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-

 

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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-

Nick and Tesla’s High-Voltage Danger Lab

Nick and Tesla’s High-Voltage Danger Lab by “Science Bob” Pflugfelder is a middle grade read for 4th-6th graders.

Nick and Tesla are extremely smart 11-year-old twins who like inventing and find trouble fairly easily. When they are shipped off to spend the summer with their eccentric Uncle Newt–an inventor and goofball–they expect to be bored out of theirs minds but find they are anything but.

When Nick and Tesla lose their rocket and the pendant their parents gave them, the twins are determined to get it back. Little do they know they are about to embark on a mission that includes dangerous dogs, Christmas light alarm systems, kidnappings and other makeshift contraptions. As the plot thickens will Nick and Tesla be able to use their inventor smarts to save the day?

This is an older middle grade series and one I just happened to overlook. I’ve known about it but I never actually read any of them. After taking a peek, I thought this one would be perfect for my STEM Book Club as a night and easy December read.

Ultimately I enjoyed the book. It was a quick read but still had all that STEM-y goodness I was looking for. The story move quickly and the characters are entertaining. Especially Uncle Newt; you just know there is more going on there then meets the eye.

This one also made choosing a STEM activity to go with my book club really easy, as there were about 4 or 5 different “how to” projects based off of what Nick and Tesla did in the book. And I also enjoyed the mystery of the book and how the rest of the series is setting things up for Nick and Tesla not only to help other people but where they will eventually have to help themselves.

I think this one is going to be perfect for my 4th-6th graders as a light, easy, fun read before the holidays. This one get 4.5 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

 

The Jamie Drake Equation

The Jamie Drake Equation by Christopher Edge is a 4-6th grade science fiction book.

Jamie Drake is your average boy with one big exception, his dad is an astronaut on the international space station and he is part of a big mission to find life in outer space. Jamie is very proud of his dad but he misses him a lot, especially with his birthday coming up and his dad missing it.

When Jamie stumbles upon a rouge scientist at a dilapidated space observatory, he accidentally downloads something to his phone and starts receiving weird signals. Where could this signal be coming from? Could it really be aliens?

With his dad gone, Jamie doesn’t know who to turn to and decides to investigate himself. But when something goes wrong with his dad’s mission, Jamie knows it is up to him to save his dad from space and all of it’s dangers.

The Jamie Drake Equation was one I was considering for my 4-6th grade STEM book club. It was a good read and would have given us a lot to talk about but I just didn’t think we had enough copies in our library system to make it work.

That being said, this book was full of fun STEM-iness. We learn about the Jamie Drake Equation, we learn about the fibonacci sequence and more space science. But there is also the sci-fi element of the alien’s and Jamie’s interactions with them.

This book is very emotional for a middle school read. That’s not a bad thing, but there’s this almost Armageddon feel to the end and I really don’t want to make the kids cry! We also deal with serious themes like divorce and separation, moving, fear and more.

This is a read I would recommend a caregiver reading with their child. But I think any 5th-6th grader could get through it alone. In terms of being full of STEM goodness, this one rocks!

I think this one gets a 3.5 from me. Good but not quite what I was expecting/looking for.

That’s all for now!

-M-

 

City of Ghosts

City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab is a new tween science fiction and fantasy series.

Cassidy Blake has never lead a normal life, what with her parents being super success paranormal writers who call themselves: The Inspectres. But her life took a turn for the even weirder when she died. Well… almost died. Ever since this near death experience, Cassidy has been able to actually see ghosts, including her best friend Jacob.

Now her parents have decided to turn their successful novels into a TV show and they are all off to Edinburgh, Scotland–the city of ghosts. What Cassidy finds in Edinburgh will change everything she knows about who she is and what she can do. But there will be danger and the information she learns may just tear her world apart.

I really enjoyed this one. Totally a book that both kids and adults will enjoy. I didn’t even feel like I was reading a tween book but the content was definitely still appropriate for the kids. It wasn’t too scary but it will also keep a reader at the edge of their seat.

Cassidy and Jacob made a good team and yet there is this hint of what’s to come with their relationship. I really look forward to seeing Cassidy developing her abilities and how Schwab is able to do this while The Inspectres move from city to city. It’ll be interesting to get these haunted histories of different historical sites.

A fun quick read for an adult and a little spooky and an exciting read for 10+. This one gets 5 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

Amina’s Voice

Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan is middle grade, realistic fiction chapter book. Amina is a sixth grade, Pakistani-American Muslim who is trying to navigate her way through middle school, while maintaining the traditions of her community.

Amina’s always been shy when it comes to speaking in front of people. She get’s tongue tied and nervous, so she’s always been okay with keeping to the background and hanging out with her best friend, Soojin. But sixth grade feels different. Soojin thinks boys are cute and her best friend is hanging out with someone knew and Amina is afraid she is going to be replaced. At home, Amina’s uncle arrived from Pakistan for a long visit and everyone is on edge, trying to be perfect and impress this very religious and opinionated relative.

When trouble strikes at school and within her Muslim community, Amina is overwhelmed and unsure. Can Amina find her voice and overcome these trying times?

I really enjoyed this book. It was a quick read that really does take into consideration many of this issues kids face today. Building and losing friendships, religious beliefs, hate crimes, parental/familial pressures and expectations, anxiety, pressure and more. Being a kid is tough and every child is different and deals with these differences differently and I think this book portrays this well.

Amina is an interesting main character. Her troubles and fears and completely relatable and yet she is a sweet-natured, well meaning girl. There were several instances where I would have thought most children would have lied but Amina instead tells the truth and continue to fret about her wrongs. She also asks questions when things get too big, rather then keeping her troubled thoughts inside. I like to think this is a realistic 6th grader buuut, I am not totally convinced that a sixth grader would be as sensitive as Amina. I am sure they are out there, I was just surprised by how good natured Amina is.

Amina’s Voice is a book about diversity, tolerance and the trials of everyday life for a middle schooler. Although I think this book would appeal more to girls, there are a few strong male characters as well. Definitely a book I would recommend for someone looking for realistic fiction with diverse characters.

This book gets a high 4.5 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-