The Wonder of It All | General Science Series Nonfiction

Science options this spring reflect the increasing frequency of titles aimed at STEM, STEAM, and makerspace programs.


Science options this spring reflect the increasing frequency of titles aimed at STEM, STEAM, and makerspace programs. The series vary in their approach; some offer augmented reality or 3-D printing patterns, while others provide guidance for hands-on activities or online research support. Along with the many ways to extend the reading experience, publishers are also expanding the topics to match student interests—comics, music, robots, sports, and UFOs are just a few of the possibilities. Humor is also popular; there are titles that ask, “How many ducks could fit in a bus?” or use monsters to explore patterns. Classroom units, individual exploration, or science labs—whatever the need, there is something to match it.



Brundle, Joanna. The Scale of Animals. ISBN 9780778776536.
––––. The Scale of Buildings and Structures. ISBN 9780778776543.
––––. The Scale of Dinosaurs. ISBN 9780778776550.
––––. The Scale of Famous Journeys. ISBN 9780778776567.
––––. The Scale of Landforms. ISBN 9780778776574.
––––. The Scale of the Solar System. ISBN 9780778776581.
ea vol: 24p. (The Scale of Things). Crabtree. Jan. 2020. Tr. $23.60.
K-Gr 3 –Each of these titles begins by explaining what will be measured (height, weight, length) and what units will be used. Comparisons help establish perspective, such as the weight of an ostrich to that of a hummingbird, or the length of a marathon to that of an expedition to the South Pole. Often an object or animal is carried over from one spread to the next. For example, the Statue of Liberty is compared to the Leaning Tower of Pisa and then to the London Eye. This provides continuity and allows readers to build on each comparison to form an overall mental picture. Illustrations are rendered in a graphic style. The items are placed next to each other on the page to offer visual contrast. VERDICT The perfect series to hand to students who are curious about the comparative scale of objects.


Dickmann, Nancy. Butterfly. ISBN 9781781215357.
––––. Duck. ISBN 9781781215364.
–––. Frog. ISBN 9781781215371.
––––. Lion. ISBN 9781781215388.
––––. Salmon. ISBN 9781781215395.
––––. Sunflower. ISBN 9781781215401.
ea vol: 24p. (Fast Track: Life Cycles). Black Rabbit/Brown Bear. Jan. 2020. Tr. $29.95.
K-Gr 3 –This series features close-up photos with text broken into easily digestible chunks. The main text appears on a white background, while additional facts and captions are in colored text boxes—making it easy to track the main flow of the narrative. Each spread includes one large and one smaller inset image. Action shots of a bear catching a salmon or a duckling hatching from its egg will grab the attention of readers. Comparisons (ducks to penguins or sunflowers to oak trees) help readers make connections and transfer knowledge. Back matter includes a review of the life cycle of each organism and a fact file with its life span, size, and other details. These features will be helpful for research projects and reports. Activity ideas for each title have readers comparing and contrasting toads and frogs or listing a lion’s prey. VERDICT An excellent update to collections.


Schuh, Mari. Dangerous Weather. ISBN 9781731628442.
––––. Measuring the Weather. ISBN 9781731628459.
––––. Predicting the Weather. ISBN 9781731628428.
––––. Rain, Snow, Sleet, and Hail. ISBN 9781731628411.
––––. Weather Affects Me. ISBN 9781731628435.
––––. Weather Patterns. ISBN 9781731628404.
ea vol: 24p. (Weather Watchers). Rourke/Discovery Library Jr. Jan. 2020. Tr. $28.50.
K-Gr 2 –Each book in this series begins with general suggestions for before and during reading activities. Vocabulary words are noted in this section, then also appear in bold print within the text, and are defined in the photo glossary. Text pages have three or four simple sentences supported by images on the facing page. Photos show blizzards, floods, tornadoes, weather tools, and seasonal scenes. Weather Affects Me does a good job of including images of people from a variety of backgrounds. Additional facts appear in text boxes that take the form of clouds. Measurements are given in standard U.S. units and metric equivalents. Directions for a related activity are included in the back matter, as well as an “After Reading Activity” idea. Activities range from keeping a weather calendar to creating a snow globe. VERDICT A solid purchase for use in primary grade weather units.


Bethea, Nikole Brooks. Making a Pulley System for Rapunzel. ISBN 9781644930298.
Gagliardi, Sue. Making a Bridge for the ­Gingerbread Man. ISBN 9781644930281.
––––. Making a Raft for the Three Billy Goats Gruff. ISBN 9781644930304.
––––. Making a Windproof House for the Three Little Pigs. ISBN 9781644930311.
Mattern, Joanne. Growing a Beanstalk for Jack. ISBN 9781644930274.
––––. Making a Witch Trap for Hansel and Gretel. ISBN 9781644930328.
ea vol: 32p. (Fairy Tale Science). North Star Editions/Focus Readers. Jan. 2020. Tr. $28.50.
Gr 3-5 –These books strike a balance between fairy tale, hands-on activity, and real-world applications. Each title begins with a simple retelling of the fairy tale. A STEM problem from the story is identified, followed by the activity directions. Activities use common materials and instruct readers to test their design to see if it is the best solution to the problem. In Making a Raft for the Three Billy Goats Gruff, real-world applications link the raft for the billy goats to a discussion of matter and density. Making a Pulley System for Rapunzel compares the pulley for Rapunzel to modern elevators. Images range from illustrations of fairy tale scenes to photos of actual billy goats or towers. Text boxes share fun facts. A review quiz with short answer and multiple choice questions appears in the back matter. Online educator resources provide lesson plans, curriculum standards, and links to related websites. VERDICT An excellent choice for those integrating STEM activities into their curriculum.


Devera, Czeena. Earth. ISBN 9781534158818.
––––. Jupiter. ISBN 9781534158887.
––––. Mars. ISBN 9781534158825.
––––. Mercury. ISBN 9781534158863.
––––. Neptune. ISBN 9781534158832.
––––. Saturn. ISBN 9781534158849.
––––. Uranus. ISBN 9781534158870.
––––. Venus. ISBN 9781534158856.
ea vol: illus. by Jeff Bane. 24p. (My Guide to the Planets). Cherry Lake. Jan. 2020. Tr. $28.50.

Gr 1-3 –This series uses emoji-style images of the planets to illustrate the book covers. This same image is used throughout each book to ask questions such as, “Do you know what planets are smaller than me?” The size of the planet, its order from the sun, and length of time for its orbit are included. Details like the presence of rings or moons or composition of the planet are also mentioned. Other information such as the length of a day is provided for some planets but not all. While each book ends with a page about what makes the planet unique, sometimes the answer is vague. Captions for the illustrations would be helpful; for instance, a Mars rover is shown but never mentioned in the text or identified. VERDICT Visually attractive, but has gaps in consistency.


Hirsch, Rebecca E. Planets in Action. ISBN 9781541578784.
––––. Space Gear in Action. ISBN 9781541578845.
–––. Space Machines in Action. ISBN 9781541578814.
––––. Space Stations in Action. ISBN 9781541578838.
––––. Space Vehicles in Action. ISBN 9781541578821.
––––. Stars and Galaxies in Action. ISBN 9781541578791.
Kurtz, Kevin. Black Holes in Action. ISBN 9781541578807.
––––. Comets and Asteroids in Action. ISBN 9781541578852.
ea vol: 32p. (Space in Action: Augmented Reality (Alternator Books ® )). Lerner. Jan. 2020. Tr. $31.99.
Gr 3-6 –Titles in this series cover space objects and phenomena, as well as space technology. Whether readers are fascinated by black holes or the inner workings of the International Space Station, the text is engaging. Vivid images capture readers’ imagination. Photos and images show planets, astronauts, and technology such as robots, rovers, and rockets. The image captions provide extra information. Glossary terms are found in bold print throughout the text. The use of augmented reality adds to the reading experience by offering sights such as 3-D models of the space station or a 360-degree view of the lunar surface. 1:1 schools especially will make the most of this feature. Links in the back matter provide directions to create 3-D printed models of the James Webb Space Telescope, the Curiosity Rover, and more. VERDICT An excellent purchase to update collections and support makerspaces.

Huddleston, Emma. Looking Inside the Human Body. ISBN 9781503835191.
––––. Looking into Caves. ISBN 9781503835221.
––––. Looking into Soil. ISBN 9781503835207.
––––. Looking into the Rain Forest. ISBN 9781503835214.
London, Martha. Looking Inside Earth. ISBN 9781503835184.
––––. Looking into the Atmosphere. ISBN 9781503835160.
––––. Looking into the Grand Canyon. ISBN 9781503835177.
––––. Looking into the Ocean. ISBN 9781503835153.
ea vol: 24p. (Looking at Layers). The Child’s World. Jan. 2020. Tr. $28.50.
Gr 2-5 –As readers would expect, each title in this series features diagrams to show the various layers being discussed. Images of rock formations in the Grand Canyon or plants and animals from the layers of the rain forest add more details to the descriptions. Looking Inside the Human Body relies heavily on artistic illustrations of the various body systems, rather than the more captivating photos found in the rest of the series. All the titles work through the layers in a logical order that makes the text easy to follow (starting at the ocean surface and working down, or at ground level and working up through the atmosphere). A “Fast Facts” section at the end of each title provides a synopsis of the main details for quick reference or review. Sidebars highlight related topics such as deep ocean vents or soil sciences. VERDICT A good purchase to update related topics.


Hessel-Mial, Michael. How STEM Built the Chinese Empires. ISBN 9781725341388.
––––. How STEM Built the Egyptian Empire. ISBN 9781725341418.
––––. How STEM Built the Incan Empire. ISBN 9781725341470.
––––. How STEM Built the Roman Empire. ISBN 9781725341531.
Leavitt, Amie Jane. How STEM Built the Aztec Empire. ISBN 9781725341357.
––––. How STEM Built the Mayan Empire. ISBN 9781725341500.
McKinney, Donna B. How STEM Built the Greek Empire. ISBN 9781725341449.
ea vol: 80p. (How STEM Built Empires). Rosen/Rosen Young Adult. Jan. 2020. Tr. $35.75.
Gr 7 Up –When STEM is mentioned, people don’t often think of paper, calendars, or silk, but those items were considered cutting-edge technologies at one time. These books travel through the many advances made by each historical empire in STEM fields ranging from agriculture to weaponry. The authors ground each device or process within the unique worldview of the civilization and explain how it met the needs of the culture. Photos show ancient structures like Machu Picchu, a model of a seismograph from the Han Dynasty, and early world maps. The loss of knowledge due to the destruction of records by conquering civilizations is also addressed, as well as the use of new technology such as Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) to locate ancient ruins and search for more answers. VERDICT Thorough coverage of the topics makes this an excellent resource for student research projects.


Huddleston, Emma. Ford Pinto Fuel Tanks. ISBN 9781532190728.
––––. The Johnstown Flood. ISBN 9781532190735.
––––. The New Orleans Levee Failure. ISBN 9781532190742.
Kortemeier, Todd. Air France Flight 447. ISBN 9781532190704.
––––. Chernobyl. ISBN 9781532190711.
––––. The Space Shuttle Challenger. ISBN 9781532190759.
ea vol: 48p. (Engineering Disasters). ABDO/Core Library. Dec. 2019. Tr. $32.79.
Gr 4-8 –This series covers disasters as well as changes made in their aftermaths. Topics range from floods to nuclear reactors. The text provides a detailed description of the events while photos offer an eyewitness feel. Several features make these titles especially helpful in supporting student writing. “Straight to the Source” sections share expert commentary on the disaster, then ask readers to write a response quoting from the source to support their ideas. “Stop and Think” is a similar section that offers prompts for written reflections on the material. Sidebars throughout the books offer various perspectives on each incident, and “Fast Facts” provide a recap of salient points. A further aid is the ABDO website with links to additional sources for research and writing support. VERDICT A helpful purchase for its engineering topics and tie-ins to writing curriculum.


Røyne, Anja. The Elements We Live By: How Iron Helps Us Breathe, Potassium Lets Us See, and Other Surprising Superpowers of the Periodic Table. tr. from Norwegian. illus. by Olivia Lasky. 224p. (Elements We Live By). The Experiment. May 2020. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781615196456.
Gr 9 Up –Beginning with the Big Bang and the creation of all matter, this title goes on to explain various chemical elements essential to modern life. Some serve necessary biological functions within the human body. Others are integral to technology and industry. The author explains how procuring the various elements affects the environment, predictions for when supplies may be exhausted, and even possible space mining or colonization in the future. Not just a discussion of basic chemistry, this is a volume that looks at the human impact on the planet and what we can learn from nature. All references are derived from blog posts or articles easily accessible to readers, but the sources they are based on have been checked for accuracy and authenticity by the author. VERDICT Useful for science or sociology courses that address the various impacts of natural resource development or for popular science readers.

Young, Tracie. Cool Math: 50 Fantastic Facts for Kids of All Ages.
ea vol: 112p. (Cool). Rizzoli/Pavilion. Mar. 2020. ISBN 9781843654483. Tr. $14.95.
Gr 7-9 –Whether readers are looking for tips to aid them in math class or wanting to learn number tricks (such as creating palindrome numbers) to impress their friends, this book contains both. There are helpful classroom hints for sorting out prime numbers and remembering the order of operations along with explanations of more esoteric mathematical oddities like Kaprekar’s constant. Simple advice for everyday activities such as calculating the tip at a restaurant or converting measurements in a recipe is also covered. Connections to Sudoku, ciphers, and creating the perfect photograph tie math to leisure activities. The text is easy to follow and the images support the explanations. Clever section headings such as “You’re So Mean!” offer a laugh for those who find math a bit dry. VERDICT Perfect for library collections or classroom use.

Each of the series has strong points in its favor, but two really stand out. “Space in Action: Augmented Reality” (Lerner) takes full advantage of the many 1:1 initiatives and offers readers views of Mars or the latest space suits through augmented reality, as well as tying in 3-D printing technology for further exploration. Cool Math (Rizzoli/Pavilion) takes a more traditional approach, using humor, trivia, and illustrations to support engaging explanations of mathematical concepts. Either one is sure to come in handy as readers grapple with the concepts in class or on their own.

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