STEM Book Club: The Fourteenth Goldfish

February 2020

The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm is a 4-6th grade juvenile fiction book with some fun STEM elements.

Eleven-year-old Ellie isn’t big on change. She liked fifth grade. She misses fifth grade. Sixth grade just isn’t the same; her best friend has become distant and Ellie doesn’t really know what to do about it. This was her biggest concern until her 76 year-old grandfather shows up on her doorstep, looking like a teenager.

Apparently, her scientist grandfather–obsessed with immortality–experimented on himself and found the fountain of youth. Now this angsty teen with the habits of an old man wants Ellie to help him break into is lab and steal his experiment back.

Things are about to change in a big way and for once, Ellie isn’t sure that is a bad thing. Besides, what could possibly go wrong?

Discussion Questions / Further Reading

  1. What is this book about? What are the main themes?
  2. Senescence is the process of aging. Why would someone like Melvin be interested in this area of study?
  3. Why did Ellie’s Kindergarten teacher give everyone a goldfish?
  4. What would you do if a grandparent showed up on your doorstep as a teenager?
  5. Melvin says, “Scientists never give up. They keep trying because they believe in the possible.” (p. 47) What does he mean when he says this?
  6. What was Melvin trying to teach Ellie with the apple? (pg 52) – Think apple vs. the seeds.
  7. What does Ellie mean when she says, “Science fiction [is] becoming reality”? (p. 59) What are some examples of science fiction becoming reality?
  8. Ellie starts to become more and more interested in science, besides her upbringing in a theater family. What are some examples where you can “see” this happening?
  9. Explain why Ellie thinks that Melvin is the fourteenth goldfish? (Ch 29)
  10. If you could stay young forever, what age would you want to be and why?
  11. Is every scientific discovery good?

Aging Simulation

Supplies: Oversized Gloves; Puzzle with only a few pieces; Magnifying glasses; plastic straws; one-use earplugs.

As we get older, our bodies break down and we lose some of our sensory motor functions—our eyes get weaker, we lose some of our mobility… every day tasks get hard. This simulation is to create an appreciation of the aging process.

Wearing the oversized gloves, try putting together the puzzle as quickly as possible.

  • Wearing the magnifying glasses, go into the children’s room and locate a picture book that starts with the letter “S”.
  • Put the straw in your mouth and breath only through the straw. Do 20 jumping jacks, which breathing through the straw.
  • Put the earplugs in. Try to repeat exactly what the moderator says.


  • Describe your feelings about the limitations you were given?
  • Did you experience any difficulties completing your task?
  • What changes did you observe? About yourself or those observing you?


How’d it go:

What a great group! We had a really great discussion, without me having to yank it out of them. And everyone seemed to have fun with the, somewhat chaotic, aging activity. It went a little faster than I would have liked, so I would tweak a few things but overall, a great STEM club session.

That’s all for now!



Shine! by J.J. and Chris Grabenstein is a juvenile fiction novel for 4-6th graders.

Piper Milly has a talent for blending in. She can’t sing or dance, she doesn’t excel at sports or hangs with the popular crowd. She’s smart, she likes astronomy and she’s happy with her small group of friends. So when her dad get’s a new job at a prestigious prep school, Piper is bummed that she has to transfer.

Chumley Prep is definitely a school for the rich and Piper definitely doesn’t fit in. Shortly after she joins the school, she finds out that a mysterious award will be awarded to the “best” student of winter break. Piper shrugs off the contest because she would never win that sort of thing, or would she?

I love Grabenstein’s books. The children are always so relateable and the books themselves are fun and easy to read. Shine! was no different. This was an inspirational read with the theme of kindness, doing good and being good.

I love when we get a group of misfit friends that band together, each with their own unique character traits. I also thought it was really smart to have Piper’s “who I want to be” diary, throughout the novel. This gave a bit of introspection to Piper’s character.

The only negative thing I can say about this book, was that you knew where it was going from the very beginning. The “tests” were obvious from the readers perspective, even if they weren’t from the characters perspective. That and the book ended so abruptly. I would have liked to have a Piper/Ainsley moment, or at least some type of epilogue.

Other than that, this was a great read and I am going to use it for my 4-6th grade STEM Book Club. While it isn’t overtly STEM, there are a lot of STEM elements and I have two good ideas for activities to go with the story. This one gets 4.5 stars from me.

That’s all for now!


Dark and Deepest Red

Dark and Deepest Red is Anna-Marie McLemore’s latest magical realism novel.

In the Summer of 1518, a sickness sweeps through Strasbourg, one that makes men and women dance until they drop dead. It is rumored that witchcraft may be the cause and everyone is a suspect, especially Lavinia and her family, who have a secretive past.

Five centuries later, a pair of red shoes are stuff to Rosella Oliva’s, making her dance uncontrollably. They draw her to the boy, Emil, whose family was blamed for the sickness in 1518.

But the truth can be shadowed over time and together Rosella and Emil must uncover what really happened to Lavinia and Strabourg.

Dark and Deepest Red have all of McLemore’s signature writing style: magical realism that seems to seamlessly blend with the story, a LGBT bend, and prose that flows beautifully. And yet, this is probably my least favorite of her novels. I just couldn’t get into the story. Well, I did eventually but it took way more than half the book.

I didn’t feel as strongly for the characters as I normally do. I couldn’t quite make a connection with them. It was almost like, there wasn’t enough of them. I needed more of their stories, instead of the history.

I did like the tie in of the red shoes paired with the mysterious dancing plague of history. I thought this was pretty neat, especially after listening to the author’s notes.

This wasn’t a bad read, I enjoyed it for what it was. It just wasn’t my favorite. So I am giving this one 3 mediocre stars.

That’s all for now!


Family Storytime – 2/8/2020: Transportation 

2/8/2020 – Family Storytime – Transportation

  • Song – Top of the Morning
    • This is a fun tune and great for waking up and doing a little stretching. It’s called Top of the Morning.
  • Hello Rhyme – PBJ Hello
    • We say hello in a lot of different ways!

Peanut butter jelly,
Marmalade and jam.
Let’s say hello as LOUD as we can!
(softly, fast, slow, nicely)

  • Song – Can’t Sit Still! by Greg & Steve 51npbzngppl._sy491_bo1204203200_
    • A colleague gave me this one and it’s got some great moves!
    • I like to include a few new ASL signs in storytime. I sometimes print my own flash cards from Baby Sign Language.
  • Story –  Melvin Might? By Jon Scieszka
    • This is a little long but new to our library and cute. So I thought it might work for a first book, which I generally do a little longer.
  • Rhyme – I’m an Airplane
    • Here we use our bodies to be airplanes.

I’m an airplane (repeat)
Flying high (repeat)
I can tilt this way (repeat)
In the sky (repeat)
I’m an airplane (repeat)
Flying high (repeat)
I can tilt that way (repeat)
In the sky (repeat)
I’m an airplane (repeat)
Flying high (repeat)
I can make a landing (repeat)
From the sky (repeat)

  • Song – Wheels on the Bus 
    • Can’t have a transportation theme without this gem!
  • Story/Prop – Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems
    • I made this puppet ages ago and I love a good excuse to break him out!
  • Game –  Traffic Light Freeze Game
    • I created stop lights on Popsicle sticks and we do a version of red light, green light where we drive our cars fast, slow and then stop.
  • Rhyme – Have You Ever Seen a Sailboat
    • This ones great for the lap babies and toddlers.51bqrollbcl._sy417_bo1204203200_

Have you ever seen a sailboat, a sailboat, a sailboat.
Have you ever seen a sailboat, waving it’s sails.
Wave this way and that way,
That way and this way.
Have you ever seen a sailboat, waving it’s sails.

  • Story – Freight Train by Donald Crews
    • This ones great for colors and sounds.
  • Finger Play – Zoom, Zoom, Zoom
    • And of course we need a rocket ship!

Zoom, zoom, zoom
We’re going to the moon.
Zoom, zoom, zoom
We’re going to the moon.
If you want to take a trip climb aboard my rocket ship.
Zoom, zoom, zoom
We’re going to the moon.
In 5, 4, 3, 2, 1
Blast off!

  • Shakers / Song – Chugga, Lugga Choo Choo by ….20161007_155100
    • I can’t remember who this one is by but it has a great shaker beat.
  • Rhyme – If You’re Happy and You Know It
    • I’ll include this one if we have time but with my speaker, I want to wrap up a little quicker than normal.
  • Goodbye Rhyme – PBJ Goodbye
    • We end the same way we said hello.

Peanut butter jelly,
Marmalade and jam.
Let’s say goodbye as LOUD as we can!
(softly, fast, slow, nicely)

  • Song – Clean it up
  • Song – Goodbye, so long, farewell my friends

How’d it go:

This was a fun one. We loved flying in our airplanes and driving our cars!

That’s all for now!


The Secret Chapter

The Secret Chapter by Genevieve Cogman is the sixth book in the Invisible Library series.

A very fragile truce has been made between the Dragons and the Fae and somehow Irene and Kai have become the ambassadors of this truce. But when Irene’s home world is in trouble, they put their duties aside to join up with an odd mix of Fae and Dragons for a special heist.

Can Kai and Irene maintain their positions as ambassadors while negotiating with Fae, Dragons, and technology in a high ordered world? And will bargains struck, stick?

Man can Cogman churn these out! And she has a day job too. I enjoy this series a lot. Each book has it’s own incident that Kai and Irene have to deal with, while slowly introducing more long ranging issues to come.

The first two books, I could not put down; I had to finish them right away. The rest, are these lovely little reads that I can pick up and put down and enjoy whenever I want. Some people may think that this is a bad thing but I enjoyed not being pressured to finish. And it’s nice for a change, not having a book deadline; they could keep coming as long as Cogman keeps writing them. It doesn’t feel like the characters are running on a clock. I like having at least one of these series in my back pocket.

One thing I keep waiting for is for Alberich to come back. He’s like Irene’s Moriarty and I just can’t believe that he is done with her.  I also missed the Library and Vale in this one. They weren’t as prevalent in the story as they normally are; but I guess that is to be expected.

I did liked the characters introduced in this book and hope they pop up again as the stories continue.

Overall, this was a fun read and I hope they keep coming. This one gets 4 stars from me.

That’s all for now!


Reusing Displays

Hi Guys,

I am deeming February a month of bringing back old displays!

I put up three new bulletin board / window displays this week that I haven’t used in a few years.

This is why you should save everything!


Hooked On Books! — Some fish (made out of hearts), some googly eyes and a cute bookworm.

Very hungry for a good book! — I may jazz this up a little more but for now, it’s like the easiest caterpillar ever!


Library Lovers Month — We accucut hearts and they kind of look like sweet tarts when the kids all post them up there.

Baby Storytime: 2/3/20 

Baby Storytime: 2/3/20 

  • Hello Rhyme – We Clap and Sing Hello
    • This is a simple rhyme with easy movements to do with baby.

We clap and sing hello,
With our friends at storytime,
We clap and sing hello!
(Wave and sing hello; stomp and sing hello.)

We clap goodbye like this….
We wave goodbye like this….
We stomp goodbye like this…

  • ASL – PLAY / TIRED / FUN 61u4ahoj1pl._sy498_bo1204203200_
    • For my babies I teach them three vocabulary words in American Sign Language each week. We do a lot of repeats and stick to the easy movement signs. I generally use Baby Sign to check my signs.
  • Song – One Little Finger by Super Simple Songs
    • My daughter came home singing this one the other day and I couldn’t figure out what she was saying. Finally, I realized it was this song, which is actually pretty good for the younger guys.
  • Board Book – Tickle by Leslie Patricelli
    • Patricelli’s books are great and I love when we can tickle our babies. I pass the board books out to encourage one-on-one reading.
  • Rhyme – Tommy Thumbs Up
    • A classic simple rhyme to practice our finger movements.

Tommy Thumbs Up
Tommy thumbs up, Tommy thumbs down
Tommy thumbs dancing all over town.
Dance them on your shoulders,
Dance them on your head,
Dance them on your knees,
And tuck them into bed.

  • Prop – It’s So Much Fun To Share
    • This is one I have a magnet board for. It’s good for rhyming and visuals for the babies.

It’s so much fun to share
It’s so much fun to share
I have a hat
I’ll share with a cat
It’s so much fun to share.
Sharing – Toddler Storytime

  • Song –  If Your Happy and You Know It by It’s Toddler Time
    • This is a slow version of the song. Better for caregivers to help the babies do the movements or identify body parts.
  • Rhyme – Slowly Slowly Very Slowly
    • This is a great one for interacting with baby. 21shzp7bvyl._bo1204203200_

Slowly, slowly, very slowly up the garden rail
Slowly, slowly, very slowly creeps the garden snail
Quickly, quickly, very quickly all around the house.
Quickly, quickly, very quickly runs the garden mouse.

  • Book – Here Are My Hands by Bill Martin Jr & John Archambault
    • I must have done this one before but I just can’t remember. It’s multicultural and easy.
  • Lift – Going Up and Down in an Elevator
    • Probably my favorite part of storytime because I can see all the happy faces as the caregivers lift them up.

Going up and down in an elevator.
Up and down in an elevator.
Up and down in an elevator.
1st floor. 2nd floor. 3rd floor. DOWN!

  • Bounce –  Bouncing Bouncing
    • We love a good bounce.

Bouncing, Bouncing Baby on my Knee (bounce)
Bouncing, bouncing baby 1 2 3! (lift or big bounce)
Clapping, clapping baby on my knee (clap)
Clapping, clapping baby 1 2 3! (big clap)
Hugging, hugging baby on my knee (hug)
Hugging, hugging baby 1 2 3! (hug or tilt)

  • Song/Shakers – Move Your Feet from Trolls
    • Another one my daughter loves, so why not mash it into my brain more!
  • Song/Bubbles – Took a bath in a washing machine by Jim Gill
    • Bubbles are great because when we track the bubbles with our eyes, we are actually strengthening the eye muscles we later use when we learn to read.
  • Goodbye Rhyme – We Clap and Sing Goodbye
    • We end the same way we started.
  • Song – Clean It Up by Laurie Berkner
  • Song – Goodbye, So Long, Farewell by K. Guilmartin

How’d it go:

Phew, I was not into doing storytime this morning but by the end all the smiling babies made it worth it!

That’s all for now!