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AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize 2014 Finalists

The AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize for Excellence in Science Books celebrates outstanding science writing and illustration for children and young adults. The prizes, meant to encourage the writing and publishing of high-quality science books for all age groups, are awarded in four categories: Children’s Science Picture Books, Middle Grades Nonfiction Science Books, Young Adult Science Book and Hands-on Science/Activity Book. We are pleased to announce the Finalists for the 2014 Prize in these four categories.

From birdwatching to hunting for exoplanets, the 2014 finalists cover a diverse array of scientific inquiry. The exciting work of volcano scientists, the nature explorations of a 10-year-old girl, the fossil hunting exploits of a father and son, and a revealing look at the workings of the human digestive system are just a few of the engaging stories told by the gifted authors whose work represents the very best that science writing has to offer for young minds.

The winners will be announced in January of 2014. Until then, we hope you take the time to sample and enjoy the finalists.

Children’s Picture Book

It’s Our Garden: From Seeds to Harvest in a School Garden, by George Ancona. (Photos by George Ancona) MA: Candlewick, 2013.

Writer/photographer Ancona shares his fascination with a school garden near his home in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Over the course of a year he photographed the students, their friends, teachers, and family as they tended to the garden from seed to harvest.

Things That Float and Things That Don’t, by David A. Adler. (Illus. by Anna Raff) NY: Holiday House, 2013.

Adler explores the concepts of density and buoyancy in this simple and delightful picture book that introduces students to an important key idea in STEM learning. The clear and engaging explanations are brought to life by Raff’s charming illustrations.

Too Hot? Too Cold? Keeping Body Temperature Just Right, by Caroline Arnold. (Illus. by Annie Patterson) MA: Charlesbridge, 2013.

In clear and concise writing, Arnold explains the many different adaptive strategies and behaviors humans and animals all over the world use to adapt to heat and cold. Patterson’s colorful and simple illustrations are a perfect complement to the text.


Children’s Middle Grades Book

Eruption!: Volcanoes and the Science of Saving Lives, by Elizabeth Rusch.  (Scientists in the Field Series; photographs by Tom Uhlman)  MA: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.

A stunning account of volcanologists Andy Lockhart, John Pallister, and their group of scientists who risk their lives, investigating deadly volcanoes that remain constant threats to people around the world.

The Skull in the Rock: How a Scientist, a Boy, and Google Earth Opened a New Window on Human Origins, by Lee R. Berger & Marc Aronson.  DC: National Geographic Children’s Books, 2012.

When nine-year-old Matthew Berger showed his father, paleoanthropologist Lee Berger, a fossil he found in South Africa, a remarkable journey of scientific discovery is launched. In this book Berger and co-author Aronson bring the story of this important discovery to young readers.

Wild Horse Scientists, by Kay Frydenborg.  (Scientists in the Field Series)   MA: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012.

Author Kay Frydenborg provides readers a rare glimpse into the wild herds of Assateague through the work of two scientists who have devoted their lives to studying the horses. Through beautiful beautiful photographs and elegant, readable prose the story of the herds and the researchers revealed.


Children’s Hands-On Science Book

Beyond the Solar System: Exploring Galaxies, Black Holes, Alien Planets, and More, by Mary Kay Carson.  IL: Chicago Review Press, 2013.

21 hands-on projects reinforce the narration of the history of humankind’s pursuit of astronomical knowledge. Children will follow along as the realization that the Earth is not at the center of the universe leads all the way up to recent telescopic proof of planets orbiting stars outside the solar system.

Ellie’s Log: Exploring the Forest Where the Great Tree Fell, by Judith L. Li. OR: Oregon State University Press, 2013.

After a huge tree crashes to the ground during a winter storm, ten-year-old Ellie and her new friend, Ricky, explore the forest where Ellie lives. Together, they learn how trees provide habitat for plants and animals high in the forest canopy, down among mossy old logs, and deep in the pools of a stream. The plants, insects, birds, and mammals they discover come to life in colored pen-and-ink drawings.

Look Up!: Bird-Watching in Your Own Backyard, by Annette LeBlanc Cate.  MA: Candlewick, 2013.

This engaging introduction to bird-watching encourages kids to get outdoors with a sketchbook and really look around. Quirky full-color illustrations portray dozens of birds chatting about their distinctive characteristics, including color, shape, plumage, and beak and foot types. Interactive and enjoyable tips bring an age-old hobby to new life for the next generation of bird-watchers.


Young Adult Science Book

Frankenstein’s Cat: Cuddling Up to Biotech’s Brave New Beasts, by Emily Anthes.  NY: Scientific American/Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013.

In Frankenstein’s Cat, journalist Emily Anthes takes readers from “petri dish to pet store” in her succinct summary of how humans have developed and used technology over the past decade to modify other animals for their own purposes. This extremely accessible book presents both sides of the ethical debate about the impact of these technologies on the animals and should leave readers with a clear and basic understanding of how the science works.

Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal, by Mary Roach.  NY: W.W. Norton & Company, 2013.

With her signature combination of laugh-out-loud humor, meticulous research, and indomitable curiosity, Mary Roach unravels the secrets of the alimentary canal. Roach takes on the entire digestive system in all its disgusting glory; readers are not spared the gorey details. A fascinating array of characters are encountered along the way as Roach introduces readers to the researchers (and their subjects) who study the human digestive system.                

Letters to a Young Scientist, by Edward O. Wilson.  NY: Liveright, 2013.

Pulitzer Prize–winning biologist Edward O. Wilson imparts the wisdom of his storied career to the next generation. Wilson instills a love of the innate creativity of science and a respect for the human being’s modest place in the planet’s ecosystem in his readers. A must for all would-be-scientists, this can also open up possibilities and spark aspirations for those young people who never imagined a life in science.

Mirror Earth: The Search for our Planet’s Twin, by Michael Lemonick.  NY: Walker & Company, 2012.

Michael Lemonick documents the exciting quest of the “exoplaneteers,” the scientists who, armed with more powerful technology, are racing to find a true twin of Earth. Along with a really great story, this fast-paced book also leaves readers with a clear understanding of the important science that frames the story.


The AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize for Excellence in Science Books is sponsored by Subaru.