Books, History, Science/Math

PPBF: The Daring Miss Quimby



AUTHOR: Suzanne George Whitaker

ILLUSTRATOR: Catherine Stock

PUBLICATION INFO: Holiday House, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-8234-1996-8

SOURCE:  library


GENRE: nonfiction picture book, history


“Harriet Quimby was the picture of a modern American woman of 1912.”

From the publisher:

“In 1912, airplanes looked like bicycles with wings and only men flew these new machines. When the spirited young woman, Harriet Quimby, decided to learn to fly, everyone said it would be too dangerous. But Harriet tried it anyway. Soon the whole country was just wild about this daring woman, dressed in her special purple satin flight suit, who flew through the skies to become the first woman in the United States to earn her pilot’s license and fly across the English Channel.”

THEMES/TOPICS: women’ history, aviation, biography

WHY I LIKE THIS BOOK: What’s not to love about Harriet Quimby? While most women of her day sported corsets and long dresses, she donned a shiny purple flight suit. She also drove fast cars, wrote for magazines, and enjoyed adventure after adventure in the days before women could even vote. Whitaker’s book conveys Harriet’s spirit and zest for life in an age-appropriate way. And Stock’s watercolor images are simply heavenly.


  • Whitaker includes an in-depth author’s note and women in aviation timeline. See an online timeline here.
  • Kids can learn about the science of flight at the National Air and Space Museum’s “How Things Fly” website.
  • NASA has a number of aeronautics educator resources on its website.
  • Why not build your own paper airplane? Try different designs and see which flies the best.

You’ll find way more cool books at Susanna Leonard Hill’s “Perfect Picture Books.” Every Friday folks review a host of new books. Join us!

Books, Science/Math

PPBG: The Boy Who Loved Math


Before I introduce one of my favorite biographies of the year, I am going to let you in on a dirty little secret. I order from Amazon A LOT. But I refuse to buy a prime membership since I can normally make the $25 threshold for Super Saver Shipping.

But here’s what I do if I can’t…I order a book, specifically a children’s picture book. I keep a whole bunch of them in my cart or on my wish list. If I’m a few dollars short of earning free shipping, I add a book to the order. Paying for shipping is a waste of money when you could get a book as part of the deal. That’s how I got my latest picture book:

TITLE: The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdos

AUTHOR: Deborah Heiligman


PUBLICATION INFO: Roaring Book Press, 2013

ISBN: 978-1596433076

SOURCE:  Personal collection (yippeeee!)

INTENDED AUDIENCE: ages 6 and up

GENRE: nonfiction, biography


“There once was a boy who loved math. He grew up to be 1 of the greatest mathematicians who ever lived. And it all started with a big problem…”

From the publisher: “Most people think of mathematicians as solitary, working away in isolation. And, it’s true, many of them do. But Paul Erdos never followed the usual path. At the age of four, he could ask you when you were born and then calculate the number of seconds you had been alive in his head. But he didn’t learn to butter his own bread until he turned twenty. Instead, he traveled around the world, from one mathematician to the next, collaborating on an astonishing number of publications. With a simple, lyrical text and richly layered illustrations, this is a beautiful introduction to the world of math and a fascinating look at the unique character traits that made “Uncle Paul” a great man.”

THEMES/TOPICS: biography, math

WHY I LIKE THIS BOOK: Where to start…for writers, this is another mentor text. Heiligman’s first 50 words are spot on. They show a tight focus and capture her voice and style. The opening also hints at the format she uses throughout the book — the integration of numbers and math terms into the text. On this point, the book reminded me of Jeri Chase Ferris’s Noah Webster and His Words, though Ferris used dictionary-type entries.

Pham’s art has a carefree and childlike quality — just like Paul himself. Pham also has included extensive illustrators’ notes to explain many of the equations and famous mathematicians in the text. The note runs three pages, showing the depth of research on the illustration side.

Finally, kids like this book. Paul is such an unusual character. He retains a childlike quality throughout his life. It could be his curiosity or the fact that he couldn’t cut his own meat. Either way, children can relate to Paul. Cooper (age 6) gives this book two thumbs up.


I really feel like I’m cheating here since Heiligman provides so many resources on her Web site:

In terms of activities, if your child is old enough, explore prime and negative numbers. Using a number line is especially helpful for negative numbers. When talking about negative numbers using a word problem is most helpful. Borrowing money from mom and dad to buy LEGOs can result in a negative number, for example. When you owe, you are in the negative.

Now, if you’ll excuse me. I found something I need to buy on Amazon for $13. And I’ll add a book to the order.

Ooops. I almost forgot to tell you that you’ll find way more cool books at Susanna Leonard Hill’s “Perfect Picture Books.” Every Friday folks review a host of new books. Join us!

Books, Education, Homeschool, Nature, Science/Math

Perfect Picture Book Friday: FROM SEED TO PLANT

Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book Fridays are back. I missed the boat last week, but I wrote my post early this week so I wouldn’t forget.

TITLE: From Seed to Plant


PUBLICATION INFO: Holiday House, 1991

ISBN: 978-0823410255

SOURCE:  library

INTENDED AUDIENCE: ages 5 and up

GENRE: nonfiction


“Most plants make seeds. A seed contains the beginning of a new plant.”

Gibbons moves through a plant’s life cycle, showing children how seeds are formed through pollination, how they are dispersed, and how they grow into new plants.

THEMES/TOPICS: nonfiction, educational, nature, science

WHY I LIKE THIS BOOK: Cooper was working on a plant life cycle project for school this week, and we checked this book out from the library. Gail Gibbons is a nonfiction favorite in our house. She uses beautiful drawings and simple writing to explain science concepts in a way young children can understand.


  • The book has a “Seed to Plant” activity in the back using bean seeds. It’s a different take on the classic bean sprout in a baggie activity used in many preschool classrooms.
  • We’ve also done seed collections before to spark discussion about the different types of seeds and how they are scattered. You’ll find that activity…here.
  • Finally, for older students, you can try the plant life cycle project that Cooper’s class did. Students had to collect five different types of seeds and draw or collect pictures that showed the seedling, mature plant, flower and fruit. They had to label each stage, and I had Cooper draw arrows so he could see that the whole cycle is a circle. I’ll blog about our project next week.

Every Friday bloggers review “Perfect Picture Books.” Find a complete list of book reviews organized by topic, genre and blogger at author Susanna Leonard Hill’s site.

Books, Science/Math

Book Review: Cows on the Family Farm

TITLE: COWS ON THE FAMILY FARM (Animals on the Family Farm Series)

AUTHOR: Chana Stiefel

PUBLICATION INFO: Enslow Elementary, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-7660-4205-6

SOURCE: publisher provided copy

INTENDED AUDIENCE: interest level = K-3rd grade (publisher), reading level 2.6

GENRE: nonfiction


“Wow! Cows! Did you know that a cow eats 50 pounds of grass each day? That’s the weight of an average second grader!”

From the book cover:

“Welcome to the family farm! How do the farmers take care of the cows? What do cows eat? Follow the family at Howling Wolf Farm as they show the important steps in raising healthy animals and healthy food for the people in their community.”

THEMES/TOPICS: animals, nature, farming

WHY I LIKE THIS BOOK: This story is as much about the farm and the farmers as it is about cows. Stiefel shows children where their food comes from, using her engaging, kid-appropriate writing style to draw in young readers. Children will learn about animals and sustainable farming. The text includes important elements that help children understand the text, including a table of contents, words to know, and a labeled diagram of a cow. A perfect activity to accompany the book would be a trip to the local Farmer’s Market.


RX: Digestion Investigation

Soup  2

Last week was Teacher Appreciation Week. I had prepared a science activity for the kindergarten class. I had planned to help out in the classroom while the teacher went to a special luncheon.

Then, life took over. Both kids got sick, and we were stuck at home. The worst part was Cooper’s disappointment at not being at school for the science experiment.

Fortunately, it was a case of internet to the rescue! While Cooper’s class watched THE MAGIC SCHOOLBUS: FOR LUNCH on DVD, I was able to pull up the same episode on Youtube.

After watching the show, we did this SID THE SCIENCE KID “Digestion Investigation.” All you need is a zip-top bag (stomach), lemon juice (stomach acid), crackers (food) and the patience to see what happens. Fortunately, we had all the saltines we needed, and chicken soup too.

Cooper didn’t miss a thing, and Finley was able to participate. Watching the TV show and doing the experiment filled up 45 minutes of a very long day with two sick boys. And they learned a lot about the digestive system. What fun!

Books, Science/Math

Book Review: The Case of the Sneezy Popcorn

TITLE: The Case of the Sneezy Popcorn (Body System Disease Investigations)

AUTHOR: Michelle Faulk, PhD


ISBN: 978-0-7660-3946-9

SOURCE:  publisher provided copy

INTENDED AUDIENCE: interest level = 5+ (publisher), reading level 5.6

GENRE: fact-filled fiction


“My name is Agent Annie Biotica. I am a Disease Scene Investigator with the Major Health Crimes Unit.”

From the book cover:

“What do you get when you combine evil microbes trying to harm the respiratory system and a super detective skilled at Body System Disease Investigations? You get crime-solving super sleuth Annie Biotica.” Think Law & Order meets your local doctor’s office.

THEMES/TOPICS: respiratory system, science, health, biology, mystery

WHY I LIKE THIS BOOK: It took me a few days to wrestle this book away from my mystery-obsessed 6 1/2-year-old. Sneezy Popcorn expertly combines mystery with learning about the respiratory system. Readers have to consider the clues carefully, interpret results of medical tests and help Annie Biotica solve the cases and cure the patients. The book is divided into 5 cases, but also includes three cases for readers to solve on their own, once they’ve learned symptoms and how to interpret medical tests. The book reminded us of Encyclopedia Brown, a current favorite in our house. One note of caution: very sensitive children may worry about contracting many of the illnesses described in the book. I had to reassure mine that he has had vaccinations for most of them.

Nature, Outside, Science/Math

For the Birds

Killdeer eggs  Photo courtesy Mike Williams
Killdeer eggs
Photo courtesy Mike Williams

We are batty about birds at our house.

About 10 days ago we discovered a killdeer nest. These shorebirds create nests on the ground, rather than in trees. Our bird laid four speckled eggs among the decorative rocks in our front yard. We’ve been checking the nest periodically to see how our birds are faring.

Photo courtesy Mike Williams

These birds have an interesting defense against predators. Whenever someone approaches the nest, one bird acts as if it has a broken wing to draw the predator away. It’s fascinating to watch.

Today we discovered NestWatch from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. We were able to create our nest on the site, get certified as nest watchers and input data from our nest checks. Cornell scientists are especially interested in nests from the following species: American Robin, Northern Mockingbird, Northern Cardinal, Mourning Dove, Barn Swallow, and House Finch. But if you discover any type of nest, you can put it on the site and share your data. This is a fun and easy way for kids to become animal scientists.

We also recently discovered male California quail on our property. These birds just make us giggle. What fun it would be to find a quail nest. We’ll keep you posted.

California quail
Photo courtesy Mike Williams
Books, Nature, Science/Math, Uncategorized

Perfect Picture Book Friday: THE EDIBLE PYRAMID

It’s Perfect Picture Book Friday! Here’s a quick writing update before I start the review:

  • I finished another query for Boys’ Quest Magazine and got it out the door. They accepted my last two submissions, so I’m hopeful.
  • I have a couple of magazine stories kicking around for Fun For Kidz and Appleseeds. Work begins on those next week.
  • My wonderful critique group helped me whip my latest manuscript into shape. My goal is to finish revisions this weekend so I can send out. I have a writing conference next weekend, where I’ll have a session with an editor I think might be a good fit.
  • I’m working on another picture book idea! It’s been awhile, since I’ve had one come to me as a full concept versus just the subject matter.
  • I signed up for a picture book workshop with one of my writing idols Ann Whitford Paul.
  • I won a copy of Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike of 1909 by Michelle Markel, which I will review in the coming weeks.

Unrelated: The kids are out of school for Good Friday and Easter Monday, and I’ve planned lots of fun. Today we’re headed to the Natural History Museum of LA to see the dinosaur exhibit.

Now, on to today’s review.

TITLE: The Edible Pyramid: Good Eating Every Day


PUBLICATION INFO: Holiday House, 1994 (reprinted 2007)

ISBN: 978-0-08234-2074-2

SOURCE: Library


GENRE: fiction


“On the day of the grand opening of The Edible Pyramid restaurant, customers lined up to get inside.”

From the book jacket:

“Soup’s on at the Edible Pyramid. The feline host is serving everything a kid needs to eat for a healthy, balanced diet. There are yummy items from every group in the food pyramid and advice on getting plenty of exercise too!”

THEMES/TOPICS: healthy eating, food, exercise, science, nature

WHY I LIKE THIS BOOK: Loreen Leedy is a favorite. She blends factual information with comedic characters and great plots to make highly readable books. I can’t think of a better way to teach kids about healthy eating. One note: the USDA has forgone the “Food Pyramid” in favor of the “My Plate” analogy. However, the information in this book continues to be valid.


  • Leedy has activities on her site, including a challenge to pick five foods and see where they fit on the pyramid.
  • Or give your child a food group, fruit for example, and let him or her pick a new food to try.
  • You could also serve kids a favorite food and challenge them to estimate how many servings from each food group the food contains. (MATH!)
  • Have kids think about the ways they exercise and add up the minutes: recess, t-ball practice, gymnastics, dance party in the living room, for example.
  • Learn more about MyPlate from the USDA.

Every Friday bloggers review “Perfect Picture Books.” Find a complete list of book reviews organized by topic, genre and blogger at author Susanna Leonard Hill’s site.

Books, Nature, Science/Math

Perfect Picture Book Friday: What to Expect When You’re Expecting Hatchlings

It’s Perfect Picture Book Friday, my favorite day of the week! This week, I picked a book I have been studying closely for voice and structure. I’m revising a tongue-in-cheek nonfiction manuscript, and Heos’s work provides inspiration, especially when I’m trying to get into the voice.


AUTHOR: Bridge Heos

ILLUSTRATOR: Stephane Jorisch

PUBLICATION INFO: Lerner’s Millbrook Press, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7613-5860-2

SOURCE: Library


GENRE: faction (nonfiction/fiction blend)


“Congratulations, crocodilian parents-to-be! You have little ones on the way. You must be thrilled! You’re probably a little nervous too.”

From the publisher’s Website:

“Read this book to find out where to lay your eggs, how you’ll know when the babies are ready to hatch, and what you and your babies will do all day long. Whether you’re an alligator, caiman, crocodile, or even a funny-looking gharial, you’ll find answers to all your parenting questions here. But there’s one condition: don’t eat the book!”

THEMES/TOPICS: crocodilians, reptiles, animals, nature, science

WHY I LIKE THIS BOOK: Heos makes informational books fun for kids AND parents. As a parent who devoured What to Expect When You’re Expecting, this animal spoof is irresistible.


The book features many resources in the backmatter. Here are a few others:

Every Friday bloggers review “Perfect Picture Books.” Find a complete list of book reviews organized by topic, genre and blogger at author Susanna Leonard Hill’s site.