Citizen Scientists | Natural Science Series Nonfiction

More than high-interest and cool topics, these science series seek to encourage young learners to explore the wide world of not only learning about science, but also being part of the scientific community through citizen science and action.

Step into the fun (and sometimes messy) world of science. These series explore the ecology of the world we interact with each day, from the things we eat to the air we breathe. There is an exploration of the rich biodiversity of life and each organism’s own complexity; for instance, a look at the benefits of painful plants. The move toward tactile and virtual interactive components in these titles applies a built-in, purposeful extension activity that deepens learning for young readers. More than high-interest and cool topics, these series seek to encourage young learners to explore the wide world of not only learning about science, but also being part of the scientific community through citizen science and action.



Bassier, Emma. Cashews. ISBN 9781532169779.
––––. Pineapples. ISBN 9781532169823.
Golkar, Golriz. Cranberries. ISBN 9781532169809.
––––. Peanuts. ISBN 9781532169816.
––––. Vanilla. ISBN 9781532169830.
London, Martha. Wild Rice. ISBN 9781532169847.
Rea, Amy C. Cinnamon. ISBN 9781532169786.
––––. Cocoa Beans. ISBN 9781532169793.
ea vol: 24p. (How Foods Grow). Abdo/Pop!/Cody Koala. Aug. 2021. Tr. $28.50.
PreS-Gr 1 –Cashew nuts are only part of the cashew plant, and peanuts grow underground? Readers will learn about these facts and more in this excellent introduction to how foods grow. The series focuses on New World crops that many children in the Americas will be familiar with, such as cocoa beans and pineapples. Engaging color photographs and connected video resources of the titular foods in various stages of growth, from seed to plate, work to reduce the objectification of foodstuffs. The inclusion of Indigenous growing methods, terminology, and recognition of pre-contact agricultural work is excellent in this series, especially in theWild Rice book that looks at Anishinaabe harvesting. VERDICT Each title in this series works to teach young readers that things we eat don’t start on grocery store shelves, but are connected to the world around us with their own unique growth cycles.

Connors, Kathleen. How Do Bananas Grow? ISBN 9781538262955.
––––. How Do Carrots Grow? ISBN 9781538262993.
––––. How Do Maple Trees Grow? ISBN 9781538263037.
––––. How Do Pine Trees Grow? ISBN 9781538263075.
––––. How Do Sunflowers Grow? ISBN 9781538263112.
––––. How Does Grass Grow? ISBN 9781538263150.
ea vol: 24p. (How Does It Grow?). Gareth Stevens. Aug. 2021. Tr. $22.60.
PreS-Gr 1 –With exciting varieties of plants, like red bananas and orange sunflowers, this introductory botany series shows how plants that people interact with every day grow from seed to stalk. Some of the plants featured are also related to foods, like the sunflower and maple tree, but they differ in this series from a series focused solely on foodstuffs by looking beyond the edible aspects to the life cycles of the selected organisms. Using simple sentences and colorful photographs, this series highlights interesting plants and their interconnected existences around the world. Readers will learn about the plants’ varieties and cultural importance, such as the expansion of the global banana market. VERDICT This series will make a great addition to young classrooms where educators are looking to teach about how plants grow and impact the world around us.

Gaertner, Meg. Life Cycle of a Butterfly. ISBN 9781644938263.
––––. Life Cycle of a Chicken. ISBN 9781644938270.
––––. Life Cycle of a Frog. ISBN 9781644938287.
––––. Life Cycle of a Pea Plant. ISBN 9781644938294.
––––. Life Cycle of a Pine Tree. ISBN 9781644938300.
––––. Life Cycle of a Rabbit. ISBN 9781644938317.
––––. Life Cycle of a Salmon. ISBN 9781644938324.
––––. Life Cycle of a Turtle. ISBN 9781644938331.
ea vol: 24p. (Life Cycles). North Star Editions/Focus Readers. Aug. 2021. Tr. $27.07.
Gr 1-4 –Brightly colored, real photographs capture the attention of young readers in this series about the lives of varied plants and animals. Each title features a simplified life cycle chart that sums up the previously discussed material into a flowing movement of stages, using the vocabulary present in an easy-to-connect way. It is particularly refreshing that plants are included here, as animals are often the exclusive subject of this type of book, since some plants (like the pine tree) do not fit neatly into birth-to-death cycles. Back matter features a glossary, “To Learn More” section, and index. VERDICT Featuring fun facts smattered across the series and literacy building quizzes to reflect on, these titles are sure to be a great addition for curious young readers.

Rebman, Nick. Earth-Friendly Eating. ISBN 9781644938355.
––––. Earth-Friendly Energy. ISBN 9781644938362.
––––. Earth-Friendly Transportation. ISBN 9781644938379.
––––. Pollinator Gardens. ISBN 9781644938386.
––––. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. ISBN 9781644938393.
––––. Using Less Water. ISBN 9781644938409.
ea vol: 32p. (Helping the Environment). North Star Editions/Focus Readers. Aug. 2021. Tr. $28.50.
Gr 2-4 –A timely series that discusses environmental issues and what readers can do to help address them. The overarching ideas shared across the series are dealing with and understanding the ramifications of the current climate crisis. These titles discuss familiar issues, such as clean energy and recycling, while also addressing hot topics including plant-based eating and environmental justice. There are actionable things presented that young people can do to make a difference and, more importantly, issues are not so heavily presented that they cause hopelessness. Back matter includes a reading comprehension quiz with answer key, glossary, link to educator resources, and more. VERDICT This series exudes hope and young activism in a way that can inspire readers to explore their impact on the world, from protesting DAPL to calling legislators for change now.

Rodriguez, Alicia. Flowers. ISBN 9781427140647.
––––. Fruits. ISBN 9781427140654.
––––. Leaves. ISBN 9781427140661.
––––. Roots. ISBN 9781427140678.
––––. Seeds. ISBN 9781427140685.
––––. Stems. ISBN 9781427140692.
ea vol: 16p. (Parts of a Plant). Crabtree/Roots. Jul. 2021. Tr. $22.60.
K-Gr 2 –Looking at the parts that make up plants we see in our everyday lives, this series connects readers to familiar concepts, like stems and fruits, while also exploring the vibrant biodiversity of related plants with exciting color photographs. There are the standard sprout popping out of soil and sun-dappled peach images, but also underwater roots and 50lb seeds that leave readers curious to learn more. Additionally, these botanical readers aim to instill confidence and help emerging readers track their progress with a blend of sight words and familiar vocabulary terms. The titles remain light and interesting without being overly technical. VERDICT A great starting point for early readers interested in learning more about plants.


Upper Elementary to Middle School

Cooke, Tim. A Chemical Nightmare: Bald ­Eagle Comeback. illus. by Edu Coll. ISBN 9781636910451.
––––. Fur-tastrophe Avoided: Southern Sea Otter Comeback. illus. by Alessandro Valdrighi. ISBN 9781636910482.
––––. Return to Yellowstone: Gray Wolf Comeback. illus. by Edu Coll. ISBN 9781636910468.
––––. Saving the Silvertip: Grizzly Bear Comeback. illus. by Edu Coll. ISBN 9781636910475.
––––. A Scary Prediction: Bison Comeback. illus. by Alessandro Valdrighi. ISBN 9781636910444.
––––. Struggle for Survival: Florida Panther Comeback. illus. by Alessandro Valdrighi. ISBN 9781636910499.
ea vol: 24p. (Saving Animals from the Brink). Bearport/Bear Claw. Aug. 2021. Tr. $28.50.
Gr 3-5 –A new take on science comics that feature groups of conservationists and activists working to help save animals from extinction. This series is tied together with the shared thread of animals at risk and their connection to the creation of the Endangered Species Act. Each title addresses the critical importance of the selected species, using key terms like “apex predator” and “keystone species” to impress the importance of the animals upon readers. While the work done by the conservationists is inspirational, there is some dancing around issues, as each narrative begins at the onset of colonialism or expansionism without really addressing that issue in a decolonized way. Also, A Chemical Nightmare leaves out the major factor in DDT’s removal—Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring and its public impact, which was inspired by Charles Broley’s research. VERDICT Using science comics and simplified narratives, this series aims to discuss topical issues of extinction and conservation with reluctant readers.

Jaycox, Jaclyn. Unusual Life Cycles of Amphibians. ISBN 9781496695352.
––––. Unusual Life Cycles of Birds. ISBN 9781496695574.
––––. Unusual Life Cycles of Fish. ISBN 9781496695581.
––––. Unusual Life Cycles of Invertebrates. ISBN 9781496695598.
––––. Unusual Life Cycles of Mammals. ISBN 9781496695604.
––––. Unusual Life Cycles of Reptiles. ISBN 9781496695611.
ea vol: 32p. (Unusual Life Cycles). Capstone. Aug. 2021. Tr. $29.32.
Gr 4-6 –For fans of animals that are the exceptions to most rules, this fun series highlights the peculiarities of readers’ favorite amphibians, birds, fish, invertebrates, mammals, and reptiles—from immortal sea creatures to bugs that see their whole life in a few hours. High-interest foci like limb regrowth and topical insects such as the 17-year cicada are covered, while the series also still addresses the major facets of each classification of creature. Titles feature short facts alongside the meatier discussions and highlighted vocabulary for scientific literacy, boosting, and retention. Back matter includes a glossary, “Read More” section, websites, and index. VERDICT These books are an exciting must-have for middle graders interested in the exciting aspects of the life sciences.

Markovics, Joyce. Burning Plants. ISBN 9781534187702.
––––. Carnivorous Plants. ISBN 9781534187665.
––––. Destructive Plants. ISBN 9781534187672.
––––. Intoxicating Plants. ISBN 9781534187689.
––––. Poisonous Plants. ISBN 9781534187696.
––––. Spiky Plants. ISBN 9781534187719.
ea vol: 24p. (Beware Killer Plants). Cherry Lake. Aug. 2021. Tr. $28.50.
Gr 3-5 –These plants have more than a little bite to them! There are carnivorous, deadly, and painful plants to watch out for in this middle grade botanical series. Some familiar plants like kudzu and Carolina Reapers are included, as are lesser known plants like the mousetrap tree. The highlighted keywords are great for building vocabulary and science literacy through high-interest plant specimens. Pulling away from the thrilling and gruesome aspects of some of these plants, there is a section at the end of each title where a single plant is shown in focus, interacting with wildlife in its natural habitat. The back matter also includes a glossary, “Find Out More” section, and index. VERDICT A welcome addition for any life science classroom looking to introduce high-interest topics on botany.

Wood, Alix. Get Hands-On with Earth’s Layers! ISBN 9781725331174.
––––. Get Hands-On with Erosion! ISBN 9781725331211.
––––. Get Hands-On with Fossils! ISBN 9781725331259.
––––. Get Hands-On with Rocks and Minerals! ISBN 9781725331297.
––––. Get Hands-On with Tectonic Plates! ISBN 9781725331334.
––––. Get Hands-On with Types of Soil! ISBN 9781725331372.
ea vol: 32p. (Hands on Geology). Rosen/PowerKids. Aug. 2021. Tr. $26.25.
Gr 4-6 –Following along with a cute mole mascot, readers can explore Earth below the surface with these middle grade geology books. The text is rich with scientific terms used in a contextual way, alongside charts and time lines to boost science literacy and comprehension. While the experiments presented use mostly household materials and are not overly complex, they may be best suited for classrooms where the full explanations of each experiment can be integrated into fuller lessons. Look out for the cool compost experiment, as it is definitely one that can be explored at home or school and continued beyond a one-and-done learning experience. VERDICT Interactive and rich with scientific literacy, the activities in this series are perfect for educators looking to get kids excited about geology.

Featuring crucial ideas like climate justice alongside hot topics like 17-year cicadas, this selection of natural science books is sure to capture the attention of readers who want to learn, but also be part of the conversations of change in our world today. The scintillating star of this season is “How Foods Grow” (Abdo/Pop!/Cody Koala), with its carefully crafted introduction to not only the life cycles of some Indigenous foods, but also aspects of food culture and sovereignty, as seen particularly well in the title Wild Rice. Across these titles, there is a burgeoning encouragement for readers to become actors and thinkers in their exploration that enriches their STEM learning with real experiences.

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