Thursday, August 18, 2016

SERIES THURSDAY: The Trouble with Ants by Claudia Mills


Science-obsessed fourth grader Nora has ants all figured out—now she just has to try to understand her fellow humans!

The trouble with ants is . . .
. . . people think they’re boring.
. . . they are not cuddly.
. . . who would ever want them for a pet?

Nora Alpers is using her new notebook to record the behavior of ants. Why? Because they are fascinating! Unfortunately, no one agrees with her. Her mom is not happy about them being in the house, and when Nora brings her ant farm to school for show and tell, her classmates are not very impressed. They are more interested in cat videos, basketball practice, or trying to set a Guinness World Record (although Nora wouldn’t mind that).

Mostly they are distracted by the assignment their teacher Coach Joe has given them—to write a persuasive speech and change people’s minds about something. Will Nora convince her friends that ants are as interesting as she thinks they are? Or will everyone still think of ants as nothing but trouble?

With real science facts, a classroom backdrop, an emphasis on friendship, and appealing black-and-white interior illustrations from artist Katie Kath, The Nora Notebooks is perfect for newly independent readers—especially budding scientists like Nora!—and adults who want to encourage awareness of STEM subjects in young readers.


There are several things that I really liked about this book.  First, I appreciated how comfortable Nora is in her own shoes.  Often children who like something that is not particularly popular, like ants, hesitate to share that interest for fear of being rejected.  But it is not her peer´s rejection that disappoints Nora.  She sets out to break a Guinness World Record by being the first 10-year old to publish an article in a peer-reviewed journal.  Nora figures that doing experiments with her ants will be more than enough to write an article.  And with both parents working as scientists, Nora gets plenty of encouragement from home.  Second, I appreciated the fact that Nora hangs out with the girls at school, but has two good friends that are boys. Thirdly, Nora is very logical, it is refreshing to see a girl who is not overly emotional.  I am always amazed with authors who write school stories that teach as well as entertain.  In the course of events, Nora learns about the power of persuasion and I enjoyed reading about the different topics the kids picked.  I am definitely interested in seeing what else Nora gets up to in the future.

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