15 STEM Series for Budding and Seasoned Scientists

From the molten core of Earth to the farthest reaches of space, this season’s new science series cover topics near and far.

From the molten core of Earth to the farthest reaches of space, this season’s new science series cover topics near and far. There are natural wonders and inventions, robots and simple machines, vehicles and space exploration; it’s a STEAM-focused bunch with even the arts covered in a look at the science of color. And if books about habitats and conservation efforts don’t garner attention, perhaps a title on the benefits of poop will! The best sets pair eye-catching images with text that piques curiosity and keeps readers turning pages. Whether patrons are intrigued by plants or planets, they’ll have plenty to choose from.


Bell, Samantha. Color and Wavelengths. ISBN 9781534107274.

––––. Earth’s Structure. ISBN 9781 534107267.

––––. Plant Cycle. ISBN 9781534107243.

––––. Pushing and Pulling. ISBN 9781 534107212.

––––. Solar System. ISBN 9781534107229.

––––. States of Matter. ISBN 9781534107250.

––––. Sunlight. ISBN 9781534107281.

––––. Weather. ISBN 9781534107236.

ea vol: illus. by Jeff Bane. 24p. (My Early Library: My World of Science). glossary. index. photos. Cherry Lake. Jan. 2018. lib. ed. $28.50.

PreS-Gr 2 –Photographs and illustrated characters guide young readers through a variety of accessible topics. Each book is written in a clear and simple style, and the text is supported by images on the facing page. The photos and the illustrations depict a diverse group of children (most of which are girls). The cartoon kids are friendly-looking though simply drawn. Questions are peppered throughout the series to spur discussion or deeper thought. For example, an image of balloons is accompanied by the question “What else can you fill up with gas?” The last spread in each book mentions that scientists study the subject and asks, “What would you like to study next?” VERDICT Simple enough to read aloud with preschoolers or for beginning readers to explore on their own. An additional purchase.

Bethea, Nikole Brooks. Hot Air Balloons. ISBN 9781620319062.

––––. Trains. ISBN 9781620319123.

Fretland VanVoorst, Jenny. Airplanes. ISBN 9781620319000.

––––. Helicopters. ISBN 9781620319048.

Mattern, Joanne. Cars. ISBN 9781 620319024.

––––. Motorcycles. ISBN 9781620319086.

––––. Speedboats. ISBN 9781620319109.

ea vol: 24p. (How Does It Work?). diag. glossary. index. photos. websites. Jump!/Pogo. Jan. 2018. lib. ed. $25.65.

Gr 2-4 –Many young kids are fascinated with “things that go.” This series on various types of vehicles will delight those readers with colorful photos and accessible explanations of the basic mechanics of each machine. Each book includes a diagram of how the parts work together to make the vehicle move. The images show a variety of power types, such as steam, diesel, electric, maglev, and hydrail trains. Segments like“Ideas for Parents and Teachers” offer a few generic suggestions for before, during, and after reading, but more specific tips for each title would have made this feature more helpful. Recommended extension activities in each book vary in quality, from experimenting with friction and toy cars to simply spinning in place to imitate a helicopter. VERDICT Robust collections where these topics are in high demand may want to consider these titles.

Claybourne, Anna. What Do You Know About Evolution and Classification? ISBN 9781538322093.

––––. What Do You Know About Habitats? ISBN 9781538322116.

––––. What Do You Know About Life Cycles? ISBN 9781508162643.

––––. What Do You Know About Rocks and Fossils? ISBN 9781538322178.

Royston, Angela. What Do You Know About Human and Animal Bodies? ISBN 9781538322130.

––––. What Do You Know About Plants? ISBN 9781538322154.

ea vol: 32p. (Test Your Science Skills). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. PowerKids. Jan. 2018. lib. ed. $27.50.

Gr 4-6 –Each book begins with an explanation of the title subject and a review of the scientific method, followed by 10 activities that can be done in class or at home. Each project opens with an in-depth discussion of a related topic, such as how camouflage helps animals survive in their habitat. Throughout the series, photos and infographics support the text and enhance the overall appeal. There are step-by-step directions for each activity, along with a list of needed materials, safety precautions, and things to consider next. At the end of each book is a section on “Reading Your Results,” which covers bias, outliers, and other factors that might influence the outcome of the investigation. VERDICT Those looking for labs or demonstrations to support science curricula may find this series especially helpful. Perfect for budding scientists who want to investigate the world around them.

Gilbert, Sara. Canyons. ISBN 9781 608188918.

––––. Earthquakes. ISBN 9781608188925.

––––. Geysers. ISBN 9781608188932.

––––. Glaciers. ISBN 9781608188949.

––––. Landslides. ISBN 9781608188956.

––––. Volcanoes. ISBN 9781608188963.

ea vol: 24p. (Earth Rocks!). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Creative Education. Feb. 2018. lib. ed. $29.95.

Gr 1-3 –Stunning full-page photographs make this a visually appealing series. Many of the images have captions to identify their locations around the world, but not all, which may disappoint some students. Different types of geological wonders like geysers and canyons are shown so that similarities and differences can be seen. Scenes depicting the effects of landslides and earthquakes are also featured. Readers will be drawn in by the images, while the large font and simple sentences will put them at ease. A suggested hands-on activity follows each text, such as “Make a Mini Canyon.” Although the information presented in this set isn’t groundbreaking, the beautiful photography will be a crowd-pleaser. VERDICT An excellent series for elementary school lessons on geology.

Gitlin, Marty. The Cassini Mission. ISBN 9781680201703.

––––. The Fast Telescope. ISBN 9781680201642.

––––. The Millau Viaduct. ISBN 9781680201666.

Rice, Earle, Jr. The Orion Spacecraft. ISBN 9781680201680.

––––. The Three Gorges Dam. ISBN 9781680201727.

––––. The Virginia Class Submarines. ISBN 9781680201741.

ea vol: 48p. (Engineering Feats). chron. diag. further reading. glossary. index. notes. photos. websites. Mitchell Lane. Mar. 2018. lib. ed. $31.95.

Gr 4-6 –Examples of ingenuity and perseverance fill these books on complex engineering projects. Numerous photos and diagrams throughout the volumes support the descriptions of how each feat was accomplished. Time lines trace the stages of design and construction, but also show helpful earlier breakthroughs (for example, Galileo’s sighting of Saturn in relation to the Cassini Mission). Negative impacts of the FAST Telescope and the relocation of people for the construction of the Three Gorges Dam are pointed out, in addition to the many problems in creating the joint NASA and European Space Agency (ESA) Cassini-Huygens mission. “What You Should Know” and “Quick Stats” lists at the end of each book provide a useful recap of salient points. VERDICT A solid addition to STEM collections.

Hamen, Susan E. Who Invented the Light Bulb?: Edison vs. Swan. ISBN 9781512483215.

––––. Who Invented the Radio?: Tesla vs. Marconi. ISBN 9781512483208.

––––. Who Invented the Telephone?: Bell vs. Meucci. ISBN 9781512483222.

Kenney, Karen Latchana. Who Invented the Airplane?: Wright Brothers vs. Whitehead. ISBN 9781512483185.

––––. Who Invented the Movie Camera?: Edison vs. Friese-Greene. ISBN 9781512483239.

––––. Who Invented the Television?: Sarnoff vs. Farnsworth. ISBN 9781512483192.

ea vol: 32p. (STEM Smackdown). chron. further reading. glossary. index. notes. photos. websites. Lerner. Apr. 2018. lib. ed. $27.99.

Gr 3-6 –Who actually invented the airplane? Did Thomas Edison make the first light bulb? Questions like these will have readers devouring this series to find out the answers. Using a mix of archival images and drawings to support the text, these books delve into the controversies surrounding iconic inventors. Earlier developments that led to the final breakthrough are explained, as well as why the question of credit keeps coming up. Each narrative underscores how difficult it was to achieve the successful designs of items that most people currently take for granted. A useful time line is located in the back matter of each book. VERDICT Readers who enjoy head-to-head and other matchup-style books will find this set intriguing. A good choice to increase interest in STEM topics or for reports on inventions/inventors.

Heitkamp, Kristina Lyn. Digging for Poop Fossils. ISBN 9780766090989.

Loria, Laura. Poop Medicine. ISBN 9780766091139.

MacCarald, Clara. Turning Poop into Power Fuel. ISBN 9780766091023.

Mapua, Jeff. Weaponizing Poop. ISBN 9780766090958.

McCormick, Anita Louise. Creating Sand Beaches with Poop. ISBN 9780766091061.

Swanson, Jennifer. Building with Poop. ISBN 9780766091573.

ea vol: 32p. (The Power of Poop). further reading. index. photos. websites. Enslow. Jan. 2018. lib. ed. $25.27.

Gr 3-5 –The titles alone will attract readers who enjoy gross-out topics, and the cover design uses brown drippy lettering for the word poop to increase the yuck factor. This series covers everything from feces as construction material to its use in beauty treatments. While the topics may seem lighthearted, there is plenty of science here. Issues such as the need for renewable energy sources and biodegradable building materials underscore the logic of treating poop as a natural resource. Photos show fossilized scat, biomass production sites, and close-ups of bacteria and viruses present in waste. Uses by animals and humans around the world, both past and present, show the versatility of poop for defense against predators, home insulation, and even creating biological weapons. ­VERDICT Perfect for reaching reluctant science readers and an eye-catching addition to collections where patrons are begging for more variety.

Latta, Sara L. Zoom in on Educational Robots. ISBN 9780766092273.

––––. Zoom in on Industrial Robots. ISBN 9780766092266.

––––. Zoom in on Medical Robots. ISBN 9780766092280.

––––. Zoom in on Mining Robots. ISBN 9780766092303.

Sherman, Jill. Zoom in on Caregiving Robots. ISBN 9780766092297.

––––. Zoom in on Domestic Robots. ISBN 9780766092310.

ea vol: 24p. (Zoom in on Robots). further reading. index. photos. websites. Enslow. Jan. 2018. lib. ed. $22.60.

Gr 2-5 –Robots are always a high-interest subject, and this series covers their uses in medical, domestic, and other areas. Cover photos and interior images show robots of assorted designs performing their programmed tasks. Children are shown using educational robots, and women and men are shown working with robots on the job. The text is a bit dense for younger elementary schoolers, but the books could be read aloud in class. Older pupils could read these titles independently. Current uses for robots are covered, as well as research and developments for the future. Each book has a hands-on activity that can be completed with basic supplies—no electronics needed. VERDICT A welcome addition to collections. Useful for lessons on engineering and technology or as pleasure reading about an evergreen topic.

Rustad, Martha E.H. Inclined Planes. ISBN 9781543500776.

––––. Levers. ISBN 9781543500752.

––––. Pulleys. ISBN 9781543500745.

––––. Screws. ISBN 9781543500721.

––––. Wedges. ISBN 9781543500738.

––––. Wheels and Axles. ISBN 9781543500769.

ea vol: 24p. (Simple Machines). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Capstone. Jan. 2018. lib. ed. $21.99.

PreS-Gr 2 –With easy-to-read text and large-scale photos, this series is perfect for youngsters. A few sentences per page explain each simple machine and how it helps to make work easier. Examples are pulled from many activities that readers will find familiar, such as climbing stairs, along with more exciting images like rock climbing. The photographs depict people of different ages and racial and ethnic backgrounds. In each book, labels on the first few photos make the simple machine easily identifiable in later discussions. For example, a wedge might be a pair of scissors, an ax, or a pushpin. The included critical thinking questions are a good review or discussion starter. VERDICT Excellent introductory series for early elementary students and handy for interactive read-alouds.

Schuh, Mari. Art of Color. ISBN 9781512466881.

––––. Color in Culture. ISBN 9781541511620.

––––. Color in Nature. ISBN 9781512466898.

––––. Science of Color. ISBN 9781541511637.

ea vol: 32p. (Crayola Colorology). further reading. glossary. index. photos. reprods. websites. Lerner. Mar. 2018. lib. ed. $26.65.

K-Gr 3 –This series approaches color from a number of angles, including art, culture, nature, and science. Each title follows a similar format: a few sentences per spread accompanied by brilliantly colored photographs that exemplify the facts provided. Works of art, such as Frida Kahlo’s Self-Portrait with a Monkey and Vincent van Gogh’s Sunflowers, demonstrate the use of light and shadow or how color evokes emotion. Scenes from various countries show colors used for flags, holidays, or clothing. Examples of animal camouflage and coloration underscore the importance of color in nature. The perception of color and primary, secondary, and complementary colors are also explained. The text could be used as a read-aloud for younger students or enjoyed independently by older ones. VERDICT Educators could use this series for lessons on art, adaptations, optics, and culture. Highly recommended.

Middle to High School

Amstutz, Lisa J. Bringing Back Our Freshwater Lakes. ISBN 9781532113147.

Hand, Carol. Bringing Back Our Oceans. ISBN 9781532113154.

––––. Bringing Back Our Tropical Forests. ISBN 9781532113161.

MacCarald, Clara. Bringing Back Our Deserts. ISBN 9781532113130.

Perdew, Laura. Bringing Back Our Wetlands. ISBN 9781532113185.

Regan, Michael. Bringing Back Our Tundra. ISBN 9781532113178.

ea vol: 112p. (Conservation Success Stories). bibliog. charts. chron. diag. further reading. glossary. index. notes. photos. websites. ABDO. Dec. 2017. lib. ed. $37.07.

Gr 6 Up –Using examples from around the world, the authors discuss various causes of habitat loss and fragmentation, along with conservation efforts and their results. A few in-depth case studies help readers understand the scope of the problems and possible solutions. “Science Connections” segments focus on natural cycles, biodiversity, and related concepts. Photos show wildlife, pollution, and human visitors or workers in the various areas, while graphics explain science concepts like habitat formation, carbon sinks, and food webs, or map locations of similar habitats. Groups such as Ducks Unlimited or individuals like Wangari Maathai, who are involved in conservation efforts, are highlighted in sidebars or mentioned in the text. Each title ends with a two-page cause-and-effect chart followed by “Essential Facts,” which captures key points. VERDICT A thoughtful series for studying conservation efforts and human impact on the environment. A good choice for research projects.

Amstutz, Lisa J. NASA and the Astronauts. ISBN 9781635174977.

Hogan, Christa C. Space Stations. ISBN 9781635174991.

Kruesi, Liz. Finding Earthlike Planets. ISBN 9781635174953.

––––. Voyage to Pluto. ISBN 9781635175004.

Richards, Patti. The Apollo Missions. ISBN 9781635174939.

––––. The Space Shuttle Missions. ISBN 9781635174984.

Vogt, Gregory L. Building Reusable Rockets. ISBN 9781635174946.

––––. Missions to Mars. ISBN 9781635174960.

ea vol: 48p. (Destination Space). diag. further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Focus Readers. Jan. 2018. lib. ed. $31.35.

Gr 5-8 –From building reusable rockets to planning a voyage to Venus, this series offers a detailed look at space travel and exploration. For instance, Finding Earthlike Planets explores the use of telescopes and space probes to search for exoplanets. The books include archival photos, illustrations, and infographics to support the narratives. A different type of technology and a “person of impact” are featured in each title; however, only one of the individuals is a woman, and only two are African American. “Think About It” prompts are scattered through the series to encourage deeper thought, and there are review questions for each book (and an answer key). The text is engaging and informative, covering the history of the space program as well as plans for the future. VERDICT The titles on NASA and the Apollo missions may duplicate current holdings, but overall the series is a useful addition with current and forward-reaching topics.

Bow, James. The Science of Hydro and Wave Energy. ISBN 9781682823033.

LaPierre, Yvette. The Science of Hydrogen Energy. ISBN 9781682823057.

McCarthy, Cecilia Pinto. The Science of Biomass Energy. ISBN 9781682823019.

Ringstad, Arnold. The Science of Solar Energy. ISBN 9781682823071.

Spalding, Maddie. The Science of Wind Energy. ISBN 9781682823095.

ea vol: 80p. (The Science of Renewable Energy). chron. further reading. index. photos. websites. ReferencePoint. Mar. 2018. lib. ed. $29.95.

Gr 6 Up –Timetables start off these titles, tracing the development of the energy sources. Each author explains the titular energy source, how it can replace fossil fuels, and the industry’s future. Sidebars provide additional information, while text boxes define terms. The books are text heavy, with around a dozen images per title. A strength of the series is the coverage of positive and negative points about each energy source. For instance, wind turbines do not require fuel or release emissions, but they endanger birds and bats in surrounding areas. Another plus is the inclusion of advances in the various industries from around the world, emphasizing the global impact of the research. VERDICT A fine addition to collections for research and reference, with current information and prospects for the future of each field.

Ehman, Ashley. The Power of C++. ISBN 9781502629401.

Keranen, Rachel. The Power of Python. ISBN 9781502629487.

––––. The Power of Ruby. ISBN 9781502629500.

Miller, Derek. The Power of JavaScript. ISBN 9781502629449.

Murphy, Grace. The Power of PHP. ISBN 9781502629463.

Ryan, Aidan M. The Power of Java. ISBN 9781502629425.

ea vol: 112p. (The Power of Coding). bibliog. further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Cavendish Square. Jan. 2018. lib. ed. $42.79.

Gr 7 Up –Middle and high school students interested in computer science will find detailed information in this series. Each book explores the reasons for creating the programming language, the needs it met, how it works, and its strengths and weaknesses. A final chapter suggests ways to become familiar with the language, explores job prospects, and shares technologies using the language. Although there is a helpful glossary, the vocabulary is industry specific and technical enough to challenge novices. Feature sections spotlight developers and uses for the language, such as self-driving cars or online role-playing games. The range of programmers shown in the photos, as well as the emphasis on collaboration and the open-source programming community, makes this field seem like an inviting and inclusive career choice. VERDICT A strong series for those interested in coding and programming.

Mihaly, Christy. California’s Redwood Forest. ISBN 9781635175127.

Rector, Rebecca Kraft. The Amazon Rainforest. ISBN 9781635175110.

––––. The Grand Canyon. ISBN 9781635175134.

––––. The Great Barrier Reef. ISBN 9781635175141.

––––. The Sahara Desert. ISBN 9781635175172.

Simons, Lisa M. Bolt. Mount Everest. ISBN 9781635175158.

––––. Niagara Falls. ISBN 9781635175165.

White, Kelly Anne. Yellowstone National Park. ISBN 9781635175189.

ea vol: 32p. (Natural Wonders of the World). charts. further reading. glossary. index. maps. photos. websites. Focus Readers. Jan. 2018. lib. ed. $28.50.

Gr 4-7 –The descriptions of these natural wonders include statistics about their size, annual number of visitors, and number of native species. Dangers to the environment from tourists and other influences along with conservation efforts to preserve the area are also covered. Throughout the books, the narratives are factual but also figurative in their descriptions (“Solid waterfalls spill like thick, white icing”). Visuals include photos of the entire area, close-ups of particulars, and even archival images of famous explorers. There are maps of each location and infographics that explain finer details, such as the layers of the Amazon rain forest or the various habitats within the Grand Canyon. These titles cover four sites within the United States and four in other countries, which may leave some wishing that more international places had been included. VERDICT Consider for report writers or for those who enjoy world records.

The best choices for young readers offer brilliant photographs and simple, informative text like Lerner’s “Crayola Colorology” or Creative Education’s “Earth Rocks!” For older students, the most valuable series have a depth of coverage that includes not only current trends but future possibilities. Cavendish Square’s “The Power of Coding” strikes a balance between individual contributions and prospects for the future of the field. But the most appealing titles are aimed at the difficult intermediate years, when children are exploring their unique interests and developing their reading personalities. Enslow’s “The Power of Poop” stealthily introduces environmental concerns and other scientific concepts while capitalizing on the childhood fascination with bathroom humor. And reluctant science readers will not be able to resist the head-to-head drama of Lerner’s “STEM Smackdown.”

Suzanne Costner, Fairview Elementary School, Maryville, TN

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