods. After retirement, she reviewed children’s books for the Recommends division of Science & Children and continued to work for several years on the review board.

For more, see Catree Books

GUEST POSTS: NSTA Linking Literacy, NSTA National Convention, St. Louis, MO April 12, 2019, 1-4 pm.
The National Science Teacher’s Association has invited authors of Outstanding Science Trade Books and Best Stem Books to discuss literacy and children’s books at a special Literacy Event. 23 of these authors have contributed guest posts to run from January 15-April 9.

See the full author list at GUEST POSTS BY SCIENCE AUTHORS and the date on which they will post.

Guest post by Carrie J. Launius and Christine Royce

NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Books – since 1973

national science teachers assocation outstanding trade book seal

In 1973, the first Outstanding Science Trade Books list was published on cooperation between the National Science Teachers Association and the Children’s Book Council. This list which identifies books that were published in the previous year has continued since that day with the same collaborators and many scientists, educators, and librarians having served on the review panels throughout the years.

While this book list is now in approaching it’s fiftieth year, the criteria associated with the books selected have been tweaked over time but remain largely consistent.  Books

  • must be scientifically accurate and not contrary to current scientific thinking;
  • should not lead to misconceptions or oversimplify facts;
  • engage students in the understanding of science;
  • include an informative and aesthetically appealing format with the presentation of information in a logical and clear sequence;
  • are appropriate for the intended audience;
  • should be without significant personification, teleology, or animism or inaccurate anthropomorphism;

Additionally, if conflicting scientific theories exist, as many views as possible are represented. Finally, but equally important, the information is free of gender, ethnic, or socio-economic bias, whenever possible.

Best STEM Books

    Fast forward to the current time and the recognition that STEM has a definite place and need within the current classroom.  Knowing this, the Best STEM Book List morphed from the Outstanding Science Trade Book List and added to the recommendations books that could be utilized as exemplars in the area of STEM thinking.

While the criteria for the OSTB has been vetted and are clear, the criteria for the BSB is muddy as it is not nearly as cut and dry (i.e. has accurate science content) when selecting books for this list.  Much more inference is used while reading the books. The original idea was due to the fact that it was desirable to shine the light on what we believed created STEM-like thinking and provide resources that modeled that for students.  We looked at a variety of books, examined their components, and analyzed them to identify what we thought a STEM book would look like; but more importantly, we determined what was NOT a STEM book though the use of the Frayer Model.  Once an initial categorization was determined, a small team of educators developed the criteria.

The initial starting point considered that a STEM book was not just a book that taught science, technology, engineering or math.  A STEM book promoted STEM-like thinking and needed to incorporate at least two of those subjects in an integrated and supported manner.  The goal was to select books to promote not only convergent thinking but also divergent thinking.

After much research and thought we came across these STEM Book tenets which require that books

  • models innovation;
  • illustrates authentic problems;
  • assimilates new or more efficient ideas;
  • invites divergent thinking;
  • shows progressive change or improvement;
  • explores multiple solutions to problems; and
  • integrates STEM disciplines.

Along with this criteria books needed to have accurate content,  be age appropriate, and incorporates and demonstrates diversity. 

    To engage students in STEM topics and STEM like thinking, it is important that students be provided with a plethora of experiences from the earliest of ages.  Providing opportunities for students to gain exposure to STEM like thinking through literature allows students to connect this experience to other opportunities that they have. There are additional benefits for using books in this way which include the ability for students to get into the “heads” of the story characters; consider experiences that they characters have had or are describing,  and begin to understand the “thinking stance” associated with how they approached the situation described.  Furthermore, we want students to use the experiences and thinking strategies described in the story in their own experiences and to learn to take risks, be bold, and try new things. 

In considering all of the wonderful books published each year, you might run across a book that you believe should have made one of our lists based on the criteria.  We find these books too.  By providing additional information about the process and the existence of the list, we hope that more publishers would submit books to the CBC for consideration.  Books cannot be reviewed for consideration as a Best STEM Book, if it has not been submitted.

There is no doubt that both of these book lists have a similar goal which is to bring quality children’s literature into the K-12 classroom  in order to utilize the books as a springboard for engaging students in the pursuit of science disciplines and STEM habits of mind.

Check out the current OSTB and BSB lists.


Carrie J Launius
Carrie J. Launius, co-leader of the Linking Literacy Event.

Carrie J. Launius created the Best STEM Book Award, is co-leader of the Linking Literacy Event at the 2019 NSTA Convention, is the Elementary Science Coordinator for St. Louis Public Schools as well as the NSTA District XI Director.



Christine Royce, Current President of the NSTA

Christine Royce, Ph.D is the current president of the National Science Teacher’s Association and co-leader of the Linking Literacy Event for the 2019 NSTA Convention.

Excerpt from MY STEAM NOTEBOOK

“One item which seems quite naturally to be inseparable from you in your work is your notebook. Many years ago, during my Congo wanderings, I was given a ring file pocketbook, which has been a treasured and useful memento of that country for more than three decades. . .Jack Vincent, British ornithologist

Scientists tend to be fanatical about their notebooks. For those who get into the habit of recording in a notebook, it becomes a confidante. It includes their thoughts, actions, evaluations, dreams, speculations, observations, tedious lists of specimens, and much more. It’s fitting that young scientists turn to these historical journals for clues on what to include in their own science notebooks.

Observing Historical Science Notebooks

To write this book, I looked at hundreds of different notebooks from a variety of American scientists. Most came from the Smithsonian Field Book project and the National Library of Medicine. Notebooks from biologists and doctors are different. Throw in the notebooks from the Silicon Valley engineers housed at the Computer History Museum, and scientists’ notebooks expressed many different goals and approaches. Some emphasized one step of the scientific process more than another. Each notebook looks different because scientists were trying to accomplish different goals. Even the shapes of the physical books varied.

My STEAM Notebook: Helping Kids Write About Their Observations | MimsHouse.com

Engineers tended to emphasize idea generation, the design phase, or drawings of how to build something. Biologists tended to tell a narrative of observing or collecting specimens in the wild. In the laboratory, notebooks tended to be more procedural, or “this is what I did and how I did it.” Medical research included be exact chemical procedures in a laboratory. Notebooks for those researchers held pages of mathematical figures, dense tables of data, and little narrative. Doctors involved in public health, however, traveled to sites with disease outbreaks, worked with community organizers to make changes, or worked on public education campaigns. Their notebooks are often travelogues with notes on disease scattered throughout.

Some scientists were compulsive about writing down everything, while others merely jotted things now and then. Overseas travel often inspired a detailed diary, and then the scientist wrote nothing for a decade. But through the varied experiences of American scientists, the notebooks are there. Why?
Scientists felt compelled to keep a notebook for many reasons. For engineers, a notebook could be a legal document, the basis of a patent filing. Other scientists seemed to have a sense of destiny and wanted to record something for later generations to read. Others were just bugged by an idea and wanted to work it out on paper.

Essentially, they all had to address the basic question of all writing: who is your audience? Yourself or others?

Process v. Product based Science Notebooks

Most notebooks I looked at took a process-based approach, which means the notebook was a record of the process of exploring science. These notebooks were written by the scientists for themselves. Even when there was a sense that this record might be historically important, scientists often skipped days in recording data.

NSTA Recommends This Book for Writing About Science
The National Science Teacher’s Association publishes a site that recommends books for teaching science, NSTA Recommends. This is their review of MY STEAM NOTEBOOK
Reviewed by Steve Canipe
Director, Science, Mathematics & Instructional Design Technology

This book, written by Darcy Pattison and entitled My STEAM Notebook: 150 Years of Primary Source Documents from American Scientists, at first look might well draw a startled reception from teachers and parents. The reason for this is that the book is mostly blank pages. A reader might well think what is this? Ms. Pattison, the author, explains her reasoning for blank pages in the well–written introductory notes. She has poured through many scientific notebooks used by American scientists, ranging from those in the mid–1800s to the end of the 20th century and it appears her purpose is several fold. One, she wants to introduce the idea that all scientists keep a journal, notebook, or other record of their observations, experiments, experiences, etc. Two, she wants to inspire young scientists to start or keep doing good record keeping and has provided a blank template to follow. Read the full review here.

By contrast, most recommendations about student science notebooks take a product-based approach. Students must complete a project with certain required elements, and the teacher grades the notebook. Scientists are focused inward on their own goals, experiences, and projects. Students, because they produce a product-based notebook, must look outward. Scientists write for themselves; students write for their teacher. Like any writing project, audience is a key consideration of what and how something is written.

One element almost universally required in student notebooks is a question. Often called a focusing question, it serves to guide the rest of the inquiry. After examining historical examples of notebooks from scientists, I rarely found a focusing question. That’s not to say that the question wasn’t in the scientist’s mind, but it wasn’t expressed on the pages of notebooks. Scientists were usually clear in their inquiry goals and didn’t need to state the question so others could evaluate it. Again, it’s the difference between inward or outward facing purposes for a notebook.

Another way to say this is that process-based notebooks are best used for formative assessment, those which monitor student understanding and then modify the course work to aid understanding. Product-based science notebooks are best for summative assessment such as when the teacher evaluates and assigns a grade.

150 Years of American Scientists: Read Their Science Notebooks

The scientists whose notebooks are included here span about 150 years of American scientific study, from the mid-1800s to the end of the 1900s. In the process of researching available historical notebooks, I concentrated on seeking examples that would help students learn to use their own notebooks to record questions, observations, and conclusions. The historical notebooks are arranged here in a progression that will help students understand the potential for what a notebook can do for their scientific understanding.

My STEAM Notebook - Alexander Wetmore
Alexander Wetmore in Panama, where he collected bird skins.

Alexander Wetmore, nicknamed Alick (pp. 16-17), is presented first because his first recording of a bird occurred at age eight while in Florida on a vacation. He described the pelican as a “great big bird that eats fish.”5 Throughout his teen years, he kept a monthly record of all the birds he saw. By age 15, he had published his first article in 1900 in Bird Lore magazine, “My Experience with a Red-headed Woodpecker.” (See pp. 148-149 for a reproduction of that article.) Wetmore’s notebooks show that observations can be done at any age. Lifelong passions can begin in an elementary school science notebook.

If you pare it down to essentials, the only things recorded in a notebook are words and drawings. Of course, photographs, worksheets, or other memorabilia can be fastened inside the notebook, but what students will actually write are words and drawings. Students need to explore a variety of ways to use text and art.

Acc 01-096, Box 1, Folder 26; Page of field notes documents M. Moynihan’s behavioral observations of gulls (laridae) in South America. This messy notebook from Mortin Moynihan shows a labeled drawing, lots of text, and a bit of doodling.

Martin H. Moynihan (pp. 28-29) presents a variety of options: text only, drawings only and a combination of text and drawing. Sometimes, text dominates, and other times drawings dominate.

William Healey Dall notebook from MY STEAM NOTEBOOK, by Darcy Pattison
Dall drew three potty made my natives. Without the text, though, it’s impossible to understand the size of each pot. The sketch and text together provide the needed information.

Likewise, William Healey Dall (pp. 40-41) gives students a look at additional options possible in a notebook. He drew maps, native people, and interesting objects while he kept a careful record of his travels to Alaska. Look especially at his drawing of native pottery. While it’s interesting, the drawing alone doesn’t tell enough because we don’t know the scale. Only the text explains the size of each pot. Students need to learn to use text and drawings together to give a more complete understanding of what is observed.

Joseph Nelson Rose cactus expert, from MY STEAM NOTEBOOK, by Darcy Pattison
When Joseph Nelson Rose collected Cactus, it included photos, seeds, pressed leaves, flowers and descriptions of each cactus.

A basic skill that students need is the ability to make a careful observation. Joseph Nelson Rose’s cactus example (pp. 52-53) is excellent because he includes descriptions of color, size, shape, and number. Notice too that he uses scientific vocabulary. As students write in notebooks, observations will be more exact as they learn the scientific names for objects, anatomy, and so on. For that, use My Glossary in the back of this book. However, remember that students may also choose to define words in context.

Lucille Mann feeds a tiger cub. From MY STEAM NOTEBOOK, by Darcy Pattison
Lucille Mann feeds a tiger cub at the National Zoo. She accompanied her husband on animal collection trips and wrote narratives that bring the trips to life.

Lucile Mann (pp. 64-65) was the wordsmith in the family, leaving the public speaking to her husband, William “Bill” Mann, Director of the National Zoo. Because she worked first as an editor, her diaries are carefully typed and edited. One type of writing found over and over in science notebooks is a narrative, or a description of something that happened to them. Mann’s narrative writing skills are shown by her use of sensory details in her travel descriptions.

Boy holds a board showing tape worms taken from his body. From MY STEAM NOTEBOOK, by Darcy Pattison
Scientists Fred Soper worked in public health in the US and South America. One project worked to eliminate tape worms by building better public health toilets. This boy holds a board that shows the tape worms taken from his body.

Fred Soper (pp. 76-77) also recorded narratives in his diaries kept during public health work in Brazil. He not only records scientific observations, but does it with humor. His writing voice was warm, sarcastic and funny.

Shifting focus to the drawings in the science notebooks.

Acc 000229, Box 20, Folder 1; Photographs documenting Mary Agnes Chase’s field work in Brazil, 1924-1925. With Dona Maria.

Mary Agnes Chase (pp. 88-89) originally worked as a botanical illustrator. Early in her career, she learned to use a microscope which helped her make observations that brought her work to life. She also used photography extensively later in her career, and it’s interesting to discuss with students the role of a botanical illustrator as compared with a photographer. Illustrators are free to combine elements from different seasons: for example a flower and a fruit. Photographers are restricted to only what their cameras can record. Also look at how carefully her type-written pages are edited.

DONALD S. ERDMAN’S NOTEBOOK: RU 007428, Box 1, Folder 1; “Account book and one sheet of paper dating from the Spring and Summer of 1948. The account book contains lists of expenses, including the cost of purchasing specimens. The book also contains a number of sketches (some in color), labeled with genus and number (approx. U-48-123 to U-48-175), sometimes including sex, locality, and other information. Localities include the Red Sea. The sheet of paper contains a list of fish collected or seen in the Persian Gulf.”

While many of the scientists included drawings, Donald S. Erdman (pp. 100-101) took them to a new level with color (although shown in b/w here). But he didn’t use color just to use color. Instead, he describes the reason for color: that preserved fish quickly lose any color. For proper identification and understanding of the fish, color was required. Students should learn to use whatever tools are necessary to record observations.

Robert E. Silberglied (pp. 112-113) had an amazing eye for visual details. Notice the elaborate key and compass indicating north that he used on his map of Gomez Farias in Mexico. Silberglied also specialized in photography. He used ultraviolet light in his studies and photographed flowers in ultraviolet light. Optical microscopy allowed him to zoom in close on a butterfly’s wing. Though he didn’t use it, we introduce the idea of aerial or satellite photography and electron microscopy in the discussion questions.

Almost all these American scientists collected specimens. Throughout, you’ll see discussions of objects that are sent back home for further study. From Chase’s grasses to Wetmore’s bird skins, collecting items for further study is an important part of observation. Scientists were careful to record exactly when and where the items were collected. Often the descriptions involve a physical location (e.g. Silberglied’s “. . .2 miles off Mexican Highway 85”6) Temperature, weather, elevation and other conditions are often reported. Students need to learn to record these type of variables.

Watson M. Perrygo (pp. 124-125), as a taxidermist and museum curator, shows one of the final stages of observations and collection of specimens. The objects are available for various scientific studies, and they are also made available for the general public to view in a museum setting. The specimens are important historical snapshots of an ecosystem and can be compared to contemporary conditions. But they are also an entertaining way to learn more science. Museums write informational materials to help the public understand what they are seeing.

For more, see MY STEAM NOTEBOOK.

Gift guides for the 2018 Christmas season. If you’re needing a gift for kids, Mim’s house has books for all ages. We all love getting book boxes, with the books and other things that go with it. Here are five suggestions for books and gifts you can get your loved ones!

   Guest post by Rachael Steele

   Gift guide #1: Pre-School Bedtime Story

Rowdy is a great book for your pre-schooler. It's a great story for father's to read to their daughters at bedtime. Give both your daughter and her father the gift of a great relationship. | Rowdy: The Pirate Who Could Not Sleep | Mims House Rowdy is a great book for your pre-schooler. It’s a great story for father’s to read to their daughters at bedtime. Give both your daughter and her father the gift of a great relationship.

And here’s a fun map, and a hat to go with it!

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   Gift guide #2: STEM for the curious elementary student

Nefertiti is a great picture book for STEM education, and it teaches kids about science experiments and space exploration.    Nefertiti is a great picture book for STEM education, and it teaches kids about science experiments and space exploration.

Here’s a fun Star Wars lego set, and a spider finger puppet to go with it!

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   Gift guide #3: STEM book for kids

Follow Michael Faraday back into the 1800s to read about his science experiment with fire! This is a great STEM book to read with your kids, as it condenses the lecture Faraday published in 1861 into something the whole family will understand. Follow Michael Faraday back into the 1800s to read about his science experiment with fire! This is a great STEM book to read with your kids, as it condenses the lecture Faraday published in 1861 into something the whole family will understand.

Your child can also hold a glowing candle while you read.

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Gift guide #4: Picture book for kids

Kell is a fun book about an Alien who crash lands on Earth and has to survive third grade. Your kids will love reading about him and his best friend Bree! | Kell, the Alien, Book 1, The Aliens, Inc. series | MimsHouse.comKell is a fun book about an Alien who crash lands on Earth and has to survive third grade. Your kids will love reading about him and his best friend Bree!

Here’s a fun paint set, so your child can paint like Kell and Bree do! They can wear these fun glasses too.

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   Gift guide #5: YA book for JR high/high school

      Sleepers is a great YA book about sirens who need to inhabit earth. Your kids will love to read about the different take on sirens. | Sleepers, Book 1, Blue Planets World series | MimsHouse.com

Sleepers is a great YA book about sirens who need to inhabit earth. Your kids will love to read about the different take on sirens.

Here’s a sea shell necklace that goes perfectly with the book!

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About the Guest Blogger: Rachael is a five foot ten and a half inch tall writer who is frequently called smol. She writes while stroking her sister’s bunny, jumbling words to creates stories. Typically writing in fantasy and futuristic, she has written over twelve full length novels, both by herself and a few with other people. She blogs at theartofwritingforhim.blogspot.com, and is a intern at Mims House.

 

 

 

With the implementation of the Next Gen Science Standards, more attention has turned to what tasks students are asked to do in elementary and middle school science classes. Increasingly, teachers ask students to write about projects in a notebook. The science notebook has been talked about but few have laid out a strategy for teaching kids to write in a science notebook.

Our February release, MY STEAM NOTEBOOK, takes the actual notebooks from American scientists and looks at how they used the notebook to record, explain, question and work with their material.

Observing historical science notebooks

Argentinian scientist, Donna Maria and American scientist, Agnes Chase at the top of the highest mountain in Brazil. | MimsHouse.com. Smithsonian. Acc 000229, Box 20, Folder 1; Photographs documenting Mary Agnes Chase's field work in Brazil, 1924-1925.
Argentinian scientist, Donna Maria and American scientist, Agnes Chase at the top of the highest mountain in Brazil. | MimsHouse.com. Smithsonian. Acc 000229, Box 20, Folder 1; Photographs documenting Mary Agnes Chase’s field work in Brazil, 1924-1925.
To write this book, I looked at hundreds of different notebooks from a variety of American scientists. Most came from the Smithsonian Field Book project and the National library of Medicine. Notebooks from biologists and doctors are different. Throw in the notebooks from the Silicon Valley engineers housed at the Computer History Museum, and scientists’notebooks expressed many different goals and approaches. Some emphasized one step of the scientific process more than another. Each notebook looks different because scientists were trying to accomplish different goals. Even the shapes of the physical books varied. Engineers tended to emphasize idea generation, the design phase, or drawings of how to build something. Biologists tended to tell a narrative of observing or collecting specimens in the wild. In the laboratory, notebooks tended to be more procedural, or “this is what I did and how I did it.” Medical research included be exact chemical procedures in a laboratory. Notebooks for those researchers held pages of mathematical figures, dense tables of data, and little narrative. Doctors involved in public health, however, traveled to sites with disease outbreaks,worked with community organizers to make changes, or worked on public education campaigns. Their notebooks are often travelogues with notes on disease scattered throughout.Some scientists were compulsive about writing down everything, while others merely jotted things now and then. Overseas travel often inspired a detailed diary, and then the scientist wrote nothing for a decade. But through the varied experiences of American scientists, the notebooks are there. Why?

Scientists felt compelled to keep a notebook for many reasons. For engineers, a notebook could be a legal document, the basis of a patent filing. Other scientists seemed to have a sense of destiny and wanted to record something for later generations to read. Others were just bugged by an idea and wanted to work it out on paper. Essentially, they all had to address the basic question of all writing: who is your audience? Yourself or others?

Process v. Product based Notebooks

Most notebooks I looked at took a process-based approach, which means the notebook was a record of the process of exploring science. These notebooks were written by the scientists for themselves. Even when there was a sense that this record might be historically important, scientists often skipped days in recording data.

By contrast, most recommendations about student science notebooks take a product-based approach. Students must complete a project with certain required elements, and the teacher grades the notebook. Scientists are focused inward on their own goals, experiences, and projects.

Students, because they produce a product-based notebook, must look outward. Scientists write for themselves; students write for their teacher. Like any writing project, audience is a key consideration of what and how something is written.

One element almost universally required in student notebooks is a question. Often called a focusing question, it serves to guide the rest of the inquiry. After examining historical examples of notebooks from scientists, I rarely found a focusing question. That’s not to say that the question wasn’t in the scientist’s mind, but it wasn’t expressed on the pages of notebooks.

Scientists were usually clear in their inquiry goals and didn’t need to state the question so others could evaluate it. Again, it’s the difference between inward or outward facing purposes for a notebook.

Another way to say this is that process-based notebooks are best used for formative assessment, those which monitor student understanding and then modify the course work to aid understanding. Product-based science notebooks are best for summative assessment such as when the teacher evaluates and assigns a grade.

150 Years of American Scientists

Bird Scientist Alexander Wetmore, age 15, with a stuffed bird and the magazine with his first published article. | MimsHouse.com
Bird Scientist Alexander Wetmore, age 15, with a stuffed bird and the magazine with his first published article. | MimsHouse.com
The scientists whose notebooks are included here span about 150 years of American scientific study, from the mid-1800s to the end of the 1900s. In the process of researching available historical notebooks, I concentrated on seeking examples that would help students learn to use their own notebooks to record questions, observations, and conclusions. The historical notebooks are arranged here in a progression that will help students understand the potential for what a notebook can do for their scientific understanding.

If you pare it down to essentials, the only things recorded in a notebook are words and drawings. Of course, photographs, worksheets, or other memorabilia can be fastened inside the notebook, but what students will actually write are words and drawings. Students need to explore a variety of ways to use text and art. The scientists are presented in a logical order that develops a student’s skills with text, art, or a combination of text and art.

  1. Student Task: WRITE A LIST. Alexander Wetmore, nicknamed Alick (pp. 16-17), is presented first because his first recording of a bird occurred at age eight while in Florida on a vacation. He described the pelican as a “great big bird that eats fish.”5 Throughout his teen years, he kept a monthly record of all the birds he saw. By age 15, he had published his first article in 1900 in Bird Lore magazine, “My Experience with a Red-headed Woodpecker.” (See pp. 148-149 for a reproduction of that article.) Wetmore’s notebooks show that observations can be done at any age. Lifelong passions can begin in an elementary school science notebook.
  2. Student Task: Draw and Label the Drawing. Martin H. Moynihan (pp. 28-29) presents a variety of options: text only, drawings only and a combination of text and drawing. Sometimes, text dominates, and other times drawings
    dominate.
  3. Native Alaskan woman drawn by William Dall on an exploration expedition. From Dall's field book. Example of original source documents in MY STEAM NOTEBOOK. | MimsHouse.com
    Native Alaskan woman drawn by William Dall on an exploration expedition. From Dall’s field book. Example of original source documents in MY STEAM NOTEBOOK. | MimsHouse.com
    Student Task: Draw, then write an explanation that can’t be understood from the drawing alone. Likewise, William Healey Dall (pp. 40-41) gives students a look at additional options possible in a notebook. He drew maps, native people, and interesting objects while he kept a careful record of his travels to Alaska. Look especially at his drawing of native pottery. While it’s interesting, the drawing alone doesn’t tell enough because we don’t know the scale. Only the text explains the size of each pot. Students need to learn to use text and drawings together to give a more complete understanding of what is observed.
  4. Student Task: Describe with words. A basic skill that students need is the ability to make a careful observation. Joseph Nelson Rose’s cactus example (pp. 52-53) is excellent because he includes descriptions of color, size,shape, and number. Notice too that he uses scientific vocabulary. As students write in notebooks,observations will be more exact as they learn the scientific names for objects, anatomy,and so on. For that, use My Glossary in the back of this book. However, remember that studentsmay also choose to define words in context.
  5. Student Task: Describe with a narrative (time-order) essay. Lucile Mann (pp. 64-65) was the wordsmith in the family, leaving the public speaking to her husband, William “Bill” Mann, Director of the National Zoo. Because she worked first as an editor, her diaries are carefully typed and edited. One type of writing found over and over in science notebooks is a narrative, or a description of something that happened to them.
    Mann’s narrative writing skills are shown by her use of sensory details in her travel descriptions.
  6. Student Task: Write with voice. Fred Soper (pp. 76-77) also recorded narratives in his diaries kept during public health work in Brazil. He not only records scientific observations, but does it with humor. His writing voice was warm, sarcastic and funny.
  7. Shifting focus to the drawings, several scientists were especially adept at sketching.

  8. Student Task: Draw something that you couldn’t capture with a photograph. Mary Agnes Chase (pp. 88-89) originally worked as a botanical illustrator. Early in her career, she learned to use a microscope which helped her make observations that brought her work to life. She also used photography extensively later in her career, and it’s interesting to discuss with students the role of a botanical illustrator as compared with a photographer. Illustrators are free to combine elements from different seasons: for example a flower and a fruit. Photographers are restricted to only what their cameras can record. Also look at how carefully her type-written pages are edited.
  9. Student Task: Draw and use color to add information. While many of the scientists included drawings, Donald S. Erdman (pp. 100-101) took them to a new level with color (although shown in b/w here). But he didn’t use color just to use color. Instead, he describes the reason for color: that preserved fish quickly lose any color.For proper identification and understanding of the fish, color was required. Students should learn to use whatever tools are necessary to record observations.
  10. Student Task: Draw a map. Robert E. Silberglied (pp. 112-113) had an amazing eye for visual details. Notice the elaborate key and compass indicating north that he used on his map of Gomez Farias in Mexico. Silberglied also specialized in photography. He used ultraviolet light in his studies and photographed flowers in ultraviolet light. Optical microscopy allowed him to zoom in close on a butterfly’s wing. Though he didn’t use it, we introduce the idea of aerial or satellite photography and electron microscopy in the discussion questions.
  11. Student Task: Describe physical location and conditions. Almost all these American scientists collected specimens. Throughout, you’ll see discussions of objects that are sent back home for further study. From Chase’s grasses to Wetmore’s bird skins, collecting items for further study is an important part of observation. Scientists were careful to record exactly when and where the items were collected. Often the descriptions involve a physical location (e.g. Silberglied’s “. . .2 miles off Mexican Highway 85”6)Temperature, weather, elevation and other conditions are often reported. Students need to learn to record these type of variables.
  12. Example of original source documents in MY STEAM NOTEBOOK. Watson Perrygo prepares a snake for display in the Smithsonian Museum. | MimsHouse.com
    Example of original source documents in MY STEAM NOTEBOOK. Watson Perrygo prepares a snake for display in the Smithsonian Museum. | MimsHouse.com
    Student Task: Write an informative essay about objects or results of an investigation. Watson M. Perrygo (pp. 124-125), as a taxidermist and museum curator, shows one of the final stages of observations and collection of specimens. The objects are available for various scientific studies, and they are also made available for the general public to view in a museum setting. The specimens are important historical snapshots of an ecosystem and can be compared to contemporary conditions. But they are also an entertaining way to learn more science. Museums write informational materials to help the public understand what they are seeing.

This amazing interactive notebook for kids has fascinating info. Diaries, drawings, and much more to help kids learn how to use a scientist's notebook. Useful and interesting. | MmsHouse.com
This amazing interactive notebook for kids has fascinating info. Diaries, drawings, and much more to help kids learn how to use a scientist’s notebook. Useful and interesting. | MmsHouse.com
MY STEAM NOTEBOOK: 150 Years of Primary Source Documents from American Scientists shows original drawings, writings, maps, photographs and more. From that students should learn to write in their notebooks in ways that help them record and understand scientific observations. Available on February 21, 2017.

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Pretend you’re a kid walking into your school’s library. Now, pretend you have the task of choosing a good book. Information overload takes over and in fact, the overwhelming number of books could mean you’d freeze up and choose nothing.

In a recent survey on MimsHouse.com, teachers were asked, “What is the biggest challenge you face when you try to get kids to read more books?” Not surprisingly, 38% said kids don’t have enough time. Kids are scheduled with sports, electronics compete for their time, and homework schedules are heavy; in school time is taken up with subject matter or test prep. More surprising, 45% reported that students have a hard time choosing a good book.
I love how this article explains kids' decision making process and how we can help them choose great books. Breaks it down into actionable steps. | MimsHouse.com

Yet, 91% of kids say their favorite books are ones they have picked out themselves. And 90% say they are more likely to finish reading a book that they’ve picked out for themselves.

It’s clear that teachers and librarians need to take a new look at how we teach kids to choose a book to read. In fact, 73% of kids say they would read more if they could find a book they like to read.

In light of these statistics, I looked at psychological studies on making choices, especially regarding information overload.

Early studies of the psychology of making choices said that the more items to choose from the harder the choice. For example, there’s the well-known jelly study.

“They had 348 different kinds of jam. We set up a little tasting booth right near the entrance of the store. We there put out six different flavors of jam or 24 different flavors of jam, and we looked at two things: First, in which case were people more likely to stop, sample some jam? More people stopped when there were 24, about 60 percent, than when there were six, about 40 percent. The next thing we looked at is in which case were people more likely to buy a jar of jam. Now we see the opposite effect. Of the people who stopped when there were 24, only three percent of them actually bought a jar of jam. Of the people who stopped when there were six, well now we saw that 30 percent of them actually bought a jar of jam. Now if you do the math, people were at least six times more likely to buy a jar of jam if they encountered six than if they encountered 24.”

24 choices: 60% stopped to sample. 3% bought. 1.8 sales/100 customers
6 choices: 40% sampled; 30% bought. 12 sales/100 customers

However the idea that the sample size determines the rate of choices has been reviewed and found lacking.

Benjamin Scheibehenne, Rainer Greifeneder, and Peter M. Todd (“Can There Ever Be too Many Options? A Meta-Analytic Review of Choice Overload. Journal of Consumer Research, Inc. Vol 37, October 2010) did a meta-analysis of a number of studies that looked at choice overload. They found that the number of choices wasn’t the key factor. Instead, it’s more nuanced. While the whole area needs more research and study, there are some ideas that could help us as we help students choose a book. I’m extrapolating many of these ideas because the studies weren’t specifically looking at students choosing books. However, these ideas give us places to start in helping students find a good book.

Make it Easier to Choose a Good book: Preconditions for Choice Overload

Some situations make information overload more likely.

Lack of familiarity with choice assortment. For young students, this is certainly their state when they enter a library. Everything is unfamiliar and they have no preferences to help them choose a book. Even older students, if they have little experience with books at home, will find the library unfamiliar.

There’s no obvious dominant choice. Ever wonder why Wimpy Kid gets checked out so much? It’s because it’s the default, the obvious choice. When there’s no obvious choice, though, students can fall into a choice overload. Try making an alternate book the obvious choice.

Too many choices. It is true that sometimes there can be too many items to choose among. The problem with this assumption is the question of “how many is too many?” In general, familiarity with the choice assortment means a larger group can be offered. For younger students and when you introduce a new genre, narrow the choices. For older students looking at familiar genres, widen the choices.

Categorize Books to Help Students Choose

Before a student steps into the library, it matters how you organize your library and how you display the books.

Categorize the Choices. A well-organized library facilitates the decision making process for students. When books are categorized, the cognitive burden of choosing is less. Every librarian understands this! It’s helpful to separate fiction from non-fiction, picture books from novels, and so on. Teaching the Dewey Decimal system of categorization helps students choose books because they narrow the choices to a pre-defined set.

But you can also go farther, especially in presenting books for a certain unit of study. Books can be categorized by genre, age level, author, illustrator, amount of illustrations, medium (ebook, print, audio), and so on.

Avoid Difficult Trade-offs. Don’t present books that are too similar. So, three Harry-Potter look-alikes would make it difficult for a student to choose. When the choice is between items that are too similar, the process can become one of difficult trade-offs. These choices can affect satisfaction, regret and motivation. Because there’s always another book to read next week, the regret might be ignored. But satisfaction and motivation need to be considered. Presenting books that display a wider variation would help students make the choices easier. Instead, of a displaying three Harry-Potter look-alikes, you might display together one fantasy, one contemporary and one historical book.

To address the question of satisfaction and regret, always remind the student that if they don’t like this book, it’s not a big deal. They can always check out a different one next time.

These two recommendations can seem to counteract each other: narrow the choices, but don’t present items that are too similar. But remember that simply by setting up a book display, you’ve narrowed choices. If the display forces too narrow a category, though—only Harry Potter look-alikes—it’s hard for students to choose because they are making trade-offs. Make sure books are presented in useful categories, probably dependent on the classroom topics or goals. If the class is studying pets, it won’t be helpful to display choices such as ebooks v. audio v. print books. Instead, it would be helpful to pre-categorize choices into books about cats, dogs, hamsters and so on.

Information Overload. While the number of choices alone wasn’t significant in the studies analyzed, the amount of information was important. Choice overload is a subset of information overload. When presenting books, refrain from presenting everything about the books from which a student can choose. Present enough information to make the choices clear, but not enough to overload the student.

For example, you might discuss the differences in the main characters. The One and Only Ivan is about a gorilla who had to live at a shopping mall for years by himself. Harry Potter is about an orphaned boy who becomes a famous wizard. Wonder is about a boy with a strange disease that leaves him with a deformed face.

Or, for younger classes, you may want to set aside a small bookshelf of books about pets, instead of directing them to the entire shelf based on the Dewey Decimal system.

Time Pressure. The studies also showed that when decision makers were rushed, they tended to be less satisfied with their choices. Within the context of a scheduled library hour, schedule enough time for students to choose a book.

How Kids Make Choices – Decision Strategies

Once the librarian has organized the choices, the student still must choose. How can we make it easier for them?

Relative v. Absolute Evaluations. When choosing a book, students will often compare a book to a group of other books. Some studies indicate the importance of the sequence of the decision making process. Should students narrow options first and then choose; or should they choose a specific book first and then compare it to all the other choices?

People tend to be happier with their choices when they narrow options first. This relates back to the idea of categorization of choices, which is a way of narrowing options. In other words, teaching kids to categorize books is a helpful skill. There are a couple ways to bring this to the process of choosing a book.

Students will be more satisfied in these situations:

  • The student decides to read a humorous story; within the category of humorous stories, s/he decides to read Captain Underpants.
  • The student decides to read a Rick Riordian book. S/he decides to read Percy Jackson and the Olympian series. Actually, if Book 1 is good, then the decision making process is even easier because they are dealing with a known quality. Book 2 is the likely choice. Series actually facilitate happy readers because it alleviates the decision making process.

In other words, help students to verbalize what sort of book they are looking for. Then present a narrow choice within those parameters.

Good Enough v. Best. Another question is whether a student is looking for a book that is “good enough,” or something that is the “best.” Those looking for the Best want a large assortment of books, but even then have trouble deciding. Talk to students about finding a good book and not worrying about finding the best book. This could be a problem with students who resist reading because it’s a waste of time or they just don’t like reading. For them, a wide variety of experiences can teach them that a Good Book can be enjoyed and they don’t necessarily have to have the Best Book.

Choice Justification. Another area studied is whether a student must take personal responsibility for a choice. When people are asked to justify a choice, it’s more difficult to make a decision. It’s especially hard when choices are too similar and sorting out the deciding factor is too subtle. In other words, a difficult question for kids is this: “Why did you choose this book?” Even worse is to be asked, “Why did you choose this book instead of that one?” In those cases, students have trouble analyzing and verbalizing their choice. If they know the question is coming, it’s the hardest of all.

Peer pressure enters in here, because when a student carries around a book, friends will inevitably ask, “What are you reading?” Justifying a certain book to themselves can be hard, but justifying it to friends is even worse. No wonder students stick to the most popular books without branching out.

What if we teach kids how to anticipate and deal with that question? Help students to find ways to make their choices look admirable:

  • “I’m taking a chance by reading something a bit different.”
  • “I’m reading outside my normal genre, just to stretch a bit.”
  • “It’s a new author for me. I’m not sure I’ll like it, but I’m the kind of person who likes to take risks sometimes.”

By giving them strategies and models of how to discuss choices, it could ease the peer pressure and extend choices.

A Summary of Decision Making Strategies

When faced with a choice of too many items, there are several strategies that seem to work. Teaching all three strategies over the course of a year would help expand the students options for finding a good book.

  • Find and accept the first option that exceeds our expectations. A student may decide that s/he wants a funny book that is short. As soon as s/he finds a short, funny book, s/he decides to check it out.
  • Eliminate, using some criteria. If a student is considering three books and only one has black-and-white illustrations throughout, s/he might eliminate the other two because s/he wants some illustrations to help him/her understand the text better.
  • Default. As we said before, a default option often helps students make choices. This strategy has worked well for book clubs in the past. They shipped a certain book UNLESS you told them different. What if we set up a list of reading books for students? If they want to choose something else, that’s fine. But if not, this is the default book for them for today. It would be an interesting idea to try!

    Another way students discover the default is my popular opinion and word-of-mouth: everyone in 6th grade is reading Wimpy Kid; therefore, I must read it.

Helping students make choices about books is crucial for education today. We need a wide variety of techniques and strategies for helping them make those choices. Which of these strategies works best in your school?

Other recommended reading

  1. Scholastic The Kids & Family Reading Report: Fifth Edition In fall 2014, Scholastic, in conjunction with YouGov, conducted a survey to explore family attitudes and behaviors around reading books for fun.
  2. 2016 What Kids Are Reading Report
    During the 2014–2015 school year, 9.8 million students from 31,327 US schools read over 334 million books and nonfiction articles, per data captured by Accelerated Reader 360TM. Search for the books kids read most below.

GUEST POSTS: NSTA Linking Literacy, NSTA National Convention, St. Louis, MO April 12, 2019, 1-4 pm.
The National Science Teacher’s Association has invited authors of Outstanding Science Trade Books and Best Stem Books to discuss literacy and children’s books at a special Literacy Event. 23 of these authors have contributed guest posts to run from January 15-April 9.

See the full author list at GUEST POSTS BY SCIENCE AUTHORS and the date on which they will post.

Guest Posts by Science Authors

Here’s the schedule of authors and when they will post!

 

January 15 Jessica Fries-Gaither Exemplary Evidence: Scientists and Their Data
January 17 Heather Montgomery Something Rotten: A Fresh Look at Roadkill
January 22 Anna Crowley Redding Google It: A History of Google
January 24 Laurie Wallmark Hedy Lamarr’s Double Life
January 29 Baptiste Paul I Am Farmer: Growing an Environmental Movement in Cameroon
January 31 Miranda Paul Nine Months: Before a Baby is Born
February 5 Anita Sanchez Rotten! Vultures, Beetles, Slime, and Nature’s Other Decomposers
February 7 Shana Keller Ticktock Banneker’s Clock
February 12 Tracy Nelson Maurer John Deere, That’s Who!
February 14 HP Newquist The Book of Chocolate
February 19 Carla Billups/Dawn Cusick The Fungus Among Us, the Good, the Bad, and the Downright Scary
February 21 Ann Rubino Emmet’s Storm & Inga’s Amazing Ideas
February 26 Mary Kay Carson Alexander Graham Bell for Kids
February 28 Darcy Pattison Clang
March 5 Jodi Wheeler-Toppen Dog Science Unleashed
March 7 Suzanne Slade Countdown: 2979 Days to the Moon
March 12 Melissa Stewart Pipsqueaks, Slowpokes, and Stinkers
March 14 Carrie J. Launius & Christine Royce, Ph.D Science and STEM Investigates Books
March 19 Jen Swanson Astronaut-Aquanaut
March 21 Patricia Newman Eavesdropping on Elephants
March 26 Heidi E.Y. Stmeple Counting Birds
March 28 Jennifer Ward Mama Dug a Little Den & I Love Birds!
April 2 Alexandra Siy Footprints on the Moon & Voyagers Greatest Hits (as a read-aloud)
April 4 Shanda McCloskey Doll-E 1.0
April 9 See You at the Conference – Wrapup Post

GUEST POSTS: NSTA Linking Literacy, NSTA National Convention, St. Louis, MO April 12, 2019, 1-4 pm.
The National Science Teacher’s Association has invited authors of Outstanding Science Trade Books and Best Stem Books to discuss literacy and children’s books at a special Literacy Event. 23 of these authors have contributed guest posts to run from January 15-April 9.

See the full author list at GUEST POSTS BY SCIENCE AUTHORS and the date on which they will post.

Guest post by Jen Swanson

What is the best thing about science? Some might say learning. Others experimenting. But for me, it’s all about the inquiry. I love asking questions. Why? Because I want to know how things work. And I’m sure a lot of readers have questions, too. That is why I pack my books full of facts. Ones that might challenge them to think more deeply about a topic, or just fun facts that they can share with their friends.

But in my book, Astronaut-Aquanaut: How Space Science and Sea Science Interact (NGKids) I decided to take inquiry to another level. I went straight to the reader and invited them to take a trip with me and explore their career options by asking them the question:

Astronaut or Aquanaut—Which would you be?

There is no better way to explore how you feel about something than to “experience” it. Okay, so you won’t actually become an astronaut or aquanaut by turning the pages of this book. But you will understand what it takes to train, work, and live there.

It’s so much fun to imagine what our future careers will be one day. You might find yourself wishing to blast of into space OR to dive deep under the ocean. But would you like either of these careers? Are they hard to do? What kind of training is needed? And WHAT does the suit you have to wear look and feel like?

These are all amazing questions.

Take a look at the two suits. There is a lot to explore in each one. Which do you think is more comfortable? Which one is designed for easy movement? Which one looks cooler? Why does one have a sun shield and the other a giant flashlight?

By answering these questions, readers are exploring their own knowledge of different topics while actually learning more about these two environments. In understanding that the astronaut needs a sunshield, students are aware that it can be very bright in space, but the flashlight is needed underwater because the sun’s rays can’t penetrate the depths of the ocean.

This very simple comparison opens the door to limitless inquiry and discusions that lead to great understanding. But wait. There’s more. Because this is a science/STEM/STEAM book we have some fun activities for you to do right in your own home to see which one of these careers you might choose.

Astronaut Training

Do you have what it takes to dock at the Space Station?

Grab a tennis ball, a big plastic cup, some rope or strong string and give it a try. It’s not as easy as you think!

Aquanaut Training

Underwater is all about how things float. If you were going to dive deep under water, how do you make sure that you stay down there? And how do you make sure that you come back up? That force is called Buoyancy. It’s a force that pushes up on us as gravity pushes down.

Try this experiment to see how things float… or sink

Did you succeed? Did both of your experiments work? Which one did you like more? Again, this point of inquiry allows readers to evaluate what they did during the experiment. Re-think. Revise and try again. Just like real scientists and engineers do.

Challenge: If you’re looking for more ways to decide, I challenge you to design your own space suit OR underwater suit. What would it look like? What tools would it have? Draw it and compare with your friend.

So what did you decide? Will you be an  Astronaut OR Aquanaut?

My choice? Aquanaut. All the way.

I’d rather see this out my window:

Than this:

Although to be quite honest, they are both amazing views!

Thanks so much for having me on your blog, Darcy. I can’t wait to meet all the amazing science educators at NSTA in St. Louis.


Astronaut-Aquanaut: How Space Science and Sea Science Interact earned a California Reading Association Gold Award, a Silver Medal in the Florida Book Awards, and was a Junior Library Guild Selection and a 2019 NSTA Best STEM book.

Jennifer Swanson

www.JenniferSwansonBooks.com

Bio: Science Rocks! And so do Jennifer Swanson’s books. She is the award-winning author of over 35 nonfiction books for children. Jennifer’s passion for science resonates in in all her books but especially, BRAIN GAMES (NGKids) and SUPER GEAR: Nanotechnology and Sports Team Up (Charlesbridge) which was named an NSTA Best STEM book of 2017. Jennifer’s book, Geoengineering Earth’s Climate: Re-setting the Thermostat (Lerner Books) received a Green Earth Book Honor Award. Her Astronaut-Aquanaut: How Space Science and Sea Science Interact received a Eureka California Reading Association Gold Award, a Silver Medal in the Florida Book Awards, and a 2019 NSTA BEST STEM book award.  She has presented at multiple SCBWI conferences, National NSTA conferences, the Highlights Foundation, the World Science Festival and the Atlanta Science Festival. You can find Jennifer through her website www.JenniferSwansonBooks.com

GUEST POSTS: NSTA Linking Literacy, NSTA National Convention, St. Louis, MO April 12, 2019, 1-4 pm.
The National Science Teacher’s Association has invited authors of Outstanding Science Trade Books and Best Stem Books to discuss literacy and children’s books at a special Literacy Event. 23 of these authors have contributed guest posts to run from January 15-April 9.

See the full author list at GUEST POSTS BY SCIENCE AUTHORS and the date on which they will post.

Guest Post by Shana Keller

Tinkering? Forget it. If a toy broke, my mom threw it out. No matter how badly my siblings and I wanted to take our old Etch-a-Sketch apart—our gadgets and gizmos ended up in the trash. Always. What are you going to do with it? It’s broken! Don’t make a mess! —these were the common reactions to our requests.

It’s no wonder I grew up with the impression that ‘science’ was something other people did in a cold lab with petri dishes, or in a hidden office somewhere behind government walls and granite mountains. Over the years, the ‘science’ I was interested in, what I now know as reverse-engineering, was slowly pushed out of my reach.

So, when Ticktock Banneker’s Clock was nominated as a Best STEM book by the Children’s Book Council in 2017, my wonder came back in unexpected ways. I was excited to hear from teachers about their excitement to use my book, especially when I think back on how badly I wanted to build things and take them apart.

Thanks to the STEM/STEAM movement, there is a shift in how educators and parents view the world of science. The shift, even for myself and as a parent, is in realizing and remembering children have a “natural sense of wonder” and that it’s important to let them explore.

Parents and educators are seeing the value in what were once deemed silly games and hobbies. Games like twenty questions. Hobbies like collecting cicada exoskeletons, cloud counting, or, for lack of a better term, specie spying. I spent entire afternoons on a curb watching roly-polys roll, completely unaware my observations of these pill millipedes were scientific.

Rachel Carson, a renowned scientist said, “If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in.”

As educators and parents, our biggest job is to share that wonder with them. To let them take apart their toys, to let them take pictures and draw sketches of what interests them, to encourage their observations and play. How fun would it be to show up in class and your teacher tells you, “Today, we’re dissecting toys.” Well, it’s happening.

These days, there are Maker Spaces and what I think of as Tinker Spots, found not only in schools, but libraries and children’s museums across the country. Last year, I had the honor of participating in a design challenge program that supported the Maker Movement in Pittsburgh. Those young inventors amazed me, not only with their products, but their fearless attitude towards science.

Science may have intimidated me as a child, but writing about it now, and in a way that inspires children to take their own actions, is simply amazing. I’ve seen how picture books can be used as launch pad to help children sift through their wonders. Take a look at the photo of a clock a young middle-schooler from south Florida created after reading Ticktock Banneker’s Clock!

There is no question that picture books can be used as a tool of research (but don’t call it that) to assist children when their natural curiosity takes over—even when and especially if they don’t have an adult that supports their interests.

To further this discussion, I will be a part of the Linking Literacy conversation at the NSTA National Conference in St. Louis, Missouri, April 12-13.  I look forward to meeting with educators, discussing ideas, and signing books!


Shana Keller writes books for children and young inventors. Entrenched in the world of STEM/STEAM, she is happy to share her experience filing a patent for her own invention. She serves on the Advisory Board for the Carter Center for K-12 Black History Education founded by Dr. LaGarrett J. King. In addition to Ticktock Banneker’s Clock (Sleeping Bear Press, 2017), Shana has two forth-coming picture book titles by Sleeping Bear Press. For more information, please visit her online at www.shanakeller.com.  

GUEST POSTS: NSTA Linking Literacy, NSTA National Convention, St. Louis, MO April 12, 2019, 1-4 pm.
The National Science Teacher’s Association has invited authors of Outstanding Science Trade Books and Best Stem Books to discuss literacy and children’s books at a special Literacy Event. 23 of these authors have contributed guest posts to run from January 15-April 9.

See the full author list at GUEST POSTS BY SCIENCE AUTHORS and the date on which they will post.


Guest Post by Suzanne Slade

Nearly 50 years ago astronauts landed on the moon for the first time.

I still can’t believe humans achieved this monumental feat!

Growing up, my understanding of the first landing was rather simple: Apollo 11 landed and Neil Armstrong took man’s first step on the moon. As an adult, I was surprised to discover that the earlier Apollo missions (1-10) faced many little-known trials and tragedies. (Did you know the Apollo 1 astronauts died on the launchpad during a test?)

50th Anniversary of First Moon Landing

About 9 years ago I decided to create a special book for the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing (July 2019). One that shared Team Apollo’s remarkable ingenuity and bravery, as well as their surprises and setbacks. As a mechanical engineer who used to worked on rockets, I knew writing about spacecraft, flight trajectories, and mission details would entail a lot research. Just like the precise moon missions, there was no room for error. So I dug in. The more I learned, the more I wanted to know!

In September 2018, COUNTDOWN: 2979 DAYS TO THE MOON (illustrated by NYT best-selling illustrator Thomas Gonzalez) released. It shares the incredible 2979 days leading up to the first moon landing—from President Kennedy’s 1961 announcement that America should land on the moon, to Armstrong’s first step on the moon.

Ironically, this book took me about 2979 days (8.2 years).

Timeline of Writing COUNTDOWN

For those who like the “inside scoop,” here’s a brief timeline of that process.

Day 1: On November 20, 2009 I began research for COUNTDOWN with astronaut autobiographies, reliable books, and NASA websites.

Day 44: Dove into the Apollo mission transcripts (Apollo Flight Journal and Apollo Lunar Surface Journal). Read the astronauts’ own words as they worked and joked together. (Did you know the astronauts called each other “Babe?” Ah, the groovy 60s!)

Day 198: Began studying the mesmerizing photos in the Apollo image gallery.

(COUNTDOWN contains 52 phenomenal Apollo pictures.)

Day 370: Completed a detailed story outline.

Day  685: Visited Chicago Adler Planetarium “Mission Moon” exhibit and examined Apollo module, spacesuits, helmets, a moon rock, and more.

Day 1485: Awesome day! Interviewed astronaut Alan Bean (4th man on the moon). He discussed how he became an astronaut, his harrowing Apollo 12 launch (his rocket was hit by lightening twice!), and his one regret—he wished he’d smuggled a football to the moon and thrown the longest pass in the universe.

Day 1500: Exchanged emails with Apollo 7 astronaut, Walt Cunningham.

Day 1660: Finally began first draft. The first lines came out in short, lyrical lines or free verse. The voice felt right for the immediacy and tension of the story, so I went with it.

Day 1850: Shared manuscript with critique friends. They provided feedback on various versions over the next two years.

Day 2111: Made list of “echo words” that appeared in the story often (“spacecraft,” “small,” “powerful”) and replaced many with other words.

Day 2510: Peachtree Publishers acquired the project. (Happy dance!)

Day 2630: Sent my 51-page Sources Doc with sources for all facts to illustrator Tom Gonzalez, who’d signed onto the project. (Another happy dance!)

Day 2766: Tom Gonzalez emailed about Apollo 8 details. As the project continued, we chatted many times about Schirra’s beard, Schweickart’s spacewalk, gloves, and other tedious details.

Day 2874: PDF of Tom’s first sketches arrived. Over time, I reviewed several rounds of sketches/art for technical accuracy.

Day 2920: Dr. Dave Williams from NASA agreed to vet the story. Over the next year we exchanged dozens of emails. Dave sent an audio recording of the final transmission of the Apollo 1 crew which allowed the book to accurately share their last words.

Days 2934-2964: Worked 60+ hour weeks on final edits and fact checking.

Exhausting, yet exciting to see the book coming together so beautifully.

Day 2979: After 8+ years on the project, I submitted last edits January 15, 2018.

Finally, the 144-page book was going to the printer. Whew!

Countdown Cover

“Stunning… Truly out of this world. A must-buy for most poetry collections.” — STARRED Review, School Library Journal

Free Resources for COUNTDOWN

COUNTDOWN Book Trailer

COUNTDOWN Teacher’s Guide

If you attend the NSTA National April Conference in St. Louis, I’d love to see you at the “Conversations with Authors” session Friday afternoon. Also, please stop by to see me Saturday 10:00-11:00am in the autograph area for a free “Astronaut Selfie” photo*.

(*You in an astronaut suit soaring through space!)

More great “space” resources:

Story Time from Space – Videos of astronauts reading books on the International Space Station. My book, ASTRONAUT ANNIE, is blasting off on the next resupply rocket and will be read by an astronaut on the ISS!

NASA TV – Live transmission of astronauts working on the International Space Station.

NASA Kids’ Club – Exciting games, crafts, and activities for students.

Click “Find Out Who Is on the Space Station” link to see who’s on the Space Station now.

Spot the Station – Input your location to see when the International Space Station will be passing over your town.

NASA Teach – Awesome rockets activities for grades K-12.


Suzanne Slade is the award-winning author of more than 100 children’s books. A mechanical engineer by degree who worked on Delta rockets, she often writes about STEM topics. Along with Countdown: 2979 Days to the Moon, other recent titles include: Daring Dozen: The Twelve Who Walked on the Moon, A Computer Called Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Helped Put America on the Moon, Astronaut Annie, The Inventor’s Secret, and Dangerous Jane. Free Teacher’s Guides for these books and more at www.suzanneslade.com. @AuthorSSlade

Guest post by H.P. Newquist

GUEST POSTS: NSTA Linking Literacy, NSTA National Convention, St. Louis, MO April 12, 2019, 1-4 pm.
The National Science Teacher’s Association has invited authors of Outstanding Science Trade Books and Best Stem Books to discuss literacy and children’s books at a special Literacy Event. 23 of these authors have contributed guest posts to run from January 15-April 9.

See the full author list at GUEST POSTS BY SCIENCE AUTHORS and the date on which they will post.

Chocolate and Valentine’s Day. They’re almost synonymous, aren’t they? They weren’t always linked, but “The Book Of Chocolate” explores the origins of this now-pervasive pairing.

Chocolate was a bitter drink prized by Mayans and Aztecs for its health benefits, and cocoa beans were used as currency in Central America long before Columbus showed up. When it evolved into an actual treat in Europe during the mid-1800s, chocolate became an expensive and rare food, regarded as something reserved for the rich and the royal. On those occasions when it was given as a gift by commoners, it meant that someone had made a financial sacrifice to buy it—and thus was showing a great deal of affection. Valentine’s Day was the day on which this affection was made most public.

As for all those heart-shaped boxes filled with chocolates, we can thank Richard Cadbury—of the famous Cadbury chocolate company—for indulging his artistic side in the 1860s and painting boxes to hold his family’s chocolates during special occasions. There is more on that particular history in the book.

Science plays an important role in the pairing of chocolate and Valentine’s Day. The chemical elements of chocolate that affect the brain may have unconsciously led people to equate chocolate with love. They affect the same parts of the brain that cause feelings of happiness and joy. Chocolate, oddly enough, is one of the most complex chemical combinations known to science. As of the most recent research, there are over six hundred chemical compounds in raw chocolate, ranging from theobromine to caffeine. In fact, there may be over a thousand chemical compounds; scientists are regularly finding more. The reason that we don’t know the exact number is because the chemistry of chocolate changes at every single stage of its production. Cocoa beans change their composition as they ferment; nibs change from heat during roasting; cocoa butter changes when it’s separated from the mass. It changes again many times when other ingredients and their own unique chemistries are added to the mix: sugar, milk, spices, fruits, and anything else that makes up the final product. Cocoa beans are so complex that scientists haven’t been able to come up with a substitute for them (like they have for sugar).

This latter point is what makes the story of chocolate a perfect springboard for science. All books are, of course, stories of one kind or another. And I’ve found that truly unique and interesting stories are often excellent vehicles for “stealth science.”

Chocolate: An Example of Stealth Science

Stealth science is a method of introducing readers to science without them thinking it is science, or without scaring them off by labeling it as science. In essence, readers are unaware that they’re learning any science. In each of my books, I weave stealth science into the theme of the story. For instance, in The Book Of Chocolate, one of the most fascinating elements of growing cocoa starts with a midge. The midge is a fly so small you can barely see it: a full-grown midge is barely 1/32 of an inch long. In order to stay airborne during flight, the midge’s wings must beat one thousand times per second. To understand how fast that is, you can blink your eyes five times a second if you’re incredibly quick about it. For each blink, a midge’s wings beat two hundred times.

This is a fascinating set of facts rooted in the realm of science (in this case, zoology). And yet, the reader isn’t told that this is a quick science lesson. It is a natural—and just as important, engaging—part of the story of chocolate. The science is extracted from everyday objects, environments, or situations.

In addition, I think science books and lessons best serve children (and adults) by being stories written from the outside in—a method of presenting stealth science, as it were. Too much of how we try to engage people in the sciences starts at the level of the atom or the seed—both of which are literally and figuratively invisible in our daily lives. Our normal observations about the world begin from the opposite perspective. For instance, people look at an orange, and they see the entire sphere before they see the seed. Kids peel the skin off an orange, break open the wedges, and suck out the juice before encountering the seed. The same is true of experiencing the internal workings of a car engine or a clock. In the realm of mechanisms, you learn by looking at the whole and then stripping it down, not by starting with an abstraction that is then created from seemingly disparate parts.

I use this approach in all my writing—for example, “The Great Brain Book” and “The Book Of Blood.” Kids are familiar with skulls and the entire brain, so I explored the brain’s anatomy by delving through the skin, the skull, the layers, and lobes of the brain until we got to synapses and axons and dendrites. With “Blood,” I began with the imagery and myth of blood in various cultures and our experience seeing it from cut fingers and loose teeth. That’s the fascinating “outside” element of blood that leads stealthily down into the spleen, bone marrow, corpuscles, and platelets.

This approach works well outside of books. I applied the technique to a traveling guitar exhibit, where people learn about electromagnetism, sound waves, decibels, pattern recognition, and other science-related elements by interacting with the guitar, the world’s most popular instrument. (The exhibit is in St. Louis at the Science Center, so stop by if you’re interested.)

Stealth science gets children and adults involved even if they have no idea they are subliminally learning. And it can be applied everywhere, every day: flowers, food, sports, clouds, buildings, computers; every single thing. If I’ve gotten a reader to think about the chemistry of chocolate—or about the culture of the Maya and Aztecs—when they’ve come ostensibly to learn about candy and cakes, then I’ve accomplished something.


HP Newquist is an author who has written about everything from technology to music. His most recent books are From Here To There (Viking/Smithsonian) and The Book Of Chocolate (Viking). He has won numerous awards for his work from science, academic, and library associations. Notably, of the 21 books given the Best STEM Award by the NSTA and CBC in 2018, two were written by Newquist. When not writing, he serves as director of The National GUITAR Museum and gives talks on artificial intelligence. Learn more about him at http://newquist.net/

GUEST POSTS: NSTA Linking Literacy, NSTA National Convention, St. Louis, MO April 12, 2019, 1-4 pm.
The National Science Teacher’s Association has invited authors of Outstanding Science Trade Books and Best Stem Books to discuss literacy and children’s books at a special Literacy Event. 23 of these authors have contributed guest posts to run from January 15-April 9.

See the full author list at GUEST POSTS BY SCIENCE AUTHORS and the date on which they will post.

Do you remember that kid who claimed bragging rights for knowing stuff? Let’s call him “Encyclopedia Eddie.” He annoyed me, to be honest. But I also secretly wanted to know as much as he did. He was the kid I had in mind when I started working on John Deere, That’s Who!.

From my experience writing an earlier book about tractors, I knew that most people who have seen the name “John Deere” on those ubiquitous green-and-yellow tractors and lawn mowers conclude that John Deere must have invented the tractor.

Wrong, friends. John Deere died about 30 years before the first tractor. And that fact alone would have been bragging rights for Eddie. But it wasn’t enough for me. I wanted to find out what John Deere actually did to make him famous. My line of inquiry had nothing to do with STEM—and everything, in the end.

My research for the book included reading books, scouring 1800s newspapers, viewing online archives, interviewing experts (including farmers and the archivist at the John Deere headquarters), and visiting the John Deere museums in Moline and Grand Detour, Illinois. I learned that John Deere was a pretty good blacksmith, which the little town of Grand Detour needed, especially since its location on the prairie meant that the farmers were banging up their heavy plows on the tall-grass roots all the time. BOOM. John had a problem to solve for his customers! John did hands-on research and figured out that steel would probably work better than iron. He brainstormed solutions, chose a design that might resolve the problem, built a prototype, tested it, and kept tinkering with it to make it better and better. His plow eventually changed America and his company went on to become one of the best-known farm-implement and equipment manufacturers in the world.

Now my job was to write that up, and make it interesting and engaging for young readers, including Encyclopedia Eddie. It had to a have a fun-factor. But what?

I tried lyrical prose à la Jacqueline Briggs-Martin’s Snowflake Bentley. My draft? Utterly boring.

Next, I revised the content into a series of poems, recalling Joyce Sidman’s Winter Bees and Other Poems of the Cold. Hers? Beautiful. Mine? Meh.

Then I played with the rhythm, repetition, tone, and voice, using The Extraordinary Mark Twain, According to Susy by Barbara Kerley and Just Behave, Pablo Picasso! by Jonah Winter for inspiration, among other outstanding biographies. Soon, I found my own way into John Deere’s story and things became more fun, for me and for readers.

After the book came out, a teacher emailed me to ask if John had used the Engineering Design Process. My first reaction was: His plow was developed in 1837—way before some fancy-pants innovation technique. Then I looked up “engineering design process.” Turns out, John nailed it!

So, when I say that the book had nothing to do with STEM, I mean that I didn’t set out to write a STEM book. I wanted to write the surprising story of one of America’s game-changers in an interesting and engaging way. Tim Zeltner’s beautiful artwork complements the effort and captivates readers, particularly visual learners. Together, I think we organically and authentically created a STEM picture-book biography—and that’s why it works.

When young readers discover a picture-book biography about a scientist, inventor, engineer, mathematician, or artist they know nothing about—or think they know everything about—magic can happen. Educators, librarians, parents: please, read the books aloud. Share the back matter. Then deconstruct the book together:

• Can you find technical information tucked into the story? What did you learn?

• Ask why this person mattered then, and why this person matters now.

• Discuss how the illustrations help tell the story (or not).

• Look for patterns in the illustrations and text.

• Ask how does this story change how you think about that time period, place, culture, etc.?

• What would you tell a younger reader about this book? About this person?

STEM/STEAM picture-book biographies can help stretch readers’ imaginations while conveying truths about our world, past and present. These books offer accessible ways to see how one person (or a group) can make a difference or lead to changes. Picture-book biographies can inspire more inquiry and reinforce STEM learning. They can even be fun to read, for Encyclopedia Eddie and the rest of us. 

I’m looking forward to talking more about picture-book biographies and other STEM books at the 2019 NSTA Convention’s Linking Literacy event on April 12-13, in St. Louis. And I’ll have a sneak peek there of my next book, Samuel Morse, That’s Who!

Who’s ready for some STEM-book fun? We are, that’s who!


Tracy Nelson Maurer has written more than 100 nonfiction books for children, including the award-winning John Deere, That’s Who! (Henry Holt) and Noah Webster’s Fighting Words (Millbrook). Her next book, Samuel Morse, That’s Who! (Henry Holt), launches June 25, 2019; it’s already a Jr. Library Guild Selection. She loves the writing process and talking about books. Come join the discussion!

Learn more at www.TracyMaurerWriter.com. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter (@ReadTracyMaurer).

By Anna Crowley Redding

GUEST POSTS: NSTA Linking Literacy, NSTA National Convention, St. Louis, MO April 12, 2019, 1-4 pm.
The National Science Teacher’s Association has invited authors of Outstanding Science Trade Books and Best Stem Books to discuss literacy and children’s books at a special Literacy Event. 23 of these authors have contributed guest posts to run from January 15-April 9.

See the full author list at GUEST POSTS BY SCIENCE AUTHORS and the date on which they will post.

Hello, science teachers, educators, readers, and fellow writers!  I am thrilled to be a guest blogger on the MimsHouse blog today to share with you an idea that is going to prepare our students for the enormous technological revolution at humanity’s doorstep. I’m talking artificial intelligence, mass acceptance and use of driver-less automobiles, medical breakthroughs, human colonies on other planets, etc. This is such an exciting time to be alive and engaged in all things STEM/STEAM!

I am on a mission to help students of all ages fall in love with problem solving––which really means, falling in love with failure. Honestly, this came naturally to us as toddlers. When we were conquering walking, we fell almost every time.

Sometimes this led to tears. But more often than not, it meant making an adjustment in our balance, gait, or focus. Sometimes, all that was required was a little bit more confidence in taking that leap of faith that we could, in fact, make it two steps without holding on!

Google It by Anna Crowley Redding

The same was true with building towers out of blocks. When the tower crashed down over and over again, we eventually learned engineering (build a stronger foundation) and physics (don’t cantilever that rectangle block quite so much and oh, gravity…ugh.) And you probably figured out there are few block structures that can survive the “curiosity” of a younger sibling.

But somewhere along the way, this spirit of trial and error is often replaced with a quest to get the answer right the first time. Perfection becomes the goal. Our shift is changed from the process to the answer. And not just any answer. No, the right answer. On our first try. And really what that means is falling out of love with problem-solving in falling in love with perfection.

Believe me when I tell you that you are reading the words of a Type-A person who loves getting things right. But writing Google It: A History of Google (Feiwel and Friends 2018) and Elon Musk: A Mission to Save the World (Feiwel and Friends 2019) was an eye-opening experience for me! The two students who invented the Google search engine didn’t set out to do so. They set out to solve a problem. Solving that problem resulted in nothing less than organizing the internet. Organizing. The. Internet.

When Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX, started his rocket company (from scratch), it wasn’t to indulge his childhood pastime of building launchable rocket kits. No, he started from scratch because he realized the United States had no plan for getting to Mars. And for Elon, getting to Mars solves a specific problem that had weighed on him for years: a mass extinction event like catastrophic climate change, a planet destroying asteroid strike, etc.

In both cases getting these companies off the ground, solving all the mini-problems that cropped up meant failing over and over and over again. Back to the drawing board, tweaking, changing, adjusting and even starting over. This process required asking fundamental questions, cleaning the slate of conventional wisdom and assumptions so you can think about the problem in a new way.

Elon for example, traveled to Russia three times to buy inter-continental ballistic missiles. (Yes, it’s true). But, to hear him tell it, he quickly discovered they were artificially overpriced. Why not build a rocket himself? And to do that, he had to ask himself questions like this one: What is a rocket anyway? If a rocket is made out of these particular atoms, what’s the best way to arrange them?

Answering these questions and others with a successful, less-expensive rocket was no easy task. But he did it. And he accomplished this by dedicating himself to the question, to the problem, and not the solution. Had he dedicated himself to the solution, he might have spent all his money on those Russian ICBM’s, and maybe something would have gone wrong. And, then, what if he no longer had the money to solve the original problem of ensuring humanity survives an extinction event?

Enter today’s students, teachers, writers, and readers. How can we shift our focus back to falling in love with problems, dispensing with convention and dearly held assumptions? What if we pushed our thinking in new directions? What if students began hunting for problems, and trying different ways to solve them? And what if we, as coaches and mentors, let them fail––so that ultimately, they might solve a problem.

These ideas are at the heart of my books. Taking a deep dive into the lives of people who devote themselves to problem-solving has changed my perspective. I’m inspired and I want to share that love for tackling the unknown, the uncharted, and the unsolved with all of you.

In addition to the amazing NSTA BEST OF STEM books on the 2019 list, here are some other books that might encourage your students and support them on their problem-solving quests! See you in St. Louis!

Anna

p.s. (Full disclosure, tonight I am teaching my 7-year-old how to chop garlic and my biggest challenge will be to close my mouth and breathe until he figures it out without me taking over!)

For your youngest readers:

The Rabbit Listened. By Cori Doerrfeld –  Oh this book! Let’s face it, failure is necessary. But my goodness it can come with a heap of emotions. This book is a beautiful and gentle primer in how to handle those feelings and how to support your friends.

The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires

Chapter Books:

Any mystery series. After all, solving a mystery is solving a problem. But let’s face it, mysteries make the process even more fun than closing the case! Nate the Great, A-Z Mysteries, The Magic Treehouse, and so many more.

Middle Grade:

I Survived Series by Lauren Tarshis. Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett. So many more!

Young Adult:

Google It: A History of Google – How Two Students’ Quest to Organize the Internet Changed the World by Anna Crowley Redding

Anna Crowley Redding, children's book author

ANNA CROWLEY REDDING: Before diving into the deep end of writing for children, Anna Crowley Redding’s first career was as an Emmy-award winning investigative television reporter, anchor, and journalist. The recipient of multiple Edward R. Murrow awards and recognized by the Associated Press for her reporting, Redding now focuses her stealthy detective skills on digging up great stories for kids and teens — which, as it turns out, is her true passion.

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