Children's Science Books:
Smart Reading

Good children's science books make learning fun

My philosophy is this: if your child shows an interest in a particular subject, it's time to go shopping. Provide the tools that'll allow and encourage that interest to grow.

Tool #1: Books (and Magazines)

To my mind, it's never too early to introduce a book on a particular subject. If your 4 year old likes working with you in the garden, a picture book on cool plants is in order. A book on the biggest trees or the craziest flowers even. Let learning take root and grow.

I've found at least a couple organizations that award prizes to the best science books for kids. These are excellent places to start.

A science lab at Lousiana State University...

images courtesy of, cross-sections of wood

...took it upon themselves to create an award for best kids' science picture book. Awarded since 1998, the winning book needs to "teach its young reader at least one important scientific principle, or encourage the reader toward specific science-related pursuits or inquiry." And in case of a tie...

The book about plants wins. I guess the lab has its own preferences!

Giverny Award Winner
Best Children's Science Picture Book

Frog in the House by David Mather & Stephanie Mirocha

Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt by Kate Messner and Christopher Silas Neal

Maple by Lori Nichols

Green by Laura Vacarro Seeger

Eliza's Cherry Trees by Andrea Zimmerman & Ju-Hong Chen

A Tree for Emmy by Mary Ann Rodman & Tatjana Mai-Wyss

Redwoods by Jason Chin

Forest Bright/Forest Night by Jennifer Ward

The Prince of Butterflies by Bruce Coville

The Snail and the Whale by Julia Donaldson

Daniel and His Walking Stick by Wendy McCormick

Squirrel and John Muir by Emily Arnold McCully

George the Giant Tortoise by Francine Jacobs

The Hidden Forest by Jeannie Baker

Rare Treasure: Mary Anning and Her Remarkable Discoveries by Don Brown

Henry Hikes to Fitchburg by D.B. Johnson

A Log's Life by Wendy Pfeffer

Sam Plants a Sunflower by Kate Petty

The Water, Earth, and Air We Share by Molly Bang

SB&F (Science Books & Films) Online

The good folks at SB&F make a business of reviewing science books for children and adults. Each year they award prizes in a number of categories. They believe that much of what makes for good children's books makes for good children's science books.

(I couldn't agree more.)

In addition, they believe "high-quality science books must also be accurate and present scientific processes in a way that can be understood by a child without misleading oversimplification."

They have awards for a number of different categories, not just picture books for the young kids. (Though they have that too!) Here are the winners:

Children's Science Picture Book

  • 2016: A Chicken Followed Me Home! Questions and Answers About a Familiar Fowl, by Robin Page
  • 2015: Tiny Creatures: The World of Microbes by Nicola Davies
  • 2014: It's Our Garden: From Seeds to Harvest in a School Garden, by George Ancona
  • 2013: Ocean Sunlight: How Tiny Plants Feed the Seas, by Molly Bang & Penny Chisholm
  • 2012: A Seabird in the Forest: The Mystery of the Marbled Murrelet by Joan Dunning
  • 2011: The Magic School Bus and the Climate Challenge by Joanna Cole, illustrated by Bruce Degen
  • 2010: Living Sunlight: How Plants Bring the Earth to Life by Molly Bang & Penny Chisholm
  • 2009: Sisters & Brothers: Sibling Relationships in the Animal World by Steve Jenkins
  • 2008: Where in the Wild? Camouflaged Creatures Concealed and Revealed by David Schwartz and Yael Schy
  • 2007: An Egg Is Quiet by Dianna Aston
  • 2006: Stars Beneath Your Bed: The Surprising Story of Dust by April Pulley Sayre

Middle Grades Children's Science Book

  • 2016: The Octopus Scientists: Exploring the Mind of a Mollusk, by Sy Montgomery
  • 2015: Mission: Mars, by Pascal Lee
  • 2014: The Skull in the Rock: How a Scientist, a Boy, and Google Earth Opened a New Window on Human Origins, by Marc Aronson and Lee Berger
  • 2013: Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World, by Sy Montgomery
  • 2012: The Case of the Vanishing Golden Frogs: A Scientific Mystery by Sandra Markle
  • 2011: The Hive Detectives: Chronicle of a Honey Bee Catastrophe by Loree Griffin Burns
  • 2010: The Frog Scientist by Pamela S. Turner
  • 2009: How We Know What We Know About Our Changing Climate: Scientist and Kids Explore Global Warming by Lynne Cherry and Gary Braasch Dawn
  • 2008: Dinosaur Eggs Discovered: Unscrambling the Clues! by Lowell Dingus, Luis M. Chaippe, and Rodolfo Coria
  • 2007: Team Moon: How 400,000 People Landed Apollo 11 on the Moon by Catherine Thimmesh
  • 2006: The Prairie Builders: Reconstructing America's Lost Grasslands, written and photographed by Sneed B. Collard, III

Young Adult Science Books

  • 2016: How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction, by Beth Shapiro
  • 2015: Extreme Medicine: How Exploration Transformed Medicine in the Twentieth Century, by Kevin Fong
  • 2014: Frankenstein's Cat: Cuddling Up to Biotech’s Brave New Beasts, by Emily Anthes
  • 2013: The Odyssey of KP2: An Orphan Seal and a Marine Biologist's Fight to Save a Species, by Terrie M. Williams
  • 2012: Feathers: The Evolution of a Natural Miracle by Thor Hanson
  • 2011: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
  • 2010: Invisible Kingdom: From the Tips of Our Fingers to the Tops of Our Trash, Inside the Curious World of Microbes by Idah Ben-Barak
  • 2009: Welcome to Your Brain: Why You Lose Your Car Keys But Never Forget How to Drive and Other Puzzles of Everyday Life by Sandra Aamodt and Sam Wang
  • 2008: The Wild Trees: A Story of Passion and Daring by Richard Preston
  • 2007: Tigerland and Other Unintended Destinations by Eric Dinerstein

Outstanding Science Series

  • 2010: Let's-Read-and-Find-Out by Harper Collins

Children's Science Books Lifetime Achievement Award

  • 2012: Vicki Cobb
  • 2010:  Robert Gardner

Popular Science Book for High School Readers

  • 2006: Invisible Allies: Microbes That Shape Our Lives by Jeanette Farrell

Hands-on Children's Science Book

  • 2016: A Kid’s Guide to Keeping Chickens, by Melissa Caughey
  • 2015: The Kid's Guide to Exploring Nature, by Brooklyn Botanic Educators. (Edited by Sarah Schmidt.)
  • 2014: Look Up!: Bird-Watching in Your Own Backyard, by Annette LeBlanc Cate
  • 2013: Citizen Scientists: Be a Part of Scientific Discovery from Your Own Backyard, by Loree Griffin Burns
  • 2011: The Book of Potentially Catastrophic Science by Sean Connolly
  • 2009: True Green Kids: 100 Things You Can Do to Save the Planet by Kim McKay and Jenny Bonnin
  • 2008: Exploratopia by Pat Murphy
  • 2007: Thomas Edison for Kids: His Life and Ideas: 21 Activities by Laurie Carlson
  • 2006: The Amateur Naturalist by Nick Baker

Still more from SB&F

Before coming up with the SB&F awards, the site simply created a wide-ranging list of the best children's science books of the year.

If your child's science book interests are more specific, these are terrific lists. There are a growing number of years' worth of the best books in a number of scientific fields...

  • Knowledge, Data Processing
  • Energy, Environment, Natural Resources
  • Education
  • Pure Science
  • Mathematics
  • Astronomy
  • Physical Sciences
  • Chemistry
  • Earth Sciences
  • Paleontology
  • Life Sciences
  • Botanical Sciences
  • Zoological Sciences
  • Technology
  • Medical Sciences, Psychiatry
  • Engineering

There are too many books on the lists for me to reproduce here, so instead I'll point you directly to Children's Science Books and Films Online.

Tell 'em who sent you!

Great science books reviewed onsite:

And don't forget...

Children's science magazines. For a child with wide-ranging scientific interests, a science mag is the gift that keeps on giving. The best news is that some of the best children's magazines out there are science-based. And there are science magazines for every age.

Visit my magazines page for a list that links to my reviews of all the top children's science magazines.

Children's books by type.

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