Best Kids Books with Science Ideas
I will confess that I have been thinking and working on this post for MONTHS. The gist in my mind was science-y chapter and picture books that are NOT non-fiction, that make science fun and accessible, and excite a child’s imagination. Yep, it’s taken a while to find enough books that fit this criteria to make it to 10 but I think these are worthy of this list. What do you think? What non-fiction science-y books do you and your children like? Are there enough to actually make this a new children’s lit. genre? Now THAT would be exciting!
Thank you to author Jacqueline Houtman for the Giveaway of The Reinvention of Edison Thomas. Please leave a comment with the reason why you want to win. The most compelling comment will win. The winner will be picked in one week.
I am really excited to discover this early chapter series about Munford, a water drop, that combines history with science in — actually — a riveting easy chapter book series. When I read the premise, the main character is a drop of water, that floats around the world (and back in time) , I was dubious. I read Munford Meets Robert Fulton and loved how this story combines 1) the story of young Robert Fulton and his story of perseverance 2) Munford as part of the cumulus/cumulonimbus cloud systems (5th grade science!) 3) colonial America (more 5th grade social science!) including Ben Franklin, Napoleon and Robert Livingston. This series makes history and science come alive, all seen through Munford, a drop of water who can transform, naturally!, into rain, snow, sleet or steam. In this book, Munford becomes part of snot, gunpowder, part of a cloud, rain, poop and more. [easy chapter book, grades 2nd-5th]
Flotsam by David Weisner
A wordless incredible Caldecott winning picture book with many interesting twists and turns to pique the mind and imagination. And he does this with just illustrations! 3 time Caldecott Winning author illustrator!
The Green Glass Sea by Ellen Klages
The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly
My Kindergarten son LOVES Jon Scieszka books in general, and he really loves Math Curse so much that I bought him Science Curse. Yep, we have read this book about 85 zillion times. I am actually surprised he doesn’t tire of it but it rhymes that emulate famous poems but on science topics. Casey at the Bat turns into Scientific Method at Bat. Twas The Night Before Christmas gets twisted into the Big Bang theory. My son’s favorites are the nursery rhymes. Mary Had A … Little Worm. Good Night, Sleep Tight mentions bedbugs and ticks. Jack Be Nimble jumps over “the combustion reaction of O2 + heat + fuel to form CO2 + light + heat + exhaust.” You get the picture, right?
9. Magic School Bus series by Joanna Cole [picture book á la comic book style, ages 5-10]
These books are tried and true and the TV shows are great too. My kids get to watch these videos at school when there is sub for say P.E. who probably has no idea how to teach P.E. I can’t say that I mind though. There are so many Magic School Bus books that I had my children rank their Top 10 (yes, we own most of them). I have a post on our Top 10: Magic School Bus books here.
8. Your Fantastic Elastic Brain by JoAnn Deak [picture book, ages 6-10]
I know, I know. Technically, this is a non-fiction book. But I have included it because my kids loved this book and it presents the brain and the function of learning and trying new things in an exciting and accessible way. This is an important message to children too!
7. Pop up books Encyclopedia Prehistorica: Dinosaurs, Encyclopedia Prehistorica: Sharks & Sea Monsters, Young Naturalist’s Pop-up Handbook: Beetles, and Young Naturalist’s Pop-up Handbook: Butterflies by Robert Sabuda [pop up picture books, ages 3-adult]
My across the street neighbor is best friends with Robert Sabuda. He’s an “uncle” to her two sons and sounds like a really nice man. I have to remember to bug her to score me some books the next time she visits. I’m a huge fan of his and my kids LOVE his books. We have the Dinosaur and the Sharks book and I need to get (or score!) the Mythology book for my 5th grader. My Kindergartener has read these books about a thousand times. What is great about them is that the pop-ups are amazing but the book is so layered with interesting factoids that there is always something new to learn. The only thing that stresses me out is trying to make sure the elaborate pop-ups don’t get destroyed. I should have a zen moment and let it go, but these books are too gorgeous to destroy! They also make GREAT gifts!
6. The Reinvention of Edison Thomas by Jacqueline Houtman [chapter book, ages 8-10]
I met Jacqueline Houtman at KidLitCon 2010 and bought my own copy of a book which she graciously signed for me. Eddy (a.k.a. Edison Thomas) is a high functioning autistic middle school student who has a lot of ideas for science inventions not unlike his namesake, Thomas Edison (who was also autistic). It’s much harder for Eddy to navigate the politics of friendship at middle school and to learn to identify kids who are truly his friend. As a reader, we get to see the world from the point of view of someone who is highly intelligent but with no social-emotional skills. At times, this is difficult to witness as we cringe when Eddy is bullied and teased, yet he has no idea what is happening. In this way, this book is a great read to help kids become more compassionate for autistic and special needs classmates. But we also cheer for Eddy as he learns about what makes a true friend.
5. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle [chapter book, ages 9-14]
This classic is a must read for everyone! It’s like the Godfather of science-y fiction. All other science-y fiction flows down from it somehow. My fifth grader read it and loved it but wasn’t as enthusiastic about the rest of the series. Oh well. All in good time. I’ll have her try again in a year or so. I have a post on it here. I loved it as a child and I love it still. Deeply and passionately. But I’m speaking to the choir, aren’t I?!
4. Camp Nerd by Elissa Brent Weissman [chapter book, ages 8-11]
The nice folks at Raab Associates sent me a copy of this book. I just finished it the other night (thank god because I was just lacking one more book for this list!). Gabe is a nerd who is about to get a stepbrother, Zack, as his father is getting remarried. He’s very excited to have a new sibling being an only child. The problem is impressing Zack. He reeks of coolness while Gabe is really, really smart. In fact, he’s so smart that he qualifies for a special sleep away camp that requires an I.Q. test, a.k.a. Nerd Camp. Reconciling trying to impress Zack with being himself gets solved with a simple experiment. Queston: Am I a nerd who only has nerdy adventures? Hypothesis: No. Gabe spends his time at Nerd Camp trying to build his case but in the end, realizes that there is no reason to be ashamed of being nerdy. And Zack agrees after Gabe saves him from a snake!
3. Every Soul a Star by Wendy Mass
“Three young teens witness a total solar eclipse and are changed forever in this novel, told in alternating narratives, that weaves exciting astronomy facts into the teens’ personal lives. My students loved this book. I read it to them when we were studying astronomy at the beginning of the year, and they became fascinated with solar eclipses.
This book is also great because, in addition to weaving in excellent — and complicated — science content in a way that kids can understand, it looks at issues of inclusion (three middle schoolers from diff. walks of life, who would never have become friends under normal circumstances, put aside their differences and find they actually have lots in common!) and is nicely balanced in a way that both boys and girls can identify with. It’s a surprisingly non-gender-specific book.
And, it’s funny. My class and I really enjoyed it.” from MiddlingAZ
The nice folks at Sterling Publishing sent me these two books to review: The Case of the Terrible T. rex and The Case of the Crooked Carnival. There are many more in this excellent series that combines solving a mystery using principles of science. This combination alone is sheer genius but what makes this series really special for me is that it is aimed for Just Starting Chapter Books kids. There aren’t many great chapter book series for these newly independent readers so I LOVE this series in particular just for being in this genre! There is a decent amount of science concepts in each book and the books zip along at a nice pace, never wearing out the reader’s interest by overworking a scientific concept. In The Case of the Terrible T. rex, I counted up these scientific ideas: scientific methodology, developing a hypothesis, pH testing to test acidity level, stratification of rocks, and radio frequencies. There are also great explanations and experiments in the back for would be scientists to try out on their own.
1. When I Reach You by Rebecca Stead [chapter book, ages 11-15]
I wanted this book so badly that I bid on some random fundraiser I found on Twitter and actually won! It’s a signed book but when it arrived, my family thought it was hysterical that the book was signed but via a sticker. That’s ok with me! This book is awesome! I loved it!
This Newbery winner also references A Wrinkle in Time. One could even say that this book was built on the shoulders of A Wrinkle in Time. My fifth grader had trouble following the plot line but time travel will do that to you! It is an amazing book that ignites the imagination of those who can wrap their heads around Einstein’s theory of relativity while still managing to combine several stories about coming of age friendships with a time-traveling love story/karmic mystery. Intrigued? I have a post on it here.
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Congrats to Dee who won the book giveaway. Jacqueline will be emailing you to see what you want inscribed in the book! Thank you for participating!