Posted in Book Reviews

#Sponsored Book Spotlight: Ara the Star Engineer: Komal Singh


SYNOPSIS: Ara the Star Engineer inspires kids – especially girls and children of color – to explore STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) as it follows a 6-year old girl, Ara, on a quest to build an algorithm to solve a big problem (suspense!).

During her adventure, Ara is helped by a diverse set of real-life women engineering leaders of color — a Tenacious Troubleshooter, Code Commander, Prolific Problem Solver, Intrepid Innovator. The book teaches basic problem solving & computer science concepts along the way in a whimsical manner. Ara also includes an attached mini-booklet with a deeper tech dive, and online activity sheets with hands-on tech activities.

All profits from the book sales will be donated to charities encouraging women’s and girls’ participation in STEM fields. This book is not an official Google product; but a grassroots, passion project of Google employees in their personal capacity striving for an equitable future for all girls.

MY THOUGHTS: First and foremost, I love this book! It isn’t just for girls. Boys can gain just as much knowledge from it as their female counterparts can. I love that the cast of characters Ara visits are real-life, superwomen. Their jobs aren’t just described. They are elaborated on so that ages 5+ can understand completely what each job entails. I’ll readily admit it- I learned a lot from this book! Anyone who has ever gone cross-eyed when someone mentioned ‘algorithms’ needs to read this too!

This is the PERFECT STEM book. But, it goes far beyond that label. It’s also a career guide. Readers who are already interested in tech can pinpoint career possibilities based off the descriptions given. It has a strong message, too. Never give up. Ara faces obstacles in her quest, but, she continues to work hard, no shortcuts, and perseveres. Yes, it’s also a female empowerment anthem. Female readers, especially impressionable ages, need role models. They need to know that it’s ok to be feminine, intelligent, and successful as a total package like the women in this book. It can also be incorporated into homeschool curriculums with classes such as math & tech.

This is the type of children’s book we need more of. Entertaining, educational, and with an outstanding message, it is 5 stars for our Star Engineer!

About the Author:
Komal Singh works at Google as a Program Manager in Engineering. As a techie, a mother, and an immigrant, she’s passionate about using technology as an enabler and an equalizer for all. She takes part in kids’ coding clubs, sits on hackathon judge panels, and volunteers with nonprofits on technology development.
ISBN: 978-1-989025-05-5 • Hardcover • $15.95 USD • $19.95 CDN
*The pic & synopsis belong solely to the author/publisher.
**I received the aforementioned title in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are mine.

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Posted in Book Reviews

#Sponsored Book Spotlight: THE BOOK OF INGENIOUSLY DARING CHEMISTRY: 24 Experiments for Young Scientists : Sean Connolly

National STEM day is November 8th

SYNOPSIS: THE BOOK OF INGENIOUSLY DARING CHEMISTRY: 24 Experiments for Young Scientists (Workman Publishing; On-sale: October 30, 2018; Ages 9 and up; $14.95) turns questions like “Why does helium make balloons float?” and “How does fluoride protect teeth?” into learning opportunities. It’s a journey through the periodic table of elements with the master of daring STEM books, Sean Connolly. Ingeniously marrying science and fun, it is a perfect introduction to chemistry for curious kids as well as those who might prefer a more engaging approach to science. It’s like having a miniature science lab between two covers!
THE BOOK OF INGENIOUSLY DARING CHEMISTRY puts knowledge into action using household ingredients to conduct 24 awesome, hands-on experiments, including:
Sodium: Make “hot ice” by crystallizing vinegar and baking soda into sodium acetate.
Neon: See how this gas emits light by powering a light bulb with static electricity.
Iron: Submerge steel wool in vinegar to see how this metal oxidizes.
Phosphorus: Play cat detective by using ultraviolet light to locate bad cat smells!

MY THOUGHTS: One of the best ways to review a book such as this is to try one of the experiments. My 15 year-old son & I did just that! We re-created Experiment #19 which involved vinegar & eggs. Not only did he learn about acid’s effect on the eggshell, but, the experiment coincided with what he’s learning in his Biology class.

What I loved about the experiment was, well, everything! It gave clear, concise directions that were difficult to screw up (Hooray!). The ‘ingredients’ were inexpensive and, actually, on-hand. But, it went way beyond a typical experiment. After the directions, it told us exactly what we were seeing, what was happening, and why. We won’t tell the textbook company, but, we learned more from this book than we did from the textbook! Plus, it was way more fun!

I was stunned by the wealth of information this book packs in. Gone are the bland, business-as-usual experiments. This brings modern takes on chemistry that entertain while they teach. We will be utilizing this book OFTEN throughout the rest of his academic career. I just wish it had been published sooner. It’s a full 5 star rating from us!

Recommended for ages 9+

*Pic & Synopsis belong solely to the author/publisher.
**I received a copy of the aforementioned title in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are mine.

Posted in Book Reviews, Homeschooling

#Sponsored Book Spotlight:Build Your Own Chain Reaction Machines: Paul Long


SYNOPSIS: Be inspired by the amazing artwork of renowned cartoonist, engineer, and inventor Rube Goldberg, whose wacky, imagined machines accomplished tasks by taking the most complicated route possible. In this entertaining and instructive book, mechanical engineer and educator Paul Long gives instructions for making devices using ordinary objects in ingenious ways. Create machines that flip a switch, squeeze toothpaste, dispense candy, and more.
On sale October 16. Watch an example here.

MY THOUGHTS: As our school year begins, homeschoolers are challenged to find engaging, educational and fun ways to teach STEM. Thankfully, books like this provide ample opportunities to incorporate it. Among the many ‘pros’ that this book brings are its 12 projects. That’s 12 days of STEM teaching. Our author, Paul Long, knows his machines as he is an engineer & educator. Having a background such as this provides a unique insight homeschoolers may not have had before.

A huge plus, in my opinion, is that these machines use everyday objects in their construction. Students can begin to see STEM/STEAM in the world around them. Along with the project itself, additional, topical information is provided making it easy to combine classes like Science & Art. We also have the fact that the book itself is unique. It is the only how-to book currently available on the topic.

Brick-and-mortar students will also identify with and be able to accomplish building these machines. With Science fairs and projects soon to come, it will add an additional learning component to their coursework. Books such as these are timeless and a sound investment to your home library. It is marketed to ages 10 & up, but younger students can benefit from their older counterparts’ involvement. I highly recommend it!

*Pic & Synopsis belong solely to the author/publisher.

**I received a copy in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are mine.

Posted in Book Reviews

#Sponsored Book Spotlight: Edge of Yesterday: Robin Stevens Payes


SYNOPSIS: Meeting Leonardo da Vinci in person isn’t your average middle-schooler’s dream science fair project, but Charley Morton isn’t your typical eighth-grader. Charley is mad about science and math and, with her best bud Billy Vicenzo, she’s set on doing the impossible—finding da Vinci’s plans for a time machine and traveling back 500 years to meet her idol.

Robin Stevens Payes is firing up a love for science with the second book in her thrilling EDGE OF YESTERDAY science fiction series, DA VINCI’S WAY (Small Batch Books; October 2018). The books are designed to open the minds of middle-grade readers to the adventure of learning about STEM/STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) through storytelling.

STEM is the fastest-growing sector in employment—up 28 percent since 2000, compared to 6 percent in other fields, according to the U.S. News/Raytheon STEM index. In fact, America is sorely lacking in college graduates with STEM degrees. From 2014-2015 in the U.S. there were only some 30K STEM graduates for approximately 230K STEM jobs. Clearly, engaging the attention of children, especially girls and young people of color who are too often excluded from exposure to STEM, is of paramount importance.

To help America reverse that trend, Payes is creating a curriculum that will present STEM through play, discovery, character, creativity and storytelling. Her lesson plans, workshops, interactive games and novels use the vast array of popular mediums, including print, web, digital, social media and video, to take advantage of the human brain’s affinity for story.

The Edge of Yesterday series will go a step further and create an online community for teens that will:
· Promote reading for content and inspiration by opening the gateway to STEM and STEAM learning.
· Inspire curiosity, creativity and a love of learning using Leonardo da Vinci’s example of intrinsic learning.
· Encourage teens to be curious, to engage with their passions, to discover new ideas, and to tell their stories in a variety of media.
· Connect learning to life that inspires a drive to mastery.

The ultimate aim is to nurture a growth mindset, a learning foundation that will increase young people’s capacity for learning, instill purpose and help them remain motivated in the face of life’s most difficult challenges.

ROBIN STEVENS PAYES is the author of Edge of Yesterday, a serial science fiction story and interactive web platform designed to blow young minds, tap creative juices, and explore the truths our stories are telling us in IRL. She works with teens through the Maryland Writers Association teen clubs, Girls in Technology, and the Center for Transformative Teaching and Learning.

MY THOUGHTS: I have to applaud Robin Stevens Payes on her desire to further STEM education. I am completely on board with today’s youth learning these skills early & often. Being that these type of careers are often overlooked as careers for women, it is especially exciting to see a fresh, new female lead.
As an 8th grade, 13-year-old female, Charley is intelligent, mature, and knows what she wants. Her friend, Beth, in the story, mirrors what many girls of today believe their role is: fashion & boys. While Charley enjoys those things, too, she emphasizes that she wants to put her intelligence out front and vanity in the rearview.
Women can love all the girly things and still be successful, wise, and accomplished. What a great message! I want to be like Charley (only I’m about 27 years past her!) I feel confident recommending this book to middle school readers and their guardians.
‘Edge of Yesterday’ has everything middle schoolers (girls AND boys) love: adventure, teen angst, science fiction. Plus, they’ll be learning history, science and tech, too. I give it 5 stars!!
*I RECEIVED THE AFORMENTIONED TITLE IN EXCHANGE FOR AN HONEST REVIEW. ALL OPINIONS ARE MY OWN.
Pic & Synopsis belong solely to the author/publisher.

Posted in Book Reviews

Book Spotlight: Super Science Girls!: Ellen Langas


SERIES SYNOPSIS:“The Girls Know How® book series is dedicated to encouraging girls ages 7 to 12 to explore careers and develop the skills and attitudes that will support them as they grow. The newest book, Super Science Girls! introduces STEM careers. Other books in the series introduce journalism, construction and teaching. Starting at $4.95, books are available at book stores, qvc.com (exclusive set with author autograph), bn.com and girlsknowhow.com. Girls Know How books include a Girls Want to Know interview and activities at the end of each book, plus classroom study guides that are free at girlsknowhow.com. Other books in the series introduce journalism, construction and teaching. Recommended for ages 7 – 12, the books retail between $4.95 and $7.95 and are available at book stores, qvc.com (exclusive set with the author’s autograph), bn.com and girlsknowhow.com. ”

For this review, we’ll focus on ‘Super Science Girls’.
MY THOUGHTS: When I was approached about this series, my first reaction was YES! Finally, a girl series about awesome girls defying stereotypes and gender inequality! So much emphasis is being applied to STEM related careers nowadays. The only drawback has been that these careers are predominantly filled by males.
No one knows this better than the author. She broke the ‘rules’ and launched an enviable career. Her goal now is to impart her wisdom and ambition on the next generation. I love when women pass the torch, willingly, to youth.

As fabulous as the thought behind the series is, the books have to be entertaining and engaging in order for tweens to read them. Thankfully, they are all that and more. The characters are charismatic and tween girls will definitely be able to relate to them. They are ‘real-world’ characters that any reader could encounter daily. They are well-written and fun to read. The books are ‘clean’ and focus on encouraging young women to excel.

In ‘Super Science Girls’, Sylia is based on of Sylvia Todd, the mind behind the popular online Sylvia’s Super-Awesome Maker Show. Another character is based on of Pat Woody Reeves, the former chief engineer of the U.S. Naval Surface Warfare Center. Amazing women! As parents, these are the types of fiction books we want our children engrossed in reading. They need role models who aren’t all about nail polish & boys.

My aunt, a biochemist, knows how hard it is to achieve academic and profession successes in science. She, too, was thrilled with this series. Perhaps the books will inspire a girl you know to look into a profession she hadn’t thought of before. Pick up all 4 books in the series for the girls in your family, church group, etc. Definitely 5 stars all the way!
*Pic & Synopsis belong solely to the author/publisher.
**I received a copy in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are mine.

Posted in Book Reviews, Homeschooling

Book Spotlight: The Electric Pickle: Joey Green

If your kid’s eyes glaze over when you mean the Periodic Table of Elements, I’ve got the perfect book for you! No longer will parents have to agonize over Science Projects that have been forgotten until the night before they’re due. In fact, science will be FUN again.
Let me introduce you to ‘The Electric Pickle’!
“The Electric Pickle: 50 Experiments from the Periodic Table, from Aluminum to Zinc
By Joey Green
(Chicago Review Press; October 1, 2017)

It’s a strange and fascinating DIY guide for the chemistry-curious, featuring an activity for every single element of the periodic table. Activities include:
–          For Lithium: “Horrible Hot Dog”
Insert a lithium battery into an uncooked hot dog and watch it sizzle and bubble
–          For Boron: “Green Tornado Fire”
Use boric acid and antifreeze to create a green glowing flame
–          For Oxygen: “Freaky Soap Soufflé”
Microwave a regular bar of soap to turn it into a large, lava-like cloud formation
–          For Sodium: “Electric Pickle”
Conduct electricity through a pickle to watch it glow bright yellow
Projects range from relatively quick with very few simple ingredients to more exciting and complex experiments that lead to booming or glowing results.

MY THOUGHTS: Trust me: Good, quality STEM books are few and far between. It just seems that its same-old same-old. ‘The Electric Pickle’ is entirely original and quite honestly, fun. Today’s students need to think outside the box. If you’re a homeschooler, you know exactly what I mean. Not everyone has a lab in their basement and sometimes those experiments become monotonous or don’t turn out properly at all.

This book gives you 50 different experiments that are easy, basic, and most of all, unique! Entering a Science Fair this year can be a thrilling experience instead of a poster board full of mediocrity. If you have multiple students needing multiple projects, 50 experiments can go a long, long way. As a parent, I’m all in for anything that makes a child’s eyes light up. Just hearing the words ‘The Electric Pickle’ grabs ahold of their ever-waning attention span and doesn’t let go. As soon as my 9th grader saw the cover, he sat down and immediately began looking through. It was a few minutes later that he began asking if we had some of the components on-hand.

I have to give Joey Greene and his out-of-the-box thinking a full 5 stars! If you don’t have a copy, GET A COPY! You won’t be sorry.

*Pic & synopsis belong solely to the author & publisher.

**I received a copy in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are mine.