Currently viewing the category: "Informational Nonfiction"

Where’s the Architect?: From Pyramids to Skyscrapers: An Architecture Look and Find Book
Author: Susanne Rebscher; Illustrator: Annabelle von Sperber
Published October 23, 2018 by Prestel Junior

Summary: This wonderfully illustrated and captivating introduction to the wonders of architecture will have young readers poring over each spread and learning as they go.

From the top of China’s Great Wall to the base of the Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx, this journey through the world of architecture stops in nearly every continent and travels through centuries. Annabelle von Sperber populates her dynamic and intricate double-page spreads with many details and a hidden architect or important figure on every page that kids will have fun trying to locate. Along the way they’ll learn about the iron workers who built the Empire State building, how many bulbs it takes to light the Eiffel Tower, where the royal jewels are kept at the Tower of London, and why there is so much red and yellow in Beijing’s Forbidden City. Young readers will find themselves fully immersed in this large format book while learning about the incredible architectural wonders that continue to amaze us today.

Review: My son and I absolutely loved this book. It is oversized with giant illustrations, and we spent much time on each spread. The pages feature magnificent works of architecture from the past (and currently existing in the present). In most of the drawings, the architecture is in the process of being built or was recently built, so the book leads readers into a historical time period. We learned so much from this book, and I loved all of the new-to-me facts about the famous architectural structures. My son loved looking and talking about the buildings, and he enjoyed doing the search-and-finds on each page. It is a wonderful book that would be a great resource for classrooms.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Teachers might ask students to work in groups to pick a page that is particularly compelling for them. They can research more about the structure and the time period to understand context and explore historical aspects of the architecture that interest them.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Which architectural design is most interesting to you? Why do you find it to be interesting?
  • Which facts surprised you?
  • Do you notice differences in the architecture throughout time?
  • Which structures are close to you? Which are far away?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Interactive search-and-find (seek-and-find, look-and-find) activity books filled with educational information

Recommended For: 


**Thank you to Casey at Media Masters Publicity for providing a copy for review!**

Tagged with:

“Heads Up For Projectile Science!”

I have always been fascinated by slingshots and potato cannons. Not only is there the wow factor when rock hits tree or potato hits haybale (if you’re lucky and skilled)—there’s also the challenge of guesstimating where your projectile is going to land. Because funny enough, there’s no magic involved. Just math and science.

And the same thing applies with basketballs, soccer balls, golf balls—any ball that’s been kicked, hit, tossed, or chucked is on a defined path from foot, hand, driver, to the end destination.

And what kid has never thrown a ball? None that I’ve met!

Exploring projectile science is a fantastic way to invite kids to make the connection between math, science, and their own lives. Encouraging them to discover the shape of a parabola, experiment with the laws of motion, and harness the power of mechanical energy makes for learning that lasts.

And there’s a human application beyond sports to consider when discussing projectile science. For one thing, without a sense of how your arrow is going to fly when it’s released, you’d have a lot of trouble hunting enough food to make it through a winter. While not everyone has to rely on their own weaponry skills to eat dinner these days, the historical applications of projectile science are an important aspect in the whole “When are we ever going to use this?” argument.

And for an even larger leap of the imagination—the rules of physics that govern your soccer ball are the same ones that dictate how a spaceship gets launched into space!

While educators need to make sure kids are being careful when they’re having fun with projectile science (eye protection is a must!), it’s a terrific way to get students making connections between their own experiences and the rules of mathematics.

Try these fun activities for some hands-on learning about projectile science!


Different kinds of spear-throwing tools were used by ancient people around the world, but they all worked in the same basic way. It takes a lot of practice to use an atlatl, but you can make your own and try it out at home!

Warning: Never point or fire any weapon at a living creature and always wear eye protection. Ask an adult to help with the knife in this activity.

  • Attach one binder clip to one end of the ruler. This is the “spur.” Fold the clip handles back.
  • Using a small knife, CAREFULLY carve a notch into the eraser of each pencil. The notch should go about half way into the eraser and be wide enough to fit onto the binder clip handle. The pencils will be your darts.
  • Place an eraser cap on the unsharpened end of the pencil. This will help your dart fly and be much safer!
  • Place the binder handle into the notch in the eraser and lay the pencil onto the ruler lengthwise.
  • Attach binder clips on either side of the pencil. These will help keep the dart from sliding off the sides of the ruler. DO NOT clip the pencil to the ruler. The pencil only needs to rest on the ruler.
  • In a safe and open space, hold the ruler at the end opposite the spur. Don’t hold onto the pencil! It should only rest on the ruler.
  • Keeping the ruler flat and level so the dart can’t slide out, reach back, and quickly bring the ruler forward like you’re throwing a paper airplane. Turn your wrist down at the end of the motion. Don’t let go of the ruler!
  • What happened? Was the motion what you expected? Using an atlatl takes a lot of patience and practice!

Questions to think about

How is the atlatl a machine?
What forces are acting on the dart as it’s thrown?
What forces are acting on it once it’s released?
What other motions are like the one you use to throw the dart?

Try This!

Try hitting a target! How accurate can you be? What might make your dart moreaccurate? How  far can you throw? Try comparing the atlatl to simply throwing your dart. Which gives you greater range? Does adding weight to the dart or the atlatl make a difference? Try making a larger atlatl to throw even larger darts. How far can you throw?


You don’t need a special launch pad or a million-dollar spacecraft to understand how rockets work. You can study their flight at home! All you’ll need are supplies such as string, drinking straws, and balloons.

  • Attach one end of a piece of string to a sturdy object, such as a chair or doorknob, or have friend or family member hold it.
  • Thread the string through one straw. Attach the other end of the string to another sturdy object. Make sure the string is level and taut.
  • Blow up a balloon and pinch the opening closed—don’t tie it!
  • Attach the balloon to the straw so that the balloon’s opening points along the string.
  • Move the balloon and straw to one end of the string. What do you think will happen when you release the balloon?
  • Release the balloon! What happens?
  • Vary the experiment by inflating the balloon with more air and then less air. How does the amount of air affect the balloon’s motion?
  • Now make the string vertical. What happens when you release the balloon?

Questions to think about

What direction does the balloon travel when the string is horizontal? When it’s vertical?
Can you explain what’s going on using Newton’s laws?
What forces affect the vertical launch more than the horizontal launch? Can you explain why?

Try This!

Try different sizes and shapes of balloons. What effect do size and shape have on the motion of the balloon? Is there a best size or shape to get the farthest distance? Think about the shape of rockets. Would making the balloon look more like a rocket change how far or fast it goes?


What launch angle will send a projectile the greatest distance? Using a yardstick equipped with a protractor to measure angles, you can launch rubber bands to see,

  • On a yardstick, mark a spot at about 22 inches.
  • To attach a protractor to the yardstick, place the origin (the center dot or circle) of the protractor at the 22-inch mark. Align the protractor so that the 90-degree angle (the baseline) points along the yardstick, and that 0 degrees is perpendicular to the yardstick. Then secure the protractor to the yardstick with clear tape, being careful not to cover up the angles on the protractor.
  • Make a loop of string. It should be long enough to hang 1 to 2 inches below the protractor from the origin.
  • Place a pushpin at the origin. Hang the string on the pushpin.
  • Tape a binder clip or other small weight to the bottom of the string.
  • Choose a launch angle. Hold the yardstick so that the string hangs freely across the protractor.
  • Prepare your projectile. Loop a rubber band around the end of the yardstick farthest from the protractor.
  • Fire your rubber band! Each time you launch a rubber band, be sure to stretch it the same amount. Place a mark on the yardstick to help you remember how far you stretched!
  • Record several different launch angles! Make sure that you’re launching from the same height off the ground each time.

Questions to think about

Which launch angle gives your rubber band the greatest range?
Why is it important to keep the height of the launcher the same?
Why does the rubber band need to be stretched the same length each time?
What forces affect the rubber band when it’s in flight?

Try This!

Try stretching the rubber band a different amount. How does this affect the distance? What happens if you launch your rubber band projectile at 0 degrees or 90 degrees? Can you create a way to launch something other than a rubber band?

About the Author: Matthew Brenden Wood is a math and science teacher with a passion for STEAM education. He is also an avid amateur astronomer and astrophotographer. Wood is the author of The Space Race: How the Cold War Put Humans on the Moon; Planetary Science: Explore New Frontiers; and The Science of Science Fiction. He lives in Phoenix, Arizona.

About the Book: What are the forces behind projectiles? Why do rocks and rockets soar through the air in an arch?

The game is on the line. You crouch, you shoot—will the ball go in the basket? You might think that nailing a three-pointer is just luck, but there are many forces at work that determine if you’ve made a game-winning shot. In Projectile Science: The Physics Behind Kicking a Field Goal and Launching a Rocket with Science Activities with Kids, readers ages 10 to 15 learn why projectiles follow the paths they do.

Young learners who are fascinated with potato cannons, slingshots, and rocketry will love taking that next step and applying what they learn about the laws of physics to the science of figuring out where to aim. In this book, readers learn about the forces that act on the projectiles and how to calculate those forces to make educated predictions about where their homemade rockets and other projectiles will land.

We [Kellee’s school] used one of the projectile science activities during our cross-curricular literacy night, and it was a great success! Thank you Matthew for this great post!

Tagged with:

Smithsonian Exploration Station: World Atlas
Author: Josh Farndon
Published November 6th, 2018 by Silver Dolphin and the Smithsonian

About the Book: Head off on a globetrotting adventure in this interactive atlas! Learn about the diverse cultures, customs, wildlife, and natural beauty that form our world through informative text and full-color photograph. Children will love the hands-on aspect to learning as they blow up their inflatable globe and build the cardstock models of some of the wonders of the world. Smithsonian Exploration Station: World Atlas (ISBN: 978-1626867208) is the perfect way to engage kids in the amazing world around them!

56-page fact book
30 stickers with world map poster
1 inflatable globe
3 cardstock models to assemble: the Eiffel Tower, the Taj Mahal, and a Mayan pyramid

Review: I think the best way to review this exploration set is to show you Trent’s experiences with it as we had an amazing time exploring the world with the globe, map, landmark stickers, and landmark 3D sets:


I don’t think anything can show how wonderful a book is other than showing a child completely involved in its purpose. We’re definitely going to get all the sets in the series!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This series (see Ricki’s review of the Solar System set) is made for education. How fascinating would it be to go through the 30 landmarks on the stickers, maybe one a week, and put them on the poster and discuss the landmark. There are ones all around the world which would allow the class to explore so many cultures. Or maybe separate the landmarks and have a different student become an expert on each one and share. There is so much to consider!

Discussion Questions: 

  • Where is _____ located?
  • What landmarks are in ____?
  • What did you learn about ____?
  • How is ___ different than ___?
  • Any Atlas/Geography questions!

Read This If You Love: Interactive sets, Geography, Landmarks

Recommended For: 

**Thank you to Casey at Media Masters Publicity for providing a copy for review!**

Tagged with:

Smithsonian Exploration Station: Solar System

Summary: Take a trip into the stratosphere with Smithsonian Exploration Station: Space! With informative text and full-color photographs, young astronomers will learn about the intricate makeup of our solar system as well as distant galaxies and constellations. The 56-page fact book combined with the sticker sheet, space figurines to play with, and the glow-in-the-dark stars make this space experience interactive and engaging.

Includes a 56-page fact book, 30 stickers, 22 glow-in-the-dark stars, and 2 figurines (astronaut and rocket).

ReviewI love book kits. There is something about them that makes me feel warm and fuzzy. My almost 5-year-old loves them just as much. Opening the box is like opening a world of fun. We were thrilled to receive this kit, and it didn’t disappoint. My son played with the rocket and astronaut figurines as we read the book together. The rocket and astronaut touched every page of the book! After we read about each part of the solar system, he affixed the appropriate sticker on his poster. He’s very much looking forward to sticking the glow in the dark stars on his ceiling! Parents will love these kits. The interactive learning component is wonderful. I intend to purchase several other kits from this company!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Teachers might purchase 1-2 kits each of the Smithsonian Exploration Station series. These include the Human Body, World Atlas, and Human Body. They can be found here. Students can select the kit that is most interesting to them and engage in an inquiry unit on the topic. These kids would be very fun to use in small groups!

Discussion Questions: 

  • What did you learn as you did the activities?;
  • What parts of solar system do you find most interesting? Why?;
  • How do the different parts of the solar system together?

We Flagged: 

The kit!

The full-sized poster! Notice the grayed out planets. The stickers match these and make for a great interactive reading experience!

Read This If You Loved: Any nonfiction books about the solar system; interactive books and kits (like this one about the human body)

Recommended For: 


**Thank you to Casey at Media Masters Publicity for providing a copy for review**

Tagged with:

loved Two Truths and a Lie: It’s Alive and Two Truths and a Lie: Histories and Mysteries, so I am so excited to share the third title of the series coming out in June of 2019!

“There’s something reassuring about opening a nonfiction book and knowing that all the stories and people you will read about are real; that everything between those covers is entirely factual. There’s also something exciting about opening a novel and knowing that all the stories and people you will read about inside are imaginary; in that world, there is no limit to the adventures that can take place.

But what if—just go with us for a second here—what if you could blend up a delicious bookshake to combine the very best of both of these elements?

Welcome to Two Truths and a Lie—the book series that tells you to think, not what to think!

Here’s the scoop: Every scintillating, science-packed chapter in this book contains three stories. Two of these stories are 100% true and you can believe them fully. But one of the stories . . . is not. Beware of that story! It might contain true bits, might name actual people or events or explain true concepts. But in every chapter, there will be one story that overall—its main point, direction, or idea—is fake, false, kaput.

The task set before you is simple: Read. Reflect. Research. And then pass judgment on what you have read. Is the story true or false? Fact or fake? Cross your heart or cross your fingers?

Once you think you’ve got it figured out, you can flip on over to the back of the book to check your answers. But don’t peek ahead . . . you wouldn’t want to spoil the fun, would you?

We’re not gonna lie (about this, anyway)—digging up the truth will be a challenge! But isn’t that true of most of the best things in life?

Here we go. . . .”

Two Truths and a Lie: Forces of Nature
Authors: Ammi-Joan Paquette and Laurie Ann Thompson
Expected Publication: June 25th, 2019 by Walden Pond Press

Summary: All about physical science: chemistry, physics, astronomy, meteorology, geology, etc. Full summar coming soon! Check out its Harper Collins page for updates and to preorder!

About the Authors: 

Ammi-Joan Paquette has squeezed past yaks on narrow cliff’s edges, once chased a ball of liquid mercury around the classroom, and always dreams in black-and-white. (Two of these facts are 100% true!) She is the coauthor of the Two Truths and a Lie series and the author of the novels The Train of Lost ThingsRules for GhostingParadox, and Nowhere Girl as well as the Princess Juniper series and many more. She is also the recipient of a PEN/New England Susan P. Bloom Children’s Book Discovery Award honor. Joan lives outside Boston, Massachusetts, where she balances her own writing with her day job as a literary agent. You can visit her online at

Laurie Ann Thompson has fallen out of a moving car on her birthday, once chased a ball of liquid mercury around the living room, and lived in an apartment that was destroyed by Hurricane Andrew. (One of those facts is not entirely true.) She is the coauthor of the Two Truths and a Lie series and author of several award-winning nonfiction books, including the teen how-to Be a Changemaker and Emmanuel’s Dream, a picture book biography of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah, which was the recipient of the Schneider Family Book Award and was named an ALA Notable Book and a CCBC Choice, among other accolades. She lives outside Seattle with her family, and you can visit her online at


To get everyone excited for book 3, the authors and Unleashing Readers are giving away copies of the first two books in the series!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

We hope you are excited about this one as I am!
Thank you to Joan and Laurie for sharing the upcoming title and cover–your readers can’t wait!

Tagged with:

Sun! One in a Billion
Author: Stacy McAnulty
Illustrator: Stevie Lewis
Published October 23, 2018

Summary: From the author of Earth! My First 4.54 Billion Years comes a new picture book about space—
this time starring our Sun!

Meet Sun: He’s a star! And not just any star—he’s one in a billion. He lights up our solar system and makes life possible. With characteristic humor and charm, Stacy McAnulty channels the voice of Sun in this next celestial “autobiography.” Rich with kid-friendly facts and beautifully illustrated, this is an equally charming and irresistible companion to Earth! My First 4.54 Billion Years.

Ricki’s ReviewThis is my new favorite book about space. (And I have read a lot of books about space.) The author perfectly balances factual information and appeal. The illustrations pop off of the page, and the planets, sun, etc. are personified. I feel very lucky to have received this book for review. I am quite excited to read it to my son tomorrow night. I think I smiled throughout my entire reading of the book. If you are interested in space, get this book. It includes facts that were new to me, and the back matter offers a wealth of information for readers who want to delve deeper.

Kellee’s Review: The humor that Stacy McAnulty adds to her books about space really add to the engagement factor (for both the reader and listener); the Sun’s attitude in this one actually made me laugh out loud while reading, but I also learned some pretty cool facts while reading. I know that this book is going to be in our rotation because Trent wants to be an astronaut, and this one was an instant hit! I am so glad that there are amazing space books out there that add something new to the conversation and go about the information in a new and funny way! I really hope that this series continues because I’d love to see the personalities of all of the other parts of our solar system (and maybe some cool space objects from other systems!).

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Teachers might ask students to pick one fact in the book that makes them want to learn more about the world. They could look, for example, into a planet, or into the history of Earth. This inspires student-centered inquiry about a topic of choice!

Discussion Questions: 

  • How is the text structured in ways that are engaging and interesting?
  • What new facts did you learn?
  • Which page was your favorite, and why?
  • Did this book inspire you to want to learn more about any topics or information?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Earth! My First 4.54 Billion Years by Stacy McAnulty; Science, Space, Picture books with humorous narrators like It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk by Josh FunkNothing Rhymes with Orange by Adam Rex

Recommended For: 

classroomlibrarybuttonsmall closereadinganalysisbuttonsmall


**Thank you to Kelsey at Macmillan for setting up the blog tour for Sun!**

Tagged with:

Astronaut, Aquanaut: How Space Science and Sea Science Interact
Author: Jennifer Swanson
Foreword by Fabien Cousteau and Kathryn D. Sullivan
Published January 9th, 2018 by National Geographic Society

Summary: Journey from the deepest trenches in the oceans to the farthest humans have ventured into space and learn what it takes to explore the extremes. You might just be surprised by how similar the domains of ASTRONAUTS and AQUANAUTS really are.

Space and the ocean. If you don’t think they go together, think again! Both deep-sea and space explorers have to worry about pressure, temperature, climate, and most importantly, how to survive in a remote and hostile environment. Join us on an amazing journey as we go up in space with astronauts and dive deep down in the ocean with aquanauts to explore the far-off places of our planet and the solar system.

With a strong tie into STEM topics–such as making connections, making comparisons, and recognizing patterns across content areas–readers will discover the amazing science and incredible innovations that allow humans (and sometimes only machines) to survive in these harsh environments.

Review: First, I want to share this image because it is one of my favorites ever, and I want a poster of it for Trent’s room!

I love the idea of this book! First, from a personal point of view: my son loves animals and space, so this is a perfect book for him. We didn’t read word for word together, but we spent hours over the last couple of weeks flipping through the book, looking at different spreads, reading parts of the book, and answering any questions that Trent had. Also, from a educator point of view: this text is so full of information told in such an interesting way with fun facts, activities, and so much fascinating information! Swanson did a beautiful job making connections between the two professions and scientists and giving equal looks into both. And since the book is for middle grade students, it is essential for it to be written in a way that will be intriguing to readers, and this book is definitely that!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Throughout the book there are questions that can lead to inquiry (see below) and many topics that are introduced that could be further researched. Additionally, there are a few activities throughout such as one on submersibles, docking the ISS, and design your own space suit. The book is also set up for comparing and contrasting looking at exploration in both space and the sea and how they differ and overlap.

Discussion Questions: The text is FILLED with books that can lead to phenomenal discussions or inquiry projects such as

  • How does studying the topography of the ocean floor help us understand the space?
  • Why is it important for astronauts to train underwater?
  • What does it feel like during blastoff?
  • What is it like to live in space/under water for a long time?
  • Why and how do we explore?
  • How can studying the ocean help astronauts better understand conditions in space?
  • What can space teach us about the ocean?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Space travel, Science, Marine biology

Recommended For: 



**Thank you to the author for providing a copy for review!**

Tagged with: