Natural Curiosity: Life Science | Series Made Simple Spring 2013

This spring’s life-science entries offer an assortment of possibilities for refreshing your 500 and 600 sections. Most of the series come with the expected set of nonfiction tools (e.g., TOC, index, glossary, bibliography), but in some cases, publishers are including more text cues to aid the youngest readers with decoding and comprehension skills. Series for older readers are adding questions to help students read to learn.

This spring’s life-science entries offer an assortment of possibilities for refreshing your 500 and 600 sections. Most of the series come with the expected set of nonfiction tools (e.g., TOC, index, glossary, bibliography), but in some cases, publishers are including more text cues to aid the youngest readers with decoding and comprehension skills. Series for older readers are adding questions to help students read to learn. On the other hand, there are still far too many topics that could be better clarified with a diagram, a table, a graph, or even more and clearer labels on images. Books incorporating those rich additions will aid teachers and librarians as they help students meet the Common Core State Standards. A noteworthy trend is the development of standards implementation guides for specific titles. These can often be found on publishers’ and authors’ websites. Busy teachers will find them helpful indeed.

Preschool-Grade 4

GANERI, Anita. Hearing. ISBN 978-1-59920-851-0. LC 2012004122. ––––. Sight. ISBN 978-1-59920-852-7. LC 2012004123. ––––. Smell. ISBN 978-1-59920-853-4. LC 2012004124. ––––. Taste. ISBN 978-1-59920-854-1. LC 2012008594. ––––. Touch. ISBN 978-1-59920-855-8. LC 2012008595. ea vol: 24p. (Senses Series). diags. glossary. index. photos. Smart Apple. 02013. PLB $25.65. K-Gr 2–A sense-related question draws students into the topic, and a diagram orients them to all five senses at the beginning of each volume in this set. In the simple terms, the texts that follow discuss what each particular sense provides and the organs involved and how they work. Opportunities for vocabulary development are lost when words like  “wobble,” “bits,” “spit,” and “tubes” are used as substitutes for  “vibrate,” “particles,” “saliva,” and “blood vessels.” The series is also weakened by a typo in Smell and a passage in Sight in which readers are told, “Your eyeballs are made from jelly.” A final spread shares three or four facts that extend the topic. The oversize text is brief with even larger highlighted keywords. Captions and labels describe illustrations and diagrams. The stock photos are clear, colorful, and generally work well with the texts. Glossaries include four words, mostly from the highlighted keywords. Overall, a flawed series. GRAY , Leon. Food Webs. ISBN 978-1-4339-8707-6; ISBN 978-1-4339-8710-6. LC 2012026615. ––––. Life in Extreme Places. ISBN 978-1-4339-8715-1; ISBN 978-1-4339-8718-2. LC 2012026470. ––––. Plant Classification. ISBN 978-1-4339-8719-9; ISBN 978-1-4339-8722-9. LC 2012023552. ROYSTON , Angela. Animal Classification. ISBN 978-1-4339-8703-8; ISBN 978-1-4339-8706-9. LC 2012026469. ––––. Life Cycles. ISBN 978-1-4339-8711-3; ISBN 978-1-4339-8714-4. LC 2012026471. SPILSBURY , Louise & Richard Spilsbury. Adaptation and Survival. ISBN 978-1-4339-8699-4; ISBN 978-1-4339-8702-1. LC 2012026472. ea vol: 32p. (Life Science Stories Series). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Gareth Stevens. 2013. PLB $26.60; ebook $26.60. Gr 3-5 This series tries to relay complex science information with unsuccessful results. The content is presented in chapter spreads with little space devoted to the main text. Photos (usually two) and a text box fill up the remaining real estate. The quality of the color photos is satisfactory, but occasionally they are misrepresented by their captions or are at odds with the main text. There are several instances that lack necessary diagrams and labels to clarify the science. Poor word choice and simplistic definitions detract from the instructional value. For example, Classification describes a shark’s cartilage as “bendier than bone.” Overall, individual volumes may serve as springboards for a unit or to fill a gap in a collection, but many more successful titles are available. HALVORSON , Karin. Inside the Brain. ISBN 978-1-61783-609-1; ISBN 978-1-61480-763-6. LC 2012028763. ––––. Inside the Ears. ISBN 978-1-61783-610-7; ISBN 978-1-61480-764-3. LC 2012028770. ––––. Inside the Eyes. ISBN 978-1-61783-611-4; ISBN 978-1-61480-765-0. LC 2012028771. ––––. Inside the Heart. ISBN 978-1-61783-612-1; ISBN 978-1-61480-766-7. LC 2012030978. ––––. Inside the Lungs. ISBN 978-1-61783-613-8; ISBN 978-1-61480-767-4. LC 2012030857. ––––. Inside the Stomach. ISBN 978-1-61783-614-5; ISBN 978-1-61480-768-1. LC 2012030858. ea vol: 32p. (Super Simple Body Series). diags. glossary. illus. photos. ABDO. 2013. PLB $27.07; ebook $27.07. Gr 2-4–Each volume explains its subject’s location, parts, and function. Some titles extend their focus: Stomach, for example, contains information about the digestive system. Oversize text in short paragraphs; “Fast Facts” text boxes; kid-friendly, tongue-in-cheek headings, such as “Passing Gasses” (Lungs); and guiding questions keep the content engaging. The controlled vocabulary uses appropriate technical terms or provides a workable substitution. The design is cohesive and friendly. Numerous visuals, including diagrams, drawings, and color photographs, fill the pages–though more labels would have been helpful to aid students in identify body parts, etc. Unfortunately, the three-to-seven activities per title are disappointing. Though they are meant to support the texts, they often miss their marks with confusing instructions, too-small photos, and uninspired ideas. RILEY , Joelle. Examining Erosion. ISBN 978-1-4677-0021-4; ISBN 978-1-4677-1019-0. LC 2012022474. STORAD , Conrad J. Uncovering Earth’s Crust. maps. ISBN 978-1-4677-0020-7; ISBN 978-1-4677-1018-3. LC 2012017604. WALKER , Sally M. Figuring Out Fossils. ISBN 978-1-4677-0019-1; ISBN 978-1-4677-1020-6. LC 2012013840. ––––. Marveling at Minerals. chart. ISBN 978-1-4677-0022-1; ISBN 978-1-4677-1021-3. LC 2012010392. ––––. Researching Rocks. maps. ISBN 978-1-4677-0018-4; ISBN 978-1-4677-1022-0. LC 2012017606. ––––. Studying Soil. ISBN 978-1-4677-0023-8; ISBN 978-1-4677-1023-7. LC 2012022475. ea vol: 40p. (Searchlight Books: Do You Dig Earth Science? Series). diags. further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Lerner. 2013. PLB $27.93; ebook $20.95. Gr 3-6–These traditional presentations cover the rudiments of earth science with mixed results. In an effort to keep things introductory, theories are sometimes stated as facts and important terms and details lack emphasis and clear explanations. With its relatively simple topic, Soil is the strongest title, while Crust is the most confusing because it attempts to explain too much too quickly. Photos and diagrams with descriptive captions are included, sometimes only adding confusion. Other topics beg for further visual clarification. Fossils, Crust, and Minerals touch upon scientists’ roles. Half-hearted suggestions for hands-on activities show up in Rocks and Soil. Most titles end with an explanation of the topic’s relevance or how readers can become involved in protecting or studying them. Teaching resources are available from the publisher’s website. SPILSBURY , Louise. Garbage Can: Look Inside. ISBN 978-1-4329-7195-3; ISBN 978-1-4329-7202-8. LC 2012011814. ––––. Pond: Look Inside . ISBN 978-1-4329-7196-0; ISBN 978-1-4329-7203-5. LC 2012011818. ––––. Tide Pool: Look Inside. ISBN 978-1-4329-7197-7; ISBN 978-1-4329-7204-2. LC 2012011821. SPILSBURY , Richard. Burrow: Look Inside. ISBN 978-1-4329-7193-9; ISBN 978-1-4329-7200-4. LC 2012011713. ––––. Cave: Look Inside. ISBN 978-1-4329-7194-6; ISBN 978-1-4329-7201-1. LC 2012011711. ––––. Tree: Look Inside. ISBN 978-1-4329-7198-4; ISBN 978-1-4329-7205-9. LC 2012011822. ea vol: 32p. (Look Inside Series). further reading. glossary. illus. index. photos. websites. Heinemann. 2013. PLB $26; pap. $7.99. K-Gr 2–These introductions explore habitats top to bottom. A table of contents diagram identifies four distinct strata (for example, a tide pool is divided into “At the Top,” “On the Rocks,” “In the Water,” and “Rock Bottom”), and goes on to examine three animals that eat, reproduce, or live at each level. This artificial division usually works, but in Garbage Can it falters; many of the inhabitants are more typically found in a compost pile than the garbage cans most readers are familiar with. Captioned color photographs with images of each animal and an occasional label support the texts closely. Rare species of fish, mammals, birds, and insects are introduced, but intrigued young researchers may struggle to find further facts about them. The final spreads offer additional general information about each habitat, including facts about more animals, safety tips, or seasonal influences.

TURNBULL , Stephanie. Fall. ISBN 978-1-59920-849-7. LC 2012004120. ––––. Spring. ISBN 978-1-59920-847-3. LC 2012004118. ––––. Summer. ISBN 978-1-59920-848-0. LC 2012004119. ––––. Winter. ISBN 978-1-59920-850-3. LC 2012004121. ea vol: 24p. (Seasons Series). glossary. index. photos. Smart Apple. 2013. PLB $25.65. PreS-Gr 2–Animals, plants, and weather are the focus in this series. Each title begins with a listing of the months in the season, the length of the days, and the general type of weather the season brings. Animal behaviors are featured, including migration (Fall), the metamorphosis of butterflies and frogs, (Summer), and hibernation (Fall and Winter). Most titles reference some holidays or multicultural festivals. Only Christmas and Valentine’s Day are mentioned in Winter. Text placement, color and size, plus onomatopoeia provide reading cues, but the glossaries are not thorough and the design is uneven across the volumes. A closing “Did You Know…?” spread in each book offers four facts, including the opposing season in the Southern Hemisphere. Border-to-border color photos provide backgrounds with additional photo insets overlaid.

Grades 5 & Up

ALLEN, Kathy. Wind Power. ISBN 978-1-61080-900-9; ISBN 978-1-61080-925-2; ISBN 978-1-61080-950-4. LC 2012033414. BETHEA , Nikole Brooks. Oil and Coal. diags. ISBN 978-1-61080-897-2; ISBN 978-1-61080-922-1; ISBN 978-1-61080-947-4. LC 2012032568. BRENNAN , Linda Crotto. Geothermal Power. ISBN 978-1-61080-894-1; ISBN 978-1-61080-919-1; ISBN 978-1-61080-944-3. LC 2012033418. DUKE , Shirley. Nuclear Power. ISBN 978-1-61080-896-5; ISBN 978-1-61080-921-4; ISBN 978-1-61080-946-7. LC 2012032788. NEWMAN , Patricia. Biofuels. diags. ISBN 978-1-61080-893-4; ISBN 978-1-61080-918-4; ISBN 978-1-61080-943-6. LC 2012030463. ––––. Water Power. ISBN 978-1-61080-899-6; ISBN 978-1-61080-924-5; ISBN 978-1-61080-949-8. LC 2012033416. ROWELL , Rebecca. Natural Gas. ISBN 978-1-61080-895-8; ISBN 978-1-61080-920-7; ISBN 978-1-61080-945-0. LC 2012031310. VOGEL , Julia. Solar Power. ISBN 978-1-61080-898-9; ISBN 978-1-61080-923-8; ISBN 978-1-61080-948-1. LC 2012030464. ea vol: 32p. (Language Arts Explorer: Energy Lab Series). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Cherry Lake. 2013. PLB $28.50; pap. $14.21; ebook $28.50. Gr 4-6–This series offers a timely introduction to energy resources, their advantages, disadvantages, and future outlooks of different options. Opening sections lay out a challenge with two or three general questions. The remaining chapters follow a fictitious researcher through the primary research process. Most missions begin with a science teacher providing fundamental information, then move on to a diverse assortment of scientists, engineers, tour guides, plant managers, etc. Each journal entry concludes with the purpose for the next visit. Text boxes explain related concepts. A quick review and a short list of recall statements and comprehension questions end each challenge. Two routine “Further Missions” extension ideas are included, though they are sometimes unrelated to the content or too difficult. Diagrams are rare; more would help explain confusing topics, such as how a ground source heat pump works. The adequate photos on nearly every other page sometimes don’t match their captions. This set is almost identical in treatment and content to the “Examining Energy” series (Oliver Press). ANNISS , Matt. The Science of Earthquakes. ISBN 978-1-4339-8655-0; ISBN 978-1-4339-8658-1. LC 2012025889. ––––. The Science of Tornadoes. ISBN 978-1-4339-8663-5; ISBN 978-1-4339-8666-6. LC 2012023548. GRAY , Leon. The Science of Tsunamis. ISBN 978-1-4339-8667-3; ISBN 978-1-4339-8670-3. LC 2012034535. ROYSTON , Angela. The Science of Hurricanes. ISBN 978-1-4339-8659-8; ISBN 978-1-4339-8662-8. LC 2012037758. ––––. The Science of Volcanoes. ISBN 978-1-4339-8671-0; ISBN 978-1-4339-8674-1. LC 2012022953. SPILSBURY , Richard. The Science of Avalanches. ISBN 978-1-4339-8651-2; ISBN 978-1-4339-8654-3. LC 2012037760. ea vol: 48p. (Nature’s Wrath: The Science Behind Natural Disasters Series). further reading. glossary. index. maps. photos. websites. Gareth Stevens. 2013. PLB $31.95; ebook $31.95. Gr 4-6–This series keeps the science introductory but provides plenty of real-life examples of hurricanes, avalanches, etc., many from the last decade and some as recent as summer 2012. Four chapters in each title cover the science involved, the technology in use, effects of the disaster, and future outlook and preparedness. “Real-Life Science” sections use actual catastrophes to elucidate the science being covered. Quotes from victims and images of scientists and emergency and rescue workers in action offer the human side of the topics. Avalanches and Earthquakes include possible manmade triggers (however, fracking is not one of them), but climate change is not mentioned in any of the volumes. Bright background colors, color photos with captions, and a variety of insets provide further information and examples. The maps are too narrow in focus, and more labeled diagrams and tables would aid comprehension. Avalanches and Hurricanes have minor problems with clarity. BOYLE , Jordan. Examining Geothermal Energy. ISBN 978-1-934545-41-6; ISBN 978-1-934545-492. LC 2012035244. ––––. Examining Wind Energy. ISBN 978-1-934545-47-8; ISBN 978-1-934545-553. LC 2012035318. BRIGHT , Sandra. Examining Natural Gas. ISBN 978-1-934545-42-3; ISBN 978-1-934545-508. LC 2012035248. ––––. Examining Solar Energy. ISBN 978-1-934545-45-4; ISBN 978-1-934545-539. LC 20120358316. COOKE , Rebecca. Examining Nuclear Energy. ISBN 978-1-934545-43-0; ISBN 978-1-934545-515. LC 2012036476. ––––. Examining Water Power. ISBN 978-1-934545-46-1; ISBN 978-1-934545-546. LC 2012035317. ROBERTSON , Chase. Examining Biofuels. ISBN 978-1-934545-40-9; ISBN 978-1-934545-485. LC 2012035242. ––––. Examining Oil and Coal. ISBN 978-1-934545-44-7; ISBN 978-1-934545-522. LC 2012035249. ea vol: 48p. (Examining Energy Series). bibliog. diags. further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Oliver/Clara House. 2013. PLB $24.95; ebook $24.95. Gr 6-8–These handsome volumes charge readers with investigating different energy sources. The texts are framed as fictitious research journals that examine the history, science, and future outlook of wind energy, nuclear energy, etc. Pros and cons are included with each option. Using an identical treatment to Cherry Lake’s “Language Arts Explorer: Energy Lab” and very similar texts, this series offers some improvements. More pages and an older intended audience allow for more in-depth coverage. Additional historical information, better scientific explanations, and extended future outlooks round-out the content. For example, an entire chapter on fracking is included in Natural Gas but only briefly mentioned in the comparable volume in “Energy Lab.” The larger format accommodates clear color photos and diagrams missing from that set. The questions in the concluding chapter of every volume provide opportunities for written and oral analysis and debate, requiring a thorough understanding of the text. Three suggested activities, which include guiding questions, could inspire readers to pursue further exploration. CLAYBOURNE , Anna. Mental Development: From Birth to Old Age. ISBN 978-1-4329-7085-7; ISBN 978-1-4329-7092-5. ROONEY , Anne. Your Physical Body: From Birth to Old Age. ISBN 978-1-4329-7087-1; ISBN 978-1-4329-7094-9. SNEDDEN , Robert. Nutrition: From Birth to Old Age. ISBN 978-1-4329-7086-4; ISBN 978-1-4329-7093-2. SOLWAY , Andrew. Exercise: From Birth to Old Age. ISBN 978-1-4329-7083-3; ISBN 978-1-4329-7090-1. SPILSBURY , Louise. Health and Disease: From Birth to Old Age. ISBN 978-1-4329-7084-0; ISBN 978-1-4329-7091-8. SPILSBURY , Richard. Emotions: From Birth to Old Age . ISBN 978-1-4329-7082-6; ISBN 978-1-4329-7089-5. ea vol: 64p. (Your Body for Life Series). chron. charts. diags. further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Heinemann. 2013. PLB $35; pap. $9.99. Gr 7-9–These titles discuss the milestones, challenges, and concerns people experience as their bodies change throughout their lives. Each volume opens with a broad overview,  followed by five-to-seven chapters that begin with infancy and end with old age. The presentations are mostly balanced. For example, Nutrition touches upon health, eating disorders, and different kinds of diets, among many other topics. Color photographs, diagrams, and graphs illustrate the pages. “Amazing But True!” text boxes, sidebars, and captions add details and background information. Chapters conclude with a short recall quiz with answers. Either a supplementary spread of facts or a time line is appended along with suggestions of places to visit, extension ideas, and lists of print and web resources. Unfortunately, inconsistencies, labeling problems, and other issues mar the series. FAULK , Michelle. The Case of Sneezy Popcorn: Annie Biotica Solves Respiratory System Disease Crimes. ISBN 978-0-7660-3946-9. ––––. The Case of the Flesh-Eating Bacteria: Annie Biotica Solves Skin Disease Crimes. ISBN 978-0-7660-3945-2. ––––. The Case of the Infected Tick: Annie Biotica Solves Circulatory System Disease Crimes. ISBN 978-0-7660-3948-3. ––––. The Case of the Rusty Nail: Annie Biotica Solves Nervous System Disease Crimes. ISBN 978-0-7660-3949-0. ––––. The Case of the Undercooked Burger: Annie Biotica Solves Digestive System Disease Crimes. ISBN 978-1-4644-0229-6. ea vol: 48p. (Body System Disease Investigations Series). charts. diags. further reading. glossary. illus. index. photos. websites. Enslow. 2013. PLB $23.93. Gr 5-8 Using a CSI-style methodology and the scientific process, disease scene investigator Annie Biotica unravels mystery illnesses. Each volume includes five cases that are all related to the featured body system. After an introduction, the case studies typically follow the same format: “The Crime,” “The Clues,” “The Suspect[s],” “The Evidence” (which is culled from one to two lab tests), “The Verdict,” and the treatment or “Justice.” Bacteria contains an additional “Protect Yourself” section, and Popcorn follows up a of couple cases. Diseases and lab tests are explained, and preventative measures are included. The verdicts don’t flinch with failed treatments occasionally resulting in death (AIDS in Infected Tick and rabies in Rusty Nail. “You Solve the Case” scenarios use guiding questions to help readers solve medical mysteries on their own–though answers are included in the back of the books. Despite some inconsistencies, odd language choices, and typos, this set is exciting and informative. Color photos with plenty of gross-out close-ups and numerous illustrations add to the appeal.

The timely topic and use of primary sources in Cherry Lake’s “Language Arts Explorer: Energy Lab” will make the set easy to use for instruction on research. Oliver Press’s “Examining Energy” covers the same content for a slightly older audience and offers ways to assess students’ understanding and use of the text, a major requirement of the CCSS. The high-interest content, real-life examples, and detailed time lines make Gareth Stevens’s “Nature’s Wrath: The Science Behind Natural Disasters” a desirable addition to many collections. Use any of the many realistic fiction titles on similar topics to provide opportunities for comparison or pair these with matching titles from the “Edge Books: Epic Disasters” series (Capstone, 2012). The CSI-like approach and use of analytical thinking in Enslow’s “Body System Disease Investigations” means it is not only an engaging read, but it’s also an interesting introduction to diseases. For more background, have students compare them to related titles in the “Health Alerts” series (Marshall Cavendish) or others from your collection. Heinemann’s “Look Inside” delivers a fresh look at habitats and rich opportunities for further exploration and research. Despite the disappointing activities, ABDO’s “Super Simple Body” offers plenty of information. The multiple nonfiction tools in this series gives educators numerous entry points for instruction on reading to learn.

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