The Fourteenth Goldfish

The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm was a nominee for the 2016-17 South Carolina Children’s Book Award.

Things were so much simpler for Ellie in elementary school. She didn’t have to worry about where to sit in the cafeteria, losing her best friend, or all the other changes middle school brings. Well, soon Ellie will have one more change…and this one will rock her entire world.

One day, Ellie’s mom brings home a strange yet oddly familiar boy. He bears a striking resemblance to her grandfather, but Ellie doesn’t know of any long-lost relatives who would just show up all of a sudden. So who is this odd, crotchety, young boy?

Well, as it turns out, this boy actually is Ellie’s grandfather, Melvin. Through his research with jellyfish, he seems to have found the “cure” for aging, and this seventy-six year old man now looks like a teenager. (He still acts like an old man, though.) Melvin shares his discovery with Ellie and enlists her help in retrieving the research that he’s sure will win him a Nobel Prize.

Ellie is intrigued by her grandfather’s work, but, the more she learns about science and what happens after important discoveries–like Oppenheimer’s work on the atomic bomb–the more she wonders if Melvin’s breakthrough is a good thing. Does the world really need a cure for aging? What would be the consequences if such a thing were available?

As Ellie explores the scientific possibilities with her grandfather, she’s also coming to grips the changes in her own life. Maybe it’s okay that she’s letting go of old friends and making new ones. Moving on is a part of life, right? Now, all she needs to do is convince her grandfather of that…

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Pluto’s Secret: An Icy World’s Tale of Discovery

Pluto’s Secret: An Icy World’s Tale of Discovery, written by Margaret A. Weitekamp with David Devorkin and illustrated by Diane Kidd, was a nominee for the 2015-16 South Carolina Picture Book Award.

Pluto’s Secret is an entertaining, informative, accessible introduction to studies of Pluto, long-believed to be the ninth planet in our solar system. This book takes a look at Pluto’s initial discovery, as well as the circumstances that led to its “demotion” to dwarf planet status.

As someone who grew up thinking of Pluto as a planet, I found that Pluto’s Secret provided easy-to-understand details on its place in the Kuiper Belt and why the icy world was reclassified. I think that many older readers may feel the same way. This book definitely has an audience with young and older readers alike.

When paired with photo’s from the New Horizons journey to Pluto, I think Pluto’s Secret is a necessary addition to any young student’s study of astronomy. The “Who’s Who” section, glossary, and suggestions for further research make this a must-purchase for nearly any classroom, school, or public library serving children interested in learning more about Pluto.

Citizen Scientists: Be a Part of Scientific Discovery from Your Own Backyard

Citizen Scientists was nominated for the 2013-2014 South Carolina Children’s Book Award.

Citizen Scientists may be the perfect book for some of those students who would rather be outside than anywhere else. This book takes a look at how kids can “be a part of scientific discovery from your own backyard.” It presents the concept of citizen science in a way that most young readers and budding scientists will appreciate. It may even provide a starting point for some fairly intense science projects.

Loree Griffin Burns’ narrative, paired with Ellen Harasimowicz’s beautifully detailed photographs, engages young readers and invites them to participate in nature studies without leaving their own backyards. Four types of studies are highlighted: fall butterflying, winter birding, spring frogging, and summer ladybugging. The author states that the experiences in each of these studies may vary from region to region. Additional resources and anecdotes are provided for each study for readers who wish to explore the topic further.

At the back of the book, in addition to a bibliography, glossary, and index, the author also provides information on finding resources for other citizen science projects. Most of them involve animal and plant studies.

Citizen Scientists is a welcome addition to my library’s nonfiction collection, and I will recommend it to my 3rd-5th grade teachers when they begin studying plants, animals, and nature. Young readers who show a keen interest in science, particularly in conducting their own experiments, will love this book.

11 Experiments That Failed

11 Experiments That Failed is a perfect book for anyone who enjoyed Jenny Offill’s 17 Things I’m Not Allowed to Do Anymore. The book itself is absolutely hilarious, and Nancy Carpenter’s illustrations are complex and still manage to depict exactly what’s going on.

Furthermore, this may be just the introduction to the scientific method that teachers have always wanted. I foresee this book encouraging lots of kids to try their own experiments. Hopefully, their results will be better than those in this book!