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STEM Read Blog

Quick Pick: Bunnybear by Andrea J. Loney and illustrated by Carmen Saldaña
by Hannah Carmack, STEM Read Creative Content Contributor BunnyBear is the perfect read for anyone who’s ever felt a little different. This short and sweet picture book, written by Andrea J. Loney with illustration by Carmen Saldaña, is great for readers of any age and touches on topics such as taxonomy, animal behavior, mathematics, and […]
Welcome Back, STEM Readers!
STEM Read Here at STEM Read, we’re all about exploring the STEAM concepts and the collaboration across the disciplines of science, technology, engineering, art, and math through fiction books. If you’re a new friend of the program or just want to see how we spent our summer vacation, read on to find out more about […]
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“A Good Problem to Have” by B. J. Novak
This is the second of a two-part post on incorporating B. J. Novak's work into your STEM classroom
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“If I Had a Nickel” by B. J. Novak
In this math-fueled short, you’ll learn just what it takes to open a business dedicated to spilling coffee for profit. And the best part is, you’ll have interns to clean up the mess.
Science + Fiction = Future Telling
STEM Read If you’re looking to add some science into your fiction, this STEM Read science and storytelling mini-conference in Chicago is just the thing to ignite ideas! This event, geared for adults, is perfect for prospective authors, educators, librarians, and anyone else interested in incorporating STEM/STEAM concepts into their lives. Professional Development (PD) credits […]
NIU STEM Read Institute trains educators to facilitate action-packed field trips for their schools
by Elizabeth Schewe, Guest Blogger Calling all educators! Would you like to be able to bring popular fiction – and the science behind it – alive with hands-on activities for your students? Find out how at the 2019 NIU STEM Read Summer Institute, July 24-26 at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb. Registration is now open […]
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Quick Pick: Guess Who, Haiku by Deanna Caswell and Bob Shea
by Christine Brovelli-O’Brien, Ph.D., STEM Read Contributor What do you get when you combine adorable animals, playful storytelling, and Japanese poetry? The fabulous book Guess Who, Haiku, that’s what! Although aimed at children, Guess Who, Haiku, written by Deanna Caswell and illustrated by Bob Shea, adults will also be entertained by the story’s cadence and […]
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Register Today for Quarantine: The Summer Camp!
By Elizabeth Schewe, Guest Blogger  Three years ago, 250 high school students entered the world of McKinley High at Quarantine: The STEM Read Experience. In the years since the field trip we have received dozens of requests to run the trip again. With that said… NIU STEM Read is proud to introduce “Quarantine: The Summer Camp,” based […]
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Staff Picks: Evolution Fiction
Happy Birthday, Charles Darwin! February 12, 2019 marked a historic 210th birthday for The Father of Evolution. While Darwin may have passed in 1882, his scientific legacy and revolutionary research lives on. This Darwin Day people around the world celebrated with library festivals, museum events, and more. That said, there are a lot of misconceptions about Darwin’s […]
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Podcast Episode #15: Pangolin Party with Brendan Wenzel and Brookfield Zoo
In honor of World Pangolin Day we’re talking to a special group of people who are passionate about pangolins: mammals with scales. Pangolins look like armored anteaters. They evolved to be lion proof. They’re scaly, solitary, and adorable, but they’re also the most heavily trafficked animals in the world. We’ll talk to author and illustrator Brendan Wenzel about his books Hello, Helloand They All Saw a Catand hear how he uses his whimsical work to introduce children to biodiversity.
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Quick Pick: Hello, Hello by Brendan Wenzel
With quiet complexity, Brendan Wenzel’s book Hello, Hello introduces readers to the behaviors, colors, textures, patterns, shapes, and sizes of creatures both familiar and unknown. Wenzel, a New York Times bestselling author and recipient of the Caldecott Medal, uses simple, rhythmic text (which echoes the children’s classic book Goodnight Moon) and pairs it with gorgeous illustrations of graduated hues. You can’t help but fall in love with these animals, big and small.
Hot and STEAM-Y: The Underlander Chronicles by Suzanne Collins
We at STEM Read know that fantasy literature is a vehicle for STEM education, and The Underlander Chronicles by Suzanne Collins is a perfect example of this principle.
Hot and STEAM-Y: The Legacy Of The Thing!
The more I watched and the more I read, I realized what makes the Thing so utterly horrifying. It is not the gore or the pop-out effects that made Campbell’s story a poignant one in the nightmares of many. Instead, it’s the basic lack of trust that transcends every version of the story that could ever be made.
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Now Streaming: Season 2 of the STEM Read Podcast
The latest episode of the STEM Read Podcast is here! Catch up on Season 2 of our podcast. So far, we’ve talked to Andy Weir, Dr. Joe Magliano, Jennifer L. Holm, Filament Games, and Lex Thomas about everything from the future of science fiction to the danger of seductive details to the best chainsaw fights in fiction. We’ve also got more great episodes coming up with authors Kiersten White, Peter Brown, Brendan Wenzel, and more!
Retro Read: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
200 years after its first publication, why does Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein continue to captivate readers?
STEM Read on Location: STEMfest 2018
As a new intern and first-timer to STEMfest, I was blown away by the amount of talent in the room! I love books, and I love what we do at STEM Read. I will never get tired of exploring the science behind the fiction. STEMfest provided an opportunity for science-loving readers to witness science in action.
Staff Picks: Frankenstein Read-Alikes
2018 marks 200 years since the release of Mary Shelley’s classic, Frankenstein. Over the decades, Frankenstein’s influence has impacted the genre of horror, modern day feminism, and a handful of real scientific breakthroughs. To celebrate both the anniversary of Frankenstein and registration opening for Frankenstein: The STEM Read Experience, we asked the staff around the office to select what they think are great read-alikes for fans of Shelly’s original Frankenstein.
STEM Read on Location: DeKalb Public Library’s 2nd Annual Pop-Con
We love an event that gets us out of the office and in front of kids who are as pumped about science as we are! Most recently, we visited DeKalb Public Library for Pop-Con. The library held this event for the second year in a row, in order to celebrate popular culture for all ages. This year’s theme honored the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. It was a day packed with spooky costumes, fun activities, and our favorite books! The library ran an escape room for kids and even brought in live bats! The event offered hours of fun for families at no cost.
Quick Pick: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
With the wide-spread popularity of email and texting, the epistolary story – a popular example of which is Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein – has taken on an abundance of new forms. In their novel Illuminae, Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff employ modern day text messaging, video-surveillance logs, photos, and Artificial Intelligence annotation to create a vivid, realistic, and jump-off-the-page world.
Quick Pick: This Mortal Coil by Emily Suvada
This Mortal Coil takes place in a dystopian future where all humans are born with a supercomputer built into one of their arms. The supercomputers allow their users to change the way they look and see the world through a genetic computer code. The only problem? Almost everyone has been forced to live in underground bunkers because of a nasty plague that is killing humans on the surface.
Quick Pick: Riparia’s River by Michael J. Caduto and Olga Pastuchiv
Think of your favorite place on earth. Is it your home? An amusement park? A favorite beach? Now, imagine how you would feel if that place was destroyed by something that could have been prevented. Would you do all that you could to help turn your favorite place back into something beautiful?
Quick Pick: The Amazing Animal Atlas by Dr. Nick Crumpton and Gaia Bordicchia
Where does the echinodermata make its home? How about giant salamanders, the world’s largest amphibians? And where in the world is the shoebill? The Amazing Animal Atlas, written by Dr. Nick Crumpton, a zoologist with research interests in mammals and lizards, and illustrated by Gaia Bordicchia, explores both science and art, making it more than a simple collection of facts and drawings.
Quick Pick: City Green by DyAnne DiSalvo-Ryan
Do you ever walk past an empty lot in your neighborhood or city and think: “what a waste of space”? Are there ever times when you wish you could do more for your community, but don’t know how? These are the exact thoughts of our little protagonist Marcy in City Green by DyAnne DiSalvo-Ryan.
Retro Read: Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
Millions of years after their extinction, dinosaurs are still fascinating. How did they evolve to fly as birds? Were dinosaurs really feathered? What was the first dinosaur? How intelligent were they? Were some dinosaurs pack hunters? Is it possible to clone a dinosaur? Nobody knew this fascination better than Michael Crichton, author of Jurassic Park.
Quick Pick: Countdown: 2979 Days to the Moon by Suzanne Slade and Thomas Gonzalez
“The Eagle has landed,” proclaimed Buzz Aldrin as Apollo 11 landed on the moon on July 20, 1969. What did it take to get there? And what about the 10 other Apollo missions?
Quick Pick: Time Bomb by Joelle Charbonneau
Time Bomb is an emotional YA novel with a strong base in STEM, and it lends itself perfectly to one explosively fun in-class activity. If you’re a fan of Charbonneau’s other works, check out STEM Read’s lesson plans on The Testing.
Hot and STEAM-Y: Playing Favorites
Asking, “Do we connect to characters in media like us or like who we want to be?” is like a snake eating its own tail, cyclical and unending. We identify with characters who look or act like us because it is easy to relate to the strife and difficulties those characters might encounter.
Quick Pick: The Pout-Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen with pictures by Dan Hanna
You might have had this book on your shelf for a while and you might have used it to talk about feelings, but there’s an ocean of possibilities for using The Pout-Pout Fish to introduce STEM concepts to young learners.
Quick Pick: Nyxia by Scott Reintgen
In the science-fiction thriller Nyxia by Scott Reintgen, seventeen-year-old Emmett Atwater has a shot at the deal of a lifetime. But will this deal have him go down in history as a hero, or as something much more sinister?
Quick Pick: The Blobfish by Jessica Olien
In a list of definitive “ugly cute” creatures, Blobfish would find itself near the top with few competitors, and Jessica Olien’s illustrated critter, featured in her picture book The Blobfish, is no exception.
Quick Pick: The Word Collector by Peter H. Reynolds
Jerome, a meticulous collector of words, pays close attention to spoken expressions and written text, always on alert for those terms that appeal to him, particularly those words that are “like little songs.” The Word Collector, by Peter H. Reynolds, is, to borrow one of Jerome’s favorite terms, itself a “symphony” of sight and sound because of its ample inclusion of alliteration, assonance, rhythm and rhyme.
Quick Pick: Baby Monkey, Private Eye by Brian Selznick and David Serlin
When physicist Albert Einstein spoke these words to a Life magazine reporter in 1955, he may not have been thinking about a graphic novel aimed at beginning readers (or that there would one day be a graphic novel about him), but his emphasis on living a life of inquiry is a driving force in the sciences and humanities (and in most everything we do, if we’re being honest!).
The Detective’s Assistant by Kate Hannigan Read-Alikes
You’ve read The Detective’s Assistant by Kate Hannigan. And now you’re hooked. What do you read next? More mysteries set in the past? Mysteries set in Chicago? Biographies of Abraham Lincoln? Nonfiction and historical fiction about the Underground Railroad? No problem. Here are a wide variety of books for middle graders hooked on detective work and the Civil War years.
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Podcast Episode 10: #MeToo Movement in Children’s Literature with Anne Ursu & Martha Brockenbrough and Melanie Koss
In this episode of the STEM Read Podcast we sit down with two major voices in the children’s literature #MeToo movement, Anne Ursu and Martha Brockenbrough, as well as NIU Professor and Literary scholar Melanie Koss.
Quick Pick: The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm
Looking for an entry-point into a conversation with your middle school students about science and ethics? The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm is a fantastic choice, with its take on the perennial question of “just because you can do something, should you?”
Quick Pick: In Real Life by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang
I always wanted comic books and school books to coexist. Now they can. In Real Life by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang is the graphic novel librarians and educators should keep on their shelves.
Astrobuddies Assemble: STEM Read is Launching into the Awesome-sphere!
Get Healthy. Get Organized. Live life to the fullest. These were the three most common New Year’s Resolutions of 2017. This year, we want to challenge people to add something new to their 2018 goals: Read More.
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Podcast Episode 7: Speaking Up Without Talking Down with Paul Kassel and Ruth Spiro
Gillian and Kristin (@kbrynteson) talk with NIU’s Dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts Paul Kassel about the importance of performance in communicating science. Next, Ruth Spiro joins us to talk about communicating complex science ideas to young children through her Baby Loves Science books.
Quick Pick: The Salt Line by Holly Goddard Jones
If you look through STEM Read’s official selections, you can see that we’re suckers for books with gnarly diseases. Louis Sachar’s Fuzzy Mud, Lex Thomas’ Quarantine, and James Dashner’s The Maze Runner are some of our favorites. If you also love a good pandemic story, then Holly Goddard Jones’ The Salt Line is right up your alley.
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Podcast Episode 6: Doodling and Daydreaming with Rhonda Robinson and Tom Lichtenheld
On this episode of the STEM Read podcast, hosts Gillian King-Cargile (@gkingcargile) and Kristin Brynteson (@kbrynteson) chat with visual literacy expert Dr. Rhonda Robinson (Northern Illinois University-College of Education) and author/illustrator Tom Lichtenheld (Cloudette, Duck! Rabbit!, Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site).
Hot and STEAM-Y: Fantasy as a Vehicle for STEM
Science Fiction and Fantasy tend to be grouped together as genres despite being different ideas. Conceptually, both genres take place in another world, but the worlds of these genres are based on different foundations.
Hot and STEAM-Y: How Goodreads’ Reading Challenge Can Help Improve Literacy
Get Healthy. Get Organized. Live life to the fullest. These were the three most common New Year’s Resolutions of 2017. This year, we want to challenge people to add something new to their 2018 goals: Read More.
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Podcast Episode 5: The Rise of F*ck with Melissa Wright and M.C. Atwood
This episode of the STEM Read podcast contains strong language and a strong message.
Quick Pick: Railhead by Philip Reeve
If you love a good train heist mixed with a bit of hierarchical class war, sprinkled with androids, and topped off with sentient space trains (yes, sentient space trains) then Railhead by Carnegie-medal-winning author Philip Reeve is one you need to read.
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Education Experts and Best-Selling Authors Join Forces on The STEM Read Podcast
STEM Read is partnering with NPR affiliate, WNIJ, to bring you hot topics in literature and education! STEM Read director, Gillian King-Cargile, and P-20 Director of Professional Development, Kristin Brynteson, host the podcast.
Quick Pick: Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor
Welcome to Night Vale: a Novel isn’t necessarily STEM in the traditional sense. It’s an oddball-blend of Lovecraftian horror, Kafkaesque absurdity, and Douglas Adams-y humor.
Quick Pick: Fallout by Todd Strasser
Logline: What if the Cuban Missile Crisis resulted in nuclear warfare? What if you were trapped in a bunker for two weeks with complete strangers and limited resources? Who decides who lives and who dies?
STEM Read on Location: SCBWI Presents “How Children’s Books Will Save Us”
STEM Read was at 57th Street Books on September 28 for The Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators’ (SCBWI) panel discussion, “How Children’s Literature Can Save Us.” Author and SCBWI member Kate Hannigan hosted the event with notable authors.
Quick Pick: After the Fall by Dan Santat
Dan Santat’s After the Fall (How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again) is a perfect picture book to introduce kids to the topics of failure and determination. Everyone knows Humpty Dumpty had a great fall, but no one knows about his recovery process and how he dared to climb back up the wall.
Quick Pick: All Rights Reserved by Gregory Scott Katsoulis
Product placement, celebrity debutants, crazy lawyers, this book has it all! Katsoulis steeps his reader in his world for just the right amount of time, before sending them straight into the action-packed, suspenseful plot.
Quick Pick: Landscape with Invisible Hand by M.T. Anderson
In a not-so-far-off future, aliens -called the Vuvv- have come to Earth. Rather than invade and conqueror, these extra-terrestrials offer their miraculous technologies to Earthlings and welcome them into their universe-wide economy. This book has STEAM written all over it.
Quick Pick: Uprising by Margaret Peterson Haddix
Lauren Tarshis’ I Survived series is phenomenal for young readers. If your older elementary or middle school students loved her books, introduce them to an oldie, but a goodie, Margaret Peterson Haddix’s Uprising.
A STEM Read Welcome
This blog offers reviews of some of our favorite new books and some classic sci-fi picks. For every book we review, we’ll include some quick STEM ideas for the classroom. We’ll keep you up-to-date on author visits, other awesome events, and scientastic STEM Read ideas.