We are naturally curious, and for human beings, to live is to learn. Children are especially ready to learn new things, and our world is full of wonder. Science can be about creating the latest technology or discovering ancient mysteries, and children’s science books should nurture their natural curiosity and help to develop the next generation of brilliant minds. Here are three new books that will do just that.
Pando: A Living Wonder of Trees, by Kate Allen Fox. Illustrated by Turine Tran
When we think of the largest living things in the world, we probably think of blue whales or redwood trees. Another giant is Pando, a 12,000-year-old quaking aspen grove that is completely connected underground and covers 106 acres in Utah. There are 47,000 trees, all clones, comprising one organism. Development is currently shrinking the grove, though, and author Fox helps kids to understand the dangers. The paintings that fill each page shimmer in pale yellow and gold, brown and green. Back matter includes photographs, a glossary, a bibliography, and suggestions about how children can help preserve this natural wonder.
The Message: The Extraordinary Journey of an Ordinary Text Message, written and illustrated by Michael Emberley
A young boy in Australia sends a text to his mom, who is on a trip to Ireland. Click, click, click, tap! And it’s off. Where does it go, and how does it get from one phone to another across the earth in just seconds? This is a phenomenally informative and child-friendly book that taught me so much! I really thought that text messages went from cell tower to cell tower, but the answer is much more complicated than that. Emberley also shows how our brains interpret writing and how our hands interact with glass screens. Although it is in picture book format with full-page color illustrations, this title is on a mid- to upper-elementary level with details about glass fibers in the ocean and salt channels in the body. The inside back cover offers even more information, along with suggested books and websites for further exploration. Fantastic.
Inside In: X-Rays of Nature’s Hidden World, by Jan Paul Schutten. Photography by Arie van ‘t Riet
Who would think of x-rays as fine art? Arie van ‘t Riet was able take home an old x-ray machine from the hospital where he worked, and he spent years perfecting his images of objects as hard as a turtle shell and as soft as a flower petal. He sometimes flipped the image so that the bones were dark and the soft tissue was light or transparent. He staged them against various backgrounds: black, white, or colorful. The animals came to him as roadkill or friends’ dead pets, which sounds repugnant, but in this way, he was able to gather specimens of all kinds of animals without harming anything. Author Schutten has gathered the animals into classifications and added explanations and descriptions that elevate these pictures into a fascinating educational experience. This title is on a higher level than the two books reviewed above, probably upper elementary through early teen, because of the scientific nature of the text. However, younger siblings will be absorbed in the eerie beauty of the x-rays. Schutten begins with mollusks and arthropods, such as scorpions and bumblebees, and ends with mammals, including a hedgehog and a squirrel monkey. Back matter includes a story about the inventor of the x-ray machine and an extensive index. Unique.
Disclaimer: I read library copies of these books. Opinions expressed are solely my own and may not reflect those of my employer or anyone else.