Review: Dr. E’s Super Stellar Solar System

solar systemReview:

Dr. E’s Super Stellar Solar System

Author: Bethany Ehlmann with Jennifer Swanson

Publisher: National Geographic Kids, 2018

Ages 9-12, Grades 4-6

Source: ARC

This new offering by National Geographic Kids is part of the Science SUPERHEROES series. Bethany Ehlmann – aka Dr. E – is a planetary geologist. She studies rock, not only from Earth but from the other planets in our solar system.

This could be a bit of a heavy topic. However, Dr. E has approached it in a way that will interest young readers. Some sample chapter titles include Our Cosmic Neighbors, Planets, Frozen Worlds, Volcano Worlds, and Craters. Each chapter is introduced with a comic before Dr. E dives into the denser material. And even that is handled in a clear and understandable manner.

The book is packed with cool facts. Learn why dust – stardust, in particular – is so important (pg. 28). Find out why poor little Pluto got a demotion (pg. 23). Learn which planet may have diamond rain (pg. 99). And if you believe that a crater is just a big hole, check out pages 88-89. And if this is a topic that interests you/your child, see page 87 to learn how you can become a planetary mapper.

The photos in this book are enough of a reason to purchase it. We can view the surface of many of the planets. There are also close-ups of specific features, like the dunes on Titan, windblown sand ripples on Mars, or the northern polar ice cap on Mars. Absolutely beautiful!

And at the risk of sounding like a corny infomercial, if that’s not enough there are experiments to try. One of these activities explains how Earth moves on its axis. Another activity helps construct a star viewer. And in another one readers learn how to create a convection current. Although some of these experiments do need adult supervision or help, most are not overly complicated and don’t need unusual materials.

While this book is interesting to read, it would also make a great classroom resource. A+ all the way!


Note: I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.


Review: Astronaut Aquanaut

Review:astronaut aquanaut

Astronaut Aquanaut

Author: Jennifer Swanson

Publisher: National Geographic Kids, 2018

How do space science and sea science interact?  They are more alike than many people realize. Explore these extremities with the help of this new book by Jennifer Swanson and National Geographic Kids.

Here are just a few of the similarities:

  1. In both space and the sea, explorers will need to bring their own oxygen supply. Plus, since neither environment is warm and cozy, scientists who study these places need protective gear in order to survive.


  1. Both environments are dark.


  1. Whether you want to become an astronaut or an aquanaut, the requirements are similar. The first step for both careers is a four-year degree in science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM).


  1. Living conditions in either a long-term space or underwater mission are similar. Think snug.


  1. In both environments, robotic technology is essential.


  1. Almost all space conditions can be mimicked under the water.


  1. There is garbage everywhere – both in the depths of the ocean and in the depths of space.


Of course, each environment has unique features and challenges. In space, there is no gravity. Actually, that is incorrect. In space it is microgravity. (Check out pages 14-15 for the in-depth explanation.) Under water, divers experience an additional force: buoyancy. (And again – check pages 16-17 for technical details.)

With plenty of great photos, quotes from astronauts and aquanauts, and experiments to try at home that help readers understand complex topics in simple ways, Astronaut Aquanaut brings fresh perspective to modern-day explorers.


*Note: I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.




Review: Colorama


Colorama: From Fuchsia to Midnight Blue

Written by: Cruschiform

Publisher: Prestel, 2017

This book is not really one of my read-aloud selections, but I think it will make an excellent resource for anyone whose children are artists, especially those who like to use colored pencils and paints.

Each page names a color and gives a brief write-up relating to that color. The following page is a full color sample.

Here is an example description:

“Cotton Flower

People first grew cotton more than 3,000 years ago. After blossoming, cotton flowers change into cushioned pods of soft, white vegetable fiber. Then, when they burst open to release their seeds, the fiber is picked and turned into yarn and other woven materials, which can be used to create all types of fabrics. At present, cotton flower is the most worn textile in the world.” (007)

There are 133 different shades to explore.


Note: I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.


Review: Adventures in Science (The Human Body)


Adventures in Science: The Human Body

Author: Courtney Acampora

Publisher: Silver Dolphin Books, 2017

Today’s TV-free selection is actually a kit. It includes a book, but as you will see in the photos, there is also a skeleton model to build and stickers which are to be attached to posters (also included but not shown in photo). It took a lot of self-control on my part not to complete everything myself. However, I did wait and plan to share the activity with young friends. I will report on any feedback.

human-body-kit-e1525135311496.jpgI did, however, read the book. It is filled with pictures and diagrams. The information is very basic and not overwhelming, best for elementary ages. (Although I looked everywhere on the packaging and in the book, no suggested age range was given. I just hope the skeleton is not too fiddly for the age group.) It covers the human body pretty thoroughly, with pages devoted to things like the skeletal system, senses, the brain, the muscular system, the heart and blood, the lungs. There is also some information about keeping fit and healthy, a topic I believe is important to teach at an early age.

The set would make a great gift. Although the posters can obviously only be completed once, the book will remain a useful resource.

As mentioned earlier, I hope to be able to share this activity myself. I will let readers know my findings!


*Note: I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.


Review: Try This! Extreme


Try This! Extreme” 50 Fun & Safe Experiments for the Mad Scientist in You

Author: Karen Romano Young

Photographs by: Matthew Rakola

Publisher: National Geographic Kids, 2017

For Ages 10 and Up

For science-y kinds of kids, this week you might want to try some of the cool experiments in this offering by National Geographic Kids. It will provide plenty of days of activity!

I will admit, I thought this book was one of the most awesome science experiment books I have seen in a long time. True, it is not for anyone under 10 and even then adult supervision may be needed. Some of the necessary ingredients are not things you will have on hand. I would have liked to try the experiment which required sodium alginate but didn’t have any on hand – and can’t tell you where you might purchase any, either! – but the idea looked so cool. (I won’t tell you what it was. Check out page 136.)

There are plenty of other experiments that can be done much more quickly and with easily-located supplies. Learn how to make frozen bubbles (I was so disappointed that it is currently not cold enough for me to test right now!). You can make a color explosion, test the effect of cold water and ice on a glow stick, or make string from a bottle.

Each experiment gives the appropriate safety information right at the start. Scientists-in-training will know right away how complicated an experiment is and who they will need for assistance, as well as how long the process will take and what supplies are needed. Parents can check out the concepts being taught and each experiment is explained in full, just in case your chemistry or physics facts aren’t completely fresh in your memory.


Note: I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Review: Now I Can Paper Craft

paper craftReview:

Now I Can Paper Craft: 20 Hand-Crafted Projects to Make

Author: Tansy Wilson

Publisher: Guild of Master Craftsman Publications Ltd., 2013

Source: Public Library

For National Screen-Free week, I’ll be reviewing a series of “How-To” or hands-on activity books. Today’s selection – Now I Can Paper Craft by Tansy Wilson – falls into the first category.

It begins by explaining the basics of paper crafting. It lists what tools and materials you will need, some of which are probably already on hand or readily available and fairly inexpensive. (There are a few pricier items included, but these may be well-worth purchasing if your child is really into crafting.) It details basic techniques, too, in fairly simple, straight-forward steps.

The projects include things like making pop-up greeting cards, paper plate masks, a mobile, rolled-paper bowls, and quilled flowers. They are original, often quite pretty, and unique. Many of them are also adaptable with a little imagination.

HOWEVER, although I like the projects outlined in this book, it is not for very young children. Your child must be old enough to use a craft knife and glue gun safely – and even at that age, supervision is required. Also, some of these projects require quite a bit of patience. If your child does not like fiddly, fussy things, skip this book.

Review: Fairy Houses All Year


Fairy Houses All Year

Author: Liza Gardner Walsh

Photographs by Amy Wilton

Publisher: Down East Books, 2016

Source: Public Library

I am a big fan of any book that gets kids outside. In our busy schedules, it seems that they never have enough time with nature. So I love when a book encourages kids in activities that take them outside and also encourages them to do things that get their creative juices flowing.

Fairy Houses All Year fills both requirements. It teaches young readers to respect nature: “if you take care of the world around you and are gentle with nature, the fairies will trust you” (pg. 11). It helps young imaginations develop: “Sticks become magic street lights topped with the flowers known as Chinese lanterns, bark becomes a gateway to a fairy pet store…” (pg. 11). And obviously these imaginative games are very economical!

Walsh gives rules to keep nature and youngsters safe. There are steps to follow to build a fairy house no matter what the season. There are lists of things to notice unique to each season. And there are additional activities included, like making a dandelion chain or pressing flowers.

Perhaps some children will find this book a bit old-fashioned.  Perhaps it is – but I can’t help but think that a book that introduces old-fashioned play is a good thing.

Review: Give Bees a Chance


Give Bees a Chance

Author: Bethany Barton

Publisher: Penguin Viking Reader Group, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC, 2017

Source: Public Library

Some time ago I reviewed Bethany Barton’s book, I’m Trying to Love Spiders. Now Barton has a new book to help us understand (if not love) the creepy-crawly world a bit better.

Did you know that there are 25,000 kinds of bees (that’s a lot of love to work on!). Barton and her friend Edgar (who reminds me a bit of a minion – kind of capsule-shaped) mostly focus on honeybees. After all, who doesn’t like honey? And besides making honey, bees have a pretty important job.

Bees have been around since the dinosaurs, and scientists have found bee fossils from millions of years ago (how come we always hear about the big guys, but never the little bees?) Ancient Egyptians kept bees and when honey was discovered in one of the old tombs, someone was actually brave enough to try it – and it was still edible!

Readers learn how honey is made, all about stingers and the armor that protects beekeepers. Barton also explains how bees impact our food chain. We can thank bees and their pollination skills for many of the yummy things we eat.

The book gives some excellent suggestions. We can help bees by growing bee-friendly plants. The suggestion I like best is how not to get stung! Even if you are still a bit afraid of bees (and I know I am), this book does give us a greater appreciation for the industrious little honeybee.



Review: Dog Days of History

Dog Days of History by Sarah AlbeeReview:

Dog Days of History: The Incredible Story of OUR BEST FRIENDS

Author: Sarah Albee

Publisher: National Geographic, 2018

This book had been sitting on my desk waiting for me to finish reading and writing my review – and it was already getting a lot of attention. Everyone, it seems, is interested in dogs, their past and how it meshes with human history. While reading the book (and sharing read-aloud tidbits with others), I can tell you that the response was overwhelmingly positive. Dog-lovers will not be disappointed.

Albee starts by introducing readers to the dog family tree. Modern dogs share 99 percent of their DNA with wolves. She tells how dogs changed as they became domesticated and how their lives and ours became intertwined. From Grecian urns to Ming vases, statues and portraits, the evidence proves that dogs have long been an integral part of man’s life. Some have been trained as hunters and warriors and some were kept simply as pampered pets (historically, those were the few lucky ones).

The role of dogs in human lives has certainly expanded. There are showbiz dogs, advertising dogs, rescue dogs, mascots, dogs who have traveled in space, dogs who work in law enforcement and dogs who have gone to war. As Albee states in her note about research, “…dogs have done some extraordinary things” (pg. 102). No wonder we love them so much! And when a dog looks at you with all that doggy-love shining in their eyes, it is enough to melt anyone’s heart.


*Note: I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Review: History’s Mysteries

history's mysteriesReview:

History’s Mysteries

Author: Kitson Jazynka

Publisher: National Geographic Kids, 2017

There are plenty of readers who really like history books, especially ones like History’s Mysteries that cover a range of fascinating secrets from the past.

Readers can learn more about vanished civilizations, like that of the ancient Mayans or whether (or not) Atlantis really existed. Try to decipher lost languages. What does the Phaistos Disk or Voynich Manuscript really say? Who carved the heads on Easter Island? What really happened to Amelia Earhart – or to the captain and crew of the Mary Celeste?

For each mystery we are given the background of the case, including the details and clues found. The section is concluded with any theories that archaeologists/scientists currently have. In a few cases, evidence is revealed, but for most, we continue to wonder: what really happened?

Detailed photographs help readers analyze some of the clues available. This book gives just an inkling of each mystery. It is sure to lead readers on to further research.


*Note:  I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.