The House With Chicken Legs

The House with Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson is a juvenile fiction book for 4-6th grade.

Twelve-year-old Marinka lives in a house with chicken legs and is destined to become a Yaga–someone who guides the dead into the afterlife. She has been in training since birth, guiding the dead alongside her grandmother every night. But the dead make terrible friends.

All Marinka wants is a normal life, with a friend who isn’t dead and who won’t disappear an hour after they meet. So when Marinka has a chance to make a real friend, she jumps at it without thinking about the consequences.

Will Marinka ever find a way to live the life she’s always dreamed of? Or will her actions but the whole world at risk?

I totally have a thing for the Yaga myth–really Russian folklore in general. I’ve read several teen and adult books about takes on Baba Yaga but never a children’s book, which is why I was so excited to pick this one up and it didn’t disappoint.

This book has a lot of heart. You can use it to discuss grief and death, the circle of life, but also responsibilities, being selfish vs. being yourself and even the idea of fate. It isn’t a difficult read, even with the theme of death floating around. There is some light humor and a satisfying conclusion.

I loved the personality of the house itself. For a house, she is very expressive. Marinka on the other hand, was a smidgen annoying in that she doesn’t think things through. But that also, isn’t entirely her fault since the truth had been hidden from her for so long. She did grow by the end, but she also got a pretty good deal if I do say so myself.

This would make a good read for 4-6th graders who like a little bit of magic. This one gets 4 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

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STEM Book Club: Spin the Golden Light Bulb

This is our last STEM Book Club until after the summer. I plan on reevaluating and seeing what worked and didn’t work and then picking back up in the fall. That being said, I got some snacks and tried to pick a fun project for us this time. 

Spin the Golden Lightbulb by Jackie Yeager is the first book in a new elementary series called The Crimson Five.

Every year, eighth graders all over the country compete in the Piedmont Challenge in order to win a golden lightbulb and earn a place at PIPS, The Piedmont Inventor’s Prep School. Kia Krumpet is determined to be one of only five winners chosen from her state. And when she learns that just winning a golden lightbulb may not be enough to secure her place at PIPS, she is even more determined than before.

Kia, along with the four other winners, must compete at Camp Piedmont in a challenge that will test all of their ingenuity, brains, strength and heart. Does Kia have what it takes to make it to Nationals? Or will her insecurities cost her big time?

Discussion Questions / Further Reading 

  1. What is this book about? What are the main themes? 
  2. In this futuristic world, kids are “programmed” into a single category of study, which will follow them throughout adulthood. What do you think about this? Could there be anything good about this placement method?
  3. The Crimson Five are singled out for coming from the same school. Do you think this is fair? Should they be held at a higher standard?
  4. At first, Kia isn’t sure about working with a team. Why can working with a team be so much harder? Why can a team help you to excel?
  5. To complete their task, the team must “include elements from each of the six academic categories—Art Forms, Communication, Earth and Space, Human History, Math and New Technology.” Why do you think Kia sees this as an impossible task?
  6. Ignoring the sparkly dust, rotating bunk beds, robotic monkeys and all the other cool tech gadgets, this book is about teamwork and friendship. What are some examples of how the Crimson Five were able to work together as a team in order to do better? 
  7. Each of the member of the Crimson Five have some character trait to overcome. Name a character, their trait and how they overcame it?  
  8. What role does Grandma Kitty have in the story? What does her character contribute to the plot? 
  9. Prediction time! This the first book in a series. Any predictions on where it could be heading? Did you see any instances of foreshadowing? 
  10. Invention time! Kia has more than 67 inventions swirling around in her head. Your turn! What invention would you create that would make the world a better place? 

 Team Building Challenge

 Supplies: sturdy string, solo cups, one rubber bandcup-stack-10

Setup: Tie four, arm length, pieces of string to your rubber band. Place a stack of ten solo cups next to the rubber band and string.

The Challenge: Working in teams of four, students must build a tower of cups using only the string/rubber band tool. Students may ONLY touch the string.

See which team can build their cup tower first. You can also give them different challenges, depending on how quickly they go. Encourage communication and teamwork. It’s harder than it looks!

 Army Man Challenge

 Supplies: one cup, one army man, one spoon, six Popsicle sticks, two rubber bands two feet of tape 19fa68de2a53fdbd737823dee6d19a80

Setup: Give each student a cup with the supplies inside of it.

The Challenge: Working individually, each student will attempt to make an army launcher. They have only the materials in their cups to complete the task. We will then take turns using our launchers to see who can shoot the army man the furthest.

*Adult Supervision required for all STEM activities*

Sources:

https://theardentteacher.com/2015/05/26/a-week-of-stem-activities/ 
http://mssepp.blogspot.com/2014/05/teamwork-cup-stack-take-2.html

How’d it go:

This was a super low key, fun last STEM club of the season. We had snacks, did a little book discussion and worked on our two challenges. I was actually pleasantly surprised that the kids really liked the teambuilding cup challenge. I totally have to keep that in mind for next time. As for the army men, it was interesting. We got a little crazy shooting our men and at times… each other :-/

I’m glad this club went well for our first round. Till September STEM Club pals!

That’s all for now!

-M-

Flip the Silver Switch

Flip the Silver Switch by Jackie Yeager is the second The Crimson Five book.

The Crimson Five–Kia, Ander, Mare, Jax, and Jillian–have soared through nationals and earned a spot at the Global Piedmont Championships. At Global’s they will complete against 99 other international teams and the top three teams will have their inventions created.

Kia is determined to win and get the ancestor app built, but are her teammates just as motivated? Has The Crimson Five travel to Quebec for the two week competition, they will encounter a whole new set of problems and will have to lean on each other more than ever!

Will The Crimson Five buckle under the pressure or will they meet the challenge and win the day?

I enjoyed Spin the Golden Lightbulb a lot. I thought it was a great book about sparking ideas and, especially, working together as a team. But Flip the Silver Switch was basically more of the same. Yes, there were a few unanswered questions from the first book that were resolved here but the team was pretty much dealing with the same problems/issues they had in the first book.

I did like that the team had to create something new and, on top of that, they had to fight Principle Bermuda. It was also nice to see how the team, teammates, reacted to the tour verses leaving their families behind. This is something kids do worry about.

As with the first book, the end wrapped up really quickly. There was a lot of build up to the story and then I felt like the competition itself went really fast. Maybe the pace picks up and I didn’t notice it but it felt quick.

Overall, this was a nice read and I think many kids will enjoy falling back into the story after reading the first book. This one gets three stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

Explorer Academy: The Nebula Secret

Explorer Academy: The Nebula Secret by Trudi Trueit is the first book in a new juvenile adventure series.

Cruz is one of 24 kids across the globe that has been chosen to attend the elite Explorers Academy. Taught by leading researchers, wildlife experts, survivalists and conservationists, Cruz and his fellow explorers are training to become the next generation of great explorers.

But for Cruz this is more than just a dream, this is his legacy. When his mom died when Cruz was just a boy, he knew he would follow in her footsteps at the academy. But no sooner then he receives his acceptance letter, do weird and dangerous “coincidences” seem to dog him.

Can Cruz handle the pressures of Explorer Academy and can he find out who is out to get him and why?

This is a new juvenile book to our library and one I thought would work nicely for my STEM book club. The writing style was fun and the book has some nice graphics and the adventure aspect will work out nicely for my kids. I enjoyed this book but it is definitely the first in a series. There is a lot of build up that sets the stage for what’s to come.

The series itself looks like it is going to follow a fairly popular set up… a school for kids that teaches them something awesome; a student in trouble/needs to fight the bad guy… The whole school thing is very familiar and relatable for children, so we see it a lot. BUT this story feels unique in that it is about explorers and the kids are getting training and are going on missions to explore, understand and preserve our world.

There is so much here that could be used as a STEM activity but there is one point where Cruz and his friend decode a cipher and I think creating or even decoding our own ciphers, could be a neat activity. But we will see.

A neat read but definitely in need of a sequel to do any more solid judging. This one gets 3.5-4 stars from me. Probably a solid 5th grade read.

That’s all for now!

-M-

Fuzzy

Fuzzy by Tom Angleberger and Paul Dellinger is a juvenile fiction book for 4-6th graders.

When Max—Maxine Zealster—befriends her schools newest student, a robot named Fuzzy, she totally did not know what she was getting herself into. Max has been recruited to help Vanguard One Middle School’s new Robot Integration Program, by showing Fuzzy the ropes. Together they navigate hallways, eat lunch, attend class and all the usual middle school activities… including getting in trouble.

Little do Fuzzy and Max know but BARBARA, the school’s digital student evaluation system, has it out for them. The more Fuzzy learns, the more “human” he becomes and as he and Max become friends, Fuzzy realizes he has a more important mission then the robot integration program… Help Max.

Will Fuzzy and Max make it through sixth grade intact?

I really enjoyed this one. So much so, that I chose it as my November book for my 4th-6th grade STEM book club. This one was meant to be a little easier than our book last month. It was a quick read and I think one that you could pull morals and themes out of with it still being a lot of fun.

I think the kids will enjoy the futuristic aspects of the book and deciding just how much technology is a good/bad thing. Overall, this was a fun one that works perfectly with my STEM theme.

For this STEM club we have 10 discussion questions and then we are going to create our own paper circuits. We’ll see how it goes!

Discussion Questions:

1. What is this book about? What are the main themes?

2. Fuzzy uses “fuzzy logic,” what is fuzzy logic and why does this make Fuzzy a good robot?

3. Fuzzy begins to act more and more “human” each day. What are two examples of Fuzzy’s humanity?

4. Fuzzy takes place in a technologically advanced future. Computers and robots are used for everything. Are there pros and cons to this?

5. If you could pick one “thing” for a robot to do for you what would it be and why?

6. What would you do if your school assigned dTags and required Constant Upgrading like Max’s school? How would this hurt and/or help your education?

7. Page 173 – <Max> I can’t believe I’m saying this, but… Let’s cheat! – What do you think of Max’s decision to cheat? Was she right, wrong? Can you think of another way they could have handled this situation?

8. Page 224 – That’s like killing him. The Fuzzy we know will die. – How did you feel when you found out the government was going to delete Fuzzy’s memory? Do you agree that it is the same as killing him even though he is a robot? Why?

9. Why was Barbara a better candidate for the exploration of Mars than Fuzzy?

10. Do you think you would make friends with a robot? What qualities of a good friend might a robot have?

Creating Paper Circuits

Supplies: Card stock paper; Copper tape, ¼ inch wide and double-sided conductive; Scissors; 3V lithium button battery; 5mm LEDs; Clear tape

Instructions:

  • Take your button battery and one of your LEDs. Find the positive and negative side of both by sliding the button battery between the prongs of the LED. Did it light up? Try flipping the battery. Once it lights up you will have found your positive and negative connections. Remember, positive connects to a negative, negative to a positive
  • Fold your card stock in half so it looks like a card. Put it aside
  • Take your smaller square of paper and using the copper tape, follow the template, lay down your circuit.
  • When you get to your light spread the prongs apart and make sure they are fully covered by the copper tape. Remember your +/-. If you attach the wrong connections your LED won’t light up. Use clear tape if needed.
  • Continue running the tape on the other side of the light following the template. You need to make this as smooth as possible without ripping.
  • Attach your button battery negative side down. When you fold over the corner and touch the beginning end of the tape to the top of the battery your LED should light up.

* **Note** You may need to be careful taping the button battery. If you cover the battery completely the connection is harder to make. Try just taping the edges.

  • Did it light up? Check your connections, do you have them the right way? Are there any gaps in your copper tape?
  • Once you have your light working, lay it inside of your cardstock to see where the light will shine through. Make a mark on the front of the cardstock.
  • Create your card/picture/etc. Remember where the light shines through and draw your picture incorporating the light.
  • Put it all together and see what you get!

Observations:

-What observations can you make about your circuits? What worked and didn’t work? Why?

The Science:

-Electricity is a type of energy that can build up in one place or flow from one place to another. For an electric current to happen, there must be a circuit. A circuit is a complete path around which electricity can flow. It must include a source of electricity, such as a battery. Materials that allow electric current to pass through them easily, called conductors, can be used to link the positive and negative ends of a battery, creating a circuit.

-In an open or broken circuit, there is a break along the line, and the current stops. In a closed or complete circuit, electric current can flow. When electric current flows, it can be used by electrical appliances, such as light bulbs.

**Adult supervision required**

https://sciencekiddo.com/paper-circuit-cards/ https://www.dkfindout.com/us/science/electricity/circuits/

*Safety Note* Button batteries are very dangerous if they are swallowed. Please be sure that the children making paper circuit art are old enough not to put objects into their mouths. After the paper circuit cards are complete, please instruct the children not to leave them in a location where a younger brother or sister can get to them.

How’d it go:

Well, we had to reschedule this one because of snow, so we had a much smaller crowd then we usually do. But that’s OK because we could have used 5 of me to help instruct the activity! The paper circuits definitely needed more than my allotted 30 minutes. We had a few successfully make circuits but most of them didn’t get it on their first try but by the time we left, they seemed confident that they could actually do it from home. And because we had such a small group, I let them all take home enough supplies to do a second paper circuit.

In terms of the discussion, I was floored when the majority of my group told me that deleting Fuzzy’s memory was NOT the same as killing him. We had a lot of discussion about this, which was neat.

Overall, I think it went well. Hopefully, no snow will get in the way of December!

That’s all for now!

-M-

 

Boy Bites Bug

Boy Bites Bug by Rebecca Petruck is a middle school juvenile fiction book for 4th-6th graders.

Will didn’t intend to eat a stinkbug, but when his friend Darryl calls the new kid, Eloy Herrera, a racial slur, he didn’t think he just acted. Now will is Bug Boy and he kind of likes it.

Intending to keep up his notoriety and title as Bug Boy, Will talks Eloy into helping him get his classmates to eat bugs. But the more Will learns about Eloy and entomophagy in general, the more sincere he becomes about his project. For Will, eating bugs is no longer just a joke but everyone sees it that way. And what’s worse, he really likes Eloy and is afraid he may have ruined this budding friendship.

What can Will do to make everyone understand his real intentions when all anyone can see if a joke?

I thought this was a really great read for middle schoolers about friendship and understanding and realizing that people change. This book is also about accepting peoples cultures and not treating them differently because of it.

One of the things I loved about Will was that he would get back feelings when he wasn’t entirely sure how he should act or behave. This was really great because a lot of the time people, especially kids, aren’t a 100% sure about what is OK to say and do and what isn’t. Because of this, I found Will to be a really realistic and relate-able character.

This book could be a really good book club book because it is filled with STEM-y goodness about entomophagy, the environment and bugs in general. If I were to use this one in my STEM book club, which I can’t because we don’t own enough copies, I would totally pair it with a Hexbug challenge. It would also be great because the themes are something that should really get the kids talking.

This one gets 4 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

See You In The Cosmos

See You In The Cosmos by Jack Cheng is a 4th-6th grade novel about growing up and finding out the truth.

Eleven-year-old, Alex is a space buff. He loves his dog, Carl Sagan, his mom, with her quiet days and his brother, who he doesn’t see very often. When Alex and Carl Sagan go on a mission to launch his golden ipod into space, Alex will learn that family comes in all different sizes and that life can be a lot more complicated than he thought.

And so a boy and his dog travel from Colorado to New Mexico, to L.A. and back again in this journey toward growing up.

Oh boy, this was not what I thought I was getting into when I picked up this book. I’m always on the lookout for a good juvenile STEM read for my book club and with this one having to do with rockets, space, golden ipod’s and Carl Sagan, I thought it would be book club gold. And maybe for some people it is but I think this book might be a little too heavy for my crew.

See You In The Cosmos was a quick read, what with the narrative being written in the form of recordings from a 11-year-old’s perspective. But this almost made the serious topics harder to read because as an adult, I knew what was going on but knowing it through Alex’s naivety sort of made me feel like I was “watching a train wreck coming.” And it made me wonder what middle school readers would and wouldn’t pick up–most of it I’m betting.

This is really a book about growing up and beginning to understand some of the grown-up truths we don’t always recognize as children. With that in mind, this book really succeeds. Alex, for a kid who has a rough life, is incredibly optimistic and determined. He is smart and has such a big heart.

Although this book wasn’t what I was looking for when I picked it up, I do think it is a great read that broaches some heavy topics with hope. This one gets a solid four stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-