November 17, 2017

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The World Around Us: Life Science | Series Made Simple

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Introducing children at a young age to books on science is key in helping them forge real-world connections and gain a better understanding of the natural world around them. Thankfully, you’ll find a plethora of high-quality series that target different age levels, including emergent readers. Science books offer great ways to encourage inquisitive youngsters to start reading and further develop their nonfiction reading skills and vocabularies; these series are a perfect fit with the Common Core State Standards. Big ideas are emphasized through the use of visual images that are carefully selected to promote close examination and critical thinking by even the youngest readers, while brief, large-font text exposes youngsters to new academic language. Melding the Common Core with science makes for titles that are both exciting and infused with relevant information.

Preschool to Grade 4

Amoroso, Cynthia & Robert B. Noyed. Fall. ISBN 9781626870222. LC 2013947396.

––––. Spring. ISBN 9781626870253. LC 2013947395.

––––. Summer. ISBN 9781626870260. LC 2013947394.

––––. Winter. ISBN 9781626870284. LC 2013947393.

ea vol: 24p. (Seasons of the Year Series). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. The Child’s World. 2014. lib. ed. $25.64.

Gr 1-3 –Vivid colors and multicolored symbolic icons of the seasons adorn each cover and corresponding text pages. Glossary words in the text appear in the same colorful fonts. Sparse text and captions describe the photographs. Information is presented on six major scientific themes: animal behaviors, animal habitats, colors, plant growth, water states, and weather. In addition, the individual titles cover fun activities that children and their families will enjoy. Each book is complemented by a succinct glossary and index. Further reading and websites at the end round out these cheeerful offerings.

Dayton, Clayton. Hearing. ISBN 9781 477732403.

––––. Sight. ISBN 9781477728505.

––––. Taste. ISBN 9781477728567.

––––. Touch. ISBN 9781477728550.

Reade, Clara. Intuition: The Sixth Sense. ISBN 9781477728581.

––––. Smell. ISBN 9781477728574.

ea vol: 24p. (Your Five Senses and Your Sixth Sense Series). glossary. index. websites. PowerKids. 2014. lib. ed. $22.60.

PreS-Gr 2 – Attractive full-page photos show diverse children using their senses. The carefully chosen photos will make children think and entice youngsters to spend time exploring the books and reading the short texts (less than ten words per page, which appear in large fonts and often contain question prompts). Activities depicted in the photos, such as looking at mirrors’ reflections or licking ice cream, can be easily replicated. This well-designed series brings scientific concepts to life and discusses the role of the brain and other body systems. Each book introduces traditional nonfiction features, such as a table of contents that lists three main chapters with short titles, a three-word or four-word picture-only glossary, four-entry index, and website from the publisher.

Greenlaw, Dr. M. Jean. Flood. ISBN 9781627241298. LC 2013038752.

Markoviks, Joyce. Blizzard. ISBN 9781627241250. LC 2013032743.

––––. Earthquake. ISBN 9781627241281. LC 2013032756.

––––. Tsunami. ISBN 9781627241304. LC 2013034719.

Rudolph, Jessica. Hurricane. ISBN 9781 627241274. LC 2013038754.

––––. Tornado. ISBN 9781627241267. LC 2013032436.

ea vol: 24p. (Little Bits: It’s a Disaster! Series). ebook available. further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Bearport. 2014. lib. ed. $23.93.

Gr 1-3 –These fun books will captivate young readers. Though some photos are on the fuzzy side, they’re generally action-filled and will entice readers, while informative text boxes provide additional material. The books also present some content on how people can stay safe during these frightening weather conditions (for instance, advising going to higher ground during a flood). Exclamatory text and short, concise sentences (“Boom! A thunderstorm begins”) make these books accessible but still exciting.

Labrecque, Ellen. Caves. ISBN 978143299 5331; ISBN 9781432995393. LC 2013 014817.

––––. Islands. ISBN 9781432995348; ISBN 9781432995409. LC 2013014818.

––––. Valleys. ISBN 9781432995355; ISBN 9781432995416. LC 2013014820.

Oxlade, Chris. Mountains. ISBN 9781432995362; ISBN 9781432995423. LC 2013014821.

––––. Volcanoes. ISBN 9781432995379; ISBN 9781432995430. LC 2013014822.

ea vol: 32p. (Learning About Landforms Series). bibliog. further reading. glossary. illus. index. maps. photos. websites. Heinemann-Raintree. 2014. lib. ed. $26.65. pap. $7.99.

Gr 2-4 –These enjoyable titles on landforms will resonate with young readers. The books cover the animals, plants and trees, and people that can be found in these various places. Information is presented about current issues affecting the landforms and how they are changing (for example, tsunamis in Islands). Thematic maps and diagrams are integrated into the text to illustrate key points. Well-written text and a large font will appeal to readers. Common misconceptions, such as the classification of Australia as an island rather than a continent, are addressed as well, and analogies often are used to further elucidate learning.

Lawrence, Ellen. Dirty Air. ISBN 9781 627241038; ISBN 9781627241557. LC 2013045451.

––––. Garbage Galore. ISBN 9781627241021; ISBN 9781627241540. LC 2013041502.

––––. Global Warming. ISBN 9781627241045; ISBN 9781627241564. LC 2013041867.

––––. Poisoned Rivers and Lakes. ISBN 9781627241052; ISBN 9781627241571. LC 2013043670.

––––. Polluted Oceans. ISBN 97816272 42363; ISBN 9781627242370. LC 2013041904.

ea vol: 24p. (Science Slam: Green World, Clean World Series). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Bearport. 2014. lib. ed. $23.93. ebk. $30.60.

Gr 2-4 –These titles will introduce emergent readers to real-world problems. Spectacular photo close-ups with simple captions and labels will be accessible to children. A positive tone runs through the books (through headings such as “Everyone Can Help!”), and the final two chapters of each book discuss what kids can do to reduce these problems. The strengths of this series are the hands-on “Science Lab” activity with illustrated steps (for example, readers will learn how to “Be an Energy Saver” through ideas such as “Switched off a light” or “Walked to school instead of riding in a car”) and the incorporation of several question prompts to spur deeper thinking (answers are given on separate sections).

Waldron, Melanie. Flowers. ISBN 9781 410954206; ISBN 9781410954268. LC 2013012920.

––––. Leaves. ISBN 9781410954213; ISBN 9781410954275. LC 2013012928.

––––. Seeds and Fruit. ISBN 9781410954237; ISBN 9781410962829. LC 2013012933.

––––. Stems and Trunks. ISBN 9781 410954244; ISBN 9781410962836. LC 2013012934.

ea vol: 32p. (Plant Parts Series). bibliog. further reading. glossary. illus. index. photos. websites. Heinemann-Raintree. 2014. lib. ed. $29.99. pap. $7.99.

Gr 2-5 –Vivid photo close-ups with captions show amazing, diverse plant life, and adaptations worldwide. The books discuss how plants have evolved efficiently to carry out specialized tasks, such as photosynthesis, energy and water transport, reproduction, and seed dispersal, and how they have interacted with their environments, including animals, to achieve these goals. Thinking and question prompts encourage students to reflect upon the content, including how people use plants. Each book includes two hands-on experiments for readers to try out, with step-by-step instructions that are illustrated in photos and can be modified for use in early childhood classes. Suggestions for places to visit are offered, too.

Grades 5 & Up

Dee, Willa. Earth’s Rock Cycle. ISBN 9781 477729038.

––––. Erosion and Weathering. ISBN 9781 477729045.

––––. Minerals. ISBN 9781477729052.

––––. Unearthing Igneous Rocks. ISBN 9781477729014.

––––. Unearthing Metamorphic Rocks. ISBN 9781477729021.

––––. Unearthing Sedimentary Rocks. ISBN 9781477729007.

ea vol: 24p. (Rocks: The Hard Facts Series). glossary. index. websites. PowerKids. 2014. lib. ed. $22.60.

Gr 4-8– Nearly every page of this visual guide supplies striking and large format photos of rocks with multi-sentence captions. As illuminated in the pictures, rocks can be grouped by many attributes, such as colors, locations, physical appearances, textures, and striations. Young readers can learn more by examining text interwoven between the many visual examples of rocks. Famous natural wonders and examples of fossilization worldwide are showcased. This comprehensive series makes clear that rocks are constantly changing over time, because they are impacted by environmental factors, such as erosion, heat, melting, and pressure, as well as human activities. Nonfiction features, such as a table of contents, glossary, index, and a website from the publisher, complete the set.

Duke, Shirley. Cells. ISBN 9781624031588. LC 2013027634.

Peterson, Christine. Genetics. ISBN 9781624031618. LC 2013031908.

Surges, Carol S. Food Chains. ISBN 9781624031601. LC 2013031885.

VanVoorst, Jenny Fretland. Animal Classification. ISBN 9781624031571. LC 2013031884.

––––. Ecosystems. ISBN 9781624031595. LC 2013031909.

Zuchora-Walske, Christine. Photosynthesis. ISBN 9781624031625. LC 2013027630.

ea vol: 48p. (The Science of Life Series). bibliog. further reading. glossary. illus. index. photos. websites. ABDO. 2014. lib. ed. $32.79.

Gr 5-8 –This series examines the incredible diversity of life through a variety of disciplines. Many informational sidebars, explanatory diagrams, and stunning full-page photos with captions are integrated into the text and bring the concepts to life. One-page synopses provide several examples of current scientific studies and possible career choices. This series promotes deep thinking and should assist youngsters in making new connections. For instance, “Straight to the Source” provides one-page primary sources of historical importance and then asks readers to engage in learning activities, such as adapting the source for modern audiences, supplying evidence from text, or identifying big questions. Other sections make readers “Stop and Think” by offering additional questions to ponder or by asking them to compare and contrast textual evidence with select web content. A strong set of titles.

Midthun, Joseph. Cells to Organ Systems. ISBN 9780716618416. LC 2013024687.

––––. The Circulatory System. ISBN 9780716618423. LC 2013024688.

––––. The Digestive and Urinary Systems. ISBN 9780716618430. LC 2013024691.

––––. The Endocrine and Reproductive Systems. ISBN 9780716618447. LC 2013025432.

––––. Fighting Sickness. ISBN 9780716618454. LC 2013023498.

––––. The Nervous System. ISBN 9780716618461. LC 2013025431.

––––. The Respiratory System. ISBN 9780716618478. LC 2013024692.

––––. The Skeletal and Muscular Systems. ISBN 9780716618485. LC 2013023500.

ea vol: illus. by Samuel Hiti. 32p. (Building Blocks of Science Series). diag. further reading. glossary. illus. index. websites. World Book. 2014. lib. ed. $319 (set).

Gr 4-8 –Combining well-written text with a graphic-novel format, this innovative series supplies adolescents with authoritative information about the human body. Each page presents two to five cartoon frames with captions. Parts such as brains, cells, and neurons are represented by cartoonish characters who spew authoritative facts captured in speech bubbles. These titles directly tackle myths and misconceptions and make use of analogies to facilitate the discussion of complex concepts. For example, the author compares possible artery damage caused by high blood pressure compared to how bicycle tires will explode when overfilled with air and compares red bone marrow to “a factory that produces cells vital for supporting life.” Although somewhat unconventional because of its format, this series will be a welcome addition to most collections.

Miller, Mirella S. Prairie Habitats. ISBN 9781623239886. LC 2013947272.

Ringstad, Arnold. Desert Habitats. ISBN 9781623239893. LC 2013947267.

––––. Forest Habitats. ISBN 9781623239909. LC 2013947268.

––––. Rain Forest Habitats. ISBN 9781623239916. LC 2013947271.

––––. Underground Habitats. ISBN 9781623239923. LC 2013947270.

ea vol: 24p. (Habitats Series). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. The Child’s World. 2013. lib. ed. $27.07.

Gr 4-8 –These books show just how diverse habitats such as prairies, forests, and deserts are, through spectacular full-page photos that show their breathtaking beauty and through informative captions and informational sidebars written in short, accessible sentences. Young readers can further examine the magnificence of specific animals’ environmental adaptations for survival by reading the chapters focusing on various animals (camel, octopus, piranha, and prairie dog, among others). This series elucidates the complex intricacies and the fragile balances needed to keep habitats sustainable, and the last chapter of each book discusses top threats. A solid choice.


These series present powerful and inviting illustrations of the natural world; not only are they an excellent way to meet the Common Core State Standards, they will engage even the most reluctant readers. A first purchase is “Your Five Senses and Your Sixth Sense”; this well-written text, with its carefully chosen images invite children to explore the natural world through all of their senses, including the sixth sense of intuition. “Science of Life” provides activities, such as adapting texts for specific audiences and using evidence from text, while “Green World, Clean World” presents useful questions designed to provoke critical thinking. Those looking for hands-on science activities would do well to consider both “Green World, Clean World” and “Plant Parts.” Though overall, there’s a bevy of great books listed here, if budgets are limited, consider buying individual volumes depending on research or report needs.

This article was published in School Library Journal's April 2014 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

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