Octopus researchers, the science of de-extinction, and chickens are the subjects of the winners of 2016 American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)/Subaru Science Books & Film Prizes for Excellence in Science Books.
The AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prizes for Excellence in Science Books, now in their 10th year, celebrate outstanding science writing and illustration for children and young adults. 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 are better positioned than ever to have an impact on the writing and publishing of outstanding science books for all ages. Winning the prize can have a significant impact on popularity and sales of a recognized book. Thanks to an expanded partnership between AAAS and Subaru, more than 17,000 winning books were donated to schools throughout the country in 2015 as part of the Subaru Loves Learning initiative.
“In the spirit of Subaru’s commitment to innovation, we, alongside AAAS, are proud to once again recognize those who engage and inspire people of all ages to discover the world of science,” said Thomas J. Doll, president and chief operating officer at Subaru of America Inc.
The prizes, which are administered by the AAAS review journal Science Books & Films (SB&F), drew by far the largest number of submissions since the program’s inception. According to SB&F Editor in Chief Maria Sosa, 214 books were up for consideration, 30 more than were submitted for the 2015 prize.
“For over 50 years, AAAS and SB&F have sought to provide expert guidance to teachers, librarians, and parents on the selection of books that engage young minds with science. Working with Subaru to donate books to schools has added another dimension to our work. It is very gratifying to go beyond recognizing the best books to actually getting them into the hands of kids where they belong," Sosa said.
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 12 February during the 2016 AAAS Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C.
The 2016 prize recipients are:
Winning Children's Science Picture Book
A Chicken Followed Me Home! Questions and Answers About a Familiar Fowl, by Robin Page. San Diego: Beach Lane Books, 2015.
In A Chicken Followed Me Home, Robin Page, who earned AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize for a book in collaboration with her husband and frequent writing partner, answers questions that young readers might have about chickens: What do they eat? How many different kinds of chickens are there? Though its concept is simple and its subject is familiar, the book is elevated by accessible and interesting text and illustrations that are both artistic and scientifically accurate. Page’s first solo book as writer and illustrator captures the reader’s attention throughout its 32 pages and serves as a strong model for presenting nonfiction content to very young readers.
Winning Middle Grades Science Book
The Octopus Scientists: Exploring the Mind of a Mollusk, by Sy Montgomery. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015.
In The Octopus Scientists, Sy Montgomery transports readers to a remote South Pacific Island where a team of scientists study the behavior of octopuses, tracking the decision-making skills as they avoid predators and choose food and shelter. As part of the Scientists in the Field series, a groundbreaking series that places scientists’ real work at the center of science stories for children, Montgomery’s work showcases the researchers’ work and all aspects of life in the field.
Montgomery is a gifted writer with the capacity to create pictures and impart factual information in eloquent passages such as the following, which opens the book: “With three hearts and blue blood, its gelatinous body unconstrained by jointed limbs or gravity, the octopus seems to be an alien, an inhabitant of another world. Its baggy, boneless body sprouts eight arms covered with thousands of suckers—suckers that can taste as well as feel. The octopus also has the powers of a superhero: it can shape-shift, change color, squirt ink, pour itself through the tiniest of openings, or jet away through the sea faster than a swimmer can follow.”
Winning Young Adult Science Book
How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction, by Beth Shapiro. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2015.
In How to Clone a Mammoth, Beth Shapiro tackles the topic of de-extinction, offering a complete and honest overview of experimentation in this new area of science. Writing in easy-to-read language, even when discussing the actual techniques of modifying the genome, she enables a lay person to understand what would go on behind the scenes in real labs—not as it’s pictured in movies such as Jurassic Park.
Shapiro, an evolutionary molecular biologist, presents scientific thinking at its best: thoughtful, clear, and covering many different aspects of a problem. What seems like an easy question, “Why not bring back an elephant or the carrier pigeon?” becomes a complicated (but never confusing) study of the many angles that surround a supposition. The book poses many fascinating questions that will fuel discussion—and may encourage teen readers to pursue study in such cutting-edge areas of science.
Winning Hands-on Science Book
A Kid’s Guide to Keeping Chickens, by Melissa Caughey. North Adams, Mass.: Storey Publishing, 2015.
A Kid’s Guide to Keeping Chickens is a tribute to the joy of keeping chickens as well as it is to one of the oldest sciences practiced by humans: the science of animal agriculture. This book began as a website, Tilly’s Nest, in which the author shared experiences with her own flock of backyard chickens. Melissa Caughey shares her advice in an engaging way so that kids understand what it means to keep chickens and what kind of housing, food, equipment, and care the chickens will need to thrive. Useful for families, 4-H clubs, or teachers who want to raise classroom chickens, this book is a marvel of engagement, enthusiasm, and commitment, a model of how to write a comprehensive how-to guide book for children.
Background on the Prizes
The prizes began in 2005 when four lifetime achievement awards were given to children’s authors for their books promoting 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. The panel selected 18 finalists and four winners out of nearly 214 books up for consideration across all four categories. These finalists were then submitted to a second round of judging, and the winners were selected. In addition to the winners and the finalists, this year SB&F and the judges identified an additional 35 titles, which were designated as “Commended Books.”