Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Take 5: Science and Lit resources for the Collaborative Summer Library Program

This year’s collaborative summer reading theme, Fizz Book Read or Spark A Reaction, has a science theme to it. Today, I’m sharing a couple of fun resources that you may want to use in your programming or share with your tweens and teens. Actually, in this case these resources are mostly Tween friendly except for the Basher Basics books which I think have universal appeal.

Code Busters Series Guide from EgmontUSA
The Code Busters Club is a tween mystery series from EgmontUSA. They have a website and a STEM discussion guide. It’s definitely for the younger tween crowd, but you can pair it with some CSI type activities and have a fun program or book club meeting.

Nick and Tesla
My Tween is actually reading this series as I write this. She has finished book one and is currently half way through book 2 and really likes it. The Nick and Tesla series has its own built in activities right inside the books. And at the website, there are YouTube videos of Science Bob demonstrating the projects found inside the books. I am a fan.

Science Comics for Summer Reading
Diamond Bookshelf has put together a guide to comics that introduce comic readers to various types of science. I am particularly looking forward to the Howtoons: Tools of Mass Construction coming in August.

Basher Basics
This series of books is a MUST HAVE for any collection. It focuses on Math and Science and provides basic, easy entry and discussion into a wide variety of topics. We have a large collection of these in my home thanks to the Scholastic Book Fair and I can not recommend them highly enough.

The Tween actually introduced me to this resource, which would be great to put on the desktops of your library computers for the summer reading challenge. Edheads describes itself as “an online educational resource that provides free science and math games and activities that promote critical thinking. Choose from Simple Machines, Virtual Knee Surgery or Stem Cell Heart Repair, among others. All activities meet state and national standards.” It comes with at least one tween endorsement.

Take 5: Small Robots and Science Projects

As part of our Teen Summer Reading Challenge, we are looking for ways that we can make some small robots with our teens. In part, because I am robot obsessed. And we’re all looking for fun ways to involve more tech it seems.

Bristle Bot

You can make a small robot using a toothbrush. It looks really quick and easy.

The Delaware County District Library (Ohio) recently did a program on the bristle bot and you can see their tutorial video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WAjWU2vTZTk

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WAjWU2vTZTk?rel=0]

You can make a slightly larger one using a shoe brush: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9rd0-H8cG3A

An Electric Car

There is a simple electric car, which is slightly more involved: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bEPU4hRB9l8

You need: Sheet of cardboard;  4 milk bottle tops; 1 smaller bottle top; 1 drinking straw; Thin garden cane or bamboo skewer; Cheap vibrating toothbrush or a small electric motor and a battery

For some simpler science projects, check out the Nick and Tesla’s books from Quirk Books

The book Nick and Tesla’s High Voltage Danger Lab has instructions for:

Low-Tech Bottle Rocket and Launcher

Mints and Soda Fueled Robocat Dog Distractor

Christmas is Over Intruder Alert System

Do-It-Yourself Electromagnet and Picker-Upper

The book Nick and Tesla’s Robot Army Rampage has instructions for:
Do-It-Yourself PC Leftovers Wander-Bot
Do-It-Yourself Semi-Invisible Bottle Bot
Homemade Robo-Bug (which is the Bristle Bot shown above)
Replacement Robo-Angel Hoverbot
Totally Improvised Super Soaker Bot Blaster

The books are middle grade mysteries, but the activities would definitely work to do a hands on science maker space with teens of any age.

Other Fun Ideas:

Much more involved, it would take a series, but you can combine Raspberry Pis and Legos to build a Remote Control Lego car: http://www.aoakley.com/articles/2013-09-19-raspberry-pi-lego-robot-part1.php


Robot Racer: elastic band car http://www.instructables.com/id/Robot-Racer/

For more teens and tech, go here! 

And if you have more fun ideas for us, please share them in the comments.

Book Review: Why? Answers to Everyday Scientific Questions by Joel Levy

If you have ever been around a toddler, you know that their two favorite words are “Why” and “No”.  As a librarian, I deal with Why a lot.  Why by Joel Levy is way to provide quick, concise answers to a lot of the most popular Why questions in an easy to understand format.

What are plants green?
Why did the dinosaurs die out?d
Why does it rain?
Why can’t we hear dog whistles?
Why are puppies and babies considered universally cute?
Why does E=MC2?

Each question presented – and there are 55 total – are answered in a brief 2 or 3 page explanation.  Sometimes there are illustrations to help you understand the answers.  Apparently babies and puppies are cute because they have big eyes and smaller features, as we grow into our eyes we become less cute.  This totally explains the popularity of anime and manga.  Just saying.  It has something to do with neoteny (new word alert!) where “creatures keep features associated with very early stages of development” (p. 119).

Gratuitous cute puppy pic . . .

Why by Levy is published by Zest Books, which excels in what I call “browse-able books” – or, if you prefer, bathroom books.  You don’t have to sit down and read them cover to cover because they give you snippets of information in short bursts – great for reluctant readers (and the bathroom).   What, some people keep books in their bathroom, I have seen it.  The questions are divided by type of science (Nature and Earth, Human Body and Mind, Physics and Space) and there is also selected references,a bibliography and an index (Yay for an index!!).

I wish it had a more appealing cover, but the information inside is interesting and easily accessible.  The Mr. even read it and his verdict was this: “They covered a lot of interesting information in a way that was easy to understand, I actually liked it.”

Highly recommended.  ISBN: 978-0-9827322-9-8. Price $10.99.

A Gaggle of Squealing Girls Can’t Love Science?

Some of you may recall the great gender based assignment rage of 2013.  If not, start here.

So, here’s an update.  This year, the Tween gets to research a scientist.  She adores science.  So I asked her the other day, have you picked your scientist yet?  Apparently, she is waiting to be assigned her scientist.  But I asked her, hoping for the best, will it be any scientist or will this be another gender based assignment?  But the Mr., he raised a good point and mentioned that her female scientist options would actually be rather limited because, you know, historically science has been a very hard field for women to break into.  Which still remains true today.  When you review lists of people big in the world of science and tech, the male to female ratio is very skewed and women are significantly under represented.  And when you are talking about history, forget about it.  You probably immediately think Marie Curie and a few other big names and after that, it’s harder to come up with the names.  And to find the books to do the research, even harder.  I know, I looked last night.  (Edited because this link about the Unsung Heroines of Science JUST popped up on Buzzfeed, we’ll call it kismet.)

And then I woke up this morning and Maureen Johnson (man I love her) was raging about this:

The set up of the article is maddening:  There were a group of girls – no, a gaggle of squealing girls – in a room where they were oblivious to the fact that right next to them the big boys were doing important things : Science! Silly, squealing girls.  Real magic is happening in the room next door to you.

So, let’s just dispel a few myths:

Not all fantasy or even Harry Potter fans are girls.  I wasn’t there, but I would presume that a fair number of male Harry Potter fans were in attendance.  I have hosted many a HP program over the last few years and there are always guys in attendance.  Sometimes dressed up.  HP is universally loved and for good reason: it is some amazing storytelling.

You can like fantasy and science.  It’s a big world and the two are in no way mutually exclusive.  In fact, a lot of fantasy has science weaved into the story, which is part of the reason that Fantasy and Science Fiction are often shelved together.

I don’t really get what is wrong with being excited about something or why we must condescendingly describe it as “squealing”.  I mean, I have seen some of my male “techy” friends reaction to the announcement of the newest version of the next Apple product, it’s no different than my reaction to meeting one of my favorite authors.  There is joy and excitement and even sometime squee.  Squee is not bad.  Life is short, get excited about things.

As a mom with a daughter who loves science, I really don’t appreciate the constant barriers put up by the field and the media which tends to send the implicit message: this is not for you.  We can’t write articles saying we need more women involved in science and math and then turn around and set up barriers.  Or call them whores because they want to get paid for their work (oh wait, that was a different story).

Basically, let’s stop being condescending about girls and their interests.  Even if they are not your interests, it’s a big world, let’s respect each other.

And here is a list of books that have girls involved in some kick ass science and tech.

Also, if you want to read an interesting take on Artificial Intelligence, the focus of the New York times article, check out Man Made Boy by Jon Skovron.

STEM Girls: Books with girls rocking science and math

Earlier this week I reviewed 3:59 by Gretchen McNeil, a book that has a main character, a girl, that is basically a physics wiz.  A lot of times, female main characters are into fashion or music and even sometimes sports.  But a lot of times, if our main characters are into academics they are also social pariahs.  Most of the time, academics aren’t even really mentioned in YA lit.  But this too is diversity: showing that our main characters, both male and female, can be involved in a variety of interests, even academic ones.  Boys don’t just have to be jocks and girls don’t just have to be fashionistas.  So here is a list of books that have main female characters that are involved in science and math.  Why just girl characters?  Because even though girls now make up the majority of college students, they still seem to lag behind in math and science, especially in terms of recognition and leadership in the field.  So here is some inspiration for us all, books that showcase girls being interested in science, math and those other subjects that fall under the umbrella of STEM eduction. 

3:59 by Gretchen McNeil

” . . . do you have anytime what time it is?”

Since it sparked the list, it deserves a place on the list.  Two girls who are incredibly intelligent in physics use that knowledge to save 2 parallel worlds.  Lots of science talk, scary tension, and a dash of romance.

Adaptation by Malinda Lo

“People are always going to think something about you that isn’t real. It doesn’t matter what they think.” 

While on her way back from an academic competition, Reese is in an accident and wakes up in a secret government lab really quite different.  Can she find out what happened to her and what it means?  Inheritance, book 2, comes out later this year.

Bad Taste in Boys by Carrie Harris

“Excuse me if I feel skeptical,’ I said. ‘Coach’s foot fell off. How exactly do you propose to cure that? Superglue?” 

The coach is feeding the football team steroids that turn them into zombies, can Kate find an antidote before the entire high school eats itself?

Catalyst by Laurie Halse Anderson

” . . . and maybe I would do it better this time.” 

Straight A student Kate Malone is waiting to hear from MIT when her perfectly organized world starts to spiral out of control.  Then, something happens that truly blows it apart. 

Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

“Every person has lots of ingredients to make them into what is always a one-of-a-kind creation.” 

Willow is a genius obsessed with nature and diagnosing medical conditions.  When her adopted parents die suddenly in a car accident, she uses her knowledge of nature to help build the perfect garden and rejuvenate both a neighborhood and the spirits of those around her.  Truly moving and inspiring, this new release is a must read for all. One of my favorite books of 2013.  (August 29th from Dial)

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly

“The day the experiment succeeds is the day the experiment ends. And I inevitably find that the sadness of ending outweighs the celebration of success.”  

Calpurnia Tate uses science to help her understand why yellow grasshoppers grow so much bigger than the green grasshoppers in her back yard.  Along the way, she bonds with her grandfather and learns just what it means to be a girl at the turn of the century.  Historical fiction, MG lit.


Find Me by Romily Bernard

“How can we all just keep swimming along when some of us are drowning?” 

Wick Tate is a superb computer hacker, skills she’ll need to use when Tessa Waye’s diary shows up at her house with a simple request: Find Me. (Coming in September from Harper Teen)

In the Shadow of the Blackbirds by Cat Winters

“…between the war and the flu, no one’s going to escape being haunted. We live in a world so horrifying, it frightens even the dead.”  

The Spanish flu is sweeping across the land.  It is 1918. Mary Shelley Black is forced to rethink everything she knows, or thinks she knows, about life and death.

The Opposite of Hallelujah by Anna Jarzad

“The past doesn’t disappear, but it doesn’t have to define your future. That’s up to you.” 

When Caro’s older sister Hannah returns, she is having a hard time adjusting.  Hannah is the spiritual sister while Caro uses science to help her understand the world around her.  But secrets about Hannah’s past lead Caro to better understand the both of them.

The Way We Fall by Megan Crewe

“This is what we do. We make tea and read books and watch people die.”  

It starts with an itch.  Then the fever comes.  Soon after, you are dead. Kaelyn uses what she knows to try to keep herself alive when a virus sweeps over the island that she lives on.

Have some more titles that showcase intelligent girls that love science and math?  Please add them to the list in the comments.

Take 5: Weird Science

I recently received a special grant from my Friends of the Library grant to update our YA collection.  They tacked on an additional $500.00 with the challenge that they wanted me to add more math and science related books in the collection.  So the challenge was this: Can you find some YA titles that talk about science and math?  Here are my Take 5; 5 ya titles with enough science to meet the bill but action, adventure and more . . .

For nonfiction titles, I am a huge fan of the Basher Science books (found here).  They are definitely aimed at the younger end of the YA spectrum in terms of layout and design BUT you can’t beat them for their simple, straightforward presentation of the information.  They won’t give you in depth information for a report, but they will help you understand the basics and serve as a great ready reference tool for your basic questions.  I bought a collection of these for my tween at home for a really good price through the Scholastic book fair (which I love and The Mr. hates because of what it does to his wallet).

In addition, here are 5 of my favorite YA fiction titles that have just enough science in them to fit the bill and get teens thinking while providing quality thrills, chills and just a dash of romance.

Unwind and Unwholly by Neal Shusterman
This is a great dystopian read with a look at what a future where parents can decide to “unwind” their children may look like.  In Unwholly, out this year and amazing, they also dabble in creating a modern day Frankenstein.  Unwind is one of my favorite dystopians, out before dystopians were all the rage.

BZRK by Michael Grant
Nanotechnology: What can we do with it? What should we do with it?  This is a great guy read.  Mature content.  I am looking forward to the sequel, I really liked this one.  Read my full review here.

Virals and Seizures by Kathy Reichs
A group of teens live on a secluded island where their parents are all scientists.  Like those meddling kids from Scooby Doo, these teens just can’t keep their nose out of things and in the process of trying to solve an old missing persons case they find their lives forever changed – literally.  This series is popular with my teens.  I read book 1 and it was a decent read.

What’s Left of Me by Kat Zhang
In this vision of the future, each body is born with two souls with the expectation that only one of them will remain.  The recessive soul is expected to “settle.”  But what happens when they don’t?  Is there a scientific cure?  I just finished this book and will be reviewing it in a few days.  In the end, it is definitely recommended.

 Delirium and Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver
Can we alter teenagers, cut the part out of them that makes them able to love?  In Lauren Oliver’s brilliant dystopian, the future has declared love a disease and all teens undergo a surgery that renders them cured from its curse.  Moving, brilliant, and thought provoking.  This is a must read.

And of course, Origin by Jessica Khoury.

What’s on your list of ya lit with a hint of science?  Share it with us in the comments.