Baseball, Birds, and Ben Franklin | General Science Series Nonfiction

This season offers a variety of topics for budding scientists and their teachers. Whether it covers rocks and minerals, food webs, or the science and inventions of Leonardo da Vinci, each book is designed to be as attractive as possible to readers.


This season offers a variety of topics for budding scientists and their teachers. Whether it covers rocks and minerals, food webs, or the science and inventions of Leonardo da Vinci, each book is designed to be as attractive as possible to readers. Detailed illustrations and diagrams complement the text, while plentiful photos showcase sports and other real-life tie-ins to the subjects. Publishers also continue to improve the diversity of individuals shown in the books’ images. Pointers for parents and teachers help with classroom and home use, while reading is made easier with glossary terms highlighted within the text or even conveniently defined in the margins. Many of the titles offer directions for hands-on exploration or use websites, keywords, and QR codes to provide additional online materials to extend the learning. These experiments with simple household items and digital resources are especially helpful for virtual/distance learning.



Anthony, William. The Science of Baseball. ISBN 9781534535626.
––––. The Science of Basketball. ISBN 9781534535664.
Dufresne, Emilie. The Science of Ice Hockey. ISBN 9781534535701.
––––. The Science of Swimming. ISBN 9781534535749.
––––. The Science of Tennis. ISBN 9781534535787.
––––. The Science of Track and Field. ISBN 9781534535824.
ea vol: 24p. (Play Smart). Greenhaven/KidHaven. Jan. 2021. Tr. $24.60.
Gr 2-4 –Teachers looking for ways to interest students in science concepts will be happy to see this series. Readers learn about the transfer of energy from a baseball hitting the sweet spot of a bat and how friction between skates and ice slows down hockey players. Action photos have helpful labels or additional details in handy text boxes, while diagrams illustrate points like differences in air pressure that create backspin on tennis balls or basketballs. Math concepts such as the number of players on each team or the proper angle to launch a discus are also included. There is also a chance for readers to apply their knowledge at the end of each book. Swimming and Track and Field show more female athletes, while the other titles have a majority of males, especially the ice hockey players in Ice Hockey. VERDICT Great for applying science to real-life experiences and appealing to reluctant readers.

Crane, Cody. All About Fossils. ISBN 9780531137123.
––––. All About Minerals. ISBN 9780531137116.
Potenza, Alessandra. All About Rocks. ISBN 9780531137109.
Romero, Libby. All About Crystals and Gems. ISBN 9780531137130.
ea vol: illus. by Gary LaCoste. 48p. (A True Book). Scholastic/Children’s Press. Jan. 2021. Tr. $31.
Gr 3-5 –Each title offers two statements for readers to keep in mind as they explore the book to determine which is true. Along the way are photos of fossil hunters, time lines showing the use of minerals or crystals throughout history, and infographics of all sorts. Readers learn about tectonic plates, the impact of mining for ore, or famous jewels from around the world. “Think like a scientist” encourages readers to use maps, graphs, and charts to answer questions. Back matter offers hands-on activities, such as growing a stalactite or making your own fossils. There is also a final spread of featured facts and a page of “True Statistics.” “Tools of the Trade,” profiles of individuals from the field, and a Q&A with a NASA geologist add to the appeal. VERDICT An excellent way to update or expand collections and sure to please geology enthusiasts.

Dickmann, Nancy. Electricity and Magnetism. ISBN 9781781216286.
––––. Human Body. ISBN 9781781216293.
––––. Simple Machines. ISBN 9781781216323.
––––. States of Matter. ISBN 9781781216330.
O’Daly, Anne. Light and Energy. ISBN 9781781216309.
––––. Motion and Forces. ISBN 9781781216316.
ea vol: 24p. (Science Starters). Black Rabbit/Brown Bear. Jan. 2021. Tr. $29.95.
Gr 2-4 –Illustrations dominate the pages of this series. For example, in one spread a photograph shows a group of skateboarders, a diagram compares steep and shallow ramps, and a block of text explains how ramps reduce the effort needed to move an object. Additional text boxes define concepts or point out details in the photos. Each page includes real-life examples to help readers connect ideas to their own experiences. Back matter includes a quiz “to test your knowledge,” with answers provided on another page. Whether it is a photo of a shark to illustrate the concept of streamlining, or a Ferris wheel to show how wheels and axles can be used, the visuals were chosen to appeal to readers and arouse their interest in the content. VERDICT These titles introduce a range of concepts to meet the needs of intermediate grades.

Kingsley, Imogen. An Arctic Food Web. ISBN 9781645490043.
Meister, Cari. A Desert Food Web. ISBN 9781645490005.
––––. A Freshwater Food Web. ISBN 9781645490012.
––––. A Grassland Food Web. ISBN 9781645490029.
––––. An Ocean Food Web. ISBN 9781645490050.
––––. A Rainforest Food Web. ISBN 9781645490036.
ea vol: illus. by Howard Gray. 24p. (Ecosystem Food Webs). Amicus. Jan. 2021. Tr. $29.95.
K-Gr 3 –Each title in this series begins with a brief description of the ecosystem and the idea that energy passes through the food web. Examples of organisms at each level are introduced—producers, consumers, decomposers. The narrative builds up from plants to apex predators and shows how everything is connected, emphasizing that if one species disappears it will affect the entire web. Illustrations show a variety of life within the ecosystem, not just those mentioned in the text. They include interesting details without being overly gory; several of the animals have almost human expressions of surprise on their faces as they are caught by predators. Supporting material includes a glossary, a diagram of the food web with color-coded arrows identifying the trophic level of each component, and suggested websites. VERDICT A good introduction for early elementary students.

Klepeis, Alicia Z. Antibiotics. ISBN 9781645277958.
––––. Germ Theory. ISBN 9781645277989.
––––. Vaccines. ISBN 9781645278016.
––––. X-Rays. ISBN 9781645278047.
ea vol: 24p. (Super Science Feats: Medical Breakthroughs). Jump!/Pogo. Jan. 2021. Tr. $26.99.
Gr 2-5 –Large, clear photos showing petri dishes of bacteria, patients receiving vaccinations, or archival images of early researchers fill the pages of this series. Information is organized into short chapters with brief paragraphs on each spread and additional facts in “Did You Know?” text boxes. Each title features an infographic, such as a flowchart on the production of penicillin. There is also a hands-on activity for each topic, such as using glitter and soap to demonstrate how germs spread. The books also mention how COVID-19 relates to each topic. Glossary words appear in bold within the text and are defined in the back matter. General recommendations for parents and teachers appear in each book, as well as directions on how to access the FactSurfer website for more information on each subject. VERDICT A good series to update library collections and answer student questions.

MacCarald, Clara. Light vs. Dark. ISBN 9781503844469.
Slingerland, Janet. Quiet vs. Loud. ISBN 9781503844452.
Spalding, Maddie. Living vs. Nonliving. ISBN 9781503844445.
––––. Solids, Liquids, and Gases. ISBN 9781503844438.
Zalewski, Aubrey. Magnets Attract vs. Magnets Repel. ISBN 9781503844414.
––––. Push vs. Pull. ISBN 9781503844407.
––––. Renewable Energy vs. Nonrenewable Energy. ISBN 9781503844421.
––––. Sink vs. Float. ISBN 9781503844391.
ea vol: 24p. (Science Showdowns). The Child’s World. Jan. 2021. Tr. $28.50.
Gr 1-4 –Written to introduce basic science concepts through comparing and contrasting, each book in this series features a pair of opposites, such as light and dark or renewable and nonrenewable energy. Large, clear photos support the text and have labels to reinforce important details. There are also diagrams showing such things as life cycles, sound waves, or the arrangement of particles in different states of matter. Glossary terms are in color to draw attention on the page. Each book ends with a chart contrasting the opposites, along with the URL for the publisher’s website to access a list of links for further information. The text is a bit long for primary grades but could be used by teachers to introduce a topic or read independently by older students. VERDICT The broad range of subjects makes this a versatile set for classroom use.


Upper Elementary toMiddle School

Abell, Tracy. Birds. ISBN 9781532193040.
Debbink, Andrea. Trees. ISBN 9781532193071.
Forest, Christopher. Fish. ISBN 9781532193057.
Perdew, Laura. Mammals. ISBN 9781532193064.
ea vol: 112p. (Field Guides for Kids). ABDO Reference. Dec. 2020. Tr. $38.50.
Gr 4-8 –These guides each begin with a discussion of the characteristics of the titular organism, and then tips about how the book’s features organize the information. Entries include common and scientific names for the animal or plant, a descriptive paragraph, and hints on how to spot a cassowary or a basking shark based on size, range, and habitat. Text boxes offer fun facts, such as “Scientists consider the gingko tree to be a living fossil.” There are also sidebars with additional information, such as how domestic cats and dogs developed over time. Plentiful photos show the difference between male and female animals, or changes in summer and winter coloring. There are books recommended for further reading, and a QR code gives readers access to ABDO’s Booklinks website for more online sources. ­ VERDICT A useful resource for classes studying taxonomy and animal classification or for nature enthusiasts.

Bailey, Jacqui. Let’s Investigate Electricity. ISBN 9781427127716.
––––. Let’s Investigate Forces. ISBN 9781427127723.
––––. Let’s Investigate Light. ISBN 9781427127730.
––––. Let’s Investigate Magnets. ISBN 9781427127747.
––––. Let’s Investigate Materials. ISBN 9781427127754.
––––. Let’s Investigate Solids. ISBN 9781427127761.
ea vol: 32p. (Be a Scientist). Crabtree. Jan. 2021. Tr. $27.60.
Gr 4-6 –In this series, a variety of children in the illustrations carry out investigations, such as sifting a mixture of materials through a colander or comparing the elasticity of different garments. The experiments are age appropriate and use readily available materials. Step-by-step directions for each activity include a list of materials needed and whether the help of an adult is required. At the end of each experiment a “Because” statement explains the phenomenon just explored. Questions such as “Can you see magnetism work?” offer concepts to ponder in “Think about it” text boxes. There are also warnings for added safety—for example, “Batteries are safe to touch, but DO NOT try to look inside one.” Back matter includes a list of additional books and websites to explore and suggestions of places to visit. VERDICT Handy for classroom demonstrations or individual exploration at home.

Klepeis, Alicia. The Science and Technology of Ben Franklin. illus. by Micah Rauch. May 2021. ISBN 9781647410155.
Knutson, Julie. The Science and Technology of Marie Curie. illus. by Michelle Simpson. Jun. 2021. ISBN 9781647410193.
Pagel-Hogan, Elizabeth. The Science and Technology of Leonardo da Vinci. illus. by Micah Rauch. May 2021. ISBN 9781647410117.
ea vol: 128p. (Build It Yourself). Nomad. Tr. $22.95.
Gr 4-6 –These combination biographies/experiment guides are a unique way to introduce famous scientific figures. A time line of significant events is followed by an introduction to the scientist. Details of their work are interspersed with suggested activities. Readers might design swim paddles as Ben Franklin did, build a catapult like Leonardo da Vinci, or even research medical technology like Marie Curie’s X-ray vans. QR codes lead to primary sources, and suggested keywords for further internet searches are listed in the back matter. Essential questions encourage reflection on the material. “Words to Know” are defined in sidebars as well as in the glossary. The Curie title’s experiments are less closely tied to her work due to its dangerous nature, but the book mentions several other famous female scientists readers might wish to know about. VERDICT An interesting way to provide readers with details of the life and work of famous scientists.

Of all the series this season, two really stand out for their reader appeal and unique approach to science. Nomad’s “Build It Yourself” makes the work of great inventors and science pioneers relatable through its experiments. Readers can feel the thrill of discovery as they work through activities similar to those carried out by the greats. The books also encourage cooperative projects in science and social studies. Greenhaven/KidHaven’s “Play Smart” takes a different approach by focusing on favorite sports and then applying math and science principles to various aspects of each. Labels and captions on the action shots point out important angles or how the forces at work affect the outcome of a particular move. As always, the best way to involve readers is to make the content relevant to their lives and interests.

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