RovingFiddlehead KidLit

Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge Recap

December 30, 2015

#nfpb2015Participating in the Nonfiction Picture Books Challenge was a fun reading inspiration again this year. Only eleven of my #nfpb15 reads were blogged, but I easily met my goal of twenty-five. And thanks to the wonderful reviews from our host Alyson and all the other participants, my to-be-read list is even longer!

Biographies & History

Alice Waters and the Trip to Delicious by Jacqueline Briggs Martin; illustrated by Hayelin Choi

The Amazing Travels of Ibn Battuta by Fatima Sharafeddine; illustrated by Intelaq Mohammed Ali

Ben Franklin’s Big Splash: The Mostly True Story of His First Invention by Barb Rosenstock; illustrated by S. D. Schindler

Dare the Wind: The Record-breaking Voyage of Eleanor Prentiss and the Flying Cloud by Tracey E. Fern; illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully

Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music by Margarita Engle

Enormous Smallness: A Story of e.e.cummings by Matthew Burgess; illustrated by Kris Di Giacomo

Gingerbread for Liberty! How a German Baker Helped Win the American Revolution by Mara Rockliff; illustrated by Vincent X. Kirsch

Goldie Takes a Stand: Golda Meir’s First Crusade by Barbara Krasner; illustrated by Kelsey Garrity-Riley

Gordon Parks: How the Photographer Captured Black and White America by Carole Boston Weatherford; illustrated by Jamey Christoph

The Inventor’s Secret by Suzanne Slade; illustrated by Jennifer Black Reinhardt

John Muir Wrestles a Waterfall by Julie Danneberg

The Legend of Lao Tzu and the Tao Te Ching by Demi

Mesmerized: How Ben Franklin Solved a Mystery that Baffled All of France by Mara Rockliff; illustrated by Iacopo Bruno

Mr. Ferris and His Wheel by Kathryn Davis Gibbs; illustrated by Gilbert Ford

My Name is Truth: The Life of Sojourner Truth by Ann Turner; illustrated by James Ransome

Separate is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegration by Duncan Tonatiuh

Stone Giant: Michelangelo’s David and How He Came to Be by Jane Sutcliffe; illustrated by John Shelley

Swan: The Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova by Laurel Snyder; illustrated by Julie Morstad

The Pilot and the Little Prince: The Life of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry by Peter Sis

The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus by Jennifer Fisher Bryant; illustrated by Melissa Sweet

Twenty-Two Cents: Muhammad Yunus and the Village Bank by Paula Yoo; illustrated by Jamel Akib

Wangari Maathai: The Woman Who Planted Millions of Trees by Franck Prévot; illustrated by Aurelia Fronty

Winnie: The True Story of the Bear Who Inspired Winnie-the-Pooh by Sally M. Walker; illustrated by Jonathan D. Voss


STEM: Science Technology Engineering Math

Curious Critters by David Fitzimmons

Curious Critters: Marine by David Fitzsimmons

Earmuffs for Everyone! How Chester Greenwood Became Known as the Inventor of Earmuffs by Meghan Mccarthy

Galapagos George by Jean Craighead George

Have You Heard the Nesting Bird? by Rita Gray; illustrated by Kenard Pak

Mysterious Patterns: Finding Fractals in Nature by Sarah C. Campbell; photographs by Richard P. Campbell

PB&J Horray! Your Sandwich’s Amazing Journey from Farm to Table by Janet Nolan; illustrated by Julia Patton

Plant a Pocket of Prairie by Phyllis Root; illustrated by Betsy Bowen

Raindrops Roll by April Pulley Sayre

Secrets of the Seasons: Orbiting the Sun in Our Backyard by Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld; illustrated by Priscilla Lamont

Sharks Have Six Senses by John F. Waters; illustrated by Bob Barner

The Slipper’s Keeper by Ian Wallace

Star Stuff: Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos by Stephanie Roth Sisson

Tiny Creatures: The World of Microbes by Nicola Davies; illustrated by Emily Sutton

Triangles by David A. Adler

Wandering Whale Sharks by Susumu Shingu

Weeds Find a Way by Cindy Jenson-Elliott; illustrated by Carolyn Fisher

Whale Trails, Before and Now by Lesa Cline-Ransome; illustrated by G. Brian Karas

What’s New? The Zoo!: A Zippy History of Zoos by Kathleen Krull; illustrated by Marcellus Hall

Who Was Here? Discovering Wild Animal Tracks by Mia Posada

You Nest Here with Me by Jane Yolen and Heidi E. Y. Stemple; illustrated by Melissa Sweet

Earmuffs for Budding Entrepreneurs

December 9, 2015

Earmuffs for Everyone

Earmuffs for Everyone! by Meghan McCarthy is a nonfiction picture book covering so much more than earmuffs. While examining “How Chester Greenwood Became Known as the Inventor of Earmuffs”, McCarthy teaches the process of invention, patents and the historical record.

Greenwood’s patent (no. 188,292) was for “Improvement in Ear-mufflers,” not their invention, yet Maine celebrates Chester Greenwood Day on December 21 each year and the original inventor’s name has been lost. McCarthy highlights Edison’s longer-lasting lightbulb as another example of an improvement that led to Edison surpassing earlier lightbulb inventors in the fame department (she steers clear of Tesla vs. Edison).

The business side of invention is not often explored in children’s books which tend to stress the critical roles of creativity, curiosity and perseverance. McCarthy clearly explains patents and their importance for inventors’ business success which, in turn, is often critical to widespread adoption. The endnotes also provide examples of when a patent is not the smart business choice. This discussion could be expanded to include the open source movement, the foundation for many successful innovative businesses today.

With delightful illustrations and clear writing, McCarthy conveys a tremendous amount of information. While Earmuffs for Everyone is unlikely to be self-selected by many children, in the hands of science, business and history teachers, it will find its way to an engaged audience. Youth entrepreneurship programs like the Jacobsen Institute at the University of Iowa will also benefit.

The “terrible, wicked yarns” told in the campaign to create Chester Greenwood Day live on while the actual earmuff inventor has been forgotten. A lesson for youth inventors: All inventions have interesting beginnings. Getting the story out is essential to their long-term success!


Curious Critters #nfpb15

October 7, 2015

Gorgeous up-close photographs complement interesting members of the animal kingdom (some decidedly less-than-gorgeous) in David FitzSimmons’ Curious Critters. Against a stark white background, each creature’s features are clear and compelling.

Curious CrittersChatty first-person text with just the right combination of swagger and fact accompanies each creature. The jumping spider declares, “Hey, there! I saw you coming. Eight times. Yep! That’s right. I have eight eyes, some on the back of my head. I can see in eight different directions at the same time.” The end notes include additional facts about each creature. Did you know the Virginia opossum has been around since the dinosaurs?!

And the gray treefrog’s eyes (cover photo) would make a beautiful button pattern.

Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge

For this week’s nonfiction picture book challenge roundup, visit Alyson Beecher‘s blog, KidLit Frenzy.


Paper Circuits Folder Story: Five Little Fireflies

September 4, 2015

I’ve been playing with paper circuits quite a bit this summer. Jill Dawson’s recent Halloween Tunnel Book (it’s amazing, be sure to check it out!) inspired me to make a much simpler project: a paper circuit folder story (rhyme). The rhyme comes from the King County Library System Rhymes and Songs page.

Five Little Fireflies

1 Firefly

One little firefly shines very bright

2 Fireflies

Two little fireflies show their lights

3 Fireflies

Three little fireflies glimmer and glow

4 Fireflies

Four little fireflies watch them go!

5 Fireflies

Five little fireflies fly in the night
Blink! Blink! Blink! Blink!
My! What a sight!

Circuit Tracing

A look at the circuitry. It would be easier to pull out the sheets with surface mount LEDs which are flat, but they are very tiny and my magnifying set-up was not working well yesterday. Five 5mm LEDs is really too many for one 3V battery, but given how infrequently I do storytimes nowadays, the battery should be fine and the LEDs bright enough.

Finding Flannel Friday

Today’s host is Melissa over at Mel’s Desk.

You can also find past and future roundups and lots more information about Flannel Friday at the Flannel Friday website. For a visual round-up of all postings, check out Flannel Friday on Pinterest.

Maker Monday: Paper Circuits

August 31, 2015

For makers looking to include art in their STEM programming, paper circuits are a great way to both teach electronics and allow for plenty of creative freedom. I introduced paper circuits at a Circuit Sewing Camp at Kirkwood Community College and they proved to be the preferred medium of some of the campers. With basic art supplies as well as copper tape, LEDs and 3V batteries, they all made simple circuit cards while others also made simple switches and pull-tab circuit cards. Below are a few of their paper circuit creations.

KICK Paper Circuits

Paper Circuits using Simple Switch

KICK Sensor Card

Simple Switch Paper Circuit Card

KICK Pulltab Tree

Pulltab Paper Circuit Card made using Make to Learn Tutorial

You can find many projects and tutorials on the Paper Circuits board on Pinterest, started by David Peins.

Flannel Friday: Five Little Snakes

August 28, 2015

Five Little Snakes made with foam felt left by a former children’s librarian at Coralville Public Library. No one remembers who made them, but the snakes and the accompanying rhyme worked well with a recent “Animals Nobody Loves” storytime.

Five Little Snakes

Five Little Snakes

Five little snakes
Hid under Mom’s chair
My brother grabbed the red one,
Leaving four there.

Four little snakes swinging in a tree.
The blue one slipped and fell,
Leaving only three.

Three little snakes
Wondered what to do.
The yellow one took a nap,
Leaving only two.

Two little snake
Basking in the sun.
The brown one slithered off,
Leaving only one.

One little green snake
Lonely as could be
Went looking for some fun,
And came and played with me.

Finding Flannel Friday

This week’s roundup can be found at Library Village.

You can also find past and future roundups and lots more information about Flannel Friday at the Flannel Friday website. For a visual round-up of all postings, check out Flannel Friday on Pinterest.

Maker Monday: Magnets

July 13, 2015

magnetThis week’s Maker Monday highlights magnets. Magnets impact so much in our world (and are just plain fun!). Do not do loose magnet projects with children who put things in their mouths.

Preschool Magnet Play

Magnet Painting. Inspiration from Left Brain Craft Brain.

Magnet Busy Play Jar. What We Do All Day keeps kids busy and curious with this project.

Paper Plate Magnet Maze. Cakies created a clever maze project for her kids.

Elementary Projects

Magnetic Sculptures. Some strong magnets, an assortment of hardware and imagination are the only requirements to create inventive sculptures.

Magnetic Slime. FrugalFun4Boys provides clear step-by-step instructions for this fun project.

Money Smoothie. Make a money smoothie to find the iron in American bills with a magnet. If you’d rather keep your money intact, try this simple experiment to demonstrate that the bills are magnetic. Try currency from other countries too! Mileage will vary. Canadian bills, for example, are plastic.

Simple Electric Motors

Evil Mad Scientist shows how to build a very simple electric motor.

Electronics Online has a tutorial for building a simple electric motor on a base.

These homopolar magnet dancers at BableDabbleDo extend the idea.

Spinning pen fun from Arvind Gupta.

Maker Notables

Ayah Bdeir, founder of Little Bits. The color-coded magnetic system takes away the intimidation factor when introducing electronics, but with plenty of add-ons such as Synth kit and Arduino kit, allows plenty of room for creativity and learning. Having just completed a Series A round, the company appears to be on solid financial footing as well. @ayahbdeir

Colleen Graves, Texas teacher librarian, with boundless energy and a knack for Vines that demonstrate both how easy many maker activities can be to implement and the joy they bring to students. She is moving from a middle school library to a high school library for the upcoming school year so it will be interesting to see the different projects that emerge in a new setting. She maintains a helpful list of MakerEd resources and is ever-present on Twitter at @gravescolleen




Making Monday: Toothbrush Robots

July 6, 2015

Mini robots created with parts from old toothbrushes (both standard and electric) take center stage today.



Photo by Windell Oskay

Bristlebots are a popular “first robot” project with many sets of instructions available on the Internet. The Show-Me Librarian has a great step-by-step poster from her Bristlebot program. Handy for anybody, but especially large groups. The video from Make is very clear. The basic ingredients are:

Pager motor (or vibrator from an old cell phone)
Double-sided foam tape
1 coin cell battery
2 small pieces of wire (if your battery or motor doesn’t have wires attached)
Decorating supplies!

Another alternative is purchasing a BristleBot kit from MakerShed with all suppllies (including precut toothbrushes) except for the art supplies for embellishment. (July 2015 pricing: $19.99 for 4 BristleBots)

Dish Scrubber Bots: Cutting the toothbrush handles can be the most challenging part of this project, Mellssa of Making It Sweet and her children attended a workshop that used dish scrubbers instead.

Light-tracking Bristlebots: Amy Cowen and family used the Science Buddies kit which adds a breadboard and circuitry so the bristlebot tracks the light as it moves about. She provides a clear outline of how her family learned about breadboards and resistors with this project.

Drawing Bots

Maker Jawn curriculum for creating Art Bots with parts from old (or Dollar Store) electric toothbrushes.

For a much simpler variety, just keep the electric toothbrush together and attach markers as Hillside Library did. While it doesn’t give children a chance to learn much about electronics, it can be a fun intro project if you are short on time or dealing with a really large group.Hillsdale Toothbrush Squiggle Machine

Maker Notables

Dale Doughtery. Founder of MAKE magazine and Maker Faires, Doughtery has been and continues to be a source of inspiration for oh-so-many makers. MakerCamp kicked off today.  @dalepd

Laura Fleming. Library media specialist, author and, with educator Travis Lape, cohost of Movers and Makers Podcast.  @NMHS_lms

Tinkering Studio at The Exploratorium. In addition to amazing programs they offer in their community, The Tinkering Studio shares instructions for a wide variety of maker projects on their site. For the second summer, they are leading an online Tinkering Fundamentals Course geared to educators and librarians through Coursera (session begins July 22).

Flannel Friday June 26

June 25, 2015

Flannel Friday

Fun and varied contributions this week from Jane, Kathryn, and Katie.

Kathryn of Fun with Friends at Storytime has made a charming Five Clean and Dirty Pigs useful for multiple storytime rhymes. It’s always so nice to be able to use our flannels and storytime props in varied ways.

Storytime Katie has put together adorable animal flashcards for “Where is Animal?” I guarantee it will have you checking out the Etsy shop that created the graphics!

Jane of Piper Loves the Library got her whole community involved in promoting summer reading with yard signs. One hundred families were involved! Fantastic idea!

Thank you for sharing your storytime flannelboard and prop ideas in the midst of summer reading craziness!

Finding Flannel Friday

You can also find past and future roundups and lots more information about Flannel Friday at the Flannel Friday website. For a visual round-up of all postings, check out Flannel Friday on Pinterest.

John Muir Wrestles a Waterfall #nfpb15

June 24, 2015

John Muir Wrestles a Waterfall

In John Muir Wrestles a Waterfall, Julie Danneberg has chosen a dramatic episode in the naturalist, writer and explorer’s life to illustrate his approach to the world around us. Moved by a growing desire to live “anywhere that’s wild,” Muir built and ran a small lumber mill in the Yosemite Valley in 1871. From there, he was able to explore and study the natural world around him. He filled his days with long hikes and a series of “experiments” to experience nature more and more intimately.

On the day in question, Muir climbs Fern Ledge beside Yosemite Falls. “For a moment John is perfectly content. But then he wants to be closer still.” This is a pattern that repeats throughout the day, wavering between contentment in the moment and wanting more — a feeling most of us can relate to. Taking advantage of a gust of wind, Muir steps between the curtain of water and the rock face. It’s not hard to imagine the danger he soon faces! Fortunately, only his hat is harmed in the escapade, but even Muir shaken by the event. “My wetting was received in a way that I scarcely care to tell. The adventure nearly cost all.” The trauma does not last, however. In later writings he describes waking the next morning “sane and comfortable, better, not worse, for my wild bath in moonlit spray.”

Even the most ardent free-range parent today would probably discourage their child from sleeping on a rock in the middle of a river or climbing a tree during a storm. The challenge of modern adults is how to nurture that same spirit of adventure and wonder in today’s children. Thanks to Muir’s legacy as founder of the Sierra Club and influencing President Theodore Roosevelt’s creation of National Parks and Monuments spaces for that exploration still exist.

John Muir and Yosemite Falls

Fern Ledge Trail (with a bold “You could die on this trail” warning)

Sierra Club John Muir Digital Exhibit

Yosemite Falls Webcam

Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge

For this week\’s nonfiction picture book challenge roundup, visit Alyson Beecher's blog, KidLit Frenzy. #nfpb2015