Nominees for the 2016 AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize for Excellence in Science Books
The AAAS/Subaru Science Books & Films Prize for Excellence in Science Books is one of my favourite science book prizes. Aimed at different childhood audiences, I have always been impressed with the sheer range of topics and high quality of the books – combined with there being SO MANY to feature on this blog. Again the nominees for 2016 have not left me wanting and I will delight in featuring them over the coming weeks.
In its 9th year, the winners of the 2016 AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prizes will be announced in early January of 2016 and honored at an awards reception on February 13th as part of the 182nd AAAS Annual Meeting in Washington, DC.
Click here for more information.
Nominees – Children’s Science Picture Book Category
A Chicken Followed Me Home by Robin Page
Why did the chicken cross the road? To follow you home! Learn all about a not-so-basic bird in this delightful nonfiction picture book. What’s that? A chicken followed you home? Now what do you do? Celebrated author-illustrator Robin Page leads a step-by-step, question-and-answer-style journey through the world of chickens. Along the way you’ll explore different breeds, discover different types of coops, and learn everything there is to know about chicken reproduction and hatching. Gorgeous, playful, and filled with facts, this engaging nonfiction picture book shines new light on a very familiar fowl!
Egg: Nature’s Perfect Package by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page
Hatching a plan for survival isn’t always easy in the wild. And how animals lay, protect, and even use each other’s eggs as a food source help reveal the life cycle of the natural world. Eggs come in all shapes and sizes. The ostrich’s is the largest, but some are so small, you need a microscope to spot them. Animals hide them and disguise them in smart and surprising ways, too. Some abandon their eggs, while others protect them fiercely and carry them wherever they go. There are as many kinds of eggs as there are animals that depend on them, because in the animal kingdom, the fight for survival begins with the simple, but extraordinary, egg.
High Tide for Horseshoe Crabs by Lisa Kahn Schnell and Illustrated by Alan Marks
Dual-layered text introduces the life cycle of the horseshoe crab, with a focus on the annual mass-spawning event at Delaware Bay.
Tree of Wonder by Kate Messner and Illustrated by Simona Mulazzani
Deep in the forest, in the warm-wet green, 1 almendro tree grows, stretching its branches toward the sun. Who makes their homes here? 2 great green macaws, 4 keel-billed toucans, 8 howler monkeys, 16 fruit bats, 32 fer-de-lance vipers, 64 agoutis, 128 blue morpho butterflies, 256 poison dart frogs, 512 rusty wandering spiders, 1,024 leafcutter ants. Count each and every one as life multiplies again and again in this lush and fascinating book about the rainforest.
When Whales Cross the Sea: The Gray Whale Migration by Sharon Katz Cooper and Illustrated by Tom Leonard
Swim alongside one particular gray whale as she makes the longest migration journey of any mammal on Earth. A heart-warming story and realistic illustrations captivate and educate.
Nominees – Middle Grades Science Books
Migration Nation: Animals on the Go from Coast to Coast by Joanne O’Sullivan
From whales to manatees, pronghorn antelopes to monarch butterflies, travel along with North American animals as they make the trip of a lifetime. Follow the paths of nine very different types of animals, exploring how and why they take their road trips and the challenges they face along the way. Snakes slither along Southern Ilinois’s Snake Road. Gray Whales swim down the California coast to Baja in Mexico and sandhill cranes wing their way through the midwest. Along the way, these animals on-the-go mate, molt and munch in really unique ways. Migrating polar bears cross through the center of Churchill, Manitoba and monarch butterflies may even cross through your back yard. Kids learn how and when to catch these commuting critters along their paths. Fabulous photos from the National Wildlife Foundation showcase these amazing animals. Bonus: fun facts about each creature and their habitats.
The Octopus Scientists by Sy Montgomery and Illustrated by Keith Ellenbogen
With three hearts and blue blood, its gelatinous body unconstrained by jointed limbs or gravity, the octopus seems to be an alien, an inhabitant of another world. It’s baggy, boneless body sprouts eight arms covered with thousands of suckers—suckers that can taste as well as feel. The octopus also has the powers of a superhero: it can shape-shift, change color, squirt ink, pour itself through the tiniest of openings, or jet away through the sea faster than a swimmer can follow. But most intriguing of all, octopuses—classed as mollusks, like clams—are remarkably intelligent with quirky personalities. This book, an inquiry into the mind of an intelligent invertebrate, is also a foray into our own unexplored planet. These thinking, feeling creatures can help readers experience and understand our world (and perhaps even life itself) in a new way.
Remaking the John: The Invention and Reinvention of the Toilet by Francesca Davis DiPiazza
Did you know that about 40 percent of the world’s population lives without toilets? That’s more than two billion people, most of whom live in rural areas or crowded urban slums. And according to the World Health Organization, diseases spread by the lack of basic sanitation kill more people every year than all forms of violence, including war. In particular, diarrheal diseases kill more than two million people each year, most of them children. Everyone needs to go to the bathroom, and from the citizens of the world’s earliest human settlements to astronauts living on the International Space Station, the challenge has been the same: how to safely and effectively dispose of human body wastes. Toilet history includes everything from the hunt for the causes of infectious disease to twenty-first-century marvels of engineering. In Remaking the John, you’ll explore the many ways people across the globe and through the ages have invented—and reinvented—the toilet. You will learn about everything from ancient Roman sewers to the world’s first flush toilets. You’ll also find out about the twenty-first-century Reinvent the Toilet Challenge—an engineering contest designed to spur creation of an ecologically friendly, water-saving, inexpensive, and sanitary toilet. And while you’re at it, mark World Toilet Day on your calendar. Observed every November 19, this international day of action works to raise awareness about the modern world’s many sanitation challenges.
Trash Talk: Moving toward a Zero-Waste World by Michelle Mulder
Humans have always generated garbage, whether it’s a chewed-on bone or a broken cell phone. Our landfills are overflowing, but with some creative thinking, stuff we once threw away can become a collection of valuable resources just waiting to be harvested. Trash Talk digs deep into the history of garbage, from Minoan trash pits to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and uncovers some of the many innovative ways people all over the world are dealing with waste.
Untamed: The Wild Life of Jane Goodall by Anita Silvey
Jane Goodall, one of the most recognized scientists in the Western world, became internationally famous because of her ability to observe and connect with another species. A girl of humble beginnings and training, she made scientific breakthroughs thought impossible by more experienced field observers when she was only in her twenties. Then these animals shaped Jane’s life. She began tirelessly fighting to protect the environment so that chimpanzees and other animals will continue have a place and a future on our planet. Jane Goodall continues to leave the modern world with an extraordinary legacy and has changed the scientific community forever.
Nominees – Hands on Science Books
Birdology: 30 Activities and Observations for Exploring the World of Birds by Monica Russo and Photographs by Kevin Byron
An engaging book that encourages young nature enthusiasts to explore the world of birds. This generously illustrated, full-color book teaches kids that birds can be seen almost anywhere: in city parks and streets, zoos, farms, and backyards. Using “Try This,” “Look For,” and “Listen For” prompts, Birdology promotes independent observation and analysis, writing and drawing skills, and nature literacy. Kids observe the diversity of shapes, colors, patterns, and behavior of birds; listen for their songs and the clap of wings; make a juice-box feeder; plant flowers that attract hummingbirds; start a birding journal and sketchbook; and much more. Other topics that are presented in clear, kid-friendly prose include migration, nesting, food, territories, and conservation and preservation. Additional resources, such as a glossary, bird orders and scientific names, bird and wildlife organizations, and “Teacher Topics” to initiate classroom discussion and investigation, are also included.
Experiment with What a Plant Needs to Grow by Nadia Higgins
Sunlight, air, water, and minerals help keep plants alive. But do you know how much water is needed for a seed to sprout? Or what a plant will do to find the light it needs? Let’s experiment to find out! Simple step-by-step instructions help readers explore key science concepts.
Inventions That Could Have Changed the World . . . But Didn’t! by Joe Rhatigan and Illustrated by Anthony Owsley
The fascinating stories of inventions that could have changed the world, should have made a difference, or would have astounded us all, but for one reason or another, didn’t. Some inventions were too wacky, weird, or unwieldy. Other simply didn’t work. And still others may be the next big thing . . . some day. Learn about the inventors, what they thought they would accomplish, and what–if anything–they did accomplish. Zany illustrations of the contraptions in use throughout.
A Kid’s Guide to Keeping Chickens by Melissa Caughey
Chickens make wonderful pets, and Melissa Caughey (author of the award-winning blog Tilly’s Nest) provides all the information kids need to raise healthy chickens and have tons of fun doing it! Caughey shares her advice in an engaging way so that kids understand what it means to keep chickens and what kind of housing, food, equipment, and care the chickens will need to thrive. She also suggests lots of creative activities sure to spark enthusiasm and imagination, such as speaking chicken, creating a veggie piñata for the flock, and making a chicken fort in the backyard. She even offers ten egg-centric recipes that kids will love to make and eat, including egg drop soup and Mexican egg pizza. Includes a colorful pull-out poster!
Kirby’s Journal: Backyard Butterfly Magic, by Charlotte Caldwell
Lessons about nature and conservation through the eyes of a young adventurer. On an eventful summer spent in Charleston, South Carolina, eleven-year-old Kirby, Grandma, and Grandpa plant a butterfly garden, and Kirby documents the wondrous adventures in learning that follow. Their observations, excitement, and curiosity are vividly captured through Kirby’s journal and newly acquired hobby of photography as together the three discover an abundance of life just outside their own backdoor. Including more than one hundred color photographs and a helpful glossary, Kirby’s Journalinspires children of all ages to go outdoors, to watch and listen inquisitively, and to share in the magic of nature. With a playful attitude and a love of learning new things, Kirby discovers a whole new world of caterpillars, butterflies, spiders, snakes, squirrels, and more—as well as the importance of identification, classification, and conservation in learning about flora, fauna, and their natural habitats.
Nominees – Young Adult Science Books
How an American teenager became the youngest person ever to build a working nuclear fusion reactor. By the age of nine, Taylor Wilson had mastered the science of rocket propulsion. At eleven, his grandmother’s cancer diagnosis drove him to investigate new ways to produce medical isotopes. And by fourteen, Wilson had built a 500-million-degree reactor and become the youngest person in history to achieve nuclear fusion. How could someone so young achieve so much, and what can Wilson’s story teach parents and teachers about how to support high-achieving kids? In The Boy Who Played with Fusion, science journalist Tom Clynes narrates Taylor Wilson’s extraordinary journey—from his Arkansas home where his parents fully supported his intellectual passions, to a unique Reno, Nevada, public high school just for academic superstars, to the present, when now nineteen-year-old Wilson is winning international science competitions with devices designed to prevent terrorists from shipping radioactive material into the country. Along the way, Clynes reveals how our education system shortchanges gifted students, and what we can do to fix it.
How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction by Beth Shapiro
Could extinct species, like mammoths and passenger pigeons, be brought back to life? The science says yes. In How to Clone a Mammoth, Beth Shapiro, evolutionary biologist and pioneer in “ancient DNA” research, walks readers through the astonishing and controversial process of de-extinction. From deciding which species should be restored, to sequencing their genomes, to anticipating how revived populations might be overseen in the wild, Shapiro vividly explores the extraordinary cutting-edge science that is being used–today–to resurrect the past. Journeying to far-flung Siberian locales in search of ice age bones and delving into her own research–as well as those of fellow experts such as Svante Pääbo, George Church, and Craig Venter–Shapiro considers de-extinction’s practical benefits and ethical challenges. Would de-extinction change the way we live? Is this really cloning? What are the costs and risks? And what is the ultimate goal? Using DNA collected from remains as a genetic blueprint, scientists aim to engineer extinct traits–traits that evolved by natural selection over thousands of years–into living organisms. But rather than viewing de-extinction as a way to restore one particular species, Shapiro argues that the overarching goal should be the revitalization and stabilization of contemporary ecosystems. For example, elephants with genes modified to express mammoth traits could expand into the Arctic, re-establishing lost productivity to the tundra ecosystem. Looking at the very real and compelling science behind an idea once seen as science fiction, How to Clone a Mammoth demonstrates how de-extinction will redefine conservation’s future.
Another New York Times bestseller from the author of The Good Good Pig, this “fascinating…touching…informative…entertaining” (Daily Beast) book explores the emotional and physical world of the octopus—a surprisingly complex, intelligent, and spirited creature—and the remarkable connections it makes with humans. In pursuit of the wild, solitary, predatory octopus, popular naturalist Sy Montgomery has practiced true immersion journalism. From New England aquarium tanks to the reefs of French Polynesia and the Gulf of Mexico, she has befriended octopuses with strikingly different personalities—gentle Athena, assertive Octavia, curious Kali, and joyful Karma. Each creature shows her cleverness in myriad ways: escaping enclosures like an orangutan; jetting water to bounce balls; and endlessly tricking companions with multiple “sleights of hand” to get food. Scientists have only recently accepted the intelligence of dogs, birds, and chimpanzees but now are watching octopuses solve problems and are trying to decipher the meaning of the animal’s color-changing techniques. With her “joyful passion for these intelligent and fascinating creatures” (Library Journal Editors’ Spring Pick), Montgomery chronicles the growing appreciation of this mollusk as she tells a unique love story. By turns funny, entertaining, touching, and profound, The Soul of an Octopus reveals what octopuses can teach us about the meeting of two very different minds.
We live in a world of seeds. From our morning toast to the cotton in our clothes, they are quite literally the stuff and staff of life, supporting diets, economies, and civilizations around the globe. Just as the search for nutmeg and the humble peppercorn drove the Age of Discovery, so did coffee beans help fuel the Enlightenment, and cottonseed help spark the Industrial Revolution. And from the Fall of Rome to the Arab Spring, the fate of nations continues to hinge on the seeds of a Middle Eastern grass known as wheat. In nature and in culture, seeds are fundamental—objects of beauty, evolutionary wonder, and simple fascination. How many times has a child dropped the winged pip of a maple, marveling as it spirals its way down to the ground, or relished the way a gust of wind(or a stout breath) can send a dandelion’s feathery flotilla skyward? Yet despite their importance, seeds are often seen as a commonplace, their extraordinary natural and human histories overlooked. Thanks to Thor Hanson and this stunning new book, they can be overlooked no more. What makes The Triumph of Seeds remarkable is not just that it is informative, humane, hilarious, and even moving, just as what makes seeds remarkable is not simply their fundamental importance to life. In both cases, it is their sheer vitality and the delight that we can take in their existence—the opportunity to experience, as Hanson puts it, “the simple joy of seeing something beautiful, doing what it is meant to do.” Spanning the globe from the Raccoon Shack—Hanson’s backyard writing hideout-cum-laboratory—to the coffee shops of Seattle, from gardens and flower patches to the spice routes of Kerala, this is a book of knowledge, adventure, and wonder, spun by an award-winning writer with both the charm of a fireside story-teller and the hard-won expertise of a field biologist. A worthy heir to the grand tradition of Aldo Leopold and Bernd Heinrich, The Triumph of Seeds takes us on a fascinating scientific adventure through the wild and beautiful world of seeds. It is essential reading for anyone who loves to see a plant grow.