Cosmic Connections: General Science Series Nonfiction

No matter what series you look at, there are connections to be found between the reader, the topic, and the world at large. The best new science books offer captivating photos, helpful diagrams, and explanations or descriptions that draw readers in—then send them out to discover more.

One theme that appears throughout this season’s offerings is the connectedness of everything. Innovators in the U.S. find a solution for refugees on another continent. Math underpins every field of human endeavor. Everything is made of matter and has observable properties. Plants and animals have life cycles that can be predicted and studied. No matter what series you look at, there are connections to be found between the reader, the topic, and the world at large. The best new books offer captivating photos, helpful diagrams, and explanations or descriptions that draw readers in—then send them out to discover more.

 

ELEMENTARY

Emminizer, Theresa. Moving Ice: How the Great Lakes Formed. ISBN 9781725301580.
––––. Water and Rock: How the Grand Canyon Formed. ISBN 9781725301665.
Faust, Daniel R. Layers of Stone: How Earth’s Biggest Caves Formed. ISBN 9781725301542.
Klatte, Kathleen A. Reefs and Volcanoes: How Earth’s Atolls Formed. ISBN 9781725301627.
Morlock, Jeremy. Lava and Magma: How the Hawaiian Islands Formed. ISBN 9781725301504.
Tolli, Jenna. The Highest Peak: How Mount Everest Formed. ISBN 9781725301467.
ea vol: 32p. (Earth’s History Through Rocks). glossary. index. photos. websites. Rosen/PowerKids. Aug. 2019. Tr. $26.25.
Gr 4-6 –Rock devotees will be excited to see this series on the shelf. Each title takes a type of landform (caves, islands, canyons, etc.) and traces its formation through volcanoes, glaciers, and other geological forces. A balance of text pages and large-scale images keeps the reader from feeling overwhelmed by the amount of information, but captions and text boxes add extra details. The stunning photographs show lava flows, layers of the Grand Canyon, and formations in Mammoth Cave, as well as geologists at work and conservationists cleaning up the shores of the Great Lakes. Information includes early scientists and their theories, how those theories have been proved or disproved, and how climate change and new technology impact the landforms and their study. A link is provided to access a regularly updated online list of related websites. VERDICT Attractive and fact-filled; a great update to the geology section for middle grades.

Rector, Rebecca Kraft. Chemical Changes. ISBN 9781978507579.
––––. Color. ISBN 9781978507548.
––––. Flexibility. ISBN 9781978507531.
––––. Hardness. ISBN 9781978507562.
––––. Physical Changes. ISBN 9781978507586.
––––. Texture. ISBN 9781978507555.
ea vol: 24p. (Let’s Learn About Matter). glossary. index. photos. websites. Enslow. Aug. 2019. Tr. $22.60.
K-Gr 3 –Children learn about the world around them all the time. This series introduces some helpful terms and concepts for that exploration. Definitions of the terms are provided at the beginning of each book. Short pages of text alternate with images and captions as readers learn about physical and chemical changes, as well as the attributes of matter. Examples such as melting ice cream, a coiled water hose, or a handful of crayons demonstrate physical changes, flexibility, or color in easily understood ways. Fast facts such as “Even people are made of matter” are ­provided in text boxes to add to the topic. An activity to apply the lessons is included in each book with a materials list and step-by-step directions. VERDICT A good choice for those looking to update their collection or offer more science titles for the lower grades.

Richards, Jon. Forces. ISBN 9781538243022.
––––. Habitats. ISBN 9781538242971.
––––. Light and Sound. ISBN 9781538242933.
––––. Living Things. ISBN 9781538242896.
––––. Materials. ISBN 9781538242858.
––––. Plants. ISBN 9781538242810.
ea vol: 32p. (Science in Infographics). glossary. index. Gareth Stevens. Aug. 2019. Tr. $26.60.
Gr 4-6 –Today’s learners are visually oriented, so infographics are a logical approach to sharing information and teaching concepts. These books cover a range of useful topics, from forces to habitats to plants, in the image-rich style that students appreciate. Each spread explores a subtopic within the broader subject, such as how simple machines can multiply a force, or whether light is a wave or a particle. The opening spread in Living Things does a wonderful job of explaining how we determine if something is alive and showing some of the odder examples, like extremophiles. Examples relate concepts to the reader’s background knowledge. Organization of the material makes it easy to skim for topics of interest or use for research. The websites listed in the back matter have been screened for suitable content and are a mix of sites with more information and sites with infographics. VERDICT An excellent resource for class assignments and personal interest.

Sohn, Emily. Air and Weather. 24p. ISBN 9781684509744.
––––. Animal Needs. 24p. ISBN 9781684509737.
––––. Balance and Motion. 24p. ISBN 9781684509720.
––––. Earth Materials. 32p. ISBN 9781684509638.
––––. Environments. 48p. ISBN 9781684509522.
––––. Fabric. 24p. ISBN 9781684509713.
––––. Food and Nutrition. 48p. ISBN 9781684509515.
––––. Human Body. 32p. ISBN 9781684509621.
––––. Insects. 24p. ISBN 9781684509706.
––––. Landforms. 48p. ISBN 9781684509508.
––––. Levers and Pulleys. 48p. ISBN 9781684509492.
––––. Living Systems. 48p. ISBN 9781684509485.
––––. Magnetism and Electricity. 32p. ISBN 9781684509614.
––––. Matter and Energy. 32p. ISBN 9781684509607.
––––. Measurement. 32p. ISBN 9781684509591.
––––. Mixtures and Solutions. 48p. ISBN 9781684509478.
––––. Models and Designs. 48p. ISBN 9781684509461.
––––. New Plants. 24p. ISBN 9781684509690.
––––. Paper from Wood. 24p. ISBN 9781684509683.
––––. Patterns and Textures. 32p. ISBN 9781684509584.
––––. Pebbles, Sand, and Silt. 24p. ISBN 9781684509676.
––––. Solar Energy. 48p. ISBN 9781684509454.
––––. Solids and Liquids. 24p. ISBN 9781684509669.
––––. Sound. 32p. ISBN 9781684509577.
––––. Structures of Life. 32p. ISBN 9781684509560.
––––. Sun, Moon, and Stars. 32p. ISBN 9781684509553.
––––. Trees. 24p. ISBN 9781684509652.
––––. Variables and Experiments. 48p. ISBN 9781684509447.
––––. Water. 32p. ISBN 9781684509546.
––––. Weather and the Water Cycle. 48p. ISBN 9781684509430.
ea vol: (iScience). glossary. Norwood House. Jul. 2019. Tr. $23.94.
K-Gr 6 –This series has books for a variety of grade levels. Some suit the K–2 crowd, while others are better for grades 3–4 or 5–6. The strength of the series is that the format is the same in every book. Each begins with a science puzzle related to the topic. The next section introduces real-world applications of the principles or forces at work, such as magnets, weather, or human body systems. A discovery activity encourages further investigation, while another section traces the topic back in history. As the book is read, details are revealed that help the reader choose the correct solution to the puzzle. A final section discusses more real-life uses or examples. Notes in the back of the books answer questions posed throughout the text (with page references). Photos and diagrams support the text well. VERDICT The format makes this series handy for planning class investigations.

Tonkin, Rachel. Acorn to Oak Tree. ISBN 9780778763796.
––––. Egg to Butterfly. ISBN 9780778763840.
––––. Egg to Chicken. ISBN 9780778763857.
––––. Egg to Frog. ISBN 9780778763864.
ea vol: 24p. (Follow the Life Cycle). diag. glossary. index. websites. Crabtree. Jul. 2019. Tr. $23.60.
K-Gr 2 –Each book clearly and simply explains the steps of a particular life cycle with glossary terms in bold print for easy identification. Digitally illustrated scenes vary from wide-angle images to detailed close-ups so that readers can see a young oak tree with a bird on its branches or a single egg in a clump of frogspawn. The wider views also show other plants and animals within each habitat. The illustrations are warm and colorful to grab the reader’s attention yet are detailed enough to support the text. QR codes provide access to videos such as caterpillars hatching from eggs or the heartbeat of an embryonic chick. A diagram of the complete life cycle ends each book, offering a chance to review and reflect. There is an access code in each book for the Crabtree Plus website, where readers can see all the digital content and try out the interactive offerings. ­ VERDICT A good introduction for primary grades with the added bonus of digital support.

Fretland, Jenny VanVroost. The Science Behind Basketball. ISBN 9781641288996.
––––. The Science Behind Cycling. ISBN 9781641289023.
––––. The Science Behind Gymnastics. ISBN 9781641289054.
––––. The Science Behind Tennis. ISBN 9781641289085.
––––. The Science Behind Track and Field. ISBN 9781641289115.
––––. The Science Behind Volleyball. ISBN 9781641289146.
––––. The Science Behind Water Sports. ISBN 9781641289177.
ea vol: 24p. (STEM in the Summer Olympics). glossary. index. photos. Jump!/Pogo. Aug. 2019. Tr. $26.99.
Gr 2-5 –Having a hard time convincing sports lovers that STEM includes them? Then look no further—these titles cover bikes, boats, balls, and balance beams. The text asks questions to draw readers in and provides details about the science behind the equipment, uniforms, and techniques for the various Olympic events. Full-color photos give each spread visual appeal, and “Did You Know?” text boxes add details to the main discussion. “Take a Look!” insets feature diagrams that show things such as the forces acting on a swimmer or how gymnasts use kinetic energy. Each book ends with an activity that encourages readers to experiment with one of the topics, such as how friction affects the bounce of a tennis ball. General ideas for parents and teachers are included in the series, as well as access to FactSurfer.com for recommended websites for further study. VERDICT A solid series for intermediate grade science or sports fans.

 

MIDDLE TO HIGH SCHOOL

Biskup, Agnieszka. The Surprising World of Bacteria with Max Axiom, Super Scientist: 4D an Augmented Reading Science ­Experience. illus. by Tod G. Smith. ISBN 9781543572490.
Keyser, Amber J. Decoding Genes with Max Axiom, Super Scientist: 4D an Augmented Reading Science Experience. illus. by Tod G. Smith. ISBN 9781543572476.
Krohn, Katherine. A Refreshing Look at Renewable Energy with Max Axiom, Super Scientist: 4D an Augmented Reading Science Experience. illus. by Cynthia Martin. ISBN 9781543572483.
––––. The Whirlwind World of Hurricanes with Max Axiom, Super Scientist: 4D an Augmented Reading Science Experience. illus. by Cynthia Martin. ISBN 9781543572506.
ea vol: 32p. (Graphic Science 4D). glossary. illus. index. photos. Capstone. Aug. 2019. Tr. $34.65.
Gr 3-8 – “Max Axiom” is a popular series thanks to its graphic novel format and the protagonist, a science superhero, who can use his abilities to investigate topics he finds interesting. These four titles have Max flying with Hurricane Hunters, shrinking down to explore genes and bacteria, and even travelling inside an electrical line. He visits labs, talks with experts out in the field, and chats with his neighbors about subjects like solar power and preparing for storms. The 4D app allows readers to access videos of chromosomes, storm surges, fish ladders, and other related topics from the text. There is also a how-to video for the suggested activity in each book and a quiz. For those without the app, an access code for the companion website offers the same content. VERDICT Solid information in a crowd-pleasing format for middle grades.

Haelle, Tara. Earth’s Place in Space. Dec. 2020. ISBN 9781731614674.
––––. Light Waves. Dec. 2020. ISBN 9781731614681.
––––. Sound Waves. Jan. 2021. ISBN 9781731614698.
Hulick, Kathryn. Mixing and Measuring Matter. Jan. 2021. ISBN 9781731614704.
MacCarald, Clara. Earth’s Energy Flow. Dec. 2020. ISBN 9781731614667.
––––. Weather Prediction. Jan. 2021. ISBN 9781731614650.
ea vol: 48p. (Science Masters). glossary. index. Rourke/Connections. Tr. $34.22.
Gr 5-9 –This series covers a variety of science topics such as matter, energy, and the weather. For example, Earth’s Place in Space teaches readers about the solar system, the Milky Way, space exploration, the Goldilocks Zone, meteor showers, black holes, and the Mars rovers. Chunks of text are accompanied by photos or diagrams, making the content easy to digest. Captions help to link the images to the main text, and the images themselves range from archival photos to the latest portrait of a black hole from the Event Horizon Telescope. Directions for a related activity are included in each book, along with another suggested extension activity and text-dependent questions in the back matter. Glossary terms appear in bold print, while other terms of interest are in italics. General “Before Reading” suggestions are the same throughout the series. VERDICT Good titles to update science collections and align with NGSS topics.

Hardyman, Robyn. Innovators Advancing Medicine. ISBN 9781534565432.
––––. Innovators Challenging Climate Change. ISBN 9781534565586.
––––. Innovators Dealing with Natural ­Disasters. ISBN 9781534565494.
––––. Innovators Feeding the Planet. ISBN 9781534565555.
––––. Innovators Improving Transportation. ISBN 9781534565524.
––––. Innovators Tackling the Energy Crisis. ISBN 9781534565463.
ea vol: 48p. (Earth’s Innovators). glossary. index. photos. websites. Greenhaven/Lucent. Aug. 2019. Tr. $33.60.
Gr 5-8 –Titles in this series cover everything from medicine to the energy crisis. Examples from around the world show how problem solvers are creating unique solutions to serious dilemmas. Whether it is a wireless pacemaker the size of a dime, early warning apps for natural disasters, or converting methane into fish food, these ideas are cutting-edge. Each book focuses on a particular area of innovation, with case studies that introduce a specific innovator such as the creator of Cardborigami, a cardboard popup shelter for the homeless. Sidebars feature “Ingenious Innovation” ideas like the Seismic supersuit, a wearable technology that assists with physical therapy. Images show problems around the world and the remedies being tried. The text discusses the situations in a respectful manner, focusing on the needs of those involved and what is being done to meet them. A final “Innovators of the Future” section closes out each book with ideas that are still under development. VERDICT A strong addition to STEM collections and for those looking for STEM role models.

Odenwald, Sten. Space Exploration: A History in 100 Objects. ISBN 9781615196142; ISBN 9781615196159.
256p. (Space Exploration). illus. index. photos. The Experiment. Oct. 2019. Tr. $25.
Gr 9 Up –The author uses a wide range of unique items to trace discoveries and technology developments that marked crucial advances in understanding the world and the universe from 70,000 BCE to the present. Readers may see Sputnik on the cover and assume that all the items discussed are rockets and robots, but the artifacts include bronze medallions, petroglyphs, and medicine wheels, too. Readers will be amazed at the wide range of time periods and cultures represented by the featured examples. Photographs show the details of the astrolabes, star charts, and lenses, while the back matter includes a guide to the objects’ current locations. The author’s explanations of the significance of each piece in relation to astronomy and aerospace are also compelling celebrations of the contributions from around the world and throughout history. VERDICT A must for science departments and library collections.

Woo, Eddie. It’s a Numberful World.
352p. (It’s a Numberful World). photos. The Experiment. Sept. 2019. ISBN 9781615196128. Tr. $16.95.

Gr 7 Up –The author takes readers on a tour of the astounding realm of mathematics and its connections to every area of life. Everyday examples such as card tricks or musical harmony make connections with the reader’s background knowledge, while each chapter explores the ways in which math is intertwined throughout the cosmos. Whether a reader is interested in chemistry, origami, lightning, or the circulatory system, this book engagingly traces how various fields of mathematics play a part in understanding each one. Terms like fractals, golden ratio , and Fibonacci sequence are easily comprehensible with the explanations and diagrams provided. The text is informative yet entertaining enough to win over those who are not math lovers. There are quotes from famous mathematicians and even math jokes. The book can be enjoyed from cover to cover, or each chapter can be read as a stand-alone essay. There are also suggestions for further reading. VERDICT Perfect for library collections; or for use in the classroom as a discussion starter.


Whether it is BMX racing or hurricane preparedness, science and STEM titles cover a range of topics that offer something for everyone. Younger students will enjoy the video extras in “Follow the Life Cycle” (Crabtree), while middle grades have their choice of role models in “Earth’s Innovators” (Greenhaven/Lucent). High schoolers will have a new favorite math teacher in Eddie Woo and It’s a Numberful World (The Experiment); his examples of probability and a box of chocolates should not be missed. No matter which title readers decide on, the text and images will inform and inspire them. Digital content, companion sites, and hands-on activities will extend the learning and build stronger connections between readers and the world.

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