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Science should be exciting for young people, giving them skills and opportunities to improve their futures. Here are a selection of books we love, books we think will inspire every child to become more interested in Science.
First published over 150 years ago, Darwin’s On the Origin of Species still shapes how we see the world, and his words and theories are fascinating for young people. This handsomely illustrated book clearly explains Darwin’s discoveries and what they revealed in a way that even young children will follow and understand. It’s divided into short, manageable sections, each examining and elucidating Darwin’s ideas on selection and evolution, the final pages bringing us right up to date and outlining what we can do now thanks to modern discoveries and technology. Beautiful to look at, it’s genuinely inspiring, a way to tune young readers into Darwin’s thought process and spark their imagination and interest in science as a result.
Written and illustrated with infectious verve, Kate Pankhurst’s Fantastically Great Women Scientists and Their Stories puts paid to any notion that women’s role in science has been peripheral. In fact, despite huge impediments, and thanks to their intellect and tenacity, this inspiring book shows how women have been at the heart of many major discoveries - from finding the cure for malaria, to spearheading revolutionary DNA research, to making monumental advances in the fields of volcanology, astronomy, botany and chemistry (and more). Through an engaging blend of text, comic strips, fact boxes and diagrams, the book explores eight life-changing scientific innovators in detail. The fact that most of the scientists aren’t household names tells you everything you need to know about the importance of this book - these are innovators whose names should be known. Take Tu Youyou, for example, the Chinese chemist who spent months on a remote island researching traditional medicines in order to discover a cure for malaria, testing potentially dangerous preparations on herself - and all this against the precarious backdrop of the Cultural Revolution that saw her separated from her family and sworn to secrecy. Then there’s out-of-this-world Mae Jemison, an astoundingly multi-talented woman who grew up watching the first space missions during the Civil Rights Movement and went on to become the first African-American woman astronaut in 1992. Informative, inspiring and presented with passion and clarity, this is children’s non-fiction at its finest.
February 2021 Book of the Month | Kids are always being told that if they ‘dream their dreams’ one day those dreams will come true. ‘Living the dream’ is a very different experience for 11-going-on-12-year-old Malky in Ross Welford’s absorbing, vastly entertaining novel. Blackmailed into a bungled burglary, Malky becomes owner of a set of Dreaminators, mysterious machines that make dream worlds real and give the dreamer powers to control them. At first, Malky and his co-dreamer, little brother Seb, enjoy their night-time adventures, especially those in a Stone Age world closely based on Seb’s favourite storybook where they make friends, go hunting, and Seb has high hopes of riding a mammoth. If it seems too good to be true, of course it is, and as Malky’s ability to control what’s happening in his dreams weakens, everything – awake or asleep – starts to go wrong. When Seb is taken prisoner in a dream and falls into a life-threatening coma in real life, Malky has to face up to his responsibilities, not to mention the fears and anger his dreams have disguised, in one last terrifying dream. At least he has new friends there to help. The story is cleverly told and plotted, moving back and forward in time, from dream to reality, with Doctor Who ease. It’s full of humour too, e.g. a wonderful scene in the school canteen in which Malky does all the things he’s always dreamed of doing, not realising he’s actually awake. Core too are the really big things in life – friendship, love, family, learning about yourself and understanding others. It’s a book that delights in the fact that the inside of our head is bigger far than the outside. Readers who enjoy Welford’s excellent books will also race through Christopher Edge’s out-of-this world adventures.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month January 2021 | The story of the brilliant scientist Marie Curie, the chemist/ physicist who made life saving discovery in medicine and won the Nobel Prize for her work has long been an inspiration to all budding scientists. Marie Curie overcame much prejudice against women scientists to succeed as she did and, in doing so, opened the doors for future generations of women. But Marie Curie had another important role as an inspiration to future generations: she was the mother of two scientists who also grew up to become women scientists in their own right. This rounded life of Marie Curie and her daughters is beautifully realised in words and pictures by sisters Imogen and Isobel Greenberg in a book that will encourage all readers to take bold steps in life.
Full of clearly presented facts and figures, plus useful advice on ways they can make a difference, this is an excellent introduction to the climate crisis for young readers. The language is simple and backed up throughout by illustrations making complex issues easy to understand and digest. Broken into five different chapters, the book explains the basics – the greenhouse effect and the danger from burning fossil fuels; introduces the IPCC and spells out why we are sure there is a crisis; talks about what we need to do, and why we’re not doing it faster; and finishes by listing things individuals can do now to make a difference, no matter their age. The conclusion reassures readers that having read the book, they will have the tools to imagine the future they want as well as ideas about how to get it. As always in Usborne’s reliable information books, it directs readers to websites where they can find out more via the special Quicklinks (usborne.com/Quicklinks). A stimulating, informative, expertly targeted, and positive guide to the major issue of our time. This would be good to read in conjunction with Josh Lacey’s new Hope Jones series which looks at climate change and what to do about it through the eyes of a fictional character.
Take one box – a cereal box for example – and this craft ideas book and get creating! Thanks to a set of plastic corners just right for joining up card and neatly contained in a storage compartment, and clear, easy to follow instructions, with the book’s help kids will be able to transform the box into any one of 20 different toys, from dolls’ furniture to a space helmet to a dinosaur. Like all the best ideas it’s really simply, really effective and likely to be just the start of more creative activity. The JUNKO ethos is all about reuse - those plastic corners are made from recycled plastic – and being eco-friendly, hence Epic Cereal Box Creations and its clever concept of turning household waste and packaging into toys. Not only is it fun, it’s a great way to build those all-important STEAM skills too. Who needs plastic toys when you can have fun and make your own out of cardboard?
A Complete (and Completely Disgusting) Guide to the Human Body | This is an information text that will be read with great pleasure and is actually as unputdownable as a novel. It is very apparent that the multimillion-copy selling author and medical doctor has never grown out of his gleeful fascination with the human machine and has a real knack for presenting complex facts both clearly and concisely while making the reader laugh out loud. Similarly, the illustrations by Henry Parker combine accurate explanatory diagrams and zany amusing cartoons, often on the same page. Much of the humour is, of course, derived from the more disgusting aspects of the internal and external body and to making fun of the complicated language and terminology doctors and scientists use, but nonetheless using and explaining all those terms. Indeed the book concludes with a brilliantly educative glossary (and even the jokes are indexed!) A running gag is Clive and the ‘naming committee’ responsible for naming body parts, as is the continued references to the author’s dog Pippin, but always in a way which enhances an explanation or a description and develops understanding. Chapters cover all the organs and systems of the body as well as reproduction, life and death and germs (including COVID-19) and include Kay’s Kwestions (another running gag about needing a replacement Q on his keyboard) and True or Poo sections which answer the sort of questions inquisitive children will be dying to ask and expose the myths, misinformation and old wives tales that you might have heard. He does not shrink from difficult topics or giving unpopular advice – junk food, smoking and drinking really are bad for you and washing your hands properly is important. As genuinely useful as any textbook or revision guide, I would suggest multiple copies will be needed to satisfy demand in any school library.
Use Your Future to Change the World | Companion to We Are All Greta, Green Nation Revolution sets out impactful steps young citizens of the new Green Nation can take “in the immediate future to shape their destiny and help make the Earth a safer place for everyone”. Rich in data, case studies and strategies for bringing about lasting positive social, economic and environmental change, this is a punch-packing must-read for teen readers who are keen to get more involved with youth-led green movements. After opening with the positive context of how much the impetus for change has grown in the past two years, with an almost ten-fold increase in Climate Strike participants, the authors define the Green Nation as “a state with no entry or exit barriers, in which people are united by a deep sense of responsibility towards the planet”. And the citizens of the Green Nation are the millions of schoolchildren who “think beyond geographical borders and do not see themselves as belonging to a specific country in the world, but to something new and highly responsive”. Whether discussing the circular economy, regenerative agriculture, renewable energy, smart cities, sustainable tourism, or Green Nation jobs (“We do not need superheroes to save the planet; we need engineers, economists, scientists, biologists, environmentalists, architects and designers"), the authors are always upfront with - and respectful of - their young readers. Accompanied by crisp, contemporary illustrations, this accessible, inspiring toolkit for creating true long-term change is smart in style and content.
A Circle of Life Story | Life is everywhere, we read at the close of this exceptional picture information book, and every page prior is brimming with it, so vividly depicted in Daniel Egnéus’ illustrations that you can almost hear the yapping and gekkering of the fox cubs, their mother’s barks, and all the constant bustle and hum of the natural world. Even in death we see there is life: the mother fox is hit and killed by a car but immediately tiny creatures get to work. As the seasons roll round and winter turns to spring, new life grows again and the particles that made up the fox become something else. Text and illustration together explain the circle of life with an extraordinary clarity while retaining a sense of the sheer wonder of it all. Share this with children who want to know what happens when something dies, or who just want to understand our world better. You can find more wintry & festive stories in our Best Books for Kids this Christmas collection!
This large-format stunning book tells the history of our world. It is a beautiful celebration and visual introduction to our planet and society told through the history of our greatest inventions and the technology that has changed the world. In his signature playful style, Peter Goes illustrates the most fascinating technologies, from the first tools to the most specialized IT, from medical breakthroughs to the creation of YouTube. He includes remarkable scientists and innovators and highlights lesser-known stories. A compelling history of technology from the Stone Age to the present day, from America to the Southern hemisphere and beyond. The illustrations are just stunning and beautifully complemented by lots of fascinating facts.
Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2021 | This year sees the 50th anniversary of the moon landings, so interest in space exploration will be particularly high. Handsomely illustrated with Chris Nielsen’s bold retro images, and packed with information, Balloon to the Moon will answer all the questions any potential astronauts might pose. It covers the entire spectrum, from mankind’s first attempts to get off the ground via balloons in the 1700s to the space race as it developed in the 50s, 60s and 70s, with revealing descriptions of the personalities involved as well as the technology. It all makes for a fascinating story, and one that will appeal to readers of all kinds. Concluding with a page on space careers and the future of humankind’s exploration of our universe this is a book to inform and inspire.
November 2020 Non-Fiction Book of the Month | Congratulations to Carl Wilkinson and James Weston Lewis who achieve something remarkable in this huge, beautiful information book: they explain Einstein’s theory of relativity to general readers, specifically young readers. They do it carefully, step by step, in bite-sized chunks and with lots of illustrations and diagrams to keep things accessible, starting by introducing Einstein himself and his early influences, before explaining the scientific theories and discoveries, from gravity to light waves and his understanding of space and time, that eventually provided the building blocks for the famous E =MC² equation. The text is always clear and concise, while the images do much of the hard work of explaining complex ideas and laws of physics. Einstein’s work deserves to be represented in illustrations that are full of movement, drama and wonder, and Weston Lewis gets that exactly right. Every reader will close the book fully aware of the enormity of Einstein’s achievement and his brilliance, and understanding his ideas and the process that led to them too. And find out a bit about the author's fascination with science and space in our Q&A with Carl Wilkinson.