2015 AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prizes Honor Science Books That Encourage Exploration

Four groundbreaking books that present scientific information in innovative ways to young audiences have earned the 2015 AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize for Excellence in Science Books.

Each of the winners invites readers to explore their own world or to prepare themselves to explore other worlds. One introduces the world of microbes to the very youngest readers, while another connects the exploration of the physical world to the medical advances of the last century. A third "trains" the astronauts who will be the first humans to set foot on Mars, and the fourth shows youngsters how to explore the environment through the eyes of a naturalist.

AAAS and Subaru of America, Inc. co-sponsor the prizes to recognize recently published works that are scientifically sound and foster an understanding and appreciation of science in readers of all ages. This year's prizes — which promote science literacy by showcasing the importance of outstanding science writing and illustration — recognize the work of four authors as well as an illustrator.

"AAAS is pleased to join with Subaru to celebrate these outstanding science books and authors," said Alan I. Leshner, chief executive officer of AAAS and executive publisher of its journals, Science, Science Advances, Science Translational Medicine, and Science Signaling. "By encouraging young people to engage with the world through exploration and discovery, the winning books help lay the groundwork for a lifelong relationship with science."

The 2015 prizes recognize efforts in four categories: Children's Science Picture Books, Middle Grades Science Books, Young Adult Science Books, and Hands-on Science Books. Winners will receive $1,500 and a plaque on 13 February during the 2015 AAAS Annual Meeting in San Jose, California.

Tom Doll, president of Subaru of America, Inc., congratulated the winners for their outstanding contribution to science writing and illustration. "As a technology company, we are delighted to be able to support AAAS in activities that promote children's exploration of science and technology," he said.

The prizes are administered by the AAAS review journal, Science Books & Films (SB&F). SB&F editor-in-chief Maria Sosa noted that the 180 books considered for the prize across all four categories represented the largest number of submissions since the program's inception. "This year's competition was intense," she said. "Publishers and authors have certainly upped their game with this year's offerings. It bodes well for the integration of reading and science in formal and informal science education."

"These books make it easier to connect the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and the Common Core Standards," said Shirley M. Malcom, head of the AAAS Directorate for Education and Human Resources. "These books provide solid science information in really enjoyable packages. It's refreshing to be able to avoid the tradeoff between reading for pleasure and pleasurable reading for information "

The 2015 prize recipients are:


Tiny Creatures: The World of Microbes
by Nicola Davies. (Illustrations by Emily Sutton.) Somerville, MA: Candlewick, 2014.

In Tiny Creatures, zoologist and award-winning science writer Nicola Davies tackles what is undoubtedly an uncommon topic for a children's picture book. Microbes are central to almost every aspect of biology, but talking to very young children about microscopic life is difficult. In Tiny Creatures, Davies demonstrates how a conceptually difficult topic can be effectively introduced to the very young by tapping into prior knowledge of the world they can see and experience through their senses. Throughout the book, the author focuses on the fundamental elements of the concept "microbe," using clear, jargon-free text that is complemented by Sutton's charming illustrations.


Mission: Mars
by Pascal Lee. NY: Scholastic, 2013.

What if we started to train the astronauts of 2035 today? Pascal Lee does just that in his kid-friendly training guide for would-be Mars explorers. Lee, a planetary scientist with the Mars Institute and the SETI Institute, explains what it will take to send humans to Mars — from spacesuits and exploration rovers to surviving subzero temperatures and raging dust storms.

By showing the latest designs and plans for the Mission, Lee helps readers envision the possibilities, focusing on a future in which they can partake, rather than on accomplishments of the past. Readers are also introduced to research being done at NASA and around the world. Mission: Mars is also visually strong; the colorful illustrations are engaging, informative, and complement Lee's enthusiastic and infectious text. The book, written by a scientist who is a major player in the endeavor, is sure to inspire the next generation of space explorers.


Extreme Medicine: How Exploration Transformed Medicine in the Twentieth Century
by Kevin Fong. NY: The Penguin Press, 2014.

Kevin Fong is an anesthesiologist who is also trained in intensive care medicine. His work involves researching how humans survive extremes such as heat, cold, and trauma in environments that include outer space and the deep sea. In Extreme Medicine, Fong's strong narrative voice and his likening of medical discovery to extreme geographical exploration immerse the reader fully into a discussion of science, medical practice, and innovation.

He offers compelling stories of doctors and patients that include just enough detail to contextualize and educate without overwhelming, making this book a perfect choice for teen and young adult readers. Fong begins his story with the explorer Robert Falcon Scott's death by freezing in Antarctica in 1912 and ends with the medical issues presented by a future manned trip to Mars. His passion for his work as a doctor and his clear compassion for the ill (or harmed) shows in every case he describes. His curiosity taps the reader's curiosity. And, more than anything else, the unanswered questions invite young readers into the challenge of charting the future path of medicine.


The Kid's Guide to Exploring Nature
by Brooklyn Botanic Educators. (Edited by Sarah Schmidt.) NY: Brooklyn Botanic Garden, 2014

This gorgeously illustrated guide calls on children to look closely at the world around them through 24 “adventures” that invite readers to explore the complex ecosystems of plants and animals in the woods, at the beach, and in a city park. Detailed, scientifically based drawings help young scientists identify hundreds of North American plants and animals, while dozens of fun projects include keeping a journal, conducting field experiments, and exploring nature with all five senses. The activities are organized by season and the book also includes summaries of common careers, such as nature educator and field biologist.

Background on the Prizes

The prizes began in 2005 when four lifetime achievement awards were given to authors of children's science books. It honored authors whose books promoted science literacy. Today, the AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize for Excellence in Science Books continues to recognize stand-out science books.

Finalists were selected by a group of judges made up of librarians, scientists, and science literacy experts. Out of nearly 180 books up for consideration across all four categories, the judges selected 13 finalists. These finalists were then submitted to a second round of judging, and the winners were selected.