Love, Laughter, and Life

Adventures With a Book Lover


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Book Report: The Science of Defying Gravity by L.G. Reed

The Science of Defying Gravity

Written by L.G. Reed

Illustrated by Basia Tran

Keyes Canyon Press, 2020

Does your child have a science fair coming up? Or perhaps your middle grade student loves things that fly. This book is for both of you!

Cassie is not interested in science class, and therefore, her grades suffer. But she REALLY wants to go to Space Camp. After her family experiences financial difficulties, Cassie has to take Space Camp attendance into her own hands and figure out how to be able to attend. Setting the goal to make it to camp is just the right fuel to blast her rocket into space.

Thank you, KidLit411 www.kidlit411.com and L. G. Reed for sending me a copy of The Science of Defying Gravity! This chapter book is a very engaging read, and I couldn’t stop-just one more chapter, oops, two more chapters . . . and suddenly I was done reading it.

What I Liked About This Book:

~ Cassie and her best friend Wylie are great characters; flawed yet lovable

~ Excellent premise of a student having no interest in science class transforming into a driven young tween who worked her tail off to implement a stellar science fair project and presentation

~ Family issues were on target and added to the build-up towards the story climax

~ Cassie continued marching forward despite hitting numerous obstacles

~ Cassie and her feelings of being overlooked by her parents, which led to her striving to gain their attention

~ Cassie’s best friend, Wylie, is on the spectrum; this adds an extra layer of interest and learning about others who may be differently abled

~ Budding romance, just barely, but adorable

~ Science-I learned quite a bit about science fairs, gravity, what makes things fly, how to plan a winning science fair project, how they are organized, and even specifics about scientists in the real world

~ Cassie is a strong female main character, and will surely inspire other young girls to follow their interests in STEM fields

~ Helpful backmatter

~ The usefulness of this book to help students prepare for an actual science fair (lots of examples)

Amazon Blurb:

“Useful, entertaining, and encouraging; will inspire confidence and an appreciation of science.” — Kirkus Reviews

“Tweens who enjoy making, building, and learning will get the most from this book about what it takes to become a scientist.” — Booklife Reviews

In this mashup of STEM education and fiction, 11 yr old Cassie films her life. She loves movies and dreams of becoming a movie director in SPACE. *Her plans to go to Space Camp are derailed when her dad loses his job and she must win a SCIENCE FAIR to earn a scholarship to attend. Spunk, a caring teacher, an engineering mentor and her friends keep her dream on track.* Contained within THE SCIENCE OF DEFYING GRAVITY is an actual science fair project, including tables and charts for kids to see. The project covers the four forces of flight—lift, thrust, gravity and drag—which are embedded in the fictional story but are factually accurate.


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Haiku Moment: treats

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salt, ice, elbow grease

mix, roll, squish-science freezes

creamy treats go fast

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treats by angie quantrell

photos by angie quantrell

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The Ecosystem of a Sunflower Forest

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We have a Sunflower Forest.

Not intentionally, but as happenstance. Last year, I planted sunflowers. This year, the birds planted sunflowers (leftovers from their grazing and dropping last year). I love my Sunflower Forest. It really does resemble a forest with all its many layers, shadows, heights, and wildlife.

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Just this morning, I was again (and again) gazing out the window to enjoy the peeping antics of goldfinch families. They flit, flirt, fight, and feed throughout the Sunflower Forest. Swarms of bees, many varieties, wasps, and other flying hungry insects buzz and float around the Forest, a veritable cloud of life shifting back and forth. I don’t need a fish tank for gazing and relaxing. I can sit on the deck and watch visitors enjoy the Forest. Relaxation and entertainment all wrapped into one ball of delight.

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It’s interesting how our brains work, those miracles of human technology. Thoughts and ideas zip and zing along brain pathways so fast I often find myself wondering How did I get to that thought from this?

Take ecosystems. As I watched the Sunflower Forest with rapt enjoyment, I realized it was an ecosystem in its own right. Our Forest is approximately 25-foot-square, give or take a straggler standing tall along the edges. The top height is at least 15-feet, well as tall as the RV, which rests high atop tires and tire stops. That’s plenty of ecosystem space for the myriad of wildlife I see every day.

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The Undergrowth (Forest Floor):

I’m so excited about this level of the Sunflower Forest. Baby oak trees have sprouted from last year’s planting of numerous (I mean NUMEROUS) acorns I brought back from my cousin’s house. I love science activities and free exploration and invited my grands to play at will. They did. Played and planted. Baby oaks have been discovered in very surprising places!

Other nature on display in the undergrowth layer: weeds (of course), ants, spiders, worms, earwigs, beetles, frogs, millipedes, roly polys, mystery bugs, snails, grasshoppers, and cats. Our cats LOVE hiding in the Sunflower Forest.

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The Understory:

In the Sunflower Forest, the understory is crammed full of bamboo-like stalks, mottled leaves, dappled light, and fluttering life. I imagine myself small, wandering amidst the trunks of sunflower trees, climbing too high for my own good. Tall weeds populate this layer, plentiful, but not enough to trouble sunflower trees. Anything that creeps, climbs, and flies traverses the Sunflower Forest understory.

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The Canopy:

The majority of my sunflower trees litter this layer with bright blossoms, wilted petals, and plump seeds. This is where the action is! Goldfinches love the canopy of bright yellow, fragrant and fruitful. Before the seeds were ready, nearly as soon as the first few yellow faces opened to the sun, goldfinches made forays into the canopy, checking to see if food was available. They didn’t stay long, since seeds were not even pollinated yet. But now? Layers of unopened buds, fully exposed golden orbs, droopy petals, green seeds, and ready-to-go seed buffets lure our state bird (Washington, goldfinch) by the droves. I love the families, fledglings peeping loudly and shuffling their feathers, waiting for mama or daddy to bring the seeds to them. Parents, proud and busy, race to pop seeds into open mouths. Several males pop in, notice each other, and fight for feeding rights. Never fear, my little finches, plenty for all.

Also seen in the canopy layer: red-winged blackbirds, sparrows, finches, butterflies, spiders, yellow jackets, and multiple varieties of bees and flies.

 

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The Emergent Layer:

I hadn’t thought much about this layer, the very tip top of the forest and everything above. Until this morning, still observing the finches, I noticed the shadow of a fledgling hawk pass across the top of the Sunflower Forest. Aha! Besides the very tallest of sunflower trees and nearby ornamental corn, our emergent forest layer is filled with other wildlife. The hawks (two parents and the tween), crows, starlings, magpies, and geese regularly putz back and forth above our heads. The only ones we all keep sharp eyes on are the hawks, of course. Hunters they are, and Junior is especially attached to our pasture, nearby power lines, and a few strategic trees. I can only guess how many friends have met their end as he learns to fly, land, and hunt.

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So there you have it. The Sunflower Forest and its ecosystem. I’m sure your garden, yard, or field has yet more exciting nature (flora and fauna) inhabiting the different layers. Take a look. Grab that cup of tea or coffee and sit for a bit. Who do you see in the different sections of your ecosystem?

 

 

 


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Big Brother Sympathy

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Chocolate cake and her Minnie balloon.

Miss Autumn has been birthday princess for the last week. Minnie Mouse visited her birthday through cake, wrappings, and gifts. Cool balloon Minnie greetings floated in helium bliss and adorned Autumn’s wrist and bedroom.

Birthday girl has been hauling around a beloved Minnie balloon. Inside and outside. Can you see where this is going?

Yesterday, held free-hand instead of tied, the favorite balloon escaped and slipped from Autumn’s clasped fist. Helium filled Minnie quickly ascended to travel blue skies. The lesson of what happens to all free floating helium-filled balloons became reality.

Sobbing tears, this heart-broken nearly 3-year-old announced to the nearby world how upset she was with this loss.

Despite mama loves, the sobbing continued. And was quickly added to when big brother Donavyn began sobbing and came to mommy. With puppy Ginger tangled around her feet and two sobbing children, mommy Jamie staggered in the house to try and restore order and figure out why Big Brother was crying.

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A Minnie cake by Gramma Schlenker, a sweater hand-me-down from Auntie Chelsie (who is 28!)

And what a caring boy to cry and sob.

Big Brother Donavyn was crushed for his sister and her balloon loss. We thought something had happened to him (bee, fall, scrape) but he was sympathizing with sissy. Such a sweetheart to take on and share the feelings of his little sister!

Are you a sympathetic cryer? I have my moments when I just can’t help myself and cry right along in sympathy (or empathy, if the occasion for tears is truly a shared experience). Shared tears offers comfort.

Good job, Donavyn, for helping Sister feel better.

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Autumn is happy, just not sure how to smile at the camera AND show her card.


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Book Report: Astronaut-Aquanaut: How Space Science and Sea Science Interact by Jennifer Swanson

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Astronaut-Aquanaut: How Space Science and Sea Science Interact

Written by Jennifer Swanson

Published by National Geographic Partners, LLC; 2018

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I received two copies of Astronaut-Aquanaut by Jennifer Swanson, one to keep and one to give to my grandson’s school. We made the delivery in January, giving the book to his teacher. Thanks so much to Jennifer!

You can learn more about Jennifer and her books by visiting her web site.

 

AMAZON BLURB:

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.

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WHAT I LIKE ABOUT THIS BOOK:

Astronaut-Aquanaut is a gorgeous book! Colorful illustrations, photos, graphs, and detailed information fill the pages. Despite ample pictures to look at, the text is skillfully written and explains so many space and ocean concepts! I learned many new ideas and information. I had no idea how similar deep sea science and deep space science are to each other.

This book really is an excellent resource for anyone who wants to learn about becoming an astronaut or an aquanaut. The pages are filled with so many cool tidbits, factoids, and real life experiences of those individuals who have pursued careers in both fields.

STEM based, Astronaut-Aquanaut is primed for leading young explorers to delve far and wide and learn more about both areas.

This nonfiction picture book, geared for older readers, is an excellent example of a text that instructs, entertains and informs.

Way to go, Jennifer Swanson!


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Throwback Thursday: Jimmy Hoffa

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Circa 1983-1984

Meet Jimmy Hoffa.

Not THE Jimmy Hoffa, but my own skin-less, flesh-less version.

One quarter during my junior year of college at Western Washington University, I had the BEST science course! I loved that class. We determined our own grades by the project choices and number of selections we made on a preset list of assignments. Since I was always aiming for top grades, I made high marks my goal.

The final choice (between getting an A or a B) was removing the flesh from a small rodent to expose the skeleton. Actually, there was a second choice, but I don’t remember what it was. I spent many intense moments in consideration as I walked to and fro across campus. Choice A or B? I just had to do that final project to push myself to an A.

As I was wavering on how to get a rodent (rat or mouse) and how I was ever going to ‘kill’ it in order to dissect the flesh/skin/fur from its’ skeleton, I practically stepped on a rat. I was racing to class, when BAM, there was a barely moving rat lying on the pavement right outside my dorm! It was up against Old Edens, a gorgeous brick, ivy-covered behemoth of a building. I think the poor thing fell off and brained itself. Barely breathing or moving. Four feet in the grave.

Should I or shouldn’t I??? Choice A? I had to choose A when the opportunity presented itself. Nearly late, I raced to my room, grabbed a plastic bag, ‘rescued’ the rodent from the cement, put it in the dorm freezer, and headed to class. I really don’t think it was going to come around, so slowly freezing to death seemed pretty humane to me.

Now I was in possession of a full-sized dead frozen rat-sicle. In. The. Dorm. Freezer. (Don’t tell anyone, I’m sure there were regulations against it.) Time to earn that A.

How to Make a Rat Skeleton Display

1. Borrow science tools and remove as much of the ‘not bones’ parts as possible. This was a bit tricky with the tail and tiny toes, not to mention the dull scapel.

2. Attach rat skeleton (in my case, Jimmy Hoffa) to a piece of balsam wood to hold it in one position. I used straight pins.

3. Take rat skeleton to a flesh-eating insect colony. I also had the choice of boiling off the flesh, but ew. If frozen rat in the freezer in my dorm was bad, the smell of cooking rat would have been much worse! Besides, the tiny bones would have fallen apart or dissolved.

4. Let rat skeleton spend a minimum of one month in the insect colony.

Research Tip: I have no idea which type of insects Jimmy really visited, but best guess is a colony of dermestid beetles. Which, according to this post, can pick a skeleton clean in one day. No idea why Jimmy had to stay away from home for a month.

5. So, Jimmy went on a little trip to the flesh-eating insect container. There Jimmy spent a month of so while hundreds, or thousands, of little bugs combed his bones, picking off and eating leftover bits my scapel refused to move. He was almost perfectly clean when I picked him up from the vacation in Bug-Land. After writing an eye-witness account of his travels, I presented Jimmy and his journal to my professor.

Ta-da! I was awarded an A for my work in the science course. And I got to keep Jimmy. Where he lived in a ziplock bag for years until I couldn’t think of anything else to do with him and tossed him out. Poor Jimmy.

There you have it! Should you want to de-flesh a rodent skeleton, just find a colony of those flesh-eating bugs.

What crazy projects did you complete during your educational years?


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Haiku Challenge: Monster

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claws, antennae, eyes

monster stalk, capture, devour

praying mantis win

 

monster by Angie Quantrell

 

What monster is lurking in your yard? Post a Haiku so we can all be scared!


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The Countdown Conspiracy by Katie Slivensky ~ Chapter Book Review

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The Countdown Conspiracy

Written by Katie Slivensky

(Harper, 2017)

 

Six kids. One Mission to Mars. All systems go.

So says the front cover of The Countdown Conspiracy. All systems go, but smoothly?

The Countdown Conspiracy is the story of six kids from around the world chosen to train for the first mission to Mars. Miranda Regent was stoked to be one of the selected few. Until she began receiving threatening messages. At the training base, Miranda worked with the other international ambassadors to learn necessary information and skills. Suddenly, Miranda finds herself the target of an attack on the training base, an attack that put everyone’s lives in danger.

I loved reading The Countdown Conspiracy! It is the perfect combination of adventure, mystery, tension, and relationships. Each chapter had me hooked and I consumed this chapter book in a very short time. When it ended, I was ready for the next installment.

Katie Slivensky did a great job in writing this book. Middle graders will enjoy the clean, exciting details and intrigue woven through the relationships and outer space adventures. The Countdown Conspiracy is a wonderful debut chapter book! Two thumbs up.

I won an ARC copy of The Countdown Conspiracy from Katie and Natalie (Literary Rambles). Thank you, Katie and Natalie! Great reading!

 

P.S. The Seismic Seven by Katie Slivensky is coming in June!


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Terrific Tongues! Picture Book Review

Vivian Kirkfield recently shared a great post about this wonderful book, Terrific Tongues! Written by Maria Gianferrari and illustrated by Jia Liu, Terrific Tongues! is sure to engage, amuse, and educate young readers.

I mean, really, what child do you know who doesn’t love playing with or sticking out his or her tongue? I can’t wait get my hands on this one. Thanks, Vivian, Maria, and Jia! Congratulations!

Click here to visit Vivian Kirkfield’s blog and read more about Terrific Tongues!


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We Survived the Eclipse: Story Through Photos and Haiku

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A painting of the eclipse (red because it’s darker) – Art by Khloe

 

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Our tiny view of the eclipse through a pin-hole camera

 

Boxes, foil and tape,

wondering children marvel

as sky lights shake hands.

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Pin-hole cameras

 

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Hayden and Khloe peeking at the solar eclipse

 

The daytime and night

heavenly bodies dance past,

a peek-a-boo tryst.

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Gage trying to see the eclipse…he’s only 2, so was not impressed

 

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Stacking rocks was more enticing than solar and lunar escapades

 

The waiting is long

Look, play, work, gaze, pinhole view;

Light sliver eclipse.

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The PacMan stage (coined by Hayden) of the solar eclipse

 

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Taking a solar break – by hauling bricks

 

But how? Why? We gasp.

Fleeting, amazing, we stop.

Cooler, darker day.

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Mabel was definitely more exciting to Gage than the sun and moon

 

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Putting down bricks, mid-eclipse

 

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Solar Eclipse, by Khloe