January 7th, 2013
by Kathleen Krull
Illustrations by Boris Kulikov
Reading books about great scientists can be both fun and inspirational and Kathleen Krull has written a very engaging biography of Albert Einstein. Albert Einstein was one of the greatest scientists of all time. Einstein’s greatness lay in his revolutionary ideas that sprung from his unique way of seeing the world, and from his confidence that he was right. Revolutionary ideas always face resistance. Confidence is important if you are to keep pressing on to prove your ideas.
Kathleen Krull’s book is perfect for kids in the middle grades, but even older kids would find this clearly written book a good starting point to learn more about Einstein. In fact, I think that many adults would also appreciate her short biography of Albert Einstein, as well.
Albert Einstein’s work is not easy to understand. After all, due to the complexities of his work and the pure genius that lay behind it, the name Einstein has become synonymous with brilliance and the highest level of scientific braininess. But in this neat little biography, Kathleen Krull clearly explains the most extraordinary implications of Einstein’s theories, and his thought processes in developing these. She emphasizes his personal struggles as a student and young scientist, originating in part from his poor social skills and his unwitting actions that alienated the scientists who might have extended him some crucial support early in his career.
I liked this book a lot and I recommend it. Biographies of scientists are some of my favorite reads. I’m always fascinated by how they think and proceed with their work. Scientists just rock! I’m clearly biased, though. I married a scientist. In no small part her own fascinating research was an important aspect of her life that drew me to her and I can see how her personality is reflected in the topics that interested her and her choices of research.
Kathleen Krull, the author of Albert Einstein, has written a boatload of other biographies for kids, many of them about scientists. On the strength of this book, I want to read more of her books and I’ll probably review them too. You can read more about Kathleen Krull at her website. Also, I’d love to hear of any other favorite science writers and their books that you have.
December 25th, 2012
Can you count the similarities between The Hobbit, the book by J.R.R. Tolkien and The Hobbit, the movie based on the book? I just saw it with my brother, who’s visiting for Christmas and my family. Here’s a few similarities I found:
A Hobbit named Bilbo
- A Wizard named Gandalf
- A lot of dwarves who sing around the fireplace
- A dragon named Smaug who lived in the Lonely Mountain.
- A magic ring that belonged to a thing named Gollum that lived in the watery heart of a mountain.
There were a handful of other commonalities, too. The plot wasn’t one of them.
Just the same I loved the movie – we all loved the movie- and can’t wait to see part II.
Are there any other similarities between The Hobbit, the book and The Hobbit, the movie? I’m sure there are, but not too many. See if you can come up with some of your own.
November 9th, 2012
Saw Wreck It Ralph with my two daughters tonight. We all loved it. See it if you can. Like so many Pixar movies (Disney now) it had that inside out view that can be so rich for enternaing material.
Tonight was mixed up and not going as planned. I was going to see a movie with my youngest and the oldest was going spend the night at a friend’s rewatching all the Twilight movies in preparation for seeing the rrelease of Breaking Wind pt 2. It Ended Hp that the sleepover was canceled and the movie we were going to see wasn’t showing. Since my daughter was quick on phone we were reminded of Wreck It Ralph.
November 6th, 2012
Once again Obama won the Madison College pesidential cookie sale held on November 5. It was a blowout, with the president beating Romney with well over twice as many sales. Proceeds went to the Red Cross to aid Hurricane Sandy victims.
October 12th, 2012
I’ve been pretty busy with projects lately-really, the last two years. I’m winding these down to make time foe writing. So, I thought I’d kick this blog off again.
January 13th, 2012
It’s science fair time at my daughters’ school. Science rules. Science Rocks. Science fairs are the quintessential science education experience. When I heard this yesterday evening, I was pumped, ready to spring into action and make…whoops, I mean, guide, my third-grader in her science fair project. I had it already picked and designed in my head. We talked it over and agreed to make several demonstrations on electricity, creating our own electric dynamo and powering it in various ways. As a side project or maybe, after a bit of research, we’d do a solar power project and maybe something fun like a potato battery. In two minutes I had about twenty books held on reserve for her to read and glean from. Then the stunning news.
My wife burst both our bubbles when she told us that parents had complained about all the work they’d gone through in previous science fairs. It seemed that parents do all the work on these projects while their kids plug into TV. Can you believe that? So, now, it’s a group project where the kids get placed in groups, select a project from a pre-qualified list and then work together. Ugh! How am I supposed to engineer some high tech learning and bonding time with my girl that will dazzle the judges and get her a scholarship to UW-Madison? I got dem science fair blues.
Personally, I work in a fantastic team at my place of employment, for the present. It isn’t always that way. I’ve been on teams with total slackers and been stuck with all the work. In my classes, I’ve seen student teams nearly torpedoed by one or two slackers. Without controls and penalties, along with the rewards, I’ve never seem teams work well. Even families are failing as teams in these science fairs, unable to get their kids to do their share of the work and learning. Epic failure.
Well, our science books will be waiting for me at the library by Saturday morning. Me and my third-grader will just have to learn how to power the future by ourselves. Our science fair demo will be for just us, with maybe a video posted on youtube for the family. My daughter will be as pumped as I am about exploring the world of nature and science power, and we’ll have a really good time.
January 11th, 2012
I.N.K. stands for Interesting Nonfiction for Kids. It’s a blog for writers and educators, focusing on kid’s nonfiction. I’ve read it from time to time and found it very interesting, and I returned to it again this morning. The I.N.K. blog is a good place to connect to kid’s nonfiction writers and educators and to listen into their conversation about their craft and their books.
Kid’s Nonfiction is important because it seeds the fallow ground of our kids’ minds and produces much different results than fiction. Unlike learning magic, nonfiction actually empowers kids to see the possibilities within themselves and it works like much like the yellow brick road to Oz, taking kids to a place where they can grow wiser and find answers to their questions.
January 8th, 2012
After eating out last Friday night, the girls wanted to shop. It’s a still a little too close to this past Christmas to start in with shopping again, so I turned them down. Driving home, though, I remembered an ad (really a sponsorship on Wisconsin Public Radio) for a new store in the Madison, WI area called I’m Board that specializes in board games. We’d never been there so we went looking. Good idea, too. The girls got to shop and we discovered a fun, new store.
We found it fairly easily and went inside to find board and RPG games for all ages, but primarily for teens and adults, with lots of really cool games I’d never seen or heard of before. After spending about 30 minutes or so here we left with two games and a Game-On attitudes.
If you live in the Madison, WI area, I’d recommend looking for I’m Board. It’s on University Avenue in Middleton, just west of Middleton Cyclery on the same side. They have an open game room with many games available to play and scheduled times for other games where kids and adults from around the area can meet and play.
I also really like I’m Board’s motto: Unplug * Interact * Reconnect. It’s true. We have more fun, connect more with each other, and share in lots of fun and create more memories while we play these games together. What games did we buy? Poo (a card game where monkeys toss poo at each other) and Say Anything.
August 4th, 2011
Increasing core knowledge is critical to reading comprehension and learning. Vicki Cobb has written a thought provoking post titled An Outside-The-Box Proposal. She writes about bolstering students’ core knowledge by including writing by award winning children’s non-fiction authors in the classroom curriculum. In her article she asks several questions:
- What would happen if teachers and authors worked together to share knowledge and skills?
- Can an author’s love of the subject infect students with the love of learning?
- What would happen to learning if non-fiction books replaced textbooks, moving from enrichment to the core knowledge component in the classroom?
- How would students be affected if they got to meet and talk with the authors?
- And (this of course appeals to the economist in me), how can we do this within a school’s budget?
- What would happen to the learning environment of your school if your teachers and award-winning children’s nonfiction authors collaborated in a large-scale project where everyone was involved in sharing knowledge and skills?
I like this idea. In the upper level college classes we start to read sources instead of textbooks and that’s when the real fun in learning takes place. It’s OK when we have them together, but reading the original and talking about it is much more stimulating and it gives everyone more confidence, ending up in more advanced and more agile learning.
My own daughters are drawn to reading science books, probably in large part because their mother is a microbiologist and I just love the stuff, and we both enthusiastically encourage it. But if they weren’t well written, telling a rich story, I don’t think they’d have anywhere near the interest that they do. On trips to the library they will grab an armful of books about the ocean or physics to take home to read just for pleasure reading.
My kids like to learn. But something about their textbooks doesn’t grab their interest the same way a good, short, well-written science book does. One of the aspects of these kind of books is that they teach in a narrative, story-telling style, that puts the information into a more accessible context. Also, these books are usually teeming with fantastic illustrations and photographs -who doesn’t love any book by Nic Bishop? When written this way, the books hold kids’ interest so much better and they retain a lot more of what they have read. After finishing a good book they want to go back to the library to find another. When we’re in the bookstore, they pull them from the shelves and ask to buy them.
So, go out and get smart. Get an armload of good science books today and start reading. I’m sure you would like Pelican’s Catch by Janet Halfmann. There’s many more out there that everyone in the family will enjoy.
October 18th, 2010
I enjoyed this MovieWeb interview with children’s book author Cressida Cowell, who wrote the How to Train Your Dragon books. In the interview, she talks about her feelings about having her fantastic book made into an animated movie. She also talks about her unique summers spent on an isolated island with her family that in many ways inspired her writing.
The first time I saw How to Train Your Dragon Book 1 in a bookstore, several years back, I was hooked. I was eager to see the movie when it came out. I took the family to see it in 3-D at the IMAX. It was too intense for the youngest, but my oldest and I enjoyed it every bit as much as we did the books.