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AAAS and Subaru of America Announce Winners of Children’s Book Awards

A collage of children's book covers
The authors and illustrators of four books about science are the winners of the 2019 AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize for Excellence in Science Books. / Photos courtesy winners

A Bangladeshi boy’s sustainable science project; the world of asteroid research; the rich history of the buildings surrounding us; and the life of a world-famous inventor are the stories told by the winners of the 2019 AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prizes for Excellence in Science Books.

The prizes, announced Thursday by AAAS and Subaru of America Inc., celebrate outstanding science writing and illustration for children and young adults. The award program, now in its 14th year, aims to spur the creation of new, high-quality books about science for children of all ages.

"Through quality science writing and illustration, children can be inspired by the work of scientists and be awed by the world around them," said Rush Holt, CEO of AAAS and executive publisher of the Science family of journals.

The prize was launched in 2005, when AAAS and Subaru partnered to honor five authors and one illustrator for their contributions to the ever-growing genre of science books for children. The following year, AAAS and Subaru began recognizing authors and illustrators for recently published individual works. Awards are given in four categories: children’s science picture book, middle grades science book, young adult science book and hands-on science book. The prizes are presented to the authors, except in the case of the picture book award, which is given to both the author and the illustrator.

Judged by panels of librarians, scientists and educators, the winning works feature accurate science and cannot perpetuate misconceptions or stereotypes. The criteria also require that each book be age-appropriate: For the youngest readers, a winning picture book should pique their curiosity about the natural world around them; for older readers, books should encourage the discussion and understanding of scientific ideas. Hands-on science books for any age must include inquiry-based activities that encourage problem-solving skills.

Educational materials are developed for each book and will be available on the prize website, sbfprize.org. The winning books also become part of the Subaru Loves Learning program. The initiative donates AAAS/Subaru Prize books to K-12 schools across the country through their local participating Subaru retailers.

Winners receive a cash prize, a commemorative plaque and will be honored at the AAAS Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., in February.

The Winners:

Children’s Science Picture Book

Iqbal and His Ingenious Idea: How a Science Project Helps One Family and the Planet, by Elizabeth Suneby, illustrated by Rebecca Green. Kids Can Press, 2018.

Iqbal, a young Bangladeshi boy, is worried about the health of his mother and baby sister. They have developed coughs from the smoky fire inside their home over which his mother cooks the family’s meals during monsoon season. With help from his teacher and his older sister, Iqbal sets out to design a smoke-free solar cooker. It is an innovation driven by concern. Yet, it just might earn him a prize in his school’s sustainability-themed science fair. The fictional tale of Iqbal is accompanied by a glossary of Bengali words used throughout the story, details about clean cookstoves and instructions for creating a solar cooker with a pizza box and aluminum foil – features to deepen young readers’ understanding of Iqbal’s innovation and spur their interest in discovery.

Middle Grades Science Book

Impact! Asteroids and the Science of Saving the World, by Elizabeth Rusch. HMH Books for Young Readers, 2017.

In this nonfiction work, author Elizabeth Rusch guides middle-grade readers into the world of asteroid research. Shadowing several different scientists, Rusch illuminates the diverse work they pursue, from understanding asteroids’ origins and tracking asteroids in space to examining the craters that meteors have left behind on Earth. Impact! also includes the gripping story of a recent meteor encounter – the Chelyabinsk meteor explosion above Russia in 2013 – and explores possible methods that future scientists might use to divert an asteroid, should one threaten our planet.

Young Adult Science Book

Built: The Hidden Stories Behind Our Structures, by Roma Agrawal. Bloomsbury USA, 2018.

Author and structural engineer Roma Agrawal takes a sweeping look at how our built environment has come to be, tracing the evolution of our structures from mud huts to modern skyscrapers – including London’s Shard building, the striking, pyramid-shaped glass tower that Agrawal helped design. In Built, Agrawal takes readers on a tour of engineering throughout time and across continents, from deadly bridge collapses to the surprising materials used in such iconic structures as the Great Wall of China and the Taj Mahal.

Hands-On Science Book

Alexander Graham Bell for Kids: His Life & Inventions With 21 Activities, by Mary Kay Carson. Chicago Review Press, 2018.

This exploration of the life of telephone inventor Alexander Graham Bell is no ordinary biography. Mary Kay Carson highlights Bell’s contributions beyond his most famous invention. Bell’s creation of an early version of the phonograph and the metal detector, his research on airplanes and hydrofoil boats, and his work teaching deaf and hearing-impaired students, including Helen Keller, are all examined. The book includes sidebars that explain the scientific principles behind his inventions and 21 hands-on activities related to Bell’s life and work. Readers can learn how to communicate with American Sign Language, create a telegraph out of a pie tin, fly a tetrahedral kite and more.

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Andrea Korte