November 17, 2017

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Engage & Immerse: General Science | Series Made Simple Fall 2014

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From the four elements to the four corners of the world, these series encourage discovery and impart knowledge of the natural and human-made worlds, for the most part doing so in such engaging ways that many readers will forget they’re reading books about Science with a capital S. Relying on stunning graphics to enhance and support the scientific concepts, the books immerse readers in an abundance of visual information. Many of the series support early learning and development standards by incorporating open-ended questions that inspire critical thinking, reflection, and analysis, building skills that turn students into scientifically literate readers.

Preschool to Grade 4

Austen, Elizabeth. Baby Animals. ISBN 9781480745216.

––––. Living! ISBN 9781480745209.

––––. Seeds. ISBN 9781480745223.

––––. What Do Living Things Need? ISBN 9781480745230.

Montgomery, Anne. I Spy. ISBN 9781 480745254.

––––. Nature Made. ISBN 9781480745285.

––––. Solid or Liquid? ISBN 9781480745278.

––––. Tell Me About It. ISBN 9781480745261.

Rice, Dona Herweck. Growing Up. ISBN 9781480745247.

––––. Here Comes the Sun. ISBN 9781 480745292.

––––. Sort It! ISBN 9781480745353.

––––. Too Much Trash! ISBN 9781480745346.

Wilder, Nellie. Changing Weather. ISBN 9781480745315.

––––. On Land. ISBN 9781480745322.

––––. On Water. ISBN 9781480745339.

––––. What Is the Weather? ISBN 9781 480745308.

ea vol: 24p. (Science Readers: Content and Literacy in Science). glossary. index. photos. Teacher Created. 2014. lib. ed. $8.99.

PreS-K –Young readers are introduced to three science content areas—life, physical, and Earth and space—that support Next Generation Science Standards in these beginner volumes. Easy-to-read text clearly explains basic concepts, while colorful photos of familiar objects enable students to better grasp the ideas. Interactive elements, such as “Your Turn!” and “Let’s Do Science!,” invite students to apply what they’ve learned through hands-on activities, specifically through charting, drawing, and writing. Sensitive readers may be disturbed by a few upsetting images of animals in distress in Too Much Trash, but overall, the book effectively draws attention to the serious nature of pollution. Conspicuously, Sort It! stands out—and not in a necessarily good way—as the sole volume that contains cartoon illustrations in addition to photos.

Boothroyd, Jennifer. What Does Sunlight Do? ISBN 9781467739214.

––––. What Is a Forecast? ISBN 9781 467739207.

––––. What Is Climate? ISBN 9781 467739184.

––––. What Is Severe Weather? ISBN 9781 467739191.

––––. What Is Today’s Weather? ISBN 9781 467739160.

ea vol: 24p. (First Step Nonfiction–Let’s Watch the Weather). bibliog. diag. glossary. index. maps. photos. Lerner. 2014. lib. ed. $22.

PreS-Gr 1 –Using simple language and no more than two sentences per page, these slim volumes present young readers with a basic overview of weather and climate. Despite some overlap, each book remains focused on a general weather-related question and provides readers with easy-to-understand examples and explanations. In order to maintain simplicity; however, some facts are overstated, such as “Long, heavy snowfalls or strong winds with blowing snow are blizzards” or misleading, including the image that accompanies the statement “Each season lasts about three months,” in which the months that children generally associates with each season are slightly askew. Even with these minor issues, the vibrant three-quarter page photos on every page will give inquisitive readers an inviting gateway to natural phenomena and the people who study them. Solid introductions to the subject.

Dayton, Connor. Air. ISBN 9781477792612.

––––. Earth. ISBN 9781477792766.

––––. Fire. ISBN 9781477792711.

––––. Water. ISBN 9781477792674.

ea vol: 32p. (The Four Elements). further reading. glossary. illus. index. websites. Windmill. 2014. lib. ed. $25.25.

Gr 1-3 –Oversimplified and superficial, these volumes attempt to give readers a better understanding of the four classical elements but instead gloss over the concepts in their haste to cover a lot in just a few sentences. Rather than explore the scientific principles, the series relies on real-world examples to convey these ideas, which, at times, come across as fairly random follow-up statements (for example, Fire discusses the uses of this element and then states, “Fire is also used to cook food in many ways. Some pizza ovens have actual fires inside of them.”). Whimsical, pastel illustrations dominate the pages, giving the series a childish look, and while there are some photos in the books, they are either overshadowed by the artwork or make no sense in relation to the text. Give these titles a pass.

Greve, Meg. The Internet. ISBN 9781627176439.

––––. Speakers. ISBN 9781627176446.

Hicks, Kelli. Airplanes. ISBN 9781627176491.

––––. Escalators. ISBN 9781627176477.

––––. What Happens When You Flush? ISBN 9781627176484.

Koontz, Robin. Binoculars. ISBN 9781627176408.

––––. Computer Mouse. ISBN 9781627176415.

––––. TV Remotes. ISBN 9781627176422.

Reed, Cristie. Bluetooth. ISBN 9781627176453.

––––. Microwave Ovens. ISBN 9781627176460.

ea vol: 24p. (How It Works). glossary. index. photos. websites. Rourke. 2014. lib. ed. $25.64.

Gr 1-3 –Intended for a young school-age audience, these books do not shy away from tackling complex concepts in an easy-to-understand way. Even the youngest readers can learn the basics of aerodynamics (Airplanes) and drive gears (Escalators) without feeling overwhelmed. Uncluttered and streamlined, the clean design makes the vibrant images pop without drawing focus away from the content. Questions within the text actively engage readers to think about the science-based ideas critically, and the noteworthy “Photo Glossary” provides the audience with a visual frame of reference by connecting an image from the text to the word it’s defining. A “Before and After Reading Activities” section at the beginning of each volume should prove helpful to educators as they integrate STEM titles into the curriculum. Ideal offerings.

Hawkins, Jerome. Turning Milk into Ice Cream. ISBN 9781627130134.

––––. Turning Oranges into Juice. ISBN 9781627130165.

James, Dawn L. Turning Tomatoes into Ketchup. ISBN 9781627130103.

––––. Turning Trees into Paper. ISBN 9781627130073.

Mckinley, Herald P. Turning Beans into Chocolate. ISBN 9781627130042.

––––. Turning Wax into Crayons. ISBN 9781627123662.

ea vol: 24p. (Step-by-Step Transformations). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Cavendish Square. 2014. lib. ed. $24.21.

PreS-Gr 1 –Simple, straightforward text accompanies colorful full-page photos in these concise volumes that introduce readers to the science of physical transformation. Distilling the multistep processes to their most basic components, each book begins with a declarative statement, such as “Ice cream is made from milk,” then guides students through each stage of change. The choice of topics works well for a young audience, since most readers use or consume the products in their daily lives, lending the series relevance. Those interested in learning more about these transformations and their end results are provided with books and websites for further exploration in “Find Out More.” Good choices to round out science collections for younger readers.

Owen, Ruth. Baking and Crushing: A Look at Metamorphic Rock. ISBN 9781627243001; ISBN 9781627243568.

––––. Famous Rocks. ISBN 9781627242974; ISBN 9781627243537.

––––. How Do People Use Rocks? ISBN 9781627243032; ISBN 9781627243599.

––––. How Do Volcanoes Make Rock?: A Look at Igneous Rock. ISBN 9781627242981; ISBN 9781627243544.

––––. How Do Water and Wind Change Rock?: A Look at Sedimentary Rock. ISBN 9781627242998; ISBN 9781627243551.

––––. Is Sand a Rock? ISBN 9781627243018; ISBN 9781627243575.

––––. What Are Rocks Made Of? ISBN 9781627243025; ISBN 9781627243582.

––––. What Is the Rock Cycle? ISBN 9781627243049; ISBN 9781627243605.

ea vol: 24p. (Science Slam!: Rock-ology). ebook available. further reading. index. photos. Bearport. 2014. lib. ed. $23.93. ebk. $30.60.

Gr 1-3 –Vibrant, full-page photos combine with accessible, comprehensible text in this fresh exploration of all things rock. While the subject matter could have been dry and uninteresting, it is instead engaging, thanks in part to quick facts, stunning images, and an appealing design. Interactive elements, such as sidebars with open-ended questions and the experiments found in “Science Lab,” allow young readers to gain a better understanding of the topic through hands-on and critical thinking activities. The books contain a pronunciation guide in the glossary but not within the text, which may present challenges to readers. While some repetition is to be expected, especially between the individual volumes dedicated to the three rock types and What is the Rock Cycle?, several points are noticeably repeated throughout the series. In spite of some flaws, these are inspired, attention-grabbing titles.

Grades 5 & Up

Amstutz, Lisa. The Science of a Shipwreck. ISBN 9781631376276.

Bell, Samantha. The Science of a Volcanic Eruption. ISBN 9781631376283.

Bethea, Nikole Brooks. The Science of a Bridge Collapse. ISBN 9781631376238.

Koontz, Robin. The Science of a Pandemic. ISBN 9781631376252.

Reina, Mary. The Science of a Hurricane. ISBN 9781631376245.

Sepahban, Lois. The Science of an Earthquake. ISBN 9781631376290.

Surges, Carol S. The Science of a Plane Crash. ISBN 9781631376269.

Wang, Andrea. The Science of an Oil Spill. ISBN 9781631376306.

ea vol: 32p. (Discover Science). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Cherry Lake. 2014. lib. ed. $28.50.

Gr 4-7 –Filled with fascinating facts and photos, these information-packed volumes take on familiar and little-known catastrophes. While the details of these natural and human-made disasters will intrigue readers, the true focus of the books is how scientists employ the scientific method to improve past ideas and theories and potentially avoid future tragedies. Charts, diagrams, and illustrations will help readers better understand the scientific concepts presented, and thought-provoking sidebars pose questions for further contemplation and investigation. The inclusion of the “Top 5” at the end of each volume provides some sobering statistics; however, the criteria for these assertions are unclear. For the most part, the authors are experts in their respective fields, giving the text greater credibility, but the lack of citations is noticeable and troubling. Solid offerings, despite these flaws.

Bow, James. Grasslands Inside Out. ISBN 9780778706335; ISBN 9780778707066.

––––. Tundras Inside Out. ISBN 9780778706397; ISBN 9780778707240.

––––. Wetlands Inside Out. ISBN 9780778706410; ISBN 9780778707264.

Cohen, Marina. Deserts Inside Out. ISBN 9780778706274; ISBN 9780778706731.

Johnson, Robin. Oceans Inside Out. ISBN 9780778706359; ISBN 9780778714576.

––––. Rain Forests Inside Out. ISBN 9780778706373; ISBN 9780778714583.

ea vol: 32p. (Ecosystems Inside Out). further reading. glossary. index. maps. photos. websites. Crabtree. 2014. lib. ed. $27.60. pap. $9.95.

Gr 4-6 –Informative and picturesque, this comprehensive series takes readers on a tour of Earth’s six major biomes, exploring their distinctive characteristics as well as the unique creatures who have made each habitat their home. Key words are highlighted via bold font and are defined in the extensive glossary while sidebars, including “Eco Up Close,” which focuses on one particular inhabitant per location, provides students with a greater understanding of each environment’s interdependent relationship between living and nonliving organisms. Activities and activism also play a part in the volumes, as students are encouraged to consider how ecosystems work, how they can be affected by change, and what they can do to protect these fragile systems. The lush photos of locations worldwide may inspire further investigation of the topic. Great selections.

Canavan, Roger. You Wouldn’t Want to Live Without Clean Water! illus. by David Antram. ISBN 9780531212196; ISBN 9780531213100.

Graham, Ian. You Wouldn’t Want to Live Without Electricity! illus. by Rory Walker. ISBN 9780531212165; ISBN 9780531213070.

Macdonald, Fiona. You Wouldn’t Want to Live Without Toilets! illus. by David Antram. ISBN 9780531212158; ISBN 9780531213063.

Pipe, Jim. You Wouldn’t Want to Live Without Cell Phones! illus. by Rory Walker. ISBN 9780531212172; ISBN 9780531213087.

Rooney, Anne. You Wouldn’t Want to Live Without Antibiotics! illus. by David Antram. ISBN 9780531212189; ISBN 9780531213094.

Woolf, Alex. You Wouldn’t Want to Live Without Books! illus. by David Antram. ISBN 9780531212202; ISBN 9780531213117.

ea vol: 40p. (You Wouldn’t Want to Live Without…). chron. glossary. illus. index. Scholastic/Franklin Watts. 2014. lib. ed. $29.ebk. $9.95.

Gr 5-8– Modern-day conveniences, such as cell phones and toilets, and the ingenious ways that people in the past made do without them are explored in this engaging series. Filled with bite-size facts and humorous, cartoon illustrations, the books take readers on a journey through history, showing them how science and technology have made life easier, safer, and more comfortable. Time lines chart the inventions’ major developments and discoveries, providing a solid background for each subject, while brief yet interesting historical examples will appeal to even the most reluctant reader. The “ick” factor and potty humor in Toilets and Antibiotics are sure to entertain many, and interactive elements, such as the hands-on activities in “You Can Do It!,” encourage experimentation and critical thinking. The books are packed with so much information that the lack of a pronunciation guide in the glossary can certainly be overlooked.

Hirsch, Rebecca. Crystals. ISBN 9781624033841; ISBN 9781629684840.

––––. Rock Cycle. ISBN 9781624033896; ISBN 9781629684895.

––––. Sedimentary Rocks. ISBN 9781624033902; ISBN 9781629684901.

––––. Soil. ISBN 9781624033919; ISBN 9781629684918.

Owings, Lisa. Igneous Rocks. ISBN 9781624033872; ISBN 9781629684871.

Swanson, Jennifer. Metamorphic Rocks. ISBN 9781624033889; ISBN 9781629684888.

VanVoorst, Jenny Fretland. Fossils. ISBN 9781624033858; ISBN 9781629684857.

––––. Gems. ISBN 9781624033865; ISBN 9781629684864.

ea vol: 48p. (Rocks and Minerals). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. ABDO. 2014. lib. ed. $32.79. ebk. $32.79.

Gr 4-7 –Readers will be fascinated by this intermediate series and its appreciation for all things rock. Filled with vibrant images of crystals and gems that jump off the pages, these informative volumes explore the field of geology in easy-to-understand texts; however, some of the content is redundant—the rock cycle appears in several volumes and is even the focus of one of them—or inconsistent. (For instance, Gems states that approximately 200 minerals are classified as gems, whereas Crystals indicates that “only 100 are considered gemstones.”) Aligned to Common Core and state standards, the series provides ample opportunity for additional research (“Stop and Think”), hands-on experimentation (“In the Field”), and critical thinking (“Changing Minds”) that will have readers looking at the world around them with a better understanding of just what exactly they’re seeing. Despite a few issues, these are solid choices.

Zuchora-Walske, Christina. Let’s Make Some Gold!: Science’s Biggest Mistakes About Geology and Ecology. ISBN 9781467736626. LC 2013050849.

––––. That Bull Is Seeing Red!: Science’s Biggest Mistakes About Animals and Plants. ISBN 9781467736602. LC 2013039325.

––––. We’re the Center of the Universe!: Science’s Biggest Mistakes About Astronomy and Physics. ISBN 9781467736633. LC 2013045903.

––––. Your Head Shape Reveals Your Personality!: Science’s Biggest Mistakes About the Human Body. ISBN 9781467736619. LC 2013041696.

ea vol: 32p. (Science Gets It Wrong!). ebook available. further reading. index. photos. websites. Lerner. 2014. lib. ed. $26.60.

Gr 4-6 –Focusing on scientific misconceptions throughout the centuries, each compact volume reveals how scientists have debunked the erroneous claims of the past through persistence, further inquiry, and use of the scientific method. Concise narratives work well with photos and graphic images to convey the history of scientific thought while reminding readers that with advancements in science and technology, today’s facts could just as easily be proven inaccurate in the future. Captions and sidebars provide additional information and context, and many entries contain highlighted words that are briefly defined at the bottom of the page. Although each volume has its merits, Your Head Shape Reveals Your Personality! stands out due in large part to the subject matter—the human body—and its gross-out potential.


For the most part, the upcoming slate of science books for young and middle-grade readers provides an above-average reading experience, vivid photography, and ample opportunities for critical thinking and independent research. Rourke’s “How It Works” makes complex ideas understandable for young readers, while middle-grade students will find Franklin Watts’s “You Wouldn’t Want to Live Without” to be an interesting mix of history and humor. Crabtree’s “Ecosystems Inside Out” is part rallying cry, part travel guide that may inspire future activists to take a stand on environmental issues that threaten the planet. Similarly, Capstone’s “Weather Aware” is commendable for its straightforward explanations that aim to inform, not scare, young readers about the potential dangers of extreme weather. The majority of the remaining series would be welcome additions as replacements for outdated material or as collection boosters.

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

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