Friday, October 16, 2009

REVIEW: The Frog Scientist

Turner, P.S.  (2009).  The Frog Scientist.  Boston:  Houghton Mifflin Books for Children.


58 pages

PLOT SUMMARY:  This information picturebook is structured as a chapter book and describes the research of Dr. Tyrone Hayes and his team (that for the first chapter includes his young middle grade son) as they research frogs as well as the developmental process and environmental dangers to frogs.

Each page spread averages three photos, both of the researchers and of the frogs being studied.  The narrative includes a lot of fascinating facts about frogs and maintains a human touch by sharing information about scientists and their studies.

All of the photos included in The Frog Scientist are a great strength of the book.  Those photos that include people, have an amazing amount of multicultural representation.  (This is unusual for science information books, which usually only include a few awkward looking white people.  But what makes this case so awesome, is that it's Tyrone's REAL team that includes students from such a wide variety of ethnic and academic backgrounds--and the text willingly admits the both Tyrone and one of his students had, at times, struggled academically, but still worked hard to achieve their goals.  Very encouraging for some reluctant readers and future scientists!).

I also found it interesting that Turner's writing addressed all of the people by their first name, including the doctors, which makes them seem more relatable and gives young readers a sense that they too, can be super frog scientists.  (This too is compounded by the fact that the team is doing their research in near by Wyoming, reminding readers that research can be done close to home)

As a small warning, there are a few photos of dead frogs, one of which is being autopsied.  While such sights may be common for young adults, some middle grade readers may feel queasy at the photos.

In other more disturbing news, I keep typing "frongs" when I mean to type "frogs."  Why, fingers, oh, why do you do this?


Aside from frogs, a teacher could also lead students in discussion of scientific research, the influence of pesticides and pollutants on the environment, endangerment and extinction of a species and the Amphibian Ark project.  Along with considering the environmental dangers to frogs, The Frog Scientist shares information and photos on different types of frogs and the standard development and grown process (as well as mutations from that process).

Since the information includes a biographical sketch of Hayes's childhood, a teacher can also touch on topics like segregation in the South, not giving up and could be used to encourage students to consider getting advanced degrees.  And depending on the group of students--whether they're already super science fans or just checking the story out,  a teacher can choose which chapters to begin sharing with students and in what order.  Some chapters are lighter on the science terms and frog factoids than others.

After reading this book and researching frogs some more, students could collect tadpoles and raise their own frogs.  Or they could do their own research project in response--some activity that involves comparing a control group to one that was influenced by some factor.


"The sun is just peeking over golden Wyoming hills as Dr. Tyrone Hayes wakes his team.  Jasmin Reyes sleeps wrapped in green mosquito netting.  "Jasmin, the giant pickle," Tyrone teases" (p. 1).

"Pesticides are not meant to harm frogs.  However, when people put pesticides into the environment, the effects can be very hard to control.  Tyrone wants to know how pesticides in the environment affect growing frogs" (p. 3).

"Fewer frogs?  Some people might shrug.  Yet the frogs may be telling us something important about the health of our environment.
"Even if you don't care about frogs, you have to wonder how this affects us, too," says Tyrone.  "What's in our water?" (p. 6).

"Tyrone encourages his students to discover what they love and work hard at it.  And he has never forgotten his difficult times at Harvard.  Everyone in Tyrone's lab gets to do research and go on field trips.  Everyone also shares the not-so-fun jobs like washing test tubes" (p. 35).


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