Teaching Physical Science with Children’s Literature: Hot As An Ice Cube


Ever wonder how temperature can turn hot chocolate into chocolate milk and then again into a chocolate Popsicle?   How about why a squishy beach ball can expand to it’s full size on a hot, summer day?  Philip Balestrino helps explain these basic concepts in a very simple and fun way in the text Hot as an Ice Cube. Although this text was written in 1971, it still succeeds in introducing a rudimentary understanding of how heat affects temperature as well as how temperature affects molecules.  The book follows a young boy and his pet dog to different locations, such as the boy’s kitchen and the beach, and shows how “everything in the world has heat in it.” The boy uses simple explanations that kids can easily relate to.  For instance, when explaining what has heat he says:

 “The coffee my brother drinks for breakfast has a lot of heat in it.  Sometimes it is hot enough to burn    you.  My sister’s bottle of milk has heat in it too.  It is warm, but not as hot as my big brother’s coffee.  There is the same amount of milk in my glass and in the baby’s bottle, but her milk has more heat in it.”

After explaining what heat is, the little boy explains what happens when you heat something and why the temperature increases.  The book then goes into an explanation about molecules.  He uses examples that kids would find interesting, such as “there are more molecules in one grain of sand than there are grains of sand on the whole beach” and “the molecules of a sizzling hot dog move faster than they do when the hot dog has just come from the freezer.” The language is very simple and easy for students to read on their own.  In addition, Balestrino offers a few experiments that students can replicate to gain a better understanding of heat.  One of which is dropping some ice cubes into a glass of  warm lemonade and seeing what happens.  The book also shows how the properties of temperature can affect the world around us by explaining that sidewalks have spaces between the squares so that the sidewalks don’t crack when they expand in the heat.

Curriculum Connections 
This book, although very simple, provides an easy way to introduce ideas of heat, temperature, and molecules to young students.  Although not extremely scientific, it offers basic understandings of these three concepts and applies them to the world around us.  In Virginia, this text would be a great introduction to Science Standards of Learning  about processes involved with changes in matter from one state to another (2.3) and concepts about molecules and the effect of heat on the states of matter (5.4).

Additional Resources

  • Changing state is a fun, interactive website kids can use to understand temperature.
  • Here’s a lesson plan that includes experiments students can do or observe to see how temperature affects movement of molecules!

Book: Hot as an Ice Cube
Author: Philip Balestrino
Tomie dePaola
Publisher: HarperCollins Children’s 
Publication Date:
33 pages
ISBN: 069040415

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