Dragons vs. Unicorns (Kate the Chemist Series)

Dragons vs. Unicorns (Kate the Chemist Series)

by Kate Biberdorf
Dragons vs. Unicorns (Kate the Chemist Series)

Dragons vs. Unicorns (Kate the Chemist Series)

by Kate Biberdorf


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Science explosions! Theater! Mystery! Friendship! Fifth grader Kate the Chemist uses STEM knowledge to do incredible things!

Kate the Chemist is a ten-year-old science problem solver. There's no problem Kate can't fix! When her best friend, Birdie, is cast as the lead unicorn in their school's musical Dragons vs. Unicorns, and Kate is chosen to be the assistant director, they agree this is going to be the best musical EVER! Kate is a natural assistant director; like all good scientists, she's smart and organized, but she also comes up with great ideas. But when everything starts going wrong with the musical and Kate realizes someone is sabotaging the show, will her special science sleuthing skills help save the day—and the show?

Help young Kate the Chemist as she solves science problems in her community, starting with the school musical: Dragons vs. Unicorns!

From Kate the Chemist, chemistry professor and science entertainer as seen on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, The Wendy Williams Show, and The Today Show, comes a clever and fun middle grade series that is the perfect introduction to STEM for young readers!

Make Your Own Unicorn Glue! Experiment Inside!

Praise for Kate the Chemist: Dragons vs. Unicorns:

"Proves that science and fun go together like molecules in a polymer."—School Library Journal

"It's a great introduction to the basics of Chemistry that is readily accessible to a variety of ages . . . . The way the everyday chemistry is blended in is done seamlessly, and has [me and my ten-year-old son] noticing how we are all doing a little bit of science everyday." —GeekMom.com

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780593116555
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date: 03/31/2020
Series: Kate the Chemist Series
Pages: 144
Sales rank: 344,109
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.60(d)
Age Range: 8 - 12 Years

About the Author

About The Author
Dr. Kate Biberdorf, also known as Kate the Chemist by her fans, is a science professor at UT-Austin by day and a science super hero by night (well, she does that by day, too). Kate travels the country building a STEM army of kids who love science as much as she does. You can often find her breathing fire or making slime—always in her lab coat and goggles.

Read an Excerpt

Under Pressure

At least that was what I told myself. I stood in the science lab after school in front of a couple dozen fourth and fifth graders. All waiting on me. No pressure.
“Ready, Kate?” asked Ms. Daly, our after-school chemistry club advisor.
“I was born ready!” I pumped my arm in the air like I was in the huddle before a soccer game.
“Egg-cellent,” said Ms. Daly. It was her typical cornball humor. Mostly because of this stinky experiment we did last April that turned raw eggs into bouncy balls. A bunch rolled all over the place, and one got lost in the radiator.
Only there weren’t rotten bouncy eggs involved in my demo.

1 blowtorch (with a steady base so the schoolwouldn’t catch on fire)
1 big mouth (mine —words pretty much launched outof it and thoughts came later)
2 scoops of cornstarch (nothing to do with Ms. Daly’s cornball humor. It had to do with carbon.)
1 straw (reusable, my BFF Birdie made sure of it)
2 legs (to run with if things got too explosive)
1 bucket (to spit out the cornstarch)
2 best friends (1 to hold the fire extinguisher and 1 to cheer me on)
1 glass of water (to rinse out my mouth after the demo)
1 big bowl of water (safety, duh!)
1 fire blanket (Unlike Supergirl, the girl of steel, I’m fully human.)

Ms. Daly secured the blowtorch onto a nearby desk. With its attachable base, it looked like a missile.    
“It’s ready,” she declared. Soon a 2,000-degree flame would spew out of its brass nozzle. Not just anywhere. A foot from my head.
I swallowed hard. Why did I volunteer for this again?
Chairs scraped the floor. Kids leaned forward to see better.
Normally, we got about a dozen for our Friday meetings.
Today, three dozen crammed into the room.
It was the very last meeting before fall break, and everyone had flocked here to see me. I didn’t want to blow it.
Strike that. I NEEDED to blow it—cornstarch, I mean, spitting straight toward the flame to make a gigantic sizzling fireball.
“Is that a real torch?” asked Avery Cooper, a chem-
istry club regular who played midfield on my soccer team. She pointed so enthusiastically that her short blonde braids bobbed. “It looks like a prop from my dads’ theater.”
“Oh, it’s real all right,” I said.
“I’ll vouch for that,” said Ms. Daly. She should know. She’s a retired air force flight engineer. She knocked on the tank with a wrench from her tool belt. The silver wrench was the same color as her cap of short hair. “It’s loaded with fuel,” she said.
“Awesome,” sniffed a nasally fourth grader in an Avengers T-shirt. He made a kaboom sound that was a little too phlegmy.
“It’s going to be a beautiful swirl of color,” said Birdie Bhatt in a hushed voice. Of course Birdie would say that. She’s my best friend and really amazing at drawing, especially unicorns.
“Take a step back,” instructed Ms. Daly, shooing everyone with her arms. “You should be in the second row. Just in case.”
“In case of what?” snapped Phoenix Altman, who locked eyes with Avery.
“It’s only a precaution,” said Ms. Daly. Just like the fire blanket. And the fire extinguisher that Elijah Williams, my other best friend and also my next-door neighbor, was holding.
For a moment, regret zipped inside me like hot gas molecules. Had I really declared in a not-so-quiet voice during recess that I could breathe fire?
Yup. Speak-and-then-think Kate Crawford at your service!
If I had known what was going to happen afterward, would I have breathed fire?
That’s complicated.
Because it wasn’t just the fire breathing demo.
It was all the stuff days later. Because of the demo. Because of me.
But I didn’t know any of that then. I just knew I had to breathe fire like Dr. Caroline, on YouTube. It’s not only because she blows things up and makes the best and weirdest messes. Or because of her hot-pink lab coat and cool shoes. It’s because by listening to her, I realized that chemistry is way more than a bunch of facts in a book. Chemistry is what you eat, it’s how you sleep, it’s why shampoo stings your eyes in the shower. You can taste science, you can smell it. And you can watch it explode. And that was the reason I had to breathe fire.
It was also why weird things started happening to me. You might call them messages. Or formulas that didn’t make sense.
And when something doesn’t make sense, I, Kate Crawford, get very, very curious and just have to figure it out.

Waiting for a Reaction

ELIJAH LIFTED THE FIRE EXTINGUISHER over his short afro, grunting as if it were heavy, which it wasn’t. He could be such a drama king. “I’m on it,” he said. “Just call me the Firefighter.”
Birdie whipped out her phone. Well, not her phone. Her older sister Meela’s. Birdie had dropped hers in the pond by my house. Mostly because she had been a little shocked when I told her I was going to breathe fire after school today.
I wasn’t sure why she was surprised. It’s not like I hadn’t been planning this demo since last spring. Ms. Daly said that if I wrote an essay on combustion (the science word for fire) and showed her I was ready, I could breathe fire when I got to fifth grade. So I had written about my need to understand fire, starting with why toasted marshmallows taste better (the heat from the fire breaks a whole bunch of bonds within the molecules creating yummy marshmallow goo).
Ms. Daly loved it. And now, guess what? It was
October 2, and I had been a fifth grader for thirty days. And don’t say not that anyone was counting. Because I was. I love math.
Ms. Daly handed me a pale blue fire-resistant lab coat. “More safety precautions,” she said firmly.
My hair was already pulled back into a ponytail. And the bowl of water sat on a nearby counter. I rolled up the sleeves of the lab coat. Even though I was tall for ten, the long coat brushed the tips of my cowboy boots. The coat would help keep me safe because it was made from a fabric that was not supposed to melt and would protect me from heat. It was okay that it smelled bad and made me look like I was wearing ugly pajamas that my grandma Dort wouldn’t wear, even if you paid her.
I crossed my fingers and toes that everything would go exactly as I had practiced.

It All Heats Up

I GRABBED THE CUP filled with cornstarch and tossed it back into my mouth.
The saliva was sucked from inside my cheeks. Cornstarch absorbs moisture. It’s the first weird part of breathing fire.
I had practiced nine times. With Ms. Daly in the room, of course. Since the first Friday after school started, we had carefully gone over each and every step of the demo. And I had also practiced spitting the cornstarch with a fake blowtorch at home all summer.
Ms. Daly grabbed the propane torch to double-check its position.
Lots of “whoas” and lots of “she’s not serious” flew through the room.
I wanted to yell, “You bet!” But then I would swallow cornstarch, and that wouldn’t be fun.
Because I could choke. Or maybe get sick.
Ms. Daly clicked the torch to ignite the fire. With a loud hiss, the blowtorch blasted a jet of gas right next to my face.
Holy jeans! This was fire.
Okay, now I was shaking in my special birthday cowboy boots. Still, I had dreamed about this moment for so long.
I snatched the reusable teal straw.
This was the hardest part. I had to blow the cornstarch in my mouth through the straw toward the flame. It was like having a mouth full of peas and a pea shooter. It was harder though, because my mouth felt like cotton.
Most fire blowers don’t use straws. But Ms. Daly had decided a foot-long one would keep my head a safe distance from the blowtorch. Out of the corner of my eye, I spied my mom and little brother, Liam, peeking in from the back window. Everyone knew Liam was my brother because we had the exact same hair color. Light brown with bright gold highlights. Only mine was super long, and his was super short. And everyone recognized my mother. Especially since she just happened to be the principal of Rosalind Franklin Elementary. But I knew she didn’t want to distract me.
It made me feel better seeing her. But also a tiny bit more nervous, too.
“Don’t step past this line.” Ms. Daly pointed to the red duct tape on the floor, which she’d put there so I wouldn’t get too close to the flames.
Lunging forward, I stopped in front of the red line. From my gut—with everything I had—I blew out the cornstarch through the straw. Like after the ref blew a whistle at the start of a soccer game, I was in the zone.
A giant fireball whooshed out of the straw. It was a serious blast. Longer and bigger and brighter than in any practice run.
I heard gasps of disbelief and awe.
The red-hot ball of sizzling fuel punched out like a fist.
Oh no! It was going to incinerate Ms. Daly’s cactus on the windowsill.
Kids screamed, “Fire!”
The cactus’s needles started to singe.
“It’s going to explode!” Avery shouted. She raced to the front of the room, grabbed the bowl of water, and tossed it on the burning cactus. Only it missed the cactus and drenched me instead.
Elijah pulled out the pin on the fire extinguisher and pushed down on the trigger. A spray of foam whooshed out of the tank. Sweeping back and forth, he blasted out the flames. Soon white extinguisher goop covered the cactus.
It was saved! Water dripped down my chin, but I didn’t mind.
Everyone clapped wildly, and I high-fived Elijah, who was grinning from ear to ear. “Thank you,” I wanted to say, but yucky cornstarch clogged my mouth.
Immediately, I spat out the cornstarch into the bucket and took a big swig of water. You definitely didn’t want to eat that stuff.
Trust me, it was chalky not tasty.
“Do it again!” kids shouted. They meant breathe fire, not spew cornstarch.
“But don’t burn any plants,” said Avery.
“Good plan,” said Ms. Daly. “But it’s a prickly pear. Hopefully, it will resprout.”
“It looked like fire spit right out of her mouth,” said someone in the very back.
My heart pounded louder than Elijah’s drums in his garage. I did it. Oh yeah! I gave Elijah another high five. I gave Ms. Daly a high five just as Mom and Liam rushed into the science lab.
“I’m so happy the fire is out,” said Mom in her principal voice.
“That was cool,” exclaimed Liam. I bounced up and down like the cement floor was a trampoline. I was so happy, I could spring to the ceiling.
I happily and drippily bounced through some of Ms. Daly’s explanations. Like how cornstarch was the fuel. And that it worked really well because it had carbon in it. The more carbon, the bigger the fire.
It had definitely been a big wow!
A fourth grader in a basketball shirt raised his hand. “I want to breathe fire.”
And then a fifth grader with a shiny ponytail that spurted out of the top of her head yelled, “Me too!” Her name was Julia Yoon, and she was president of the student council. She liked to be in charge, just like me. “Can we try it now?” she asked. “Please?”
Ms. Daly smiled tightly. “Not right now,” she said. And I could hear Avery whispering, “So unfair.” The basketball shirt kid rolled his eyes.
“Kate worked hard to understand how fire breathing worked,” continued Ms. Daly, “and practiced a lot. With adult supervision. However, I’d love for you all to start thinking about your own science projects. You could enter them in our upcoming science fair.”
Then Ms. Daly went on to explain that what I did was called an exothermic reaction. How things went from high energy to low energy.
I was definitely not feeling low energy. I couldn’t stop grinning.
Oh yeah, chemistry was cool!

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