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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.
Inspired by a fantastical world imagined by the authors’ twin daughters, this educational activity book is underpinned by a belief that “children, especially girls, learn STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) skills best when these skills are approached within a storytelling context”. This brightly illustrated book certainly fulfils its aim of introducing STEM skills in an imaginative, interactive way, and its main character’s infectious enthusiasm for all things scientific will surely inspire more girls to get into STEM subjects. Lilli loves nothing more than finding things that “challenge her curious, scientific mind”. One night she transforms into her superheroine persona and embarks on a quest to help her friend fly from WooWoo Land. Young readers are invited to join Lillicorn’s quest, solving ten STEM puzzles in her vibrant world. With an appealing rhyming text, and charm tokens to collect along the way, the clear design conveniently signposts the STEM skills nurtured by each activity (including pattern recognition, abstraction, structured problem solving, sequencing, spatial perception and sorting) without detracting from the puzzle-solving or story. In some ways, the book’s structure is reminiscent of a computer game, with prompts and well-timed narrative pauses that invite readers to get stuck into the self-contained, bite-sized activities. What’s more, the tone is warmly encouraging, with the text informing readers that Lillicorn needs their help. Once the quest is complete, the solutions can be checked at www.lillicorn.com, where questers can also download a certificate and unlock additional activities.
Literacy Association of Ireland Award: Age 10-13 - 2019 | Longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards 2020 | Bright Sparks charts discoveries, inventions and designs by women that have changed people’s lives, from the paper bag to the structure of DNA. Originally written for his daughter, this labour of love is a real celebration of stories still too rarely told.
May 2020 Non-Fiction Book of the Month | Interest Age 8+ Reading Age 8 | It’s exactly fifty years since the infamous Apollo 13 space mission took off for the moon. For any young person who doesn’t know what happened – and indeed for those that do too – David Long’s retelling will keep them on the edge of their seats, awed by the challenges of space travel, and by the ingenuity and determination of those who work in it. Survival in Space describes with just the right level of detail, how a broken electrical wire led to the explosion that left astronauts Jim Lovell, Jack Swigert and Fred Haise stranded 200,000 miles from home, and how they and the team on earth worked to engineer their eventual successful return. In Barrington Stoke style, this is accessible to all readers, including those with dyslexia, but is without any trace of simplification. David Long has a great track record in non-fiction and this will be another firm favourite. Particularly suitable for struggling, reluctant or dyslexic readers aged 8+
With expert input from Professor Graham Medley of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine | With consultant Professor Graham Medley of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine as the adviser on this book you can use it in confidence that the information is relevant and correct. The idea behind the book was the brainchild of the publisher Nosy Crow - to make something freely available to help children understand the current situation and to try to ease some of their concerns. No-one has received any fees for this book. Plus, using such a well-known illustrator as Axel Scheffler (recognised worldwide for the Gruffalo illustrations) makes the whole thing feel recognisable and familiar. The book takes us through explaining what a virus is and how you might catch it – and what happens if you do catch it. A fascinating fact gleaned on the way is that there are more different antibodies inside us now than the number of people in the world! Everything is explained in simple terms so that young children can understand the way antibodies react to virus incursions. The book goes on to explain why we need to take care, why a vaccine may take some considerable time to develop and why so many things are closed at the moment. It also tackles the issues of being at home all the time, lack of fun and activities – and how to share and how to talk to your grown up about worries. Talking about ways to help is a very useful way forward – and also being kind to those you live with. The book finishes on the very positive statement that ‘one day this strange time will be over – we did it together’ a vital message of hope. There are also sections of information for children as well as for the parents, guardians and carers. It was a brilliant idea to create this – and a very generous act to make it available free of charge – excellent call Nosy Crow!
This is a superb example of an information text, ostensibly for younger children, but with multi-age and multi-curriculum uses. It is also a thing of beauty, printed on high quality paper doing full justice to the stunning illustrations, with the author’s expressive brush work, clever layout and a palette filled with watery blues and greens and the white and grey of rain, fog and snow. A little girl notices the role of water all around her—a sprinkler, a tap, a stream, a lake. She also notices that water sometimes tries to hide, or change state, and that water is part of every living thing including her. The book concludes with four pages of beautifully clear explanations of water forms (liquid, solid and gas), the water cycle and the all-important conservation of water. There are some excellent suggestions of how to play and learn about water and true or false questions to check understanding. These are very well suited to older children too, as indeed the book is, as a model of writing and the effective use of figurative language. Poetic descriptions make this an enjoyable read-aloud and the larger font labels that identify the source of the water on each page (including Zoe the narrator) are perfect for vocabulary building for the youngest child. A really well thought out and brilliantly executed early science picture book that deserves a place in every school.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month March 2020 | Taking a philosophical approach, this is a comprehensive look at the challenging question: What is Time? Having posed the question, author and illustrator Kathrin Köller and Irmela Schautz take readers through the past and present stories, myths and symbols of time from around the world which help to explain some of the mysteries which we all experience. These set the scene for a detailed look at the realities of how time is recorded and counted before closing with a section on travelling through time as in across time zones and in futuristic fantasies.
All young children will be aware that plastic is causing major problems in the world, so this bright, attractive and informative book is very welcome. It poses all the questions readers will have about plastic including how is it made, why is there so much of it, why is it such a problem, and can we live without it. The answers are revealed by lifting flaps – 60 of them in total – and the information presented is clear and comprehensive, while also showing children that they have the ability to change things. It’s an excellent example of a well-thought out, smartly designed and carefully presented information book, perfectly pitched for its young readership, though I guarantee adult readers will learn something new too.
February 2020 Debut of the Month | There’s a lovely ‘what if’ challenge in this quirky and inspiring picture book. Little Nara is an expert hat maker, creating beautiful hats for the animals in her forest studio. One day she receives a letter from a new customer – can she make a hat for Mr Mountain no less? She rises to the challenge, trying out various different materials before finding exactly the right way to make a hat for a mountain. The story unfolds beautifully, and it makes a great tale of friendship, creativity and ingenuity. There’s lots to discuss while reading and this could prompt interesting STEM conversations or projects too. This is Soojin Kwak’s debut and she is definitely an illustrator to watch.
This little volume is just the right size to fit into a pocket or backpack and it’s well worth young readers keeping it to hand at all times as it’s packed with advice on ways to be more green. Chapters include ‘Do You Live in a Green House?’, ‘Shopping for the Planet’ and ‘Stop Polluting the Planet’ and after describing the impact of the ways of life we all take for granted, they list things we can easily do to make a difference. These ‘over to you’ sections are practical, do-able and empowering. There’s a list of websites to visit at the end to find out more, as well as Planet Pledges to sign – one for the reader, one for the reader’s family. Accessible, informative and positive, this is a great book for anyone who cares about the future of our planet and highly recommended.
This is a superb little book for children telling them all about the planetary system. It is written at a great level for kids and it brilliantly illustrated in a manner that keeps their attention. The author writes in such a way that draws the kids into the book and involves them while teaching them a little science which hopefully will be the building blocks of an interest in science. The book itself is easy to read along with kids and brings the moons to life which is most enjoyable. As an adult, I learned quite a bit about the planets and their moons myself and really enjoyed the book. It is a book to consider buying for kids and I'm sure adult and kid will enjoy reading it together or individually. Time and money well spent if you buy the book. Catherine Bryce, A LoveReading4Kids Ambassador
Whether you travel on the London Underground every week (as millions do) or just once in a blue moon, this fascinating and beautifully illustrated book will intrigue you. It seamlessly mixes facts and human stories to explain the history of the tube from 1845, when Charles Pearson proposed an ‘Arcade Railway’ to cope with congestion on the roads, to today when 100 million people travel through Waterloo station alone every year. You’ll meet the people whose vision shaped the trains, their lines and the stations, and learn quirky facts about everything from lost property to ‘Mind the Gap’ announcements. Sarah McMenemy’s pen and ink illustrations are equally atmospheric whether representing passengers in Victorian times or today, and David Long, a Blue Peter Prize winner, knows just how to entertain and inform at the same time.
It’s a big day in junior inventor Izzy Gizmo’s house: a letter has arrived with an invitation to an Invention Convention. At first, Izzy is uncharacteristically unsure, pointing out that her machines don’t always work. Following a wonderfully robust response to that from her Grandpa - “Cobblers!” he shouts – they pack up her tools and set off for Technoff Isle in an extraordinarily wonderful, amphibious vehicle, designed by Izzy. The plot moves forward as energetically as Izzy’s contraption, with the young inventors challenged to an invention competition. Izzy seems to be in trouble when one of her competitors selfishly hoards all the materials available for herself, but there’s very little that Izzy can’t tackle with her limitless ingenuity and creativity. Picture book stars don’t come much more inspirational or resilient than young Izzy, but she’s thoroughly human too, not above getting frustrated or bad-tempered and often in need of encouragement from Grandpa and her friend Fixer the crow. The story is a joyful celebration of inventions and inventiveness with an excellent message for young readers. Pip Jones’ rhyming text and Sara Ogilvie’s action-packed illustrations match each other for wit and energy. This is a story guaranteed to fire the imagination, and let’s face it, the world needs more Izzy Gizmos. This review first appeared on Books for Keeps.