February 29, 2012



The Nuclear Disaster in Japan and Our Energy Future

By Fred Bortz

Twenty-first Century Press, 2012

ISBN # 978-0-7613-8660-5


Grades 6-12

“Although it strikes suddenly, the Great Tohoku Earthquake has been building up for hundreds of years. Like all quakes, it happens because Earth’s outer rocky layer, called the crust, is made up of many large, slow-moving pieces. These are called plates.”

From an anecdotal introduction to the thought-provoking, open-ended question of where should we get our power, physicist Fred Bortz uses his background to write a book that provides an insight into the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima nuclear plant. The book reads like an exciting story and has a terrific story arc as he explains the nuclear power and the events leading to this disaster. And while the outcome is known generally, the book gives a full explanation of what happened and addresses the need to keep current by checking back with his website for updates.

The background of nuclear energy is explained so well, including nuclear forces, that any reader can understand the science behind nuclear power. The history of radiation and how it developed through the years is explored from the atomic bomb to harnessing the energy for our ever-increasing need for electricity.  Meltdown! takes the reader inside to explore and understand the series of events resulting from the earthquake and tsunami.

Meltdown! goes on to detail how and why other nuclear disasters like Chernobyl and Three Mile Island occurred and what consequences they left behind in damage and future safety measures. The intensity in the text builds until the Fukushima disaster reaches its horrifying series of problems following the tsunami.

The conclusion provides readers with an insightful look at the advantages and disadvantages of all power sources and why none may be perfect. But as the need for more energy grows, hard decisions will have to be made. The readers of this book will probably be some of the ones making those decisions. A fair look at the facts may allow these readers the questioning ability and insight needed to do just that.

Activity 1 (middle school)

Examine the major nuclear disasters side by side. Then create a way to compare and contrast them in a visual presentation.

More websites and supplemental reading lists are also here (look to the right column).

Here is the government website on nuclear energy.

National Science Standards: nuclear processes; energy

Book provided by Lerner.

ZAP! It’s Electricity

February 15, 2012

Join me on March 7 for Dr. Fred Bortz’s Meltdown Blog Tour. Dr. Fred will write about his path from physicist and work with nuclear reactors to writing for children and young people. It’s a fascinating story.

Here’s the tour schedule:

Spellbinders  Monday 3/5/12 plus giveaway Monday 3/19/12

Simply Science  Wednesday 3/7/12

USA Science and Engineering Festival Blog (perhaps on Huff Post) Wednesday  3/7/12

Writing with a Broken Tusk   March 8
Liz Jones  Friday 3/9/12

TFCB Blog Lerner Books Blog  3/12/12

Cynsations  Giveaway 3/12/12

Nonfiction Monday is at Lori Calabrese Writes

Here’s my post!

Zap! It’s Electricity!

by Buffy Silverman

My Science Library Series

Rourke Publishing, 2012

ISBN #978-1-61741-753-5

Grades 2-3


“Every day, we use electricity. Electricity powers the lights in our homes and schools. Computers, music players, cell phones, and refrigerators run on electricity.”

Science writer Buffy Silverman  starts with this introduction to electricity by relating the use of electricity to power our homes and favorite appliances. Zap! traces the sources of power used and explains in a simple manner how the power moves to our homes. The book defines conductor and insulator and concludes with how a battery works by making a complete circuit.

Zap! It’s Electricity is filled with large, colorful, and child-friendly photos and diagrams. Back matter includes a “Show What You Know” page, a glossary, index, and websites. The book is a terrific way to get kids interested in electricity and start to explore the power sources we use now and may use in the future.

NASA has some fun experiments and simulations with good information about electricity

Here’s another science resource page for more information on electricity.


Use the NASA site to learn how to read your electric meter. Mark your reading at the start of the day. Then read it that evening. Use your electric bill to calculate the exact price for one day. Alternatively, use the NASA figure of $0.07 per kilowatt hour.

Then try it another day and see if you can cut down on your electrical use. Compare the two days.

National Science Standard: definitions of energy; conservation of energy and energy transfer; relationship between energy and forces; energy in chemical processes and everyday life

Book provided by Rourke Publishing

The Green Mother Goose

April 27, 2011

The Green Mother Goose

By Jan Peck and David Davis

Illustrated by Carin Berger

Sterling Publishing; Sterling Children’s Books, 2011

ISBN #978-1-4027-6525-4

Picture book

Besides The Green Mother Goose, Jan Peck and David Davis are the authors of many other books for children. I’ve seen their terrific school visit program, too, and it’s a fun one.

“Together we’ll do it—

We’ll help save the Earth,

Our emerald home,

The place of our birth.

Come now, rhyme with me,

Let’s turn our hearts loose,

And fly ‘round the world

With Green Mother Goose.”

This clever, creative book takes a look at classic nursery rhymes and makes them “green.” The suggestions in each rhyme explain or provide ways that everyone can help improve the Earth. Rather than preaching about saving the Earth, the information is available for the taking in a fun-filled, short rhyme that will stay with you. Authors Peck and Davis surely had great fun matching rhymes with green ideas.

The Green Mother Goose is a great book to open dialogue with kids about the Earth, recycling, and what they can do on their own. The rhymes cover the simplest steps, like recycling, to the more complex additions of windmills and solar panel additions. It also opens the discussion of new vocabulary, for the book is rich in terms related to helping the environment.

The whimsical appeal of the art serves to focus and expand on the ideas behind the writing and sets a perfect tone for the book. The cut paper collage comes from “found papers and ephemera.” The book is produced with a “practice what you preach” style mentioned on the credits page.

The Green Mother Goose lends itself to a unit for Earth Day, reading, units on the environment, recycling, story time, and introducing the National Science Standards about organisms and their environments and changes in environments. It would make a fun poetry memorizing unit and a wonderful Reader’s Theater production. I can also see it in a PTA program and school wide presentation produced by the students—especially for Earth Day activities.

It’s delightful to pick up a book and really love it. This is one of those books. It would be an excellent lesson if paired with the original Mother Goose nursery rhymes. What a fun discussion!

 Activity 1

Choose one of the rhymes from the book. Identify the environmental concept from the new rhyme and research it to find more information. Write a paragraph explaining the problem and suggest some ways to help.

Activity 2

Make a list of activities mentioned in the book to help save the Earth. Create a poster suggesting things kids can do to help the environment and Earth. Decorate the poster with cut paper collage similar to the art in the book.

Saving the Earth suggestions

Activities to help

National Geographic’s green tips

National Science Standards: organisms and the environment; changes in environments

Book from my own autographed library collection. Jan and David signed it at TLA!

The Shocking Truth About ENERGY

October 6, 2010

The Shocking Truth About Energy

By Loreen Leedy

Holiday House, 2010

ISBN #978-0-8234-2220-3

Grades K-3


“Hi, there! My name is Erg, and I’m pure ENERGY! Everybody loves a powerhouse like me. In fact, people want more and more ENERGY every day. That’s because I make everything happen. The funny thing is, I’m everywhere! The hard part is…”


This book is an excellent introduction to energy, the forms it takes, and how we use it. The cartoon like Erg narrates the simple, comprehensive book in an easy to understand text and sidebars and caption bubbles add further information. Following each energy form, including light, muscle, fossil fuels, electricity (and global warming), nuclear, solar, wind, water, geothermal, and plants, a side by side comparison chart shows advantages and disadvantages. The book concludes with a short discussion of ways to save energy and why. Back matter include web links, more detail, saving energy tips, and fossil fuel information.

The publisher says the book is for younger audiences, but I loved it and can see it read by older kids, too. It is succinct and complete, and a wonderful resource. I’d love to see it in every library in this energy-conscious age.


I won’t reinvent the wheel when these teachers have suggested such excellent activities.

Try one of them!

Teacher activity suggestions from Holiday House with great resources.

Coloring page from Leedy’s website.

More from Leedy’s site.

Here’s where she mentions SimplyScience!

Websites listed on the Holiday House site:

Here’s an excellent companion book by Anastasia Suen that follows electricity from its source to our homes and includes another activity. I reviewed it earlier. Check out the activity I suggested. It would be a great follow-up to this book:


Author: Anastasia Suen   Illustrator: Paul Carrick
Ages: 6  – 9


National Science Standard: light, heat, electricity, and magnetism

Book provided by publisher for Librarian’s Choices Book review committee.


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