Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Cantaloupe Thief by Deb Richardson-Moore



The Cantaloupe Thief alternates between the present day and a crime that occurred a decade earlier. As the tenth anniversary of the crime approaches, the local newspaper wants to do a feature on the unsolved case. Branigan Powers gets assigned a story with a possible connection between the crime and the local homeless population.

Branigan has a pastor friend, Liam, whose church has made it their mission to reach out to people that society often considers "invisible."  Branigan believes that one of the homeless in the area may know something about the crime and so she starts nosing around at the local missions interviewing people who have lived in the area since the crime 10 years before.

Her questions stir up a hornet's nest as one after another person mysteriously dies. Soon Branigan's own life is in danger and she's not sure who she can trust.  Can Branigan find the killer before becoming the next victim?  Meanwhile, her personal life is unraveling as her long lost twin suddenly shows up in town with problems of his own. Trying to help him and solve a crime get very complicated--and dangerous.

The Cantaloupe Thief offers an exciting mystery while also highlighting the factors that contribute to homelessness and the struggles that keep people on the streets.  Readers may also enjoy a visit to the author's website.  To read an interview with Deb Richardson-Moore, check out this article from Greenville Online.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of The Cantaloupe Thief from Kregel Publications for the purpose of review. No other compensation was received.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Science X: Smartscope by Ravensburger



Lazy summer days full of exploration in the great outdoors are the perfect setting for Ravensburger's Science X: Smartscope.  Smartscope is an easy-to-use, kid-friendly microscope that you pair with a smart phone or tablet to view and take photos of magnified images. How cool is that?!

When our box arrived, the scope was in need of assembly.  I strongly encourage an adult to help with the initial set-up.  Read through the printed guide and then check out the QR code to view a Ravensburger YouTube demonstration video. What a huge help for assembling!  What a great, visual way for consumers to assemble the product. 

The only difficulty I ran into with assembly was mounting a clear piece that fits into the platform (allowing light to shine up through your specimen).  I was afraid if I pushed too hard, I might snap the disk so I put the disk in the freezer for a few minutes to shrink it a tad. Took it out and it popped right into place.

Included in the kit is a battery operated light source that can be in one of two positions. This allows light to shine from above or below the specimen. Opaque items are better illuminated from above and clear things (like pond or rain water) are better illuminated from below. Specimens can be placed on a plastic slide and covered with the included plastic slide protectors or placed inside the petri dish that comes with the Smartscope.  The platform where the specimen sits can be adjusted up or down and there are two magnification settings. The top of the scope has a cushioned, gripper surface to set a smartphone or tablet. Tablets will require the use of the included cardboard support to extend the platform.


Once your device is on the platform, make sure to line up the camera lens on device with the lens on the Smartscope. Your device serves to not only magnify the image but you can also take pictures of what you've seen.  What a great way for kids to document their scientific discoveries! They can also easily share them with friends and family.  When you are done using the scope, there is a handy little carrying bag.  

My kids and I had a great time finding things inside and outside our house to examine in more detail. Inside we looked at a piece of newspaper, fabric, food items, and Legos. From outside, we took a tiny grasshopper (actual size of our critter was than 1/4 inch about half a centimeter) and placed it in the Petri dish for examination. He was pretty active so we kept having to move around the dish to keep him in sight. [Don’t worry, after looking at him, we promptly released him back outside.] We also examined a twig, leaf and flower petal. It was a fabulous way to learn more about nature.

Butterfly wing

Flower petal

Paper fiber from torn edge of paper

Magnified print


Itty bitty grasshopper

Lego head close-up

Small 2x2 stud brick!

 
Plant leaf (low mag)

Plant leaf (high mag)

The Science X:Smartscope by Ravensburger would make an excellent activity for a learning station in a classroom, as a complement to home science studies for homeschoolers or as a great learning activity for any family!  Here's my 21 year old working on getting a specimen situated just so:

Great for all ages!

I love that Smartscope is a product that is very easy for a child to use but can be enjoyed by people of all ages. My visiting adult son even had fun checking things out with the Smartscope.  I really love that kids can use technology to learn and discover more about the real world around them.

In summary, this awesome product features:
·        Two levels of magnification
·        Lighting from above or below
·        Petri dish to hold live specimens
·        Plastic slide and slide covers
·        Tweezers
·        Pipette for gathering liquid specimens (e.g. pond water)
·        Cardboard extender to hold larger tablet
·        Carrying bag
·        Poster with ideas of things to examine with Smartscope

Grab a Smartscope for a young person in your life and help encourage a love for learning and exploring!

Disclaimer: I was provided a Science X: Smartscope product from Ravensburger for the purpose of review. No other compensation was received.