Lining up your summer reading (or your kids summer reading?) Here are a couple of brand-new books due out in June, 2016:
Outdoor Science Lab for Kids by Liz Lee Heinecke
“52 Family-Friendly Experiments for the yard, garden, playground, and park.” Could anything be more perfect for summer? Learning shouldn’t stop just because school’s out! In fact, it’s an opportunity to make a personal investment in your child’s education while having fun together, too.
Outside Science… has 12 units to choose from: Captivating Creatures, Driveway Physics, Invertebrate Inspection, Picnic Table Chemistry, Bountiful Botany, Atmospheric and Solar Science, Garden Hose Science, Playground Physics, Glorious Gardening, Excellent Ecology, Earth Science, and Frozen Fun (mostly winter experiments using snow or cold air.) There are experiments appropriate for all ages.
One of the things I absolutely love about this book is the emphasis on real science, not just cool results (thought the cool results are most definitely there.) I’m a sucker for kids science books and kits, mostly because I did not love science in school, but always suspected I could and should have, if only we had done more hands on work. However, some of the these books and kits foam and fizz, but fail to instruct. Not so here! In the introduction, science journals and the scientific method explained. For every experiment, there are sections for materials (easy to glance at while preparing), safety tips and hints, protocol (instructions), the science behind the fun (a simple scientific explanation), and creative enrichment ideas to take your study further. All of these vital aspects are covered in a two page spread for each experiment, and every page has gorgeous colorful photos of kids having a great time while doing the experiments. I’m just going to go ahead and say it–this is my idea of the perfect science book for kids.
I wanted to spotlight my favorite experiment, but there are so many. I like “Petal Bomb” because dissection is such a great way to understand the parts of a flower, and the end result is so pretty (temporarily, anyway!) “Siphon Roller Coaster” gives kids both a good reason for having a water balloon fight AND a good reason to pick up after themselves. “Ramp Races” are easy to prep and perform, even for my 5 and 6-year-olds. I learned a new fact in “Allelopathy Experiment”–some plants actually repel other plants so they’ll have more room to grow themselves. Who knew!? Lots of people, I bet. But not me. “Plant Race” is timely if you want to do an Olympic-themed unit (I’m talking to you, year-round homeschoolers) and “Ice Cream Keep Away”combines fun physical activity and a snack with scientific discovery.
Not all of the experiments are new and fresh–some, like sun prints, maple candy, and the flipped water glass, are golden oldies. The presentation, however, is always outstanding.
“Mistakes and troubleshooting are far more educational than perfection, and many scientific blunders have led to great discoveries.” So true, of science and of life.
The Spinfords by AnnMarie Martin
First things first–don’t let your opinion of abstract art distract you from the actual point of this book. I struggled with this. Thoughts like, “Every artist who accidentally kicks over a paint can is not a misunderstood genuis” kept interfering as I read. However, the explicitly stated aim of the book (in it’s press release) is to teach that:
–Different is beautiful: It is our differences that make life interesting.
–People can surprise you: Given the chance, most people are more accepting than we would predict.
–Moms and dads aren’t perfect: Parents make mistakes just like everyone else.
–Anything is possible: Never be afraid to be 100% yourself.
Noble goals, if a bit idealistic.
Set in a circus (what a perfect setting to depict family life!), the Spinfords are a family of performing spiders whose youngest son introduces some unexpected innovations to their act. At first, his family rejects his efforts, but when he sneakily presents it to circus spectators, they love it, and his family comes to appreciate him.
Though there are a few things I liked about the book–the art, the clever use of spiders in the starring role, and anything that was a throwback to old-timey show biz–I found the the tone preachy and the font a little hard to read. As my husband pointed out, the adulation our hero Salvatore receives from the crowd at the end is hardly typical of what most mavericks encounter (and it’s rarely their goal, anyway.) However, when I asked my kids what they thought, one said, “I love it” and the other said, “Amazing!” While I was unable to pin them down on any specifics and this is their typical reaction to shiny new books that come in the mail, it is an endorsement. Since it’s really aimed at them and not me, and since they don’t bring the prejudices to it that I do, I guess we’ll give it a B.
What’s on your summer reading list?
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