Nominees for the 2018 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.
The winners of the 2018 AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prizes will be announced in early January of 2016.
Click here for more information.
Nominees – Children’s Science Picture Book Category
Beauty and the Beak: How Science, Technology, and a 3D-Printed Beak Rescued a Bald Eagle, by Deborah Lee Rose and Jane Veltkamp.
Beauty and the Beak is a new, nonfiction picture book about Beauty, the wild bald eagle that made world news when she was illegally shot, rescued, and received a pioneering, 3D-printed prosthetic beak. Beauty and the Beak follows Beauty close up from the moment she uses her baby beak to emerge from her egg, through her hunt when she uses her powerful adult beak to feed herself, to the day her beak is shot off leaving her helpless. This brave and heartlifting story continues through her rescue, into the months of engineering her 3D-printed prosthetic beak and intense hours of her beak surgery, to the moment she takes the first drink of water by herself with her new beak. Beauty and the Beak captures the spirit and courage of this amazing bird and America’s national symbol―whose species was nearly wiped out by human activity, only to be restored and thriving because of environmental conservation and human compassion. This book will resonate with stories of other animals endangered or in need, and with stories of humans, from young children to military veterans, in need of prosthetic limbs, who are being given new lives with state-of-the-art devices. The book includes expanded information about bald eagles as a top predator species, their near extinction in most of the U.S., their successful reintroduction back into the wild, and efforts to conserve this critical raptor species today.
If You Were the Moon, by Laura Purdie Salas (Author), Jamie Kim (Illustrator.)
What would you do if you were the moon? Do you think you would rest quietly in the night sky? Oh, no. The moon does so much more than you might imagine! It spins like a twilight ballerina, plays tug-of-war with the ocean, and lights a pathway for baby sea turtles. Discover the many other roles the moon plays in this whimsical and lyrical picture book.
My Awesome Summer by P. Mantis, by Paul Meisel
“May 17: I was born today! It’s a beautiful, sunny spring day!” This is the diary of P. Mantis, one of 150 brothers and sisters born on a garden bush. P. Mantis is an amazing insect: she can make herself look like a stick to hide from predators, she can swivel her head all the way around, and when she’s grown up, she’ll even be able to fly! Told in dated entries, P. Mantis describes the entirety of her life, sharing the fun and beauty of her world as well its little ups and downs (“I ate one of my brothers. Okay, maybe two.”). With bold, beautiful art and a text both humorous and scientifically accurate, My Awesome Summer by P. Mantis introduces young children to the life cycle of a familiar insect.
Robins! How They Grow Up, by Eileen Christelow
Robins are the most familiar and beloved of all birds, found throughout North America and celebrated as one of the first signs of spring. But there’s a lot about them that most people don’t know! In this visually stunning picture book that features comic-book panels combined with painterly illustrations, Eileen Christelow tells the story of two young robins’ first year, and reveals plenty of little-known facts that are sure to captivate young naturalists. Narrated with humor and filled with kid-pleasing details, this fascinating account of how robins grow up includes an Author’s Note, Glossary, More About Robins, and Sources.
Shark Lady: The True Story of How Eugenie Clark Became the Ocean’s Most Fearless Scientist, by Jess Keating (Author), Marta Alvarez Miguens (Illustrator)
This is the story of a woman who dared to dive, defy, discover, and inspire. This is the story of Shark Lady. Eugenie Clark fell in love with sharks from the first moment she saw them at the aquarium. She couldn’t imagine anything more exciting than studying these graceful creatures. But Eugenie quickly discovered that many people believed sharks to be ugly and scary―and they didn’t think women should be scientists. Determined to prove them wrong, Eugenie devoted her life to learning about sharks. After earning several college degrees and making countless discoveries, Eugenie wrote herself into the history of science, earning the nickname “Shark Lady.” Through her accomplishments, she taught the world that sharks were to be admired rather than feared and that women can do anything they set their minds to. An inspiring story by critically acclaimed zoologist Jess Keating about finding the strength to discover truths that others aren’t daring enough to see. Includes a timeline of Eugenie’s life and many fin-tastic shark facts!
Nominees – Middle Grades Science Books
Animals by the Numbers: A Book of Animal Infographics, by Steve Jenkins
How many species are there across the globe? How much do all of the insects in the world collectively weigh? How far can animals travel? Steve Jenkins answers these questions and many more with numbers, images, innovation, and authoritative science in his latest work of illustrated nonfiction. Jenkins layers his signature cut-paper illustrations alongside computer graphics and a text that is teeming with fresh, unexpected, and accurate zoological information ready for readers to easily devour. The level of scientific research paired with Jenkins’ creativity and accessible infographics is unmatched and sure to wow fans old and new.
Eye of the Storm: NASA, Drones, and the Race to Crack the Hurricane Code, by Amy Cherrix
Ten million Americans live in hurricane danger zones, but how do we know if or when to evacuate? We must predict both when a storm will strike and how strong it will be. A daring NASA earth science mission may have finally found a way to crack this hurricane code. Dr. Scott Braun is the principal investigator for the Hurricane and Severe Storm Sentinel mission (HS3), which flies repurposed military drone over hurricanes so that scientists can gather data. But the stakes are high and time is running out. In the first Scientists in the Field book entirely about weather, meet the NASA team on the cutting edge of meteorological field science.
Inside Your Insides: A Guide to the Microbes That Call You Home, by Claire Eamer
“Wherever you go, tiny hitchhikers tag along for the ride,” this intriguing illustrated nonfiction book begins. “The hitchhikers are actually microbes — tiny living things so small that you need a microscope to see them. And every person carries around trillions and trillions of these critters.” Six of the most common “critters” that live in and on our bodies are introduced here: bacteria, archaea, viruses, fungi, protists and mites. Each one has its own preferred environment, and readers will be startled (and likely a little grossed out!) by the many places they live, including the hair follicles on our faces, the folds of our tongues and the lengths of our guts. Just as surprising, only some of them are “bad guys” that cause disease, and many of them are actually “good guys” that keep us healthy. There’s even research currently being done on ways to improve or fix our collection of microbes as a way to make us healthier. Author Claire Eamer’s clear, well-organized and accessible writing — augmented throughout with fun facts and silly microbe jokes in sidebars — keeps the book interesting and enjoyable. Marie-Ève Tremblay’s bright and cheerfully funny illustrations bring the details to delightful life. With its cutting-edge information about a topic children will find fascinating, this book makes an excellent complement to a life science lesson on the human body. It would also work well for a class on healthy living. A table of contents, glossary and index are included.
To Burp or Not to Burp: A Guide to Your Body in Space, by Dr. Dave Williams and Loredana Cunti
Of all the questions astronauts are asked by kids, the most frequent one is “How do you go to the toilet in space?” This book not only answers that question, but many others about the effect of zero gravity on the human body:
How do you brush your hair in space? What happens when you sweat? What does food taste like? The best thing is that the answers are provided by Dr. Dave Williams, a NASA astronaut who speaks from first-hand experience. Written for kids ages 7 to 10, this book uses age-appropriate language to explain the different phenomena that astronauts encounter during a mission. The bright, colorful pages, short blocks of text accompanied by photos and humorous illustrations make this a very attractive choice for young readers. The opening message from Dr. Dave empowers kids to follow his example by believing in themselves and following their dreams.
Voyager’s Greatest Hits: The Epic Trek to Interstellar Space, by Alexandra Siy
2017 marks the 40th anniversary of the Voyager mission as the twin space probes that traveled to Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune, now journey beyond our solar system into interstellar space, where no probe has ventured before. Learn the fascinating story of the scientists, how the Voyager probes work, where the probes have been and what they’ve seen, and what they carry on board—including the Golden Record, a recording of sounds and images about life on Earth. Critically acclaimed science writer Alexandra Siy chronicles the ongoing saga of the Voyagers in a lively story full of nail-biting moments, inspiring scientists, and incredible NASA images.
Nominees – Hands on Science Books
Caesar’s Last Breath: Decoding the Secrets of the Air Around Us, by Sam Kean
The fascinating science and history of the air we breathe. It’s invisible. It’s ever-present. Without it, you would die in minutes. And it has an epic story to tell. In Caesar’s Last Breath, New York Times bestselling author Sam Kean takes us on a journey through the periodic table, around the globe, and across time to tell the story of the air we breathe, which, it turns out, is also the story of earth and our existence on it. With every breath, you literally inhale the history of the world. On the ides of March, 44 BC, Julius Caesar died of stab wounds on the Senate floor, but the story of his last breath is still unfolding; in fact, you’re probably inhaling some of it now. Of the sextillions of molecules entering or leaving your lungs at this moment, some might well bear traces of Cleopatra’s perfumes, German mustard gas, particles exhaled by dinosaurs or emitted by atomic bombs, even remnants of stardust from the universe’s creation. Tracing the origins and ingredients of our atmosphere, Kean reveals how the alchemy of air reshaped our continents, steered human progress, powered revolutions, and continues to influence everything we do. Along the way, we’ll swim with radioactive pigs, witness the most important chemical reactions humans have discovered, and join the crowd at the Moulin Rouge for some of the crudest performance art of all time. Lively, witty, and filled with the astounding science of ordinary life, Caesar’s Last Breath illuminates the science stories swirling around us every second.
Darwin’s Backyard: How Small Experiments Led to a Big Theory, by James T. Costa
Darwin’s Backyard goes beyond the portrait of Charles Darwin as a brilliant thinker to concentrate on him as a nimble experimenter delving into some of evolution’s great mysteries. James T. Costa takes readers on a journey from Darwin’s childhood through his voyage on the HMS Beaglewhere his ideas on evolution began. We then follow Darwin to Down House, his bustling home of forty years, where he kept porcupine quills at his desk to dissect barnacles, maintained a flock of sixteen pigeon breeds in the dovecote, and cultivated climbing plants in the study, and to Bournemouth, where on one memorable family vacation he fed carnivorous plants in the soup dishes. Using his garden and greenhouse, the surrounding meadows and woodlands, and even taking over the cellar, study, and hallways of his home-turned-field-station, Darwin tested ideas of his landmark theory of evolution with an astonishing array of hands-on experiments that could be done on the fly, without specialized equipment. He engaged naturalists, friends, neighbors, family servants, and even his children, nieces, nephews, and cousins as assistants in these experiments, which involved everything from chasing bees and tempting fish to eat seeds to serenading earthworms. From the experiments’ results, he plumbed the laws of nature and evidence for the revolutionary arguments of On the Origin of Species and his other watershed works. Beyond Darwin at work, we accompany him against the backdrop of his enduring marriage, chronic illness, grief at the loss of three children, and joy in scientific revelation. This unique glimpse of Darwin’s life introduces us to an enthusiastic correspondent, crowd-sourcer, family man, and, most of all, an incorrigible observer and experimenter. Includes directions for eighteen hands-on experiments, for home, school, yard, or garden.
How to Tame a Fox (and Build a Dog): Visionary Scientists and a Siberian Tale of Jump-Started Evolution, by Lee Alan Dugatkin and Lyudmila Trut
Tucked away in Siberia, there are furry, four-legged creatures with wagging tails and floppy ears that are as docile and friendly as any lapdog. But, despite appearances, these are not dogs—they are foxes. They are the result of the most astonishing experiment in breeding ever undertaken—imagine speeding up thousands of years of evolution into a few decades. In 1959, biologists Dmitri Belyaev and Lyudmila Trut set out to do just that, by starting with a few dozen silver foxes from fox farms in the USSR and attempting to recreate the evolution of wolves into dogs in real time in order to witness the process of domestication. This is the extraordinary, untold story of this remarkable undertaking. Most accounts of the natural evolution of wolves place it over a span of about 15,000 years, but within a decade, Belyaev and Trut’s fox breeding experiments had resulted in puppy-like foxes with floppy ears, piebald spots, and curly tails. Along with these physical changes came genetic and behavioral changes, as well. The foxes were bred using selection criteria for tameness, and with each generation, they became increasingly interested in human companionship. Trut has been there the whole time, and has been the lead scientist on this work since Belyaev’s death in 1985, and with Lee Dugatkin, biologist and science writer, she tells the story of the adventure, science, politics, and love behind it all. In How to Tame a Fox, Dugatkin and Trut take us inside this path-breaking experiment in the midst of the brutal winters of Siberia to reveal how scientific history is made and continues to be made today. To date, fifty-six generations of foxes have been domesticated, and we continue to learn significant lessons from them about the genetic and behavioral evolution of domesticated animals. How to Tame a Fox offers an incredible tale of scientists at work, while also celebrating the deep attachments that have brought humans and animals together throughout time.
Quakeland: On the Road to America’s Next Devastating Earthquake, by Kathryn Miles
A journey around the United States in search of the truth about the threat of earthquakes leads to spine-tingling discoveries, unnerving experts, and ultimately the kind of preparations that will actually help guide us through disasters. It’s a road trip full of surprises. Earthquakes. You need to worry about them only if you’re in San Francisco, right? Wrong. We have been making enormous changes to subterranean America, and Mother Earth, as always, has been making some of her own. . . . The consequences for our real estate, our civil engineering, and our communities will be huge because they will include earthquakes most of us do not expect and cannot imagine—at least not without reading Quakeland. Kathryn Miles descends into mines in the Northwest, dissects Mississippi levee engineering studies, uncovers the horrific risks of an earthquake in the Northeast, and interviews the seismologists, structual engineers, and emergency managers around the country who are addressing this ground shaking threat. As Miles relates, the era of human-induced earthquakes began in 1962 in Colorado after millions of gallons of chemical-weapon waste was pumped underground in the Rockies. More than 1,500 quakes over the following seven years resulted. The Department of Energy plans to dump spent nuclear rods in the same way. Evidence of fracking’s seismological impact continues to mount. . . . Humans as well as fault lines built our “quakeland”. What will happen when Memphis, home of FedEx’s 1.5-million-packages-a-day hub, goes offline as a result of an earthquake along the unstable Reelfoot Fault? FEMA has estimated that a modest 7.0 magnitude quake (twenty of these happen per year around the world) along the Wasatch Fault under Salt Lake City would put a $33 billion dent in our economy. When the Fukushima reactor melted down, tens of thousands were displaced. If New York’s Indian Point nuclear power plant blows, ten million people will be displaced. How would that evacuation even begin? Kathryn Miles’ tour of our land is as fascinating and frightening as it is irresistibly compelling.
Nominees – Young Adult Science Books
Droughts, by Melissa Stewart
The earth—and everything on it—needs water. But lately, it’s been unusually sunny, warm, and dry. The weather anchor announces that your area is experiencing a drought! Where do droughts happen? How do we know that we are in a drought? Why is rainfall important? Do droughts just affect people? Can scientists keep track of rainfall? Read and find out! This book is full of activities, like how to measure rainfall, how to visualize how much of the world’s water is freshwater, and how to create a cloud in a jar. It’s also full of graphic features perfect for visual learners, like a diagram of the water cycle, and rich vocabulary bolded throughout the text, with a glossary.
Magnets Push, Magnets Pull, by David A. Adler
We can’t see magnetism, but it’s everywhere around us―even the Earth is a giant magnet! In this fun and accessible book, David A. Adler covers the basics of magnetism. Terms such as attraction, pole, electromagnetism and force are plainly explained, while Anna A. Raff’s lively art illustrates these concepts clearly. Suggested activities include instructions to make your own magnet! Kids who read this direct and uncomplicated introduction will learn to appreciate how magnetism powers our world.
This Book Stinks! Gross Garbage, Rotten Rubbish, and the Science of Trash, by Sarah Wassner Flynn
Get up close and personal with a wonderful world of waste. From composting and recycling, to landfills and dumps, to how creative people are finding new ways to reuse rubbish. It’s fun to talk trash when it’s jam-packed with infographics, thematic spreads, wow-worthy photos, sidebars, serious stats, and fabulous facts. Also included are quizzes and activities to inspire kids to take action, be proactive, and rethink the things we throw away.
Try This! 50 Extreme Fun & Safe Experiments for the Mad Scientist in You, by Karen Romano Young
Science can be extreme! Let curious kids discover it for themselves in this fascinating book of hands-on science experiments that takes interactivity to a whole new level. Weird, wacky science facts and basic principles are explained as a first step to launching these creative (and safe) science projects. Dynamic photos and art clearly highlight each step so kids can conduct experiments with confidence and accuracy. Projects involve kid-friendly subjects like force and motion and temperature and freezing points, and most experiments are based on materials easily found at home. Bonus projects throughout encourage curious kids to dig deeper and discover more!