2018 AAAS/Subaru Children’s Science Book Prize Winners Announced

The daring rescue of a bald eagle without a beak. A groundbreaking experiment to domesticate silver foxes in Siberia. A visually stunning exploration of amazing animal statistics. A deep dive into the underlying science of garbage and how to manage it.

Through this diversity of subject matter, the winners of the 2018 AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize for Excellence in Science Books exemplify outstanding and engaging science writing and illustration for young readers. AAAS and Subaru of America, Inc. co-sponsor the prizes to recognize recently published works that are drawn from and inspired by sound science.

Lee Dugatkin, co-author of How To Tame A Fox and winner in the Young Adult category summarizes the spirit of the prizes this way: “Lyudmila and I hope this book reaches readers from aspiring young scientists-to-be to more seasoned researchers. The six-decade-long study on domesticating foxes in Siberia that we write about has everything from cutting-edge science to political intrigue to human/animal love stories, but perhaps more than anything else, it shows that when smart people with a passion for science pair that with almost superhuman perseverance, we can unwrap the mysteries of the world we live in.”

“Even in a digital age, actual books provide a window to a child’s mind’s eye that she would not otherwise reach,“ said Rush Holt, CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and executive publisher of the Science family of journals, in lauding the award program.

The award program, now in its 13th year, seeks to encourage the writing and publishing of high-quality science books that engage readers across all age groups and leave readers with a richer understanding of all corners of science.

The AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prizes for Excellence in Science Books will be presented during an event at the 2018 AAAS Annual Meeting in Austin, Texas beginning on Feb. 16.

“Through the Subaru Loves Learning platform and our partnership with AAAS, we aim to encourage discovery and innovation in science for students of all levels.” said Thomas J. Doll, president and chief operating officer, Subaru of America Inc. “Science education is integral for inspiring our leaders and innovators of tomorrow and Subaru is honored to help recognize the year’s most outstanding work that captivates young readers.” 

The Winners:

Children’s Science Picture Book:

Beauty and the Beak: How Science, Technology and a 3D-Printed Beak Rescued a Bald Eagle, by Deborah Lee Rose and Jane Veltkamp. Persnickety Press. 2017.

Beauty is a wild bald eagle who made world news when her beak was shot off, leaving her helpless. This brave and heart-lifting story tells how she was rescued and how scientists engineered a 3D-printed prosthetic beak that enabled her to eat and drink on her own. The book includes expanded information about bald eagles as a top predator species, their near extinction in most of the U.S., their successful reintroduction back into the wild and efforts to conserve this critical raptor species today. The story highlights the plight of animals in need as well as humans, from young children to military veterans, who are given new lives with ingenious, state-of-the-art prosthetics.

Deborah Lee Rose is an internationally published, award-winning author of bestselling children’s books. Deborah directed communications for Howtosmile.org, the NSF/Oracle-funded online collection of more than 3,500 STEM activities for those of all ages. The collection was named the best website for teaching and learning by the American Association of School Librarians and the great website for kids by ALA’s Association for Library Service to Children. She helped create groundbreaking STEM apps with more than a quarter million downloads, including DIY Sun Science and DIY Lake Science, as a science writer for University of California, Berkeley’s renowned Lawrence Hall of Science.

Jane VeltKamp received training at the prestigious University of Minnesota Raptor Center where she learned how to expertly care for and treat medically injured birds of prey. She received her master’s degree in biology from Purdue University, where her thesis investigated wintering bald eagle habitat in Indiana. Her work began reintroducing peregrine falcons in the Midwest and more recently ospreys and peregrines in South Dakota. Since then, she has treated two thousand injured birds of prey and lectures extensively about the ecology of birds of prey, traveling with specially trained eagles, hawks, owls and falcons. She works closely with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game and is permitted for her work through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Janie is also a master falconer and has a bachelor's degree in nursing.

Middle Grades Science Book:

Animals by the Numbers: A Book of Animal Infographics, by Steve Jenkins. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2016.

Animals by the Numbers is packed full of interesting facts and figures. What proportion of each 24-hour day do different animals sleep? Which can jump farthest in relation to their body size? Which are most dangerous to humans and why? Which can live at the highest elevations, deepest depths and most extreme temperatures? Author and illustrator Jenkins’ captivating cut-paper illustrations perfectly recreate the featured creatures and are complemented by text that is both exciting, original and captivating, while remaining accurate and comprehensible. What sets this book apart from most are its clever and informative infographics, including bar charts, pie charts, information webs, decision trees, maps and myriad other graphical representations. To convey the different sizes of organisms, their silhouettes are drawn at actual size or in proportion to one another. Circles of varying sizes are used to show the relative toxicity of different venoms and poisons. In cases where numerical values are provided, English units are primary with metric units shown in parentheses. This book does a magnificent job representing data graphically, demonstrating the power of pictures — and creativity — in telling a compelling story.

Steve Jenkins has written and illustrated thirty picture books for young readers, including the Caldecott Honor-winning What Do You Do with a Tail Like This? His books have been called stunning, eye-popping, inventive, gorgeous, masterful, extraordinary, playful, irresistible, compelling, engaging, accessible, glorious and informative. He lives in Colorado with his wife and frequent collaborator, Robin Page, and their children. Steve and Robin have been nominated many times both together and individually. This is Steve’s first individual win. Together their book Sisters & Brothers: Sibling Relationships in the Animal World won the AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize in 2009.

Young Adult Science Book:

How to Tame a Fox (and Build a Dog): Visionary Scientists and a Siberian Tale of Jump-Started Evolution, by Lee Alan Dugatkin and Lyudmila Trut. University of Chicago Press. 2017.

Tucked away in Siberia, there are furry, four-legged creatures with wagging tails and floppy ears that are as docile and friendly as any lapdog. But, despite appearances, these are not dogs — they are foxes. They are the result of the most astonishing experiment in breeding ever undertaken — imagine speeding up thousands of years of evolution into a few decades. In 1959, biologists Dmitri Belyaev and Lyudmila Trut set out to do just that, by starting with a few dozen silver foxes from fox farms during the Soviet era and attempting to recreate the evolution of wolves into dogs in real time in order to witness the process of domestication. This is the extraordinary, untold story of this remarkable undertaking. Most accounts of the natural evolution of wolves place it over a span of about 15,000 years, but within a decade, Belyaev and Trut’s fox breeding experiments had resulted in puppy-like foxes with floppy ears, piebald spots and curly tails. Along with these physical changes came genetic and behavioral changes, as well. The foxes were bred using selection criteria for tameness and with each generation, they became increasingly interested in human companionship. Trut, lead scientist on the project, and biologist and science writer Dugatkin, tell the story of the adventure, science, politics and love behind it all.

Lee Alan Dugatkin is a professor of biology and distinguished university scholar in the Department of Biology at the University of Louisville. He is a behavioral ecologist and historian of science and his main area of research interest is the evolution of social behavior. Dugatkin has spoken at more than 100 universities worldwide and is the author of more than 150 articles on evolution and behavior. He is a frequent contributor to Scientific American, Psychology Today, and the New Scientist. He is the author of numerous books, including Cooperation Among Animals: An Evolutionary Perspective (Oxford University Press, 1997), The Altruism Equation: Seven Scientists Search for the Origins of Goodness (Princeton University Press, 2006), and Mr. Jefferson and the Giant Moose (University of Chicago Press, 2009). Lee is also author of two textbooks: Principles of Animal Behavior (W.W. Norton, 3rd edition, 2013) and Evolution (W.W. Norton, 2012, coauthored with Carl Bergstrom).

Lyudmila N. Trut is head of the research group at the Institute of Cytology and Genetics of the Siberian Department of the Russian Academy of Sciences, in Novosibirsk. She received her doctoral degree in 1980. Her current research interests are the patterns of evolutionary transformations at the early steps of animal domestication. Her research group is developing the problem of domestication as an evolutionary event with the use of experimental models, including the silver fox, the American mink, the river otter and the wild gray rat.

Hands-on Science Book:

This Book Stinks! Gross Garbage, Rotten Rubbish, and the Science of Trash, by Sarah Wassner Flynn. National Geographic Children’s Books. 2017.

From composting and recycling, to landfills and dumps, to how creative people are finding new ways to reuse rubbish. This book is jam-packed with infographics, thematic spreads, wow-worthy photos, sidebars, serious stats and fabulous facts. But it gets the nod as the winner in the hands-on category because of its activities that inspire kids to take action, be proactive and rethink the things we throw away. There are articles about people making a difference as well as creative uses of garbage. Infographics provide quick glimpses into junk in space, the most garbage producing nations, as well as facts about recycling and food waste. Brief quizzes and suggestions for contributing to the effort to reduce waste are also included. This is an important and eye-opening book for young readers. It would also make a great text for environmental studies classes.

Sarah Wassner Flynn has authored several children's nonfiction books for National Geographic. Her other most recent titles include Awesome 8 Extreme, and 1,000 Facts About the White House as well as Animal Records. She has also contributed to The New York Times bestselling National Geographic Kids Almanac for several volumes, as well as the popular Weird But True series books, including Weird But True Gross, Weird But True Food, and Weird But True Christmas.

Since 2015, AAAS and Subaru partner annually to host the Subaru Loves Learning initiative, which provides captivating and up-to-date science literature to schools in need. The program donates science trade books that have been winners or finalists of the AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prizes for Excellence in Science Books.

In 2017, nearly 500 Subaru retailers participated in the nation-wide event to donate outstanding, prize-winning science books to schools. Participating Subaru retailers were matched with local schools in need and donated award-winning books to help promote science learning and literacy. A particular emphasis was placed on matching retailers with Title I schools. During the month of August, over 76,000 books were donated by Subaru retailers. In addition, Subaru donated over 2,000 books to Camden, N.J. students in need as part of its ongoing commitment to aid the local community of its future U.S. headquarters.