March 18 – International Ideas Month

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About the Holiday

This month we celebrate something that you can’t see or hold but which is real all the same. What is it? An idea! Ideas are amazing things. They ideas fuel our arts, sciences, education, and home life. This month-long holiday invites all you would-be inventors and clever folk alike to think differently and pay attention to your brainstorms. So, write down those ideas you have while driving, while in the shower, when you’re daydreaming, or just as you turn off the light to go to sleep. You never know what they might become!

Scampers Thinks Like a Scientist

Written by Mike Allegra | Illustrated by Elizabeth Zechel

 

All the field mice gathered at the vegetable garden to play and eat, eat, eat. But one day an owl arrived, so the mice went off to the grassy fields far away where they were safe but not nearly as well-fed. “Still they all agreed that having a hungry belly was better than filling the belly of a hungry owl.” After that the mice kept their distance from the farm—all except Scampers, who hid nearby and watched the owl. She thought there was something a little suspicious about it since the owl never moved.

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Image copyright Elizabeth Zechel, 2019, text copyright Mike Allegra, 2019. Courtesy of Dawn Publications.

When Scampers’ friend Nibbles saw what she was doing, he was afraid for her safety. But Scampers was gung-ho on finding out what was going on. The next day they waved a rag-doll mouse above the cauliflower, but the owl stayed put. “‘Maybe owls can tell if a mouse is fake,’ Nibbles whispered.” That gave Scampers another idea. She jumped out and yelled “HELLO!” to the owl, but the owl didn’t blink. Nibbles thought maybe owls were hard of hearing, so Scampers put on her one-girl-band set. Nothing.

Next it was time to bring out the heavy machinery, but even when Scampers lobbed an egg at the owl from her homemade eggapult, the owl didn’t move. Nibbles thought that owls might not like eggs, but a soaring rock had the same result. Scampers decided it was time to try out all of her experiments on another owl—one they’d find in the woods.

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Image copyright Elizabeth Zechel, 2019, text copyright Mike Allegra, 2019. Courtesy of Dawn Publications.

While Nibbles hid in the hollow of a tree, Scampers called out “HELLO!” “An owl’s head spun around.” The owl nabbed the rag-doll mouse in a snap, and he did not sit still for the eggapulted rock. “‘Maybe you’ve figured out why the garden owl doesn’t move,’” Nibbles said. Now it was time to explain it all to the other mice. With a glittery display, Scampers and Nibbles presented their findings.

As Scampers and Nibbles raced to raid the veggies, the other mice lagged behind, skeptical about what they’d heard. “‘Sometimes a new discovery is so amazing that others need a little time to accept it,’” Scampers told Nibbles. “‘So while they’re thinking it over, let’s eat.’”

Extensive back matter includes an illustrated description of how scientists think over a problem, more information about Great Horned Owls and field mice, suggestions for teachers on reading the book to students, ways teachers can discuss science and engineering practices, and four activities kids can do at home or in school that engage them in science, technology, engineering, and math learning.

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Image copyright Elizabeth Zechel, 2019, text copyright Mike Allegra, 2019. Courtesy of Dawn Publications.

In his clever story, Mike Allegra infuses the scientific method with enthusiasm, humor, and a problem that will engage kids. When the field mice are run out of their vegetable garden by an owl who has taken up residence on a fence post, readers will love following Scampers as she uses her logical mind and a few experiments to restore their food source. Through Scampers’ keen sense of observation and engineering know-how, kids see how to go about proving a hypothesis correct. As Nibbles eats away at Scampers’ results with the kinds of alternate theories scientists must disprove, children get caught up in the suspense and thrill of discovery that fuels scientific advancement.

Elizabeth Zechel’s field mice know how to feast—and how to get things done. With bright eyes and jubilant expressions, the mice chow down on corn and tomatoes, and as Scampers performs her experiments her joy in the process is evident. More timid Nibbles bites his nails, wraps his tail tightly around himself, tries to stop the eggapult in its tracks, and cowers in the crook of a tree as danger looms. Zechel’s detailed drawings realistically depict the garden, forest, and wildlife. Her two Great Horned Owls beautifully demonstrate the difference between the false one and the real one, which has focused and piercing eyes, soft textured feathers, sharp talons, and quick reflexes.

Perfectly aimed at young scientists with charming characters, fun language, and a glittery final report that mirrors school projects, Scampers Thinks Like a Scientist is a terrific addition to home, classroom, and library STEM collections.

Ages 4 – 7

Dawn Publications, 2019 | ISBN 978-1584696438

Discover more about Mike Allegra, his books, and his other writing on his website

To learn more about Elizabeth Zechel, her books, and her art, visit her website

National Ideas Month Activity

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Green onions as they looked when put in the jar on Day 1

Green Onions Garden in a Jar

 

Kids will be wowed by this gardening experiment that shows results in as little as two days and just keeps getting more dramatic as the days go by.

Supplies

  • 1 or 2 batches of green onions (also called scallions and spring onions)
  • Jar
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Here’s how the onions looked two days later.

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Three days later, the green onions are really growing!

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In four days the stalks have gotten much longer and new shoots have appeared.

Directions

  1. Cut the stalks off of each onion so that the bulb and about two inches of stem remain. 
  2. Place all of the onions in a jar with the bulbs and roots in the water and the stalks above the rim of the jar
  3. Place the jar in a sunny spot and watch the onion tops grow taller day by day
  4. Harvest the stalks and enjoy them in a variety of recipes and as a substitute for chives

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You can find Scampers Thinks Like a Scientist at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

February 7 – National Periodic Table Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday was established in 2016 by David T. Steineker, an author, inventor, and – as you might imagine – chemistry teacher at Jefferson County Public Schools in Kentucky. He devised the holiday to honor the work of categorizing the elements begun by John Newlands, who published the first periodic table on February 7, 1863, and continued into the early 20th century as new elements were discovered. While the modern periodic table has undergone few changes since then, new discoveries and different ways of approaching the table may bring fresh changes in the years to come.

Marie Curie (Little People, Big Dreams)

Marie: My First Marie Curie (Board Book)

Written by Isabel Sánchez Vegara | Illustrated by Frau Isa

 

From the time when Marie was a little girl, she knew she wanted to be a scientist. Marie was very smart. “At school, she won a gold medal for her studies, which she kept in her drawer like a treasure.” Because women were not allowed to go to college in her country, she moved to France to go to the university there. Even though French was not her first language, Marie was soon the top math and science student in Paris.

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Copyright Frau Isa, 2018, courtesy of Frances Lincoln Children’s Books.

One day Marie met Pierre, who loved science as much as she did. They got married and worked together in their own laboratory, where they discovered radium and polonium. “It was such a thrilling moment for science!” Marie and Pierre even won the Nobel Prize. Marie was the first woman ever to be awarded this honor. When Pierre later had an accident, Marie was left alone to continue their work.

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Copyright Frau Isa, 2018, courtesy of Frances Lincoln Children’s Books.

All her research and experiments paid off when she was awarded her second Nobel Prize. When war broke out, “Marie’s discoveries were used by doctors to help injured soldiers.” Marie inspired many girls who studied science at her own institute in Paris. Besides science, Marie taught her students that there was nothing to fear, “many things to learn, and many ways to help those in need.”

A timeline and brief, yet detailed biography of her life follows the story.

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Copyright Frau Isa, 2018, courtesy of Frances Lincoln Children’s Books.

With thrilling recognition that even in the youngest hearts beat future writers, artists, adventurers, designers, and scientists, the Little People, Big Dreams series introduces preschoolers to inspiring women role models. In Marie Curie: Little People, Big Dreams, Isabel Sánchez Vegara reveals the life and work of Marie Curie with straightforward storytelling that illuminates while affirming the intelligence of her young audience. Uplifting, life-determining personality traits that carried Marie over obstacles and to the top of her profession—such as not taking no for an answer, treasuring your accomplishments, working hard, and helping others—are highlighted for little ones to learn from.

Frau Isa’s stylish illustrations in a striking, subdued color palette will entice the youngest readers to listen and learn. While the spotlight is always on Marie, each page also focuses on one or two main images, such as Marie and Pierre’s lab table, a wounded soldier’s X-ray, and Marie holding her Nobel Prize, that help little ones see and understand the important aspects of the story.

Encapsulating both history and the timeless persistence that drives people to achieve their full potential, Marie Curie—available in both picture book and board book editions—is a must for preschool classrooms and would be a rousing addition to home bookshelves.

Ages 3 – 5

Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1847809629 (Picture Book); 978-1786032539 (Board Book)

You can check out more about Isabel Sánchez Vegara on Instagram.

Discover more about Frau Isa and her art on her website.

National Periodic Table Day Activity

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Green Pennies Chemistry Experiment

 

You know what color pennies are! They’re those brownish coins amid all the silver. But what if you could turn those pennies green—like dollar bills? You can with this easy and way cool chemistry experiment!

Supplies

  • 10 – 12 dull pennies
  • Vinegar
  • Lemon juice
  • Salt
  • 2 small bowls
  • ¼ cup measuring cup
  • 1 teaspoon
  • Paper towels

Directions

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Experiment 1

  1. Pour ¼ cup vinegar into a bowl
  2. Add 1 teaspoon salt
  3. Mix thoroughly until salt has dissolved
  4. Place a few pennies in the bowl and leave for five minutes.
  5. Take the pennies out and place them on the paper towel.
  6. Let the pennies dry and watch what happens. The reaction becomes more dramatic over time, so check on your pennies at different times throughout the day

Extra Observation:

  1. To see the chemical reaction at work, dip one penny half way into the vinegar/salt solution and wait a minute
  2. Lift the penny out of the solution and see the result

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Experiment 2

  1. Fold a paper towel to several thicknesses and place in bowl
  2. Place a few pennies on top of the paper towel
  3. Pour enough vinegar over the pennies to saturate the paper towel
  4. Wait two to three hours and see what happens
  5. You can leave the pennies in the bowl and continue to add vinegar as the paper towel dries. Flip the pennies over to create a chemical reaction on both sides

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Experiment with other acids, such as the lemon juice.

Why do the pennies turn green?

Pennies are made of copper. The vinegar and salt solution helps the copper react with oxygen in the air to form the blue-green patina of malachite on the surface of the penny. This chemical reaction is called oxidation. You can see the same green color on other things made of copper like plumbing pipes and many statues—even the Statue of Liberty!

If you’d like to record your observations of your pennies like a chemist does, download and print this lab sheet.

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You can find Marie Curie (Little People, Big Dreams) at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

You can find the board book edition, Marie: My First Marie Curie here

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

YouPicture Book Review