Science School: 30 Awesome STEM Experiments to Try At Home (Laura Minter & Tia Williams)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Science School: 30 Awesome STEM Experiments to Try At Home by Laura Minter and Tia Williams, a collection of science-themed activities for kids to attempt with everyday objects.

How do magnets work? Or a kaleidoscope? Why is the moon full sometimes, but only half-full others? What makes an ecosystem? And what on earth is oobleck? Kids can learn the answers to these questions and many more with this STEM-based activity guide, filled with 30 “experiments” that young readers can try with household materials. By germinating seeds, making chromatography flowers, or even cooking up their own butter and slime, young scientists are introduced the science terminology and concepts like cohesive force, propulsion, and non-Newtonian fluids.

Awesome, indeed! This activity guide balances learning with fun by choosing a range of crafts and model experiments from a number of scientific disciplines. The activities are simple in construction, and most can easily be replicated with items that can be found around the house. Each features clear photography and illustrations to walk bookworms through the instructions while also breaking down the STEM/STEAM elements that the experiment exhibits into easily-understood language. This is a great manual for any home library, and can provide families with a wealth of rainy-day activities that are both fun and educational. JJ loved checking out the various experiments (she was a huge fan of oobleck), and we both had a blast with this one. A great guide for any budding scientist, and Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

Little Zoologist & Little Archaeologist (Smithsonian Institute)

Hello, friends! Our books today are Little Zoologist and Little Archaeologist, the first two titles in the Smithsonian Institute’s new Science Tots series, illustrated by Dan Taylor.

In these simple, colorful board books, the very youngest bookworms can develop early reading skills as they learn about the tools commonly used by each vocation. From the zoologists’ stethoscope, laboratory, or conservation center, to the archaeologists’ sifter, brush, and trowel, each tool or location is presented alongside a sweet illustration of a kid scientist employing or occupying it.

Cute but insubstantial. While Taylor’s adorable illustrations go a long way in giving these introductory books charm, much of both titles felt like filler. It’s cool to know that these scientists use objects like boots, hats, or buckets (the latter featured in both books, slightly more interestingly so in Zoologist), but with no accompanying texts and minimal context clues in the artwork, there’s nothing to connect these everyday items to the science of the people who use them. More specialized terms were more interesting, but could have also done with some written or visual context to help tie them to the subject. Archaeologist in particular was a letdown, as nearly every drawing simply featured tools for digging or moving dirt (pick axe, wheelbarrow, trowel, etc.), making even the cute illustrations feel repetitive and dull. The diverse cast is a nice touch, and JJ enjoyed practicing her early reading skills, but beyond the sweet illustrations, these are a bit forgettable overall. Still, for very, VERY young bookworms, these could be a fun and even slightly educational read – if not a particularly memorable one – so we’re still going to call them Baby Bookworm approved.

(Note: A copy of these books were provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

My First Book of the Cosmos (Sheddad Kaid-Salah Ferrón & Eduard Altarriba)

Hello, friends! Our book today is My First Book of the Cosmos by Sheddad Kaid-Salah Ferrón and Eduard Altarriba, third in their series of kid-friendly guides to advanced scientific concepts.

As with the previous titles (Quantum Physics and Relativity), this colorful guidebook invites readers along to explore sophisticated elements of astrophysics and cosmology, including gravity, cosmic background radiation, the different types of stars and how they are born and die, and so much more. Laid out with practical demonstrations and visually engaging illustrations, budding scientists can read the cosmic calendar, explore wormholes, and study the secrets of dark matter. So settle in: the universe awaits!

Fantastic. Ferrón and Altaribba’s guidebooks for young scientists are always a delight, managing a wonderful mix of mind-expanding science that is made intelligible for kids (and laymen adults) without being overly-dumbed down. Altaribba’s midcentury-modern style illustrations add perfectly to this, weaving together technical drawings and exaggerated cartoon characters to create entertaining yet informative visual aids. This is a lengthy book, and definitely best for its intended middle-grade audience and older, but JJ still enjoyed the artwork and learning some of the simpler concepts. A wonderful addition to the collection, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

Nerdycorn (Andrew Root)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Nerdycorn, written by Andrew Root and illustrated by Erin Kraan, a sweet and science-y tale of forgiveness.

We open on a magical land of unicorns, where there are lovely rainbows to leap spectacularly over and waterfalls to splash majestically through. And most of the local unicorn population are content to do just that, but Fern has always been a little… different. She prefers to build robots, conduct chemistry experiments, code computer programs, and read science textbooks and manuals. And while she might be different, Fern is proud of who she is: in addition to being smart, she is also a good friend who always tries to help others. However, the other unicorns are not very good friends: they make fun of Fern and call her “Nerdycorn”. Hurt, Fern goes on strike, refusing to help them with their technical issues and mechanical problems anymore. Soon, the other unicorns begin to realize how important Fern’s knowledge – and her generous spirit – was to all of them. But is it too late to make amends?

Delightful and empowering. From the outside, this looked to be another story of an outcast interested in STEM learning to be proud of their intelligence and curiosity, so it was a pleasant surprise to find that Fern already WAS so, and that her self-confidence never wavered. Instead, the story is a tale of the power of forgiveness: when the unicorns apologize to Fern and beg her help with the Sparkle Dance, she initially rebuffs them, but ultimately decides that forgiveness is also part of being a good friend (it helps that the other unicorns show genuine remorse, and begin to take their own interest in Fern’s “nerdy” pursuits afterward). The colorful illustrations are engaging and fun yet never visually overwhelming, a nice balance, and the attention to details on Fern’s scientific and engineering instruments is awesome. The length is perfect, and JJ loved this one. A sweet reminder of the importance of kindness as well as the power to be found in being “different”, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

Sun and Moon Together (Ethan Long)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Sun and Moon Together by Ethan Long, the second title in the creator’s Happy County series.

Welcome back to Happy County, a busy and bustling little township filled with friends, facts, and fun. Once again structured in a digest-style narrative – featuring 18 chapters that run one or two pages each – readers spend two days with with residents of Happy County as they go about their days. Along the way, readers can learn vocabulary words, spot designs at a hot air balloon festival, learn about solar power, join a ssssavvy ssssnake ssssalesman, and much more.

Colorful and fun, but slightly uneven. Long’s Richard Scarry-inspired Happy County is just as wonderfully illustrated as before, with lots of details, visual gags, and nods to fans of the series’s previous book. However, the topics covered in each spread don’t have the same seamless flow that Hello, World! managed: while vocabulary pages, a collection of night sounds, and a cute mother-daughter tale of evening shadows are winners, the abrupt introduction of higher scientific concepts like the phases of the moon and photosynthesis fall short. These spreads feel either unnecessarily lengthy for the light and breezy narrative (a description of the water cycle stops a read-aloud dead), or far too brief to get a solid understanding of the material (how exactly do tides work?). This makes for an uneven storytime, though the length overall was still fine, and JJ loved the artwork; additionally, both text and illustrations are built for repeat perusals. Overall, not as cohesive as its predecessor, but still a colorful and enjoyable book for little readers. Baby Bookworm approved.

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)