Come See the Earth Turn

June 24, 2013


Come See the Earth Turn

By Lori Mortensen

Illustrated by Raul Allen

Tricycle Press, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-58246-284-4

Nonfiction picture book

Ages 8-12

Come See the Earth Turn tells the story of Leon Foucault and the way he proved that the Earth turned using a pendulum to show the movement. Lacking formal training, Foucault, a poor student, found his place in developing “clever instruments and magnificent contraptions.”

He wondered about questions relating to light, its speed, and how to prove these sorts of things. And while people had begun to think the Earth turned, no one had proved it—until Foucault did.

Even though he’d received honors for his work, he wasn’t formally trained and it wasn’t until three years before his death that he was granted membership into the French Academy of Science.

The book contains an author’s note, glossary with pictures of the instruments, and bibliography.  In this day of Common Core State Standards, this book begs to be included in classroom and library lessons.

It would make a wonderful introduction to a lesson on Earth science, gravity, and the Earth’s motion. The invention could be compared with that of another early scientist and used as a way to show the scientific method.

Determine the main idea and find examples of how the story supports it. Look up the tools listed in the vocabulary to find more about how they worked to support academic and domain-specific word acquisition.

Compare the book with a scientific explanation of the Earth’s motion and discuss they different ways the authors used to explain this principle.

With the Next Generation Science Standards now available, the book fits perfectly with the Motion and Stability: Forces and Interactions and Earth’s Place in the Universe strand. It would kick off a fun lesson to begin a study of these topics in the relevant grades.

Nonfiction is a terrific way to liven up lessons and provides a fun introduction to many topics. It gives teachers, parents, and librarians the opportunity to show children the pleasure and fun of nonfiction.

This site has a good biography of Foucault.

Gravity All Around

March 30, 2011

Gravity All Around

By David Conrad

Capstone Press (Pebble Plus), 2011

ISBN # 9781429666060


Grades PreK-2

“It makes a dropped glass fall to the floor. It keeps bouncing balls from flying off into space. It’s a force called gravity.”

This book introduces early readers to a difficult concept–gravity. Short, snappy sentences explain, illustrate, and provide a brief history of gravity’s discovery using a controlled vocabulary. Its deceptively simple words explain the concept well at this level and make an appealing book for boys and girls alike. Clever photos support the text and provide scaffolding for the reader.

Physical science isn’t always a favorite topic, but this book makes it real and interesting. It would be an excellent way for the early grades to introduce physical science and the art and final activity will appeal to everyone.


Do one of the gravity experiments listed below. Write about the experiment using the scientific method. Explain the results and conclusion of your experiment.

Use this scientific method worksheet for your experiment.

Try these gravity experiments.

This site has lots of links about gravity.

Here’s a fun site for older kids (8+).

Another book I just wrote will be out at the end of this year. It provides a good description of gravity. The title is Forces and Motion at Work and is being published by Rourke Publishers in the Let’s Explore Science series.

National Science Standard: understanding about scientific inquiry; position and motion of objects

Book provided by publisher.


December 22, 2010

Oceans & Seas

By Margaret Hynes

Kingfisher, 2010

ISBN #978-0-7534-6415-1

Grades 4 to 7


“From the seashore to the deepest depths, oceans are home to the most diverse life on Earth. Plants are found only in the sunlit parts of the ocean. Animals are found at all depths, though more than 90 percent of all marine species dwell on the seabed, where a single rock can be home to as many as ten major groups of animals, such as corals, mollusks, and sponges.”

In another life I would be a marine biologist and this book confirmed that idea. In the new series, Navigators, Oceans and Seas is an in-depth look at the life in and around the oceans. It defines oceans and seas and provides information about the physical as well as life science of marine environments. Including archaeology, ecology, biomes, coastlines, Pangea, deep-sea exploration and the future of oceans, the layout is filled with facts and visually appealing art, diagrams, and photos.

I had great fun poring over this book and students will, too. The appealing cover holds a sea tortoise, along with colorful fish and a puffin. The art is stunning and catches the reader’s interest from the introductory information through the final back matter, which includes a large glossary, index, and final page of investigations.

Aimed at the middle ages, this book should be in every library. It’s comprehensive, fits with the science standards, and contains facts in a layout that is reader friendly, allowing the reader to go from cover to cover or select specific topics or sections. It’s a gorgeous book and the reasonable price makes it within the reach of library budgets. Take a look at this one. It fills a need for that middle group of readers—interesting and appealing.

Activity 1

Look up waves and study the physics of wave motion. Write a paragraph to explain the energy transfer from the wind to the water. Design a simple wave machine to show the action of waves.

Activity 2

Look up the destructive force of waves. Find two or three ways waves change coastlines and report on them, giving true life examples of their force.

This site has good information about the physics of waves.

This site has some interactive activities on waves.

National Science Standard: motion and forces; transfer of energy

Book provided by publisher.

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.

Planet Hunter–Out of this World!

March 31, 2010

Planet Hunter

Geoff Marcy and the Search for Other Earths

By Vicki Oransky Wittenstein

Boyds Mills Press, 2010

ISBN# 978-1590785928

Grades 5-8


“As the sun sets on the summit of Mauna Kea, a dormant volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii, golden light bathes the huge domes anchoring each end of a narrow white building. A halo of orange, pink, and magenta swirls overhead, while below, waves of clouds form a blanket so thick and wide that it looks like an ocean.”

At the first glance, this book’s lyrical text draws in the reader, curious to see what it might be about. From the first sentence, however, it grips the reader’s attention and before long, the information-dense text envelopes and carries you away into the far reaches of the universe.

Based on the work of astronomer Dr. Geoff Marcy and others in his field, the book explains how Dr. Marcy has discovered 180 out of the 400 planets found outside our solar system, known as exoplanets. Dr. Marcy’s work led him to a method for positively identifying exoplanets, in particular the smaller sized ones, and his goal is to identify an exoplanet that has similar characteristics to our Earth in the hopes of finding other living, intelligent life. The book begins with an explanation of the process in action, continues with Dr. Marcy’s developing interest and how he finally settled on a direction, and ends with a discussion of the facts and future of exoplanet study and the possibility of alien worlds.

Wittensteins’s text is filled with fascinating information that thoroughly explains complex scientific principles in an easy to understand way. I’ve never read a better explanation of the Doppler Effect (p. 20) for children and was amazed at the way Dr. Marcy came up with it to locate and track exoplanets. Diagrams and captions supplement the text and photos show more details, along with the activities of Dr. Marcy and his co-workers. A few illustrations are artist renderings, but stay true to the known facts.

The back matter holds an extensive list of more reading, web sites, a glossary, and index. Boyds Mills Press produces beautiful books that enlighten and inform the reader in a delightful way with a freedom that allows the books to reach readers in depth. This is my second Boyds Mills Press book in as many weeks and they are excellent.

 This book is reminiscent of The Frog Scientist by Pamela Turner, an award winner last year. Wittenstein follows this astronomer and his research in a manner similar to Turner’s book.

Curious readers of any age can enjoy the information and budding astrophysicists in particular may be inspired. I look for this to win awards of some sort. This is Wittenstein’s first book and it’s a winner.

Activity 1

Look up more information about the 55 Cancri family of planets and on the requirements of life. Explain why the location of the planet in the habitable zone might be able to support life. Use pages 26, 27, and 34 to guide your search.

Information and animation link

more information

video rendering

Geoff Marcy’s home page has more information

videos of Dr. Marcy and his explanations

Check out Roberta’s blog and her fantastic ideas for science activities.

Read an interview with Vicki at Through the Tollbooth

For younger readers, try Kids Can Press’ Out of This World by Jacob Berkowitz.

National Science Standard: Earth in the solar system

Book donated by author.

Leveled by an Earthquake!

February 3, 2010

Leveled by an Earthquake!

By Adam Reingold

Bearport Publishers, 2010

ISBN #978-1-936087-53-2


Grades 3-6

“A School Disappears

            Seconds later, Anning felt the ground shake from several more tremors. When the nearby mountains shook, a huge amount of loose earth began to slide toward the school. Within seconds, the buidling was buried completely. Anning and her schoolmates were trapped under the great weight of cracked concrete floor and broken walls. Some could not move. Other could barely breathe. ‘We have to keep going so we can get thorough this,’ said one classmate.”

Beichuan, China, was wiped off the landscape during the great Sichuan earthquake of 2008. The quake registered a magnitude 8.0 on the Richter scale. Introduced from the point of view from a 16 year old girl who survived the collapsed school, the book explains earthquakes from a personal experience to the physical aspects of how a quake happens. Earthquake safety and the ring of fire are discussed as well and the book concludes with what happens after the quake. In the case of Beichuan, the city was rebuilt but in a different location.

This book is one in a series of Disaster Survivors by Bearport and includes additional information about famous earthquakes, earthquake safety, a glossary, bibliography, an index, and more reading.

The timely appearance of the book following the disastrous Haiti earthquake should pique interest among readers.  The information is good and well-explained, as Bearport does, and the newly introduced vocabulary is bolded within the text. My only concern is the cover image, which shows a close-up of a young Chinese man and a glimpse of the earthquake damage in the background, rather than a child, which could make the book less appealing to elementary age readers. However, the subject is compelling enough to look inside and the reader should be pleased.

Activity 1

Research the fault that lies under Haiti and locate it on a map. Explain why Haiti was vulnerable to having an earthquake. 

Activity 2

Research the different kinds of faults.

This site has good animated examples.

Activity 3

Look up your state and see how earthquake prone it might be.

Kid-friendly earthquake information

Locate recent earthquakes on this map.

Good geological animations

National Science Standards: properties of earth materials; changes in the earth

Book provided by publisher

The Day-Glo Brothers

August 5, 2009


The Day-Glo Brothers

The True Story of Bob and Joe Switzer’s Bright Ideas and Brand-New Colors

By Chris Barton

Illustrated by Tony Persiani

Charlesbridge, 2009

ISBN #978-1-57091-673-1

NF picture book; ages 8-12

*Nominated for a Cybil

Even if they’d wanted to, the ancient Egyptians couldn’t have painted their pyramids a green that glowed in the desert sun. Back in 2600 BCE, there was no such color.

Later in the book:

By accident, Joe and Bob had invented a totally new color. To their amazement it glowed in both daylight and ultraviolet light. The called this new color Fire Orange, and Joe used their newfound know-how to create other colors–glowing reads, yellows, greens, and more. Meanwhile, Bob looked for ways these “Day-Glo” colors could be used. World War II provided lots of them.

It’s hard to imagine a world without the Day-Glo colors in shocking greens, blazing oranges, and screaming yellows. But before World War II, those colors didn’t exist. This fascinating picture book, chock full of well-explained information, traces the invention of Day-Glo paint and the two men who developed it following an inopportune accident in the ketchup factory by one brother and an interest in magic by the other.

Explanations about light, fluorescence, and refraction fit nicely into the narrative of the brothers’ lives as Barton details the steps of their progress. The quality writing in this glowing nonfiction makes the story readable and the interesting stages along the way keep the pace brisk.

Bright endpapers reflect the Day-Glo colors and welcome the reader to something special inside. The illustrations begin in black and white and color is gradually added to the stylistic art until the Day-Glo colors appear in screaming brilliance in the final spreads. Additional information follows the story, along with an author’s note and how he heard of the Switzer brothers.

The Charlesbridge Publishers site has a fun interactive link and explanation of fluorescence and Day-Glo along with links to the source information.

Activity 1

Research fluorescence and daylight fluorescence. Find out how ultraviolet makes colors glow.

This site gives an explanation about the visible light spectrum.

Here’s another site for understanding visible light. 

Activity 2

Find out about what makes up white light and how this light makes a rainbow. Here’s an explanation of how rainbows form.

Make your own rainbow.

Learn more about Chris Barton.  He blogs, too!  Buy the book!

National Science Standards: properties of objects and materials; light, heat, electricity, and magnetism.

See an in-depth review at Fuse 8 Production

Abby (the) Librarian also has a review.


January 14, 2009


By Suzy Lee

Chronicle Books, 2008

ISBN 978-0-8118-5924-0

Wordless picture book









Wave takes the reader on a wordless trip to the beach, where a young girl joyously plays in the waves and discovers the surprises that the waves hold.


Activity 1

Discuss waves. Explain that waves are caused by wind and their oscillating motion is similar to a vibrating tuning fork or guitar string.


Use a jump rope for this outside activity. Take one end and allow the other end to remain free. Ask the students to watch for the waves along the rope. Lift the end and give it a hard, up and down shake. You may want to repeat it.


Back in the classroom, draw the image of the wave going up and down. Try to keep the waves symmetrical. Add a horizontal line through the center of the wave diagram. See this image for details.


Label the crest and trough and discuss how a wave length is measured from crest to crest or trough to trough. Then have the students measure one of their waves in centimeters and millimeters. Make a bar graph to compare their results.



Activity 2

Define invertebrate. Then use this link or a field guide to shells to identify the invertebrates on the back endpapers. Classify the shells into groups. Use the categories of: mollusk (gastropods or bivalves) and starfish, which are not fish, but echinoderms (related to sand dollars and sea urchins). Look for information and learn more about mollusks and echinoderms.



National Science Standard: Properties of earth materials; properties of objects and materials





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