Team Outer Space

It was space that first drew my daughter in to Brains On, a science podcast for kids, so it was hardly a surprise that when it came down to Outer Space vs. Deep Sea, she was firmly cheering for Team Outer Space to win the debate. In her mind, it was hardly even a debate.

“What’s so great about the ocean?” she asked from the back seat as we set off on a long drive one recent Saturday. I was about to press play on the big debate, and I admit, I was hoping she would keep an open mind.

“You might be surprised,” I said, thinking of the deepest, darkest parts of the ocean that I was certain would be as fascinating as planets, stars, and the possibility of alien life if she gave it a chance. We listened as Brains On producers presented their arguments for each side. We mostly kept our commentary to ourselves other than the occasional “huh” or “wow” for both Outer Space and Deep Sea.

We kept track of the points we would award each debater, and, in the end, Team Outer Space won the debate for both of us. But for those of you still on the fence about which one is cooler, perhaps one of these books will sway you:

Deep Sea
I wrote about What if Sharks Disappeared a few weeks ago, and it certainly fills in the argument for Deep Sea by sharing how we are connected to ocean life. But let’s stay focused on the debate at hand—The Deep Sea vs. Outer Space. For a look at the deepest parts of the ocean, Down, Down, Down by Steve Jenkins is a must-read. Really, all of Steve Jenkins’ books are must-reads, or at least must-browse-through-to-look-at-the-remarkable-illustrations.

Outer Space

Last time I wrote about Brains On, I shared Professor Astro Cat’s Frontiers of Space, and this is still one of my daughter’s favorite books. It’s funny and browsable while being full of information. Plus, she likes cats. Not as much of a cat person as she is? That’s okay. How about Destination: Space? In this book five kids take a tour of the universe from the big bang and beyond. It’s similar to Professor Astro Cat, just a little less cute and funny.

It’s up to you to choose a team (or remain neutral) in this very important debate. ;)

As a side note to fellow librarians reading this, it occurs to me as I write this that “Deep Sea vs. Outer Space” would be a fun library display. Actually, there are probably lots of possibilities here. Well, I’m off to brainstorm potential “versus” displays I could do in my library….

Friday Find: Brains On!

brainson“Wait! Pause it!”

We were listening to an episode of Brains On!, and my six year old could barely hold in her comments and questions.  I let her choose among the recent episodes, and she chose Is There Life on Other Planets? which opened with an excerpt from a science fiction story about aliens written by a kid, not too much older than my daughter.

“So this is a real story written by a real kid?” was her first question.  Then we had to go to the Brains On! web site to see the young author’s alien drawings.

Astrocat_001That was only the beginning  of the speculation and discussion that the episode sparked in her.  It wasn’t just the day we listened to it, either.  The ideas stuck with her enough to bring it up again and again.  We explored more about space in Professor Astro Cat’s Frontiers of Space, which has a great spread with speculative aliens that my daughter loved.

We will definitely be listening to more of Brains On! And catching up on past episodes.  I love that it features kids asking real kid questions, and I am excited to explore more science with my daughter.

Since I am always thinking about books, I already have a few books in mind for some of the other episodes:

  • For Water, Water Everywhere we will check out Did a Dinosaur Drink this Water by Robert Wells and Let’s Drink Some Water by Ruth Walton.
  • The Soil–Can You Dig It episode fits well with A Handful of Dirt by Raymond Bial.
  • In How Do You Catch a Cold? there is talk of sneezes; Explore more in Sneeze! by Alexandra Siy.
  • If you listen to Is There Life on Other Planets? with kids a bit older than my six year old, you can direct them to The Alien Hunter’s Handbook by Mark Brake for more about what life is and how to find it.

Happy listening, reading, and exploring!

Interested in past Friday Finds posts? Click here

Links to Listen to

The office has been quiet over the holidays, and I have been catching up on my podcast listening. Here are a few that I thought worth sharing, along with some books that popped to mind as I listened:

  • 20140105-115326.jpgRadiolab’s latest short episode The Times They are a-Changin’ looks at the Earth’s journey around the sun and reminds us that nothing is as constant as we think it is.  I was reminded of the picture book by Debra Frasier that I recently read with my daughter A Birthday Cake is No Ordinary Cake, which is about how each birthday is another trip around the sun.  Millions of years ago, the trip just took a little longer.
  • The Stuff You Missed in History Class episode about Edward Jenner, the father of vaccines, was fascinating. Among other things, the show mentioned the difficulty of getting the small pox vaccine from Europe to the New World, and the ethically ambiguous way that the task was eventually accomplished, which was a part of the novel Saving the World by Julia Alvarez.
  • 20140105-115146.jpgLexicon Valley looks at the way kids begin to use language in Learning to Say No.  Parents, in particular, are likely to appreciate the opportunity to see what’s behind this pesky little word. To go along with that, Claudia Rueda has a sweet picture book simple titled No that as Booklist said in its review gets “right to the heart of a child’s inner life.”

If you, like me, are staying inside this weekend due to unbearably cold temperatures, these podcasts might be just the thing to ease the boredom.  I hope everyone stays warm and safe.  Happy listening and reading! :)


As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been catching up on old episodes of This American Life.  I recently got an ipod (Thanks, Mom!), and I’ve been devouring all the podcasts that I never had an opportunity to listen to before.  Mainly TAL and Radiolab.  Both of which, strangely enough, keep intersecting with my reading life.  Here are a few examples:

  • Just after I finished Sum by David Eagleman (also mentioned in the last post), I heard a Radiolab episode in which the opening story of the book was read.  David Eagleman has also appeared on the show in his role as neuroscientist, if I recall correctlly.
  • Kathleen Krull’s newest biography in the “Giants of Science” series, Charles Darwin, appeared on my desk not long after I listened to the Darwinvaganza podcast from Radiolab.
  • While I was reading Short Bus and mentally composing the blog post that mentions it, I listened to a Radiolab episode entitled “Diagnosis” in which a young man is not diagnosed with austism until adulthood.  The question of whether interventions at a younger age, including special ed classes, would have helped or hurt comes up.
  • I read Mamba Point by Kurtis Scaletta about a boy’s connection with a poisonous snake that bites his brother, and then I listened to a TAL episode in which a man tells a story about a snake bite incident in his childhood where he had to save the day when a man is bitten by a poisonous snake.
  • The science experiment in Kenneth Oppel’s Half Brother might seem kind of crazy, but apparently it actually happened.  So I learned in this episode of Radiolab.

Crazy, isn’t it?

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