From the First Computer to Colonizing Mars | General Science Series Nonfiction

This season’s series examine the secrets of animal coloration, offer directions for science labs, and introduce the youngest readers to basic concepts of physics and recycling.


Science impacts every aspect of our lives. This season’s series examine the secrets of animal coloration, offer directions for science labs, and introduce the youngest readers to basic concepts of physics and recycling. There are tales of partners working together on famous discoveries and explorations of outer space. Whether the topic is biomimicry or extraterrestrial life, captivating images and informative text make for entertaining, educational reads. Many series also provide additional support through video clips, websites, instructions for hands-on activities, or even augmented reality or 3-D printer files. Publishers continue to integrate technology into the presentation of the facts with interactive ebooks along with traditional print versions. Readers are in for an exciting adventure.



Amstutz, Lisa J. Changes on Earth. ISBN 9781731638434.
––––. Land Tour. ISBN 9781731638458.
––––. Protecting Our Planet. ISBN 9781731638441.
––––. Seasons and the Sun. ISBN 9781731638472.
––––. Watching the Weather. ISBN 9781731638465.
––––. A World of Water. ISBN 9781731638427.
ea vol: 24p. (My Earth and Space Science Library). Rourke/Discovery Library Jr. Aug. 2020. Tr. $28.50.
K-Gr 2 –This series provides vocabulary lists, extension activities, and “After Reading Activity” suggestions that are tailored to each title. General “Before Reading” tips are the same in all of the books. Short chunks of text are supported by photos of landforms and weather. Diagrams help to illustrate concepts, such as the water cycle or tectonic plate movement. In each book, directions for a hands-on activity such as building a rain gauge are included. The “After Reading Activity” suggestions encourage children to try tasks like logging the hours of sunlight for a week or tracking the weather forecast. A photo glossary defines boldface vocabulary terms featured in the main text. These titles could be read aloud as part of a class lesson or enjoyed independently by young readers. VERDICT A kid-friendly introduction to earth science concepts, with helpful activity ideas.

Brundle, Harriet & Heather Kissock. Continents. ISBN 9781791122409.
––––. Endangered Animals. ISBN 9781791122447.
––––. Habitats. ISBN 9781791122607.
––––. Space. ISBN 9781791122645.
––––. Weather. ISBN 9781791122560.
Duhig, Holly & Heather Kissock. Rocks and Gems. ISBN 9781791122683.
Twiddy, Robin & Heather Kissock. Plants. ISBN 9781791122485.
Wood, John & Heather Kissock. Computers. ISBN 9781791122522.
ea vol: 32p. (Awesome Infographics). Weigl/AV2. Aug. 2020. Tr. $29.99.
Gr 4-6 –Each book begins with a feature spread, which defines the title concept; all other spreads explore facets of the topic in more depth. Pages provide bright illustrations and are visually appealing with maps, pictographs, and charts to support comprehension. The interactive ebook version offers video clips, slide shows, activities, and the ability to listen to sections read aloud. Whether readers are interested in how mountains are formed or how wind intensity is measured, each title offers plenty of information. Quizzes at the end of each book check for understanding. VERDICT A good supplement to existing collections; especially helpful to visual learners.

Conn, Marla. Animals Need Food. ISBN 9781731637901.
––––. Animals Need Shelter. ISBN 9781731637918.
––––. Make It Move. ISBN 9781731637895.
––––. Reuse It! ISBN 9781731638076.
––––. Science Tools. ISBN 9781731637925.
––––. Where Is the Gas? ISBN 9781731637932.
ea vol: 16p. (Ready for Science). Rourke/Ready Readers. Aug. 2020. Tr. $22.79.
PreS-Gr 2 –These titles begin with a photo glossary and list of high-frequency words. The texts provide a predictable, easy-to-follow pattern. Attractive photos fill the pages. Labels identify glossary terms. The activity page at the end of each book is useful for the classroom. There are discussion questions, teacher read-alouds, and ideas for writing or art projects, as well as encouragement to reread the book. Students can create a poster about recycling or a chart about pushes and pulls to demonstrate their understanding. Make It Move depicts children from different ethnic and racial backgrounds pushing swings, tugging on ropes, or rolling wagons. VERDICT An attractive introduction to early science concepts for the primary grades.

Corrigan, Jim. Awesome Innovations Inspired by Birds. ISBN 9781680206036.
––––. Awesome Innovations Inspired by Dolphins. ISBN 9781680206050.
––––. Awesome Innovations Inspired by Plants. ISBN 9781680206074.
––––. Awesome Innovations Inspired by Sharks. ISBN 9781680206098.
––––. Awesome Innovations Inspired by Spiders. ISBN 9781680206111.
––––. Awesome Innovations Inspired by Whales. ISBN 9781680206135.
ea vol: 32p. (Biomimicry). Mitchell Lane. Aug. 2020. Tr. $30.71.
Gr 4-6 –Young readers who are fascinated by animals will enjoy these titles that showcase examples of biomimicry. Photos depict animals and the innovations they have inspired; “Fun Facts” offer extra details. The text explains the problems researchers are trying to solve and how nature offers possible solutions. Examples include the Japanese bullet train with a nose like a kingfisher’s beak and coatings based on sharkskin that reduce bacteria on surfaces. Back matter features a recap of key concepts and a list of suggestions for those who would like to pursue a career as an engineer, architect, or inventor. VERDICT A wonderful set to use in covering engineering and design standards.

Crane, Cody. The Sun. ISBN 9780531132210.
Drimmer, Stephanie Warren. Planet Earth. ISBN 9780531132180.
Galat, Joan Marie. Stars. ISBN 9780531132197.
Tomecek, Steve. The Moon. ISBN 9780531132203.
ea vol: illus. by Gary Lacoste. 48p. (True Book: Our Universe). Scholastic/Children’s Pr. Sept. 2020. Tr. $31.
Gr 3-5 –Each title begins with two statements and the explanation that everything inside is true—except one of those statements. Readers will pay careful attention to the text as they search for clues to find the answer. Chapters cover one main topic and feature smaller subsections with headings. Images, such as a stellar nebula and a diagram of the lunar phases, support the text. Each book contains a time line, a list of relevant statistics, and a glossary. “Think Like a Scientist” offers data for readers to use in answering questions, and directions for an activity like constructing a telescope are provided. The opening question is answered at the end of the book. VERDICT A useful update to collections and helpful for meeting NextGen Science Standards.

Dahl, Michael. Sound Waves. ISBN 9781977122742.
Garstecki, Julia. Light Waves. ISBN 9781977122728.
––––. Radio Waves. ISBN 9781977122735.
Vonder Brink, Tracy. Microwaves. ISBN 9781977122711.
ea vol: 24p. (Waves in Motion). Capstone/Pebble. Aug. 2020. Tr. $27.99.
K-Gr 2 –These titles feature objects and processes that will be familiar to students, such as video games, cell phones, and GPS. The connection of each type of wave to kids’ everyday lives makes the content relevant to young readers. Photos and diagrams depict bats using echolocation, the formation of rainbows, weather radar, and other examples of waves in action. Each book ends with directions for an activity to explore the concepts covered. Students might experiment with trying to block the signal to a radio-controlled car or making music with glasses of water. The series could be read to first graders or explored independently by older students. VERDICT A solid introduction to the concepts; a good addition to collections.

Dufresne, Emilie. Poo in the Forest. ISBN 9781647473839.
––––. Poo in the Jungle. ISBN 9781647473846.
––––. Poo on the Farm. ISBN 9781647473853.
––––. Poo on the Savanna. ISBN 9781647473860.
ea vol: 24p. (Whose Poo?). Bearport/Fusion. Aug. 2020. Tr. $26.99.
Gr 2-4 –These books turn scatology into a guessing game. A different biome is spotlighted in each title, with various types of poo introduced along with clues to the identity of their makers. Labels point out details such as color and consistency, and three animals are suggested. After studying the text and photos, readers turn the page to see if their guess is correct. Additional facts are shared on the reveal page. For instance, hippos use their tails like propellers to spread their poo around their territory. The books end with a “Bonus Poo!” section, which describes more animals from the biome and their poo habits. VERDICT Perfect for students who enjoy bathroom humor and animal facts. This series will not stay on the shelf.

Goldstein, Margaret J. Mysteries of Alien Life. ISBN 9781541597372.
––––. Mysteries of Black Holes. ISBN 9781541597402.
––––. Mysteries of Deep Space. ISBN 9781541597419.
––––. Mysteries of Stars. ISBN 9781541597389.
Hirsch, Rebecca E. Mysteries of Mars. ISBN 9781541597365.
––––. Mysteries of the Moon. ISBN 9781541597396.
ea vol: 32p. (Searchlight Books: Space Mysteries). Lerner. Aug. 2020. Tr. $30.65.
Gr 3-5 –For those who are curious about outer space phenomena, this series covers topics such as the search for alien life and the exploration of the lunar surface. Photos of Jupiter’s moons, diagrams of the inside of the sun, and computer animations of black hole collisions are just a few of the images that support the text. “STEM Spotlight” sections profile technology, including the Parker Solar Probe and the theory of Hawking radiation. “Space Fact or Fiction?” asides examine popular beliefs—for instance, whether wormhole travel is possible. To conclude each topic, a link provides instructions for a 3-D printer activity to create models of the Chandra X-ray Observatory or other space-related objects. VERDICT A solid addition to any science collection, but especially useful for schools with 3-D printers.

Klepeis, Alicia Z. Blue-Footed Boobies. ISBN 9781645275749.
––––. Chameleons. ISBN 9781645275770.
––––. Flamingos. ISBN 9781645275800.
––––. Mandarinfish. ISBN 9781645275831.
––––. Poison Frogs. ISBN 9781645275862.
––––. Sea Slugs. ISBN 9781645275893.
ea vol: 24p. (Science Behind the Colors). Jump!/Pogo. Aug. 2020. Tr. $26.99.
Gr 2-5 –Bright, clear photos fill the pages of this series, while text is divided into easily digestible chunks of three or four sentences. Many of the photos have labels or small “Did You Know?” text boxes that offer additional facts. Each title also includes an infographic, such as a diagram of blue-footed boobies’ mating dance or a map of where mandarinfish live. An activity at the end of each book directs readers to research life cycles or observe how food coloring changes a stalk of celery. Those who wish to learn more may use the “Fact Surfer” website to access more resources. VERDICT An engaging series useful for lessons on animal adaptations or pleasure reading for animal lovers in general.



Fullman, Joe. Extreme Earth. ISBN 9781684123308.
MacGill, Sally. Amazing Science. ISBN 9781684123285.
––––. Human Body. ISBN 9781684123292.
ea vol: 64p. (Science Lab). Printers Row/Silver Dolphin. Jul. 2020. Tr. $21.99.
Gr 3-7 –This series contains directions for 50 different science experiments, and each title comes with a set of simple equipment. The materials needed for the activities are basic household items or school supplies, such as wooden skewers or modeling clay. Directions walk readers through the labs with step-by-step illustrations and explanations. Each section begins with a discussion of the main concept. The experiments explore the concept further, such as detailing how bones and joints work and then having readers build a robotic hand. Many of the activities will be familiar to science teachers, but it is handy to have them collected in one place. Young science enthusiasts will appreciate the detailed directions. VERDICT A handy reference for science or STEM labs.

Hoena, Blake. Flight. ISBN 9781644872598.
––––. Invisibility. ISBN 9781644872604.
––––. Super Speed. ISBN 9781644872628.
––––. Teleportation. ISBN 9781644872642.
Polinsky, Paige V. Super Senses. ISBN 9781644872611.
––––. Super Strength. ISBN 9781644872635.
ea vol: 32p. (Superhero Science). Bellwether/Blastoff! Discovery. Aug. 2020. Tr. $26.95.
Gr 3-8 –Is human flight possible? Will people ever be able to teleport? This series seeks to answer those questions. Images from comics feature characters such as Wonder Woman, Captain Marvel, and Dr. Strange. The text explains the origin of their powers and how they use them; for instance, Miles Morales uses camouflage to make himself nearly invisible as Spider-Man. Then readers dive into what is possible today, including current stealth technology and examples of near invisibility in nature. Possibilities for the future are also discussed. The section “Media Mania” offers other scenarios from popular culture. An infographic lists the negative effects of each ability on humans. Current and future tech trends from around the world are highlighted. VERDICT An excellent way to introduce STEAM topics or link current research to favorite pop culture heroes.

Loh-Hagan, Virginia. Antimatter. ISBN 9781534169234.
––––. Black Holes. ISBN 9781534169272.
––––. Dark Matter. ISBN 9781534169227.
––––. Extraterrestrial Life. ISBN 9781534169289.
––––. Mars Colonization. ISBN 9781534169296.
––––. Noises in Space. ISBN 9781534169241.
––––. Origins of Life. ISBN 9781534169265.
––––. Theory of Time Travel. ISBN 9781534169258.
ea vol: 32p. (Out of This World). Cherry Lake/45th Parallel. Aug. 2020. Tr. $29.93.
Gr 4-8 –This series details topics of interest written at a level to support struggling readers. Short chapters feature challenge words defined in the text. The engaging photos will hold the attention of readers as they explore the latest information about black holes or the search for extraterrestrial life. The “Women in Science” section features a different expert in each book, such as specialists at NASA or the director general of CERN. “It’s (Almost) Rocket Science” highlights innovative technology, including the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope and the Mars Rover. Each title provides the directions for a science experiment using household items. VERDICT An excellent hi-lo series for intermediate and middle school readers.



Borus, Audrey. James Watson, Francis Crick, Rosalind Franklin, and Maurice Wilkins: The Scientists Who Revealed the Structure of DNA. ISBN 9781725342323.
Hagler, Gina. Orville and Wilbur Wright: The Brothers Who Invented the Airplane. ISBN 9781725342354.
Idzikowski, Lisa. Pierre and Marie Curie: The Couple Who Pioneered Radioactivity Research. ISBN 9781725342385.
Lucas, Eileen. Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace: The Pen Pals Who Imagined the First Computer. ISBN 9781725342262.
Thompson, Elissa. James Till and Ernest McCulloch: The Team That Discovered Stem Cells. ISBN 9781725342293.
Timmons-Hanselka, Angela. The Leakeys: The Family That Traced Human Origins to Africa. ISBN 9781725342415.
ea vol: 80p. (Scientific Collaboration). Rosen. Aug. 2020. Tr. $35.75.
Gr 7 Up –These titles provide background information on the spotlighted figures, how they came to work in their fields, and descriptions of their successes and disappointments. Images of the collaborators accompany the detailed narratives, which explain their work. The narratives also discuss how the discoveries are still being worked on. Sidebars offer insights into other historical figures or explain relevant concepts, such as the method of differences used in Charles Babbage’s calculating machine and Wilhelm Roentgen’s discovery of X-rays. A detailed chronology arranges the events. ­ VERDICT Excellent for research projects or class discussions of how scientific innovation fits into various time periods.

Finding what appeals to readers is the key to capturing their interest. Two series that do a particularly good job of this are “Whose Poo?” (Bearport/Fusion) and “Superhero Science” (Bellwether/Blastoff! Discovery). Anyone familiar with the intermediate grades will recognize that fascination with the gross is a common trait among many students at that age. Learning about key animals from various biomes through an examination of their poo is certain to entice readers, and the added element of a guessing game makes this series an excellent choice. Another way to attract students is to focus on popular superheroes from comics and movies. “Superhero Science” compares very real innovations to the abilities of characters that are ubiquitous in popular culture. While all the series are useful and attractive, these two are certain to be favorites.

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing