The Nora Notebooks: The Trouble with Ants
Author: Claudia Mills
Illustrator: Katie Kath
Published September 22nd, 2015 by Knopf Books for Young Readers
Goodreads Summary: Science-obsessed fourth grader Nora has ants all figured out—now she just has to try to understand her fellow humans!
The trouble with ants is . . .
. . . people think they’re boring.
. . . they are not cuddly.
. . . who would ever want them for a pet?
Nora Alpers is using her new notebook to record the behavior of ants. Why? Because they are fascinating! Unfortunately, no one agrees with her. Her mom is not happy about them being in the house, and when Nora brings her ant farm to school for show and tell, her classmates are not very impressed. They are more interested in cat videos, basketball practice, or trying to set a Guinness World Record (although Nora wouldn’t mind that).
Mostly they are distracted by the assignment their teacher Coach Joe has given them—to write a persuasive speech and change people’s minds about something. Will Nora convince her friends that ants are as interesting as she thinks they are? Or will everyone still think of ants as nothing but trouble?
With real science facts, a classroom backdrop, an emphasis on friendship, and appealing black-and-white interior illustrations from artist Katie Kath, The Nora Notebooks is perfect for newly independent readers—especially budding scientists like Nora!—and adults who want to encourage awareness of STEM subjects in young readers.
About the Author: Claudia Mills is the author of over fifty books for young readers. She does not personally keep an ant farm, but she does have a cat, Snickers, with whom she curls up on her couch at home in Boulder, Colorado, drinking hot chocolate and writing. To learn more, and to download free curriculum guides for her books, visit her website at claudiamillsauthor.com
My Review: I love books that promote girls being smart and doing well in school. This book goes even further and promotes girls finding a love in science and, specifically, insects. Nora is a girl that I hope that lots of readers find a connection with and strive to be like. She is a role model for all kids. She is smart, doesn’t mind being a bit different, and has great friends and family. I also love that she is at the heart of it a normal girl who just happens to be smart and like science. The story is more than just her science and ants. It is about growing up. There is so much you will love in this book: Nora, her parents, her teacher, her friends, and, of course, Precious Cupcake.
Author Q&A: We are so excited to host Claudia today! Thank you for taking part in the Q&A.
Do you like ants as much as Nora does?
No! But some ants somewhere must have read my book and gotten the wrong impression, as I had my first-ever invasion of ants in my pantry as the book was going to press. It was hard to convince them that I much prefer to have them outside in their usual habitat. But I had a pang thinking how much Nora would have come to their defense.
What was the hardest part about writing this book?
The research was a challenge. Most of my books are contemporary school stories. It helps that I love going to schools on author visits where I pay close attention to the details on how the classrooms are organized, what kind of work the kids are doing, and how classmates interact. But I don’t need to do any other research. Here I had to try to equal Nora’s knowledge about ants, and that meant reading about ants, interviewing a leading ant scientist, and combing the internet for promising ant experiments.
What’s next for Nora?
She is going to star in two more books. In The Trouble with Babies she devotes herself to the scientific study of babies as a new a-u-n-t; in The Trouble with Friends she wants to replicate Mendel’s experiments on the genetics of peas in the class garden, but finds herself instead learning the limits of her own scientific approach to life.
Thanks for hosting me today, Kellee!
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I love the cross-curricular aspect of this novel. You can use aspects in science and in language arts. I love Nora’s example of an experiment and persuasive essay. I also think having an ant farm while reading the novel would really add an extra aspect to the reading.
Discussion Questions: What are the steps to doing a science experiment?; Why did all of Nora’s ants die?; How is Nora different than her friends? How does their relationship show that different types of people can be friends.; How did Nora’s parents influence her?; Why do you think Dunk acts the way he does?; What was so special about Nora’s classroom?
We Flagged: “Nora loved scribbling down all kinds of facts in all kinds of notebooks: big ones, little ones, fat ones, skinny ones, spiral ones, and now this new super fancy one.
She had waited to start her new notebook on the first day of the new year.
‘Fascinating Facts About Ants,’ she now wrote on the first blank page with her blue ballpoint pen.” (p. 2)
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**Thank you to Barbara at Blue Slip Media for providing copies for review and giveaway and also a big thank you to Claudia Mills for taking part in the Q&A!!**