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Posts tagged ‘award-winning-stem-books’

Author Jill Esbaum Weaves Facts into Nonfiction Magic

Picture books engage curiosity and set the stage for adventure and exploration. They allow children to think like scientists, asking questions and searching for answers. The best books teach the love of reading, but they also challenge us to connect with the world. National Geographic knows a thing or two about that, and so does Jill Esbaum.

You’ve likely seen Jill’s books in libraries, schools, and stores. She’s an award-winning Iowa author who has published 13 fiction and 22 nonfiction books, including Tom’s Tweet, which was named the Iowa Goldfinch Award and I Am Cow, Hear Me Moo, which earned a Chrystal Kite Award. While being well-known for her gift of creating colorful characters, lively language, and perfect rhyme, Jill has turned her talents toward weaving facts into magical prose for National Geographic children’s books.

Jill recently stopped by the blog to talk about her work with National Geographic, including her book: Little Kids First Big Book of Why 2. She was kind enough to answer a few questions.

 

Q: What makes the Little Kids First Big Book of Why 2 unique?

A: The goal of National Geographic’s Little Kids Big Book series is to help kids aged 4-7 understand the world, which is why there are titles covering everything from ANIMALS to OCEANS, from BUGS to SPACE. The first WHY book (written by Amy Shields) was such a hit that NG wanted another to continue providing answers to some of kids’s most often-asked questions. WHY 2 has 4 chapters, including ME, MYSELF, & I; FUN AND GAMES; AWESOME ANIMALS; and NATURE ALL AROUND.

The toughest thing about writing one of these books is coming up with brand new questions! There are 56 of them here, with many more facts sprinkled across each page, as well as call-out questions intended to get kids thinking.

Q: What are some ways teachers and parents could use this book? 

A: Each title in the Little Kids Big Book series has a wealth of back matter, including a spread that suggests to parents ways they might extend the fun beyond the book. For example, WHY 2 has a spread titled “Why do I yawn?” At the back of the book is a fun activity that encourages kids to experiment with whether or not yawning is contagious.

Another spread in the book is “Why are dinosaur names so long?” and a corresponding activity encourages kids to pretend they’ve discovered a new dinosaur in their backyard and come up with a name for it. Within each chapter are also easy, small experiments called “Try This!” 

Q: How many hours go into the research and creation of a book like this?

A: Researching and writing one of these books takes hundreds and hundreds of hours. The research is especially important, of course, as National Geographic has a long-standing reputation for quality and accuracy. Fortunately, I love researching, tracking down the hows and whens and whys on any given subject.

One research tip I often share with kids at school visits:  When researching something, look beyond the facts people already know. Dig for juicy facts that make you say, “Wow, I didn’t know that!” 

Q: What’s your favorite part of this book?

A: I’m always happy when a book has a chapter about animals, because I learn so much! In this book, I enjoyed learning about things like the miraculous abilities of a dog’s nose. Did you know each nostril smells independently? That while human noses have 6 million “smelling cells” that send signals to our brains, a dog’s has 300 million of them? Sniffing another dog can tell them the age of the other dog, whether it’s male or female, what it has been eating, and even the dog’s mood. Amazing!

But this book has pages and pages filled with facts like this. That makes them so fun to write. I love becoming an expert on dozens of topics….Too bad I can’t retain every single thing I learn. But I am pretty good at trivia events. 😉

 

Besides writing (and trivia), Jill is an incredible writing teacher, hosting weekend retreats, workshops, and conference sessions. She hosts a blog called Picture Book Builders, featuring the best new books, introducing readers to authors and illustrators, and reflecting on the best of craft. Jill also welcomes author visit invitations, where she talks to kids about writing, research, revision, and more!

Want to learn more about Jill?

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Humans Helping Nature: If Sharks Disappeared + Me and Moto

“Modern day storytellers carry the message of environmental stewardship to future generations,” states the Nature Generation website. I’d go a step further and say that the readers of these books will also become our environmental stewards. Recently, this group started a book award, and the 2018 Green Earth Book Award List was just released. It has something on it for everyone! Introducing a child to nature books is the first step to creating an environmentally conscious and scientifically literate adult. 

This week, we have a guest blogger for you. Emma, a fourth grader, is helping us out with a post. She loves animals, nature photography, and books. Her favorite food combination is chips and queso. And her favorite place to go in nature is the beach. Emma, at left, is waiting for the perfect shot. “You have to be patient to get a good picture,” she says.

In her own words:

Hi, my name is Emma. This past week, I read lots of books. I think you should read these two: If Sharks Disappeared and Moto And Me. They all talk about how humans can help save animals.

  1. If Sharks Disappeared
    Written and illustrated by Lily Williams

In this book, the main character is a little girl who talked about what would happen if sharks disappeared. Sharks are very helpful! Most sharks typically eat slow, weak prey. If sharks don’t eat them, pinnipeds would take over the ocean. Pinnipeds are animals like seals and walruses. They eat lots of fish. Soon the fish would be gone, then the pinnipeds would die out. Plankton would take over the ocean, and it would become a thick sludge of pink mess. Yuck!

Sharks have been around for 450 million years. Currently, over 400 different species exist. We need sharks in the world, so don’t buy anything with shark in it, like jaws, oil, fins, soup, etc.). It’s the least we can do.

  1. Moto and Me
    Written by Suzi Eszterhas

In Moto and Me, Suzi Eszterhas, a wildlife photographer, went to Masai Mara, a wildlife reserve in Kenya to photograph animals. One day, a park ranger was taking a jeep with people in it on a safari. Moto’s mom was taking Moto to safety, when she heard the sound of a vehicle approaching them. She quickly dropped Moto off on the side of the road, and then skidded away.

When the safari jeep went past, the ranger saw Moto and thought the mom would come back and get him, but after a long while, Moto’s mom didn’t come back. So, the park ranger, who was still sitting there with the safari jeep, picked Moto up (he was only 2 weeks old) and took him back to the ranger station. This trip took hours. When Moto arrived, the rangers knew Suzi Eszterhas, the author, had been studying wildcats. They called Suzi, and asked if she wanted to be a foster mom. Suzi said YES!, and took him in.

One day, Suzi didn’t see Moto, and she knew that a leopard had been prowling around, and she thought: “Oh no he’s dead!” Then, one day she went on safari, and saw Moto. It was such a happy reunion. About a year and a half later, when Suzi returned to the US, rangers where still watching Moto. One day Suzi heard that Moto was now a father, and had kittens of his own! He is all grown up and safe in Africa.

 

 

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We are seeking READERS! If you’d like to read a book on the 2018 Green Earth Book Award Shortlist (or any STEMie-type book), we want to hear from you! Email lisa.morlock@drake.edu and share your thoughts on the story. You can answer a few simple questions or even create your own post. Happy reading!

 

Book Review: Track that Scat!

Due to popular demand, the subject of poop is back! You may remember when we featured Poop Detectives. This time, the picture book Track that Scat! by Iowa writer Lisa Morlock takes readers on a journey to learn more about animals through tracking their footprints and scat (the scientific word for poop). Along with the rhyming text, non-fiction side bars feature lively facts about each animal.

These charming two-year old twins, James and Oren, are big fans of the outdoors. Besides books, they love camping, hiking and getting dirty whenever possible. The twins sat down with their mom to read this book. Check out what they remember most.

Q: What is this book about?
Oren’s A: Poop
James’ A: Scat

Q: What was the best part about this book?
Both A: When she steps in poop

Q: What part of this book made you smile?
Both A: The pooping

Q: What part of the book surprised you most?
Both A: The rabbit’s “eek eek!”

Q: What part of the book worried or concerned you?
Both A: The fox’s “snort-snarl”

Q: What did you learn from reading this book?
James’ A: About poop and the skunk
Oren’s A: About the fox and raccoon

Q: List three words that best describe this book.
Both A: Dog, poop, song

Q: What was your favorite line or phrase from the book?
Both A: The raccoon page

Q: Who else should read this book AND why?
Both A: Daddy and Mom

Among other awards, the book was named one of National Science Teacher’s of America (NSTA) 2013 Honor Books. If you’re an educator, naturalist, scout leader, or care provider looking for educational ideas and activities to use in conjunction with the book, please download this PDF by Sleeping Bear Press.

If you’re looking for more books recommended by the National Science Teacher’s Association, look for this seal of approval. Visit their website for a complete list.

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