Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: Start with Science series featuring Oscar, the curious kitten

It’s Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday! 

Sometimes a title doesn’t have to be the “be all, end all” source of information on a topic. Sometimes, it just needs to begin to inspire wonder. These Start with Science titles featuring the curious Oscar and the various friends he meets are ideal for the early primary classroom to begin bigger conversations about a variety of science topics. I introduced my class to this series with Oscar and the Frog and many children later asked me to purchase more of “those Oscar question books.” So I did! Now our classroom collection holds five titles 🙂

 Start with Science The Oscar Books

Oscar and the Bat: A Book About Sound (published 2009) This book introduces the concept of loud and quiet noises and compares close and far away sounds. I like how the beginning of a list is started – what makes no sound when it is still but makes sound when it begins to move? For example, grass in the wind has a swooshing sound, moving water has a sound that still water does not, etc. It would be great to expand on this idea in a classroom brainstorming session. At the back of the book, there is a review of what Oscar learned:

  • When we listen to what is going on around us, it gives us clues to what is happening. Close your eyes and listen!
  • Both living and nonliving things make sounds
  • There are many different kinds of sound – some are considered opposite (i.e. deep vs. high)

Oscar and the Bat:  Start with Science The Oscar Books

Oscar and the Bird: A Book about Electricity (published 2009) In this title, Oscar learns that electricity is a kind of energy that people use to make things move, light up, make sounds or heat up. The bird who is teaching Oscar explains that electricity might come from a battery or from wires (power lines) or even from lightning – that electricity is all around us. In the final summary, the review includes:

  • what electricity is for
  • how electricity works
  • what electricity is made from (chemicals, burning coal or oil, natural sources such as wind)

Oscar and the Bird:  Start with Science The Oscar Books

Oscar and the Snail: A Book about Things we use (published 2009) This title feels like it is best suited for the youngest of learners. Learn about where materials come from (i.e. wood is from nature vs glass is made by people, using sand) and how materials have different qualities and different best uses. A book to inspire a discussion about what materials we find in a home or classroom and where they might have come from.

Oscar and the Snail:  Start with Science The Oscar Books

Oscar and the Cricket: A Book about Moving and Rolling (published 2008) This title is a great book to introduce beginning concepts around physics. How do things begin moving, keep moving and what makes them stop? Vocabulary like push, pull, force, and travel are used. Oscar learns that different objects move differently over varied surfaces (rough, smooth, etc.) It is also explained that animals have muscles that make them move and that they don’t require a push or pull to get started.

Oscar and the Cricket:  Start with Science The Oscar BooksOscar and the Frog: A Book about Growing (published 2007) This title introduces concepts of growing and how different living things begin, grow and develop. I liked the connections/comparisons between plants and animals. Children learn about a life cycle.

Oscar and the Frog:  Start with Science The Oscar Books

There is one more title in this collection but I haven’t read it. (Oscar and the Moth: A Book about Light and Dark)

I think all of these titles are well suited to buddy reading or reading to an adult where there is time for discussion and further questions. In a K-2 class, they would be great read alouds to help determine what children might already know about a topic and what else they are wondering. If you are looking for more texts that your primary students can manage independently, these titles would make a nice addition to the nonfiction section of your classroom library.

My original goal was 60 nonfiction picture books for 2013. Progress: 42/60 complete

Thanks to Alyson from Kid Lit Frenzy for the inspiration to read and share more nonfiction picture books in 2013! Follow the link to Alyson’s blog to read about more nonfiction titles.


An Egg is Quiet and so Much More

We are studying birds but I am very mindful of student interest as we decide on what to learn more about. Last week we read a book about birds and their nests and students were fascinated by the stunning blue of a robin’s egg. Most students wrote about it when asked to write about something new they had learned. So. . . I decided that Dianna Aston and Sylvia Long‘s exquisite book An Egg is Quiet was a must read.


Students were fascinated to learn many new things about eggs – including that many creatures hatch out of an egg, not just birds (reptiles, insects, fish, etc). Sylvia Long’s gorgeous illustrations had everyone mesmerized. With many pages we just gazed at the pictures and chatted to our neighbour about our observations and questions. Sharing was fascinating and we all learned to look at eggs a little differently from each other.

Colours, specks, stripes! Eggs can be so different! We saw eggs that looked like chocolate (a paradise riflebird), eggs that looked like they were covered with sand (a scarlet tanager), eggs that shone (Atlantic salmon) & eggs that looked to be entwined in vines (a common murre). Then . . . fossilized eggs and tubular eggs and eggs that are perfectly round (Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle).

After sharing the book together, students completed a modified sheet from Adrienne Gear‘s Reading Power Non-Fiction book: connecting new learning to what they already knew (New-Knew Connections)

This is Catriona‘s completed sheet:


Carmen shared what she already knew.


Markus shared his new learning:


What I love about this activity is that sharing on the Knew/New sheet allows students to honour prior knowledge, acknowledge new knowledge and start from anywhere. There are no right answers or essential facts – just a sharing of a knowledge base being extended. We spent over an hour with this book and doing our writing and everyone was very engaged. Later, I saw students reading the sheets posted up on the bulletin board and talking about what other students had chosen to highlight. An exciting afternoon learning about how unique, beautiful and fascinating eggs can be!

A wall of learning shared!

A wall of learning shared!

Fold it!

Science this week? We learned that materials are stronger when folded or twisted!

We were asked to make a bridge using paper balanced on two cups. Only a few blocks and our bridge began to sag.


As scientists, we first listed our materials and checked them off as we collected them.

Getting Organized

Then we folded the same paper like a fan and tried balancing cubes again.

What a difference a few folds make!

What a difference a few folds make!

Some of us were determined to balance 100 cubes? No way?! Well, Raymond had the record at 87!

The careful scientist at work

The careful scientist at work

So what did we conclude? We figured that the folds made little triangles (like you see in corrugated paper) and that triangles are the strongest shape. We learned this last week (see here)!

Strength of triangles!

Marshmallows, tooth picks and a challenge! Make a cube. How many blocks can you balance on a single card?

Step one: Make the cube


Step two: Start balancing


Step three: Detect a problem? Yes, definite leaning!


Step four: Get four more toothpicks and . . .


Step five: Give credit to the triangle! It is the strongest structure!


This fun activity and more can be found in this book: Build it! Structures, Systems and You written by Adrienne Mason and illustrated by Claudia Davila.