Other Stuff Exists

Don't get too comfortable with the familiar–other stuff exists, so go explore!

Posts Tagged ‘science’

The Worm

Posted by Tracy Poff on March 8, 2014

Slimy, pink, often seen with dirt or fishing hooks. What is it? The worm, of course! But how well do you really know them? Did you know that some worms can be as much as 115 feet long? Or that worms evolved with the dinosaurs? You’ll learn that and more in Elise Gravel’s book, The Worm.


Gravel’s The Worm introduces children to the titular invertebrate with a series of interesting facts, accompanied by simple, charming artwork.


Each two-page spread presents a fact about worms, along with artwork demonstrating–or commenting on–the text. For example, the description of how a worm moves (“Earthworms move by squeezing their muscles, causing their bodies to contract and expand.”) is accompanied by a helpful illustration; when the text is less kind to the worm (“An earthworm is basically a long digestive tract inside a muscle tube. It’s that muscle tube that’s slimy and disgusting.”), the worm doesn’t take it lying down, so to speak (“Hey! I am not disgusting!”).

I enjoyed reading this book. The highlight is certainly the illustrations, but the book’s educational content is interesting too, including some facts that even adults may not be familiar with (“many kinds of worms are hermaphrodites, which means they have both male and female reproductive organs”).

The Worm, a translation from the French (original title: Le ver), is part of Gravel’s Disgusting Creatures series, the other entry in which is The Fly, to be published simultaneously. It’s recommended for ages 6-9.

The Worm is on sale March 11, 2014.

Disclosure: this review is based on an advance copy received free for review.

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The Truth About Stacey

Posted by Tracy Poff on October 12, 2011

Stacey moved to Stoneybrook, Connecticut from New York City. Her friends in New York abandoned her when she discovered that she had diabetes, and until she met Claudia, she didn’t have any friends in Stoneybrook, either. But, she was invited to the Baby-Sitters Club, and now she’s friends with Kristy and Mary Anne, too.

Life’s settled into a pleasant pattern of baby-sitting and hanging out with her friends, when the members of the Baby-Sitters Club learn that a new group, the Baby-Sitters Agency, are moving in on their territory. On top of that, Stacey’s parents want to take her to yet another doctor, hoping for a miracle cure to her diabetes, when all she wants is to go to school and stay with her friends. What’s Stacey to do?

The Truth About Stacey is the third book in Ann M. Martin’s The Baby-Sitters Club series. This time, the story is told from Stacey’s point of view.

I like the story in this one very much–both major plotlines are well-done and have good messages. The Baby-Sitters Agency, in the persons of Liz and Michelle, provides a good ‘villain’ for the story, and when the members of the Baby-Sitters Club begin to suspect that their rivals may not be such responsible baby-sitters as they make themselves out to be, it provides a good lesson about what’s really important: to be responsible and ethical, even in the face of a challenge. To beat their rivals not through trickery, but by being better baby-sitters. Of course, the lesson in corporate espionage writ small is probably useful, too.

The second plotline, with Stacey’s parents dragging her about the country in search of a cure for diabetes is well done, too. As Dr. Graham points out at the end: “Stacey seems incredibly healthy . . . and that comes from one thing only: regulating the amount of insulin in her body.” Seeking miracle cures for diseases is not productive, and I hope that children who read this book will grow up to be skeptical of such things. If everyone were as sensible as Stacey, the world would be a better (and healthier) place.

I must say, I really like the technique of writing each of these books from a different character’s point of view. It both gives us insight into how the characters feel about themselves and one another, and prevents the repetition of the premise in each book from getting too stale. Rather than Kristy telling us three times that she had the great idea for the Baby-Sitters Club, we get to hear instead how the formation of the club affected each of the members. Very well done, indeed.

The Truth About Stacey is, like the other books in the series, a great middle grade book, with both excellent story and characterization, and I’d recommend it without reservation to anyone looking for middle grade fiction.

Also like the other books in the series, The Truth About Stacey is now available as an ebook for the Kindle, so ebook readers can join in the fun, too.

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My Visit to the Dinosaurs

Posted by Tracy Poff on September 1, 2011

What were the dinosaurs like? What did they eat? How do we know about them?

In My Visit to the Dinosaurs by Aliki, a Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out Science Book, children can learn about the different kinds of dinosaurs, with information both about the dinosaurs themselves, and how we come to know about them, through fossils.

This one is good, but I don’t like it as well as the other two books in this series that I’ve reviewed, Ducks Don’t Get Wet and What Makes Day and Night. The illustrations are nice, but the book is more like a collection of trivia than the other two. Still, it’s quite a good book for kids.

I’d recommend My Visit to the Dinosaurs especially for kids interested in dinosaurs, but anyone might find it interesting. It’s a solid children’s picture book, well worth reading.

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Ducks Don’t Get Wet

Posted by Tracy Poff on September 1, 2011

What do different kinds of ducks eat? Why do ducks fly south for the winter? Are ducks very good swimmers? And, when they do swim, why don’t ducks get wet?

The curious child will learn plenty about ducks from Ducks Don’t Get Wet, a Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out Science Book by Augusta Goldin, illustrated by Leonard Kessler.

Like What Makes Day and Night, Ducks Don’t Get Wet is interesting and informative, and the illustrations, though sometimes a little odd, go well with the text. Also like What Makes Day and Night, Ducks Don’t Get Wet includes some experiments children can do at home to help them understand why ducks, as the book says, don’t get wet.

There’s a newer edition than mine with illustrations by Helen K. Davie. It looks to have much more realistic illustrations, compared to Kessler’s version, but it seems a shame to miss the strangeness of Kessler’s illustrations. Either version should be good, though.

Ducks Don’t Get Wet is another wonderful book in the Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out Science Books series, and a great choice for children. It’s educational and fun–you can’t go wrong!

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What Makes Day and Night

Posted by Tracy Poff on September 1, 2011

Why is it sometimes night, and other times day? Why does the sun seem to move across the sky? Does the moon have day and night?

These questions (and a few more) are answered in a clear and understandable fashion by the excellent children’s picture book What Makes Day and Night by Franklyn M. Branley, illustrated by Arthur Dorros.

What Makes Day and Night is a Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out Science Book, which explains that the Earth is round, and rotates once a day, causing the apparent movement of the sun across the sky, and therefore causing day and night. This explanation is accompanied by great illustrations, as well as a beautiful photograph of Earth, taken from the Apollo 17 spacecraft, which help make these basic science facts accessible to the young reader.

I’d highly recommend What Makes Day and Night for young children. It encourages curiosity and a rational view of the world, excellent accomplishments for any children’s book.

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