Literature Connections to
Secret Formulas

Teacher's Guides > Secret Formulas

In selecting literature to accompany Secret Formulas, we sought books and stories that make meaningful connections to the underlying concepts embedded in the activities. For example, we sought books that provide insight into ingredients and mixtures, what happens when ingredients change, and the attributes of ingredients. The idea of cause and effect as a precursor to controlled experimentation is reflected in several books as are related ideas about inventiveness.

You may also want to refer to the GEMS literature connections handbook, Once Upon A GEMS Guide: Connecting Young People’s Literature to Great Explorations in Math and Science, which lists books according to science themes and mathematics strands, as well as by GEMS guide. We welcome your suggestions for other books to connect to Secret Formulas.

Arthur’s Tooth
Bread and Jam for Frances
Brrr!
Chameleon Was A Spy
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Doctor De Soto
Einstein Anderson Science Sleuth
Freckle Juice
Frog and Toad Are Friends
Gorky Rises
Ice Cream Soup
Indian in the Cupboard
June 29, 1999
Look! Snow!
Samuel Todd’s Book of Great Inventions
The Snowy Day
Stone Soup
The Toothpaste Millionaire
Two Bad Ants
Ups and Downs with Oink and Pearl
Vegetable Soup
Water’s Way

Arthur’s Tooth
by Marc Brown
Little, Brown & Co., Boston. 1985
Atlantic Monthly Press, Boston. 1985
Grades: K–3
Arthur, the only one in his class who still has all his baby teeth, waits impatiently for his loose tooth to fall out. The illustrations, especially those of a dentist’s office, emphasize healthy eating and snacking as well as proper dental health. Ties in to the toothpaste activities of the guide.

Bread and Jam for Frances
by Russell Hoban; illustrated by Lillian Hoban
Harper & Row, New York. 1964
Grades: Preschool–3
Frances sings "Jam on biscuits, jam on toast, jam is the thing that I like most" about her favorite food. She eats it to the exclusion of everything else for all three meals and snacks. However, after six servings in two days she has had enough. She finally realizes that too much of a good thing isn’t good. Students may also discover this in Session 3 if they add too much sugar to water when matching the sweetness of cola water.

Brrr!
by James Stevenson
Greenwillow Books, New York. 1991
Grades: K–4
When his grandchildren complain about the cold weather, Grandpa recalls a cold winter from his childhood. Through the story Grandpa tells, this book presents a nice discussion of snow, ice, and wind—a few of the attributes of cold winter weather. This book is particularly useful as a read-aloud while the class is waiting for their bags of water to freeze in Session 8. As a bonus, the book ends with everyone eating and enjoying ice cream!

Chameleon Was A Spy
by Diane Redfield Massie
HarperCollins, New York. 1979
Grades: 2–6
Chameleon is extremely good at camouflage and wants to be a spy. He is hired by the Pleasant Pickle Company to retrieve their secret formula which was stolen by a pickle scientist from the Perfect Pickle Company. In his role as a spy, Chameleon runs into quite a bit of trouble, but thanks to an observant girl and his clever color changing he is eventually successful in returning the secret formula. In a very playful way, this book emphasizes the need for recording a recipe and the importance of secrecy in competitive businesses like cola manufacturing.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
by Roald Dahl; illustrated by Joseph Schindelman
Alfred A. Knopf, New York. 1964
Penguin Books, New York. 1988
Grades: 4–6
This well-known, well-loved book connects particularly well to Secret Formulas. It is noted that Mr. Bucket, Charlie’s father, works in a toothpaste factory, screwing caps on the tubes. More importantly, Willie Wonka has many marvelous concoctions—some already a success, some in the developmental stages—all products of a creative and inventive mind. It is said that he is so clever that "…he’s invented a way of making chocolate ice cream so that it stays cold for hours and hours without being in the icebox." Mr. Wonka no longer has ordinary factory workers; he asked them all to leave for fear of spies who might try to steal his secret recipes. The book works best as a read-aloud—appropriate sections of it could even be read during the waiting period in Session 8 since the book relates well to the entire guide.

Doctor De Soto
by William Steig
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York. 1982
Grades: K–3
Doctor De Soto, a dentist mouse, does very good work on both small and large animals—except those with a taste for mice. When a fox comes in with a horrid toothache, the kind-hearted doctor and his wife first fix the tooth then develop a secret formula in order to stay alive! This book emphasizes well the importance of our teeth and their maintained good health through dental care plus the ingenuity of the De Sotos in devising a secret formula to outfox the fox. Because the doctor’s secret formula glues the fox’s mouth shut, the book connects to the paste as well as to the toothpaste activities in Secret Formulas. Newbery Honor Book. Readers may also be interested in the sequel, Doctor De Soto Goes To Africa, in which the kind doctor and his wife repair an elephant’s tooth.

Einstein Anderson Science Sleuth
by Seymour Simon; illustrated by Fred Winkowski
Viking Press, New York. 1980
Penguin Books, New York. 1986
Grades: 3–7
This is a book of scientific riddles which Einstein Anderson solves after the reader is first challenged to do so. In the "Universal Solvent" chapter, Einstein Anderson’s friend Stanley tries to convince him that the cherry soda-looking liquid he has invented will dissolve anything. Anderson, however, uses his scientific knowledge to dispute this claim. While this is the only chapter that directly connects to Secret Formulas, this book demonstrates real-life uses for scientific principles and will appeal to older students. It is recommended as a read aloud for grades 1 to 3 and as an independent reader for third graders.

Freckle Juice
by Judy Blume; illustrated by Sonia O. Lisker
Dell Publishing, New York. 1971
Grades: 3–4
Andrew thinks that if he had as many freckles as a classmate, his mother would never know if the back of his neck was dirty. Though it costs five weeks of allowance, he buys Sharon’s secret recipe for freckles (the recipe is given in the book). When Andrew mixes all the ingredients in a glass, he adds ice because "all drinks tasted better cold." Also, he starts with just one glassful. He’ll drink another if he wants more freckles, but doesn’t want to overdo it the first time. The attributes of some of the freckle juice ingredients are briefly mentioned and cause and effect is an overall theme of the book. This is a good early chapter book, especially appropriate for third graders and could be read aloud to students in lower grade levels.

Frog and Toad Are Friends
by Arnold Lobel
Harper & Row, New York. 1970
Grades: K–2
This book contains five tales recounting the adventures of two best friends—Frog and Toad. In the story "A Lost Button," Toad loses a button from his jacket. In trying to find it, he and Frog discuss the attributes of the lost button. This story ties in well to the entire guide’s focus on attributes. Caldecott Honor Book.

Gorky Rises
by William Steig
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, New York. 1980
Grades: 2–5
When Gorky’s parents leave the house, he sets up a laboratory at the kitchen sink and mixes up a concoction with a few secret ingredients—his mother’s perfume and his father’s cognac! The liquid proves to have magical properties which allow him to float high above the ground. In addition to the "mixing ingredients" aspect of this book, cause and effect also play a role in the story. Because of its connection to the whole guide, this is an appropriate book to read during the waiting period in Session 8. Your class could discuss the fact that Gorky doesn’t carefully measure or record his ingredients and therefore probably can’t recreate his formula. Although it is a picture book, the content makes it usable for older students.

Ice Cream Soup
by Frank Modell
Greenwillow Books, New York. 1988
Grades: Preschool–3
Two friends, Martin and Marvin, plan to give themselves a birthday party. Making the invitations and decorations goes well, but making the cake and ice cream proves difficult. After doing the ice cream activities in Sessions 8 and 9, students will understand what Martin and Marvin neglected to do when making their ice cream.

Indian in the Cupboard
by Lynne Reid Banks
Avon, New York. 1982
Grades: 3–7
In this well known story, nine-year-old Omri receives a plastic Indian, a cupboard, and its key for his birthday. He becomes involved in an adventure when the Indian comes to life and befriends him. It is the early chapters of the book, where Omri figures out how the cupboard works, that connect best with Secret Formulas. After noticing that the plastic Indian came to life after having been in the cupboard, Omri must experiment to find the correct sequence of events which bring the Indian to life—a great example of cause and effect. A drawback of the book is its stereotypical portrayal of Indians.

June 29, 1999
by David Wiesner
Clarion Books/Houghton Mifflin, New York. 1992
Grades: 1–6
The science project of Holly Evans takes an extraordinary turn—or does it? This highly imaginative and humorous book has a central experimental component, and conveys the sense of unexpected results. Holly is a careful and wise scientist—when she realizes that her experiment has failed, she is more curious than disappointed and she asks questions. The need to record data from an experiment (as students must keep track of ingredients put in their secret formulas) is a pretty strong message in the book. Since Holly keeps records on the vegetables she floats into the ionosphere, she is able to figure out that the falling veggies are not hers. In one illustration, there is a clipboard and map in the background on which Holly is keeping track of the vegetables that have fallen and where. Also, look carefully at the illustration where Holly is presenting her experiment to her class. Near her poster you can see a jar of Secret Plant Food and several jars of ingredients. Because of its emphasis on evidence versus inference as well as cause and effect, this book ties in well with the entire Secret Formulas guide.

Look! Snow!
by Kathryn O. Galbraith; illustrated by Nina Montezinos
Macmillan Publishing, New York. 1992
Grades: Preschool–2
This nearly wordless picture book conveys the joy and excitement of the season’s first snowfall—feelings shared by school children, their teacher, and their bus driver. While other books illustrate the trouble snow can cause, the physical reasons snow occurs, or the things one can do in snow, this book simply celebrates snow. Most appropriate for young readers, it is recommended for the strong feelings it conveys so well.

Samuel Todd’s Book of Great Inventions
by E. L. Konigsburg
Atheneum, New York. 1991
Grades: Preschool–2
Samuel Todd points out the many useful inventions that improve every day of our lives. The inventions are common items such as velcro, backpacks, thermos bottles, and stepstools. This is a picture book and may not be appropriate for the upper grade levels of Secret Formulas. The best quality of the book is that it reminds us that even everyday items—like mirrors—did not exist at one time.

The Snowy Day
by Ezra Jack Keats
Viking Press, New York. 1962
Grades: Preschool–2
This is the classic story about the adventures of a young boy on a snowy day. He plays in the snow in many different ways. At the end of the day, Peter learns something important about snow. The book ties in with the water freezing activities of Session 8. Caldecott Award Book.

Stone Soup
by Marsha Brown
Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York. 1947
Grades: K–3
Three hungry soldiers come marching into a French village in search of a bit of food. Not until the soldiers begin to make a pot of stone soup do the peasants of the village begin to share their food. Each family contributes a bit of vegetable, meat, grain, milk, or spice to make a soup that the whole village sits down to eat. A negative aspect of the book is the way the peasants hide their food from the approaching soldiers and the way the soldiers trick the peasants into sharing. But in the end all benefit from the situation with a good meal, and the peasants learn a valuable lesson. The book could lead to a discussion about the contribution each separate ingredient makes to a whole product.

The Toothpaste Millionaire
by Jean Merrill; illustrated by Jan Palmer
Houghton Mifflin, Boston. 1972
Grades: 2–8
In Secret Formulas students develop and manufacture toothpaste. This book talks about the next step—selling and marketing it. Incensed by the price of a tube of toothpaste, twelve-year-old Rufus tries making his own from bicarbonate of soda with peppermint or vanilla flavoring. Rufus doesn’t start out to become a millionaire—just to make inexpensive toothpaste. Assisted by his friend Kate and his math class (which becomes known as Toothpaste 1), his company grows from a laundry room operation to a corporation with stocks and bank loans. Unfortunately the book doesn’t speak extensively on the development of the toothpaste recipe or on cause and effect. Most of the book is about how the business grows and about marketing, packaging, and shipping the toothpaste. Throughout the book are many opportunities to use math thus making it ideal to illustrate the need for, and use of, mathematics in the context of real-world problem solving. The math problems presented in the book are higher than the third grade level, but could be brought down to the appropriate grade level. This book is most useful as a read-aloud for first through third graders.

Two Bad Ants
by Chris Van Allsburg
Houghton Mifflin, Boston. 1988
Grades: Preschool–4
When an ant colony following their scout finds the source of the beautiful sparkling crystals (sugar) their queen desires, two adventurous ants separate themselves from the colony in order to remain in the sugar bowl. Unfortunately their decision to stay in the strange environment proves perilous. Finally they decide to return to the safety of their colony. As the two bad ants found out, an abundance of sugar is not necessarily a good thing. Students may find the same is true if they add too much sugar to their water when matching the sweetness of cola water in Session 3.

Ups and Downs with Oink and Pearl
by Kay Chorao
Harper & Row, New York. 1986
Grades: K–3
This book contains two stories starring Oink and Pearl, brother and sister piglets. In the first story "Super-Fizz Soda," Oink makes a super-fizz ice-cream soda as a birthday gift for Pearl. Lacking the key ingredient soda water, Oink substitutes baking soda and lemon juice. These give the same bubbly effect, but drastically alter the taste and texture of the drink. In the end, Oink and Pearl have a good laugh over the silliness of the soda. This is an easy-reader book that students could read to themselves.

Vegetable Soup
by Jeanne Modesitt; illustrated by Robin Spowart
Macmillan, New York. 1988
Grades: Preschool–2

A husband and wife rabbit are about to have their first lunch in their new home, but their carrot sack is empty. They decide to borrow some carrots from their animal neighbors but can find none. Each neighbor does however have a different vegetable to offer and the rabbits, still hoping for carrots, unwillingly accept their offerings. Realizing they won’t be able to have carrots for their lunch, they decide to combine all the other vegetables they have into a soup. This book introduces the idea that individual ingredients can combine to form a better whole and can be used as a way to introduce ingredients in Session 1.

Water’s Way
by Lisa Westberg Peters; illustrated by Ted Rand
Arcade Publishing, New York. 1991
Grades: K–3
"Water has a way of changing" inside and outside Tony’s house, from clouds to steam to fog and other forms. Innovative illustrations show the changes in the weather outside while highlighting water changes inside the house. This book clearly describes the phase changes of water. An ideal book to read aloud while students are waiting for their bags of water to freeze in Session 8.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

top

Lawrence Hall of Science    © 2018 UC Regents. All rights reserved.    Contact GEMS    Updated February 06, 2015