2015 Finalists for the AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize in the Children’s Science Book Categories

aaas_subaruLast week we featured the 2015 Finalists for the AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize in the Young Adult Category and on Friday the 24th of October, the finalists for the kids categories – Children’s Science Picture Books, Middle Grades Science Book and Hands-On Science Book – were announced. Check out the array of kids books that have made the finals, that I will be featuring over the coming weeks. Check out their website for more information, here.

CHILDREN’S SCIENCE PICTURE BOOKS

Buried Sunlight: How Fossil Fuels Have Changed the Earth, by Molly Bang and Penny Chisholm

Acclaimed Caldecott Artist Molly Bang teams up with award-winning M.I.T. professor Penny Chisholm to present the fascinating, timely story of fossil fuels. What are fossil fuels, and how did they come to exist? This engaging, stunning book explains how coal, oil, and gas are really “buried sunlight,” trapped beneath the surface of our planet for millions and millions of years. Now, in a very short time, we are digging them up and burning them, changing the carbon balance of our planet’s air and water. What does this mean, and what should we do about it? Using simple language and breathtaking paintings, Bang and Chisholm present a clear, concise explanation of the fossil-fuel energy cycle that began with the sun and now runs most of our transportation and energy use in our world. Readers will be mesmerized by this engaging fourth book in the award-winning Sunlight Series by Bang and Chisholm.

Have You Heard the Nesting Bird, by Rita Gray, illustrated by Kenard Park

Woodpecker calls from a tree, “cuk-cuk-cuk.” Starling sings, “whistle-ee-wee.” But have you heard the nesting bird? In this book, we hear all the different bird calls in counterpoint to the pervasive quiet of a mama bird waiting for her eggs to hatch. Fun and informative back matter takes the shape of an interview so that readers learn more right from the bird’s bill. Ken Pak’s lively illustrations, paired with Rita Gray’s words, render a visual and sonorous picture book to be enjoyed by young naturalists.

Parrots Over Puerto Rico, by Susan L. Roth, Cindy Trumbore, illustrated by Susan L. Roth

Above the treetops of Puerto Rico flies a flock of parrots as green as their island home. . . . These are Puerto Rican parrots. They lived on this island for millions of years, and then they nearly vanished from the earth forever. Puerto Rican parrots, once abundant, came perilously close to extinction in the 1960s due to centuries of foreign exploration and occupation, development, and habitat destruction. In this compelling book, Roth and Trumbore recount the efforts of the scientists of the Puerto Rican Parrot Recovery Program to save the parrots and ensure their future. Woven into the parrots’ story is a brief history of Puerto Rico itself, from before the first human settlers to the present day. With striking collage illustrations, a unique format, and engaging storytelling, Parrots Over Puerto Rico invites readers to witness the amazing recovery efforts that have enabled Puerto Rican parrots to fly over their island once again.

Tiny Creatures: The World of Microbes, by Nicola Davies, illus. by Emily Sutton

Find out how the smallest things on the planet do some of the biggest jobs in this intriguing introduction to the world of microbes. All around the world — in the sea, in the soil, in the air, and in your body — there are living things so tiny that millions could fit on an ant’s antenna. They’re busy doing all sorts of things, from giving you a cold and making yogurt to eroding mountains and helping to make the air we breathe. If you could see them with your eye, you’d find that they all look different, and that they’re really good at changing things into something else and at making many more microbes like themselves! From Nicola Davies comes a first exploration for young readers of the world’s tiniest living organisms.

MIDDLE GRADES SCIENCE BOOK

The Case of the Vanishing Honeybees: A Scientific Mystery, by Sandra Markle

Honeybees are a crucial part of our food chain. As they gather nectar from flowers to make sweet honey, these bees also play an important role in pollination, helping some plants produce fruit. But large numbers of honeybees are disappearing every year…and no one knows why. Is a fungus killing them? Could a poor diet be the cause? What about changes to bees’ natural habitat? In this real-life science mystery, scientists and beekeepers are working to answer these questions…and save the world’s honeybees before it’s too late.

Eyes Wide Open: Going Behind the Environmental Headlines, by Paul Fleischman

We’re living in an Ah-Ha moment. Take 250 years of human ingenuity. Add abundant fossil fuels. The result: a population and lifestyle never before seen. The downsides weren’t visible for centuries, but now they are. Suddenly everything needs rethinking – suburbs, cars, fast food, cheap prices. It’s a changed world. This book explains it. Not with isolated facts, but the principles driving attitudes and events, from vested interests to denial to big-country syndrome. Because money is as important as molecules in the environment, science is joined with politics, history, and psychology to provide the briefing needed to comprehend the 21st century. Extensive back matter, including a glossary, bibliography, and index, as well as numerous references to websites, provides further resources.

Handle With Care: An Unusual Butterfly Journey, By Loree Griffin Burns, Illustrated By Ellen Harasimowicz

“Some farms grow vegetables or grains, and some raise cows, sheep, chickens, or pigs. But have you ever heard of a butterfly farm? How do you raise a butterfly? On a farm in Costa Rica, workers care for these delicate, winged creatures as they change from eggs to caterpillars to pupae. Like any other crop, the butterflies will eventually leave the farm. But where will they go? And just how do you ship a butterfly? Very carefully! To discover how it works, follow these butterflies on a remarkable journey!”

Mission: Mars, by Pascal Lee

Learn about what it takes to send humans to Mars–from spacesuits and rovers to surviving subzero temperatures and raging dust storms. The United States plans to send astronauts to Mars around 2035, and MISSION: MARS shows kids how they could start training to join the first crew to the Red Planet! The author, a leading Mars expert, shows the “Future Mars Explorers” the latest designs for spacesuits and exploration rovers. Readers will also learn how to navigate a spaceship, search for alien life, and get an up-close look at some of the world’s leading space scientists at work. MISSION: MARS is visually-driven and written in exciting kid-friendly language. It acts as both a training manual and a reference book for future Mars explorers!

Plastic, Ahoy! Investigating the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, by Patricia Newman, illustrated by Annie Crawley Minneapolis

Plastic: it’s used to make everything from drink bottles and bags to toys and toothbrushes. But what happens when it ends up where it doesn’t belong—like in the Pacific Ocean? How does it affect ocean life? Is it dangerous? And exactly how much is out there? A team of researchers went on a scientific expedition to find out. They explored the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, where millions of pieces of plastic have collected. The plastic has drifted there from rivers, beaches, and ocean traffic all over the world. Most of it has broken down into tiny pieces the size of confetti. For nearly three weeks at sea, researchers gathered bits of plastic and ocean organisms. These samples helped them learn more about the effects of plastic in the ocean. Follow along on the expedition to find out how scientists studied the Garbage Patch—and what alarming discoveries they made.

HANDS-ON SCIENCE BOOK

Junk Drawer Physics: 50 Awesome Experiments that Don’t Cost a Thing, by Bobby Mercer

A children’s instructional book on how to use readily available materials to turn the house into a science lab. Physics teacher Bobby Mercer provides readers with more than 50 great hands-on experiments that can be performed for just pennies, or less. Turn a plastic cup into a pinhole camera using waxed paper, a rubber band, and a thumbtack. Build a swinging wave machine using a series of washers suspended on strings from a yardstick. Or construct your own planetarium from an empty potato chip canister, construction paper, scissors, and a pin. Each project has a materials list, detailed step-by-step instructions with illustrations, and a brief explanation of the scientific principle being demonstrated. Junk Drawer Physics also includes sidebars of fascinating physics facts, such as did you know the Eiffel Tower is six inches taller in summer than in winter because its steel structure expands in the heat? Educators and parents will find this title a handy resource to teach children about physics topics that include magnetism, electricity, force, motion, light, energy, sound, and more, and have fun at the same time.

Kids Guide to Exploring Nature, by Brooklyn Botanic Educators

This gorgeously illustrated guide will inspire kids to look closely at the world around them! Created by the experts at the renowned Brooklyn Botanic Garden, it teaches children how to observe environments as a naturalist does and leads them on 24 adventures that reveal the complex ecosystems of plants and animals in the woods, at the beach, and in a city park. Detailed, scientifically based drawings help young scientists identify hundreds of North American plants and animals, while dozens of fun projects include keeping a journal, conducting field experiments, and exploring nature with all five senses.

Plant a Pocket of Prairie, by Phyllis Root. (Illus. by Betsy Bowen)

Author Phyllis Root and illustrator Betsy Bowen last explored the vast, boggy peatlands of northern Minnesota in their book Big Belching Bog. Now, in Plant a Pocket of Prairie, Root and Bowen take young readers on a trip to another of Minnesota’s important ecosystems: the prairie. Once covering almost 40 percent of the United States, native prairie is today one of the most endangered ecosystems in the world. Plant a Pocket of Prairie teaches children how changes in one part of the system affect every other part: when prairie plants are destroyed, the animals who eat those plants and live on or around them are harmed as well. Root shows what happens when we work to restore the prairies, encouraging readers to “plant a pocket of prairie” in their own backyards. By growing native prairie plants, children can help re-create food and habitat for the many birds, butterflies, and other animals that depend on them. “Plant cup plants,” Root suggests. “A thirsty chickadee might come to drink from a tiny leaf pool. Plant goldenrod. A Great Plains toad might flick its tongue at goldenrod soldier beetles.” An easy explanation of the history of the prairie, its endangered status, and how to go about growing prairie plants follows, as well as brief descriptions of all the plants and animals mentioned in the story. With Betsy Bowen’s beautiful, airy illustrations capturing the feel of an open prairie and all its inhabitants, readers of all ages will be inspired to start planting seeds and watching for the many fascinating animals their plants attract. What a marvelous transformation could take place if we all planted a pocket of prairie!

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