Covers of Composting by Koontz & Harrad and Garden Wigglers by Loewen & Peterson.

Worm Books

Everything has gone wormy here at the Dorchester Memorial Public Library this spring. To help this along, Janet Ward made an Adopt-a-Book donation so that we could buy some new worm books.

Covers of Composting by Koontz & Harrad and Garden Wigglers by Loewen & Peterson.
Two books for young children about worms and compost

Our new books are Composting: Nature’s Recyclers, by author Robin Koontz and illustrator Matthew Harrad, and Garden Wigglers: Earthworms in Your Backyard, by author Nancy Loewen and illustrator Rick Peterson, both published by Picture Window Books. These books are written for quite young children, but they’re full of information. Everything is written in relatively simple language, and unfamiliar scientific terms like setae, the very fine bristles that cover a worm’s body, and clitellum, the band around the worm that becomes the shell containing its offspring, are explained in language and concepts even a quite young child should understand. Although an American book, it adheres to international standards of science and gives metric as well as imperial measures — useful for us here in Canada. Each book is only twenty-four pages long, but contains a table of contents, a science project that children can do at home, a glossary, and an index. The attractive illustrations, though not realistic in fine detail, are designed to be very clear and unambiguous in their simplicity. We’re very pleased to have these in our library and we recommend them for K-2 classes or anyone doing composting with younger grades or their pre-schoolers.

Introducing the Red Wigglers

Today we received a container of worms from Ook’s friends the Murray family and introduced them to our worm bin. They came with some nice compost of their own to get started with.

Worms in compost with cocoons.
Our worms arrived with some of their very own compost.

Here they are in their new bin, ready to start eating our apple cores and banana peels.

Slightly out of focus! Here the worms are going into their bin.

Thanks to the Murrays for giving us the worms to get us started!

Bird Books for Kids

Do you have a birdfeeder? Do you watch the birds at it with your pre-school children? Talk to them about the birds. Ask them questions: what colour is that bird? How many birds are there? Count them together. Are those two birds the same, or different? Why are they different? What are those birds doing? What do you think the birds are thinking about? Are they happy? Are they afraid? Are they hungry? What do these birds like to eat?

These kinds of conversations with your children happen every day. They’re part of how those little minds learn and grow.

At the library, we have children’s books about birds. Some, like Have You Seen Birds? by Joanne Oppenheim and illustrator Barbara Reid, are books you can read aloud to pre-schoolers or which a beginning reader can read to you. Oppenheim’s rhymes and Reid’s famous plasticine illustrations make it great for bedtime storytime. Other books, like Look Up: Bird-Watching in Your Own Backyard by Annette LeBlanc Cate, are books you can read with a school-age child or which your older child can explore alone. Look Up has loads of scientific facts presented in an engaging, conversational way, with cheerful, chatty illustrations that manage to be cartoony sketches while preserving the essential details necessary for scientific accuracy in the species portrayed. It also has a bibliography to guide you to more detailed reference books, and an index, making this book a great resource for finding specific information as well as something to read cover to cover to learn about birds and bird-watching.

Rocket Girl: The Story of Mary Sherman Morgan, America’s First Female Rocket Scientist, by George D. Morgan

When George D. Morgan submitted his mother’s obituary to the Los Angeles Times following her death, it was rejected because the paper said his statements about her life could not be verified. NAA, North American Aviation, had not kept the meticulous records one might expect of an aerospace company devoted to scientific and technological research and a history of the company (by a retired engineer, drawing mostly on his own memories due to the lack of preserved records) would not be written for another few years. Prompted in part by that fact, and in part by a natural desire to know more about his mother’s career before all the living memory of it was lost as her colleagues likewise aged and died, George set out to unearth his mother’s history, personal and professional. She had been a scientist during the paranoia of the McCarthy era, had invented the propellant used to fuel the rocket that launched the first US satellite, and had even as an old woman refused to talk about her work with her children. George, a playwright, was motivated by the obituary refusal to research and write a successful play about his mother’s accomplishments. That play, Rocket Girl, led in turn to further revelations about her private life.

This is not a conventional biography. George clearly looks on himself more as a storyteller than as an historian and admits that the story is “creative non-fiction”. Although the historical facts are true, he presents the episodes of Mary’s life in a novelistic style, with narrative and imagined dialogue and emotion, interspersing this with accounts of his own search for information and childhood memories of the engineers he meets again as elderly men in the course of his researches. He also contrasts the life of Mary, a girl who was only able to start school at age eight because social services showed up at the house and threatened her father with jail if she did not, a girl who, having won entrance to college, had to sneak away from home to take up her place, with that of her contemporary, the privileged German Werner von Braun, who would build rockets for Hitler and later be celebrated by the Americans as the father of their space program. In an afterword, George meticulously documents where he has had to invent minor details, such as names of unknown technicians, to serve the flow of his narrative. The overall effect, though not as rigorous a history as one might like, is none the less an important testament to the work of a female scientist whose significant contributions during the Cold War space race were in danger of being forgotten by the historical record.

The Coffee Table Book of Doom, by Steven Appleby and Art Lester

“A handy guide to all the ways you and everyone else might cease to exist”. The Coffee Table Book of Doom, written by Art Lester and illustrated by iconic British cartoonist Steven Appleby (creator of Captain Star), is a black-humoured tour through all the ways we, and our planet with us (and in some scenarios because of us), might perish. Light-hearted, tongue-in-cheek, this book is nevertheless a serious look at the end of the world as we know it, grounded on real science and social science. Chapters such as “Cosmic Doom”, “Eco Doom”, “Geophysical Doom”, “Technological Doom”, and “Religious Doom”, among others, count their way down in a book whose pages are numbered back to front. Appleby’s distinctive (and occasionally naughty) art sometimes provides useful visual metaphors for the subjects being discussed, and sometimes underscores the ridiculousness and frequent futility of human responses. It’s a funny book, but one that will make you think, both about the real doomsday scenarios (maybe even the ones within human power to avert), and about why we have such a fascination, even a need, for a sense of impending apocalypse.