December 13 – Celebrating Read a New Book Month with STEM

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About the Holiday

Today I’m featuring two books that bring the world of big machines down to size for little readers. Being introduced to the various parts of favorite machines and what they do can spark a life-long interest in engineering and its many applications!

The Book of Flying Machines

By Neil Clark

Readers join Clever Cogz and his sidekicks, Nutty and Bolt, as they get up-close to airplanes, hot air balloons, helicopters, supersonic jets, and the latest technological advances to fill the skies. Little ones who love air travel or just watching planes soar through the clouds learn all about the “clever parts” that allow these machines to ascend, fly, descend, and land.

After defining the engine, cockpit, fuselage, tail, rudder, wheels, and fins, Clark presents a closer look at the wings, with all of their moving parts “that work together to control the speed and direction of the plane.” But how does a plane stay in the air? Kids discover that a wing’s special shape allows air to travel “faster over the top than it does underneath,” and that “the slow-moving air under the wing creates a force called lift.”  Clever Cogz reveals that “lift is the force that keeps an aircraft in the air.”

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Copyright Neil Clark, 2019, courtesy of QEB Publishing.

Now that the plane is in the air, how does it move forward? Working together, the engine and the propeller use air to create thrust, and budding engineers get to see just how this works. Next, children get to join Nutty and Bolt in a hot air balloon ride and discover how pilots use the science of hot air to make the balloon rise. They also learn the names of the various parts of these beautiful machines that make them work—and allow them to come back down.

No one can resist watching a helicopter hover overhead, and its ability to “take off and land without a run-up” makes it very useful in emergency situations. Readers get to learn about the engine, the landing skids, the rescue hoist, and the two rotors that provide the power for this unique machine while Bolt comes to Nutty’s aid on his sinking boat. Kids fascinated by speed will love learning about the various types of jets that “travel at supersonic speeds—faster than the speed of sound” and the definition of Mach 1, against which they can compare the speed of jets that fly at Mach 3.3, 6.7, and even 9.6.

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Copyright Neil Clark, 2019, courtesy of QEB Publishing.

Of course, kids are familiar with drones, so they’ll be eager to discover how three different types—one that can even predict storms. Finally, flying here and there powered by a jet pack may seem like science fiction, but “real ones have been built for the army, for astronauts, and for spectacular stunt shows,” including the Bell Rocket Belt, which can fly up to 60 mph (95 kmph) and the Jetman, invented by Yves Rossy, that can fly at 100 mph (160 kmph). Along the way, bits of trivia about the history and facts of air flight give kids even more information. A short quiz on the last page lets readers show off what they’ve learned.

Ages 5 – 7

QEB Publishing, 2019 | ISBN 978-0711243446

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The Book of Diggers & Dozers

By Neil Clark

 

Clever Cogz, Nutty, and Bolt are back in this book all about working machines. From backhoe loaders to excavators to bulldozers to the giants and the latest tech wonders, Neil Clark takes readers above and below ground to see how these machines work. Take a moment to get to know the intricate parts of a backhoe, which can lift the weight of three cars with its front loader and dig deep holes with its hydraulic-powered bucket in the back. The spinning seat in the cab makes it easy for the operator to do both jobs! What are hydraulics? Dog Clever Cogz, Nutty, and Bolt demonstrate the concepts on a backhoe and with a water gun.

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Copyright Neil Clark, 2019, courtesy of QEB Publishing.

Little ones know tractors belong on farms, but they’ll be surprised at how many jobs they can do using different attachments. There’s even a hole digger that makes planting trees much easier. The excavator may be best known for the tracks that wrap around sprockets and allow it to move over bumpy ground, but its bucket deserves some attention too. It has “an extra part called a thumb” that “turns the bucket into a giant claw, perfect for grabbing things.” Did you know that there are “new, electric powered excavators that will help keep our planet clean?”

The tallest machines are cranes—and “the biggest mobile crane is over 800 feet (245 m) high.” Nutty tells kids “that’s as tall as 50 giraffes standing on top of each other!” A crane’s height and power help it move objects too heavy to move any other way. When roads need fixing and repaving, it’s time to break out the road roller. These useful machines have been around since 1800, when horses pulled them. The steamroller was invented in 1865, and the diesel-powered version came along in 1950. The new road rollers are electric and better for the environment.

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Copyright Neil Clark, 2019, courtesy of QEB Publishing.

Fans of the bulldozer will see what a powerhouse this machine really is. With high tracks to allow it to travel through muddy ground, a ripper that claws at the ground and breaks up big lumps of earth, and a blade that can push piles of rock or sand or even knock down a building, the bulldozer is multi-functional. Whoa! Have you seen the Bagger 293? “It’s the biggest digger in the world” and its bucket wheel can dig “240,000 tons of coal a day.” It’s so big that it requires as much electricity as a whole town and needs 5 people to control it. Today, robot diggers controlled remotely, such as sensors, demolition bots, and the XE15R, are also taking on tasks in dangerous, tight, or other situations. A final quiz lets children review what they’ve learned.

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Copyright Neil Clark, 2019, courtesy of QEB Publishing.

Neil Clark’s fascinating looks at aircraft and the biggest machines will delight vehicle lovers of all types. His straightforward text is accessible for all ages while introducing children to vocabulary and concepts that empower them to understand the workings of not only these big machines but smaller, everyday machines as well. Loaded with information and hosted by charming characters who lend a bit of humor to the pages, Clark’s books are wonderful for dipping into again and again.

Clark’s vivid illustrations clearly mark and define the parts of each machine and demonstrate how these work together to power the machine and allow it to perform its job. Nutty and Bolt are there to translate some of the concepts into ideas kids are already familiar with (for example, Nutty wears big shoes to demonstrate the function of a backhoe’s stabilizers). Similarly, Clark incorporates easy-to-understand graphics to explain scientific concepts like air flow and the clustering of hot and cold air molecules. Boxed information and speech bubbles add interest to the pages. One even invites kids to a “where’s Waldo” type of hunt for Nutty and Bolt near a jumbo jet.

Terrific books for introducing all children to machines, how they work, and the science behind them, The Book of Flying Machines and The Book of Diggers & Dozers would be valuable additions to home, classroom, and public library collections. Check out the other books in the series: The Book of Cars and Trucks and The Book of Space Rockets.

Ages 5 – 7

QEB Publishing, 2019 | ISBN 978-071124341

Read a New Book Month with STEM Activity

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Big Machines Coloring Pages

 

Children can have fun coloring and adding their own touches to these printable pages.

Airplane | Hot Air Balloon | Digger | Crane

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You can find The Book of Flying Machines at these booksellers

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-the-book-of-diggers-and-dozers-cover

You can find The Book of Diggers & Dozers at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

November 21 – It’s National Aviation History Month

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About the Holiday

It seems that people have always been fascinated with flight. The first kite was invented in 1000 BCE in China; around 400 BCE Archytas of Tarentum developed a steam-powered pigeon; and most people are familiar with the designs of flying machines that Leonardo de Vinci created in the late 1400s. It wasn’t until 1680 that actual human flight was abandoned when an Italian mathematician determined that human muscles were incompatible with flight.

Zip ahead about 100 years and the first hot-air balloon took flight, which led to more complex technology, resulting in Wilbur and Orville Wright’s flight in 1903. From there, it seemed, the sky was the limit. Amelia Earhart became the first woman to complete a trans-Atlantic Ocean solo flight in 1932, and in 1947 Charles Yeager broke the sound barrier. Given this long history, it’s astounding to think that only 58 years span the time from that modest 12-second flight by the Wright Brothers to the first manned space mission by Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin! To celebrate the month, visit a local museum or read up on some of the pioneers of early flight—like the courageous women in today’s book.

Aim for the Skies: Jerrie Mock and Joan Merriam Smith’s Race to Complete Amelia Earhart’s Quest

Written by Aimée Bissonette | Illustrated by Doris Ettlinger

 

Jerrie Mock was only seven when her first airplane ride convinced her she wanted to be a pilot when she grew up. At first she only dreamed of flying across Ohio, but later, when she followed reports of Amelia Earhart’s daring flights, she decided she too wanted to see the whole world.

In 1952, Joan Merriam was fifteen years old when she took her first airplane ride and was invited by the pilots to see the cockpit. That’s all it took for Joan to know she wanted to be a pilot too. She began flying lessons and was in the air before she even got her drivers license. By 1963, Joan was working as a professional pilot and bought a plane of her own. One of Joan’s goals was to “circle the globe following the exact route” her idol Amelia Earhart had charted.

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Image copyright Doris Ettlinger, 2018, text copyright Aimée Bissonette, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

By the time Jerrie was thirty-seven, she had three children and ran a flight business with her husband, Russ. One night when she told Russ that she was bored, he joked, “‘Maybe you should get in your plane and fly around the world.’” Jerrie took him up on that. Both women spent months planning and charting their flights. Neither one knew that the other was getting ready for the same flight until their plans hit the media. Suddenly, what they had both thought was a solitary pursuit became a race to the finish.

Joan took off on March 17, 1964 from an airstrip in Oakland, California accompanied only by two stuffed bears. Two days later, surrounded by reporters asking if she thought she could beat Joan, Jerrie climbed into her tiny plane and took off too.

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Image copyright Doris Ettlinger, 2018, text copyright Aimée Bissonette, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Jerrie’s troubles began right away. First, her radio didn’t work then bad weather kept her grounded for six days. “Where was Joan?” she wondered. While Joan’s flight began smoothly, a gas leak brought her down to earth for a week while the tank was repaired. Back in the air, Jerrie seemed to suffer problems every day. “She battled dangerous ice buildup, burning radio wires, and bad weather. She flew into a sandstorm over the Arabian Desert and couldn’t see.” But she encouraged herself to stay calm and use her instruments. Joan was having it no easier. “Heavy rains pounded her pane. Her windshield leaked. Water puddled at her feet. When she finally made it to Brazil, she was delayed again. This time by a government revolution!”

Day by day both women battled the elements and equipment failures but kept flying. Everyone around the world seemed to be watching the race. Russ told Jerrie she had to fly faster—that Joan was winning. In Pakistan, people told Joan that Jerrie had landed there five days earlier. Finally, on April 17, twenty-nine days after she had left, Jerrie returned to Ohio to a hero’s welcome. Reporters and crowds pushed to see her. “Jerry’s heart pounded. She had done it. She had flown around the world. She had won the race.”

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Image copyright Doris Ettlinger, 2018, text copyright Aimée Bissonette, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Where was Joan? She “was in Lae, New Guinea—the last place Amelia Earhart was seen alive—when she heard the race was over.” Even though she knew she was behind Jerrie, “the news was still hard to take.” She sent Jerrie a congratulations telegram, and then left for Guam. There, she walked and “thought about her childhood dream. She thought about the race and she thought about losing.”  Then she thought about why she had undertaken the flight. She had done it to honor Amelia Earhart. Even though Jerrie had won the race, Joan thought that didn’t make her a loser. She “could still do what she set out to do.”

Joan landed back in Oakland, California on May 12, 1964. Her plane was in such bad shape that the Coast Guard had to dispatch a plane to guide her in. Joan was also welcomed by cheering crowds and reporters. Both Jerrie and Joan had accomplished incredible feats. Jerrie “became the first woman to fly around the world,” and Joan—”following Amelia’s exact route along the equator”—was the first “pilot—man or woman”—to fly that distance solo. And both women received thanks from Amelia’s sister, Muriel, for honoring Amelia—”a pilot who, like them, chose to follow her dreams.”

An Author’s Note describing the differences in Joan and Jerrie’s routes and aircraft as well as a bit more about their lives after the historic flight and a map outlining each woman’s flight pattern follow the text. Resources for further reading are also included.

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Image copyright Doris Ettlinger, 2018, text copyright Aimée Bissonette, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Aimée Bissonette’s thrilling biography of two woman, two flights, and one race will keep young readers on the edge of their seats. Riveting details reveal the staggering dangers the women faced as well as their astonishing courage, dedication, and persistence. Bissonette’s fast-paced, electric storytelling puts kids in the cockpit as Joan and Jerrie cross the globe. As Jerrie wins the race and Joan reevaluates her goal, Bissonette makes important and welcome points about the nature of competition, keeping one’s eyes and heart on an original goal without getting caught up in distracting hype, and having the self-confidence to believe in oneself and recognize one’s accomplishments.

In her realistic, richly colored watercolors, Doris Ettlinger follows Jerrie and Joan as they experience their first airplane rides that determine their futures, plot their flights around the world, and take off. The obstacles each woman dealt with are dramatically portrayed as winds whip trees, blinding rain and sand storms thwart progress, and mechanical failures keep the women grounded. Children get a look at landscapes from Bermuda, the Philippines, Africa, and Pakistan as Joan and Jerrie complete their flights. Expressive depictions of Jerrie’s and Joan’s emotions show readers the determination, pressures, and ultimate joy each woman felt during these historic months of 1964.

An exhilarating biography and adventure story rolled into one, Aim for the Skies is a book that will inspire young readers to keep their eyes on their goals despite obstacles and setbacks while reassuring them that winning is accomplished by being true to yourself. Children who love history, flight, biographies, and adventure will find this a compelling book to add to their home bookshelf. Classroom, school, and public libraries will want to include Aim for the Skies in their collections for story times and lessons.

Ages 6 – 9

Sleeping Bear Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1585363810

Discover more about Aimée Bissonette and her books on her website.

National Aviation History Month Activity

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Flying is Fabulous! Maze

 

Can you pilot the airplane along its route to the airport in this printable Flying is Fabulous! Maze?

Flying is Fabulous! MazeFlying is Fabulous! Maze Solution

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You can find Aim for the Skies at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

December 7 – International Civil Aviation Day

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About the Holiday

This United Nations-sponsored observance was established to raise worldwide awareness of the importance of civil aviation between cities and countries to their social and economic development. Every five years a theme is chosen under which agencies work to advance the global rapid transit network to the benefit of all. The theme for the years 2015 – 2018 is “Working Together to Ensure No Country is Left Behind.” If you are an aviation buff, spend a little time today introducing your hobby to a child!

 Amazing Airplanes

Written by Tony Mitton | Illustrated by Ant Parker

 

“An airplane’s amazing / for it travels through the sky, / above the clouds for miles and miles, / so very fast and high.” Where do you start a trip by airplane? At the airport! First you go inside the terminal to check in, show your ticket, and leave your luggage. While you wait at the gate, the ground crew weigh the passengers’ bags and load them into the cargo hold at the bottom of the plane.

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Image copyright Ant Parker, 2002, text copyright Tony Mitton, 2002. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

When your flight is called, you’ll take the walkway connecting the plane to the terminal. Once inside the plane, you find your seat. In the flight deck the pilot and co-pilot are ready to “do their jobs. / They both know how to fly the plane / with all its dials and knobs.” Before taking off, the pilot radios the Control Tower to make sure the runway is clear.

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Image copyright Ant Parker, 2002, text copyright Tony Mitton, 2002. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

When everything is ready and the plane is just about to leave, “by intercom the captain on the flight deck says hello. / You have to do your seat belt up before the plane can go.” Then that big and heavy plane races down the runway and soars into the sky. How can it do this and fly among the clouds? “Its wings hold big jet engines / which are loud and very strong. / They suck in air and blow it through / to whoosh the plane along.” Then when the plane is going fast enough, the air is moving quickly too. “It pushes up beneath the wings / and makes the whole plane lift.”

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Image copyright Ant Parker, 2002, text copyright Tony Mitton, 2002. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Once the plane is in the air, the flight attendants come by with drinks and snacks, and you can watch a movie in your seat. When the plane has reached its destination, the pilot radios the Control Tower to see if it is safe to land. Then “there’s a bumpy, rumbling sound— / the wheels are making contact, / and the plane is on the ground.”

When the door opens you gather your things and leave the plane, full of smiles. It’s fun to visit new exciting places, to “fly for miles and miles.”

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Image copyright Ant Parker, 2002, text copyright Tony Mitton, 2002. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

On the final page, the parts of an airplane and the control tower are described in more detail.

Tony Mitton’s engaging rhymes introduce young readers to the various steps in plane travel and parts of an airplane in language that is accurate while maintaining a child’s sense of wonder and fun in this mode of travel. The mini-lesson in aerodynamics will intrigue little ones with a mechanical or engineering mind and may spur an interest in more exploration.

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Image copyright Ant Parker, 2002, text copyright Tony Mitton, 2002. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Ant Parker’s bright and cheerful illustrations that follow a group of animals on their flight are full of the kinds of realistic details that young travel and airplane enthusiasts will want to linger over. The traveling friends watch as their luggage is wheeled out to the tarmac, allowing kids to see the ground crew load the bags into the cargo hold. The flight deck with its myriad “dials and knobs” is drawn from a perspective that allows readers to see the whole cockpit while also showing the control tower in the background. The wings are depicted with their various panels and supporting the engines, while the cabin and refreshment carts are also portrayed with realistic touches.  

For children enthralled by airplanes and transportation or who are taking their first flight, Amazing Airplanes makes a first-rate choice for home bookshelves or as a take-along in a carry-on bag for in-flight reading.

Ages 2 – 5

Kingfisher Publishing, Macmillian, 2017 Board Book Edition | ISBN 978-0753473702 (Paperback ISBN 978-0753459157; Hardcover ISBN 978-0753454039)

To learn more about Tony Mitton and his books, visit his website.

View a gallery of artwork by Ant Parker on his website.

International Civil Aviation Day Activity

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Got a Plane to Catch Word Search Puzzle

 

When you’re flying, do you think of all the parts of the plane you’re in? Find all twenty plane-related words in this printable Got a Plane to Catch Word Search Puzzle. Here’s the Solution.

Picture Book Review