Books for Preteens and Teens
Batman Science: The Real-World Science Behind Batman's Gear, by Tammy Enz and Agnieszka Biskup. North Mankato, MN: Capstone, 2015.
As a crime fighting superhero, Batman relies on super technology, not super powers. This book reveals the real world connections behind Batman’s high tech gear. If you love Batman, you will love this book that pairs full-color comic book style illustrations with colorful photographs to create a highly visual exploration of the science behind cool tech. Although younger students who are good readers may appreciate this book, we place it at this level because the page length (144 pages) and vocabulary might prove challenging to beginning readers.
Before the World Was Ready: Stories of Daring Genius in Science, by Claire Eamer, illustrated by Sa Boothroyd. Toronto: Annick Press, 2013.
This book tells the story of eight great innovators who were initially rejected, mocked, and even persecuted for their ideas. Included are Copernicus, the Wright Brothers, Darwin, Charles Babbage, Nikola Tesla, and Rachel Carson. The book uses humor and amusing illustrations to illustrate the notion of perseverance, even in the face of adversity and derision. It is best suited for students in upper elementary or junior high school.
The Big Questions in Science: The Quest to Solve the Great Unknowns, by Hayley Birch, Mun Keat Looi, and Colin Stuart. London: Andre Deutsch: 2014.
Written by experienced science writers, adept at translating the complicated concepts of science into an engaging and insightful discussion for general readers, this book grapples with 20 hot topics across the disciplines of biology, chemistry, physics, astronomy and computer science. The level and tone of the book make it perfect for satisfy the needs of young adolescents who are just beginning to become absorbed in these big, overarching questions.
Eyes Wide Open: Going Behind the Environmental Headlines, by Paul Fleischman. Somerville, MA: Candlewick: 2014.
Paul Fleischman offers teens an environmental wake-up call and a tool kit for decoding the barrage of conflicting information confronting them. This book explains the changing world, clearly articulating the principles driving attitudes and events that have brought us to this point to the young audience whose future will be most affected by them.
If: A Mind-Bending New Way of Looking at Big Ideas and Numbers, by David J. Smith and Steve Adams. Toronto: Kids Can Press: 2014.
This short book makes it easier for kids of all ages to understand concepts and ideas that are difficult to grasp because they are so outside of our everyday experience or may seem incomprehensible or even counterintuitive. Each two-page spread covers a complex concept, often dealing with size or scale, and sheds light on it by relating it to a more familiar object or process with the help of enchanting and truly useful illustrations.
The Incredible Plate Tectonics Comic: The Adventures of Geo, Vol. 1, by Kanani K. M. Lee and Adam Wallenta. San Francisco: No Starch Press, 2014.
While written as the adventure of a boy and his dog, the comic presents all the basic facts of the earth's formation and structure, the various types of tectonic plates and the ways they move, continental drift, and the structure and mechanisms of earth‑shaping events such as volcanoes, earthquakes, and tsunamis.
Neurocomic, by Hannah Ros, illustrated by Matteo Farinella. London, England: Nobrow Press, 2014.
This unusual comic, both written and illustrated by neuroscientists, is sure to excite readers to further study the brain. It should find its way onto the shelves of a wide range of libraries and personal collections. It begins with a young man falling into a hole and finding himself inside a brain. The book then recants the young man's adventure with easy‑to‑understand illustrations and explanations of the underpinnings of neuroscience. Encountered along the way are Santiago Ramon y Cajal, Camillo Golgi, Charles Scott Sherrington, Bernard Katz, Eric Kandel, and other important figures in the development of neuroscience.
The Owner’s Manual for Driving Your Adolescent Brain, by JoAnn Deak and Terrence Deak, illustrated by Freya Harrison. San Francisco: Little Pickle Press, 2013.
Using a driving metaphor throughout (perfect for preteen and young teens who can’t wait to drive) the psychologist authors take kids on a scientific tour of the physical makeup of the brain and offer ways to better understand, protect, and improve it. Colorful, cartoon-like illustrations supplement the charming, informative text.
Pills and Starships, by Lydia Millett. Brooklyn, NY: Black Sheep, 2014.
Set in the not‑too‑distant future, Pills and Starships follows the lead of many science fiction novels by making one prediction about the future and using that prediction as the basis for a story about how people behave in response to that change. Ms. Millet makes the characters and her future world come alive and somehow manages to convert what might have been yet another dark dystopian tale into a story about a better future.
Skyscrapers: Investigate Feats of Engineering with 25 Projects, by Donna Latham, illustrated by Andrew Christensen. White River Junction, VT: Nomad Press, 2013.
A combination of fascinating facts, hands‑on science experiments and attractive and engaging illustrations make this a great candidate for every youngster on your gift list. It introduces five major branches of engineering that are immediately accessible to children because they are focused around structures that both urban and rural children recognize and hold in awe.
Space Race, by John Chlohosy Cole. London, England: Nobrow Press, 2012.
Perfect for art lovers or space enthusiasts of all ages, Space Race covers the USSR’s early triumphs of space exploration on one side and the USA’s race to the moon on the other, all in beautifully illustrations. Its only text is an illustrated fact sheet detailing important breakthroughs in space travel on both sides of the Iron Curtain between 1957 and 1975, making it a fantastic tool for educators as well as a fun way for young historians to explore a defining period of the 20th Century.
Starfinder: The Complete Beginner's Guide to the Night Sky, 3rd ed, by Carole Stott and Giles Sparrow. NY: DK Publishing, 2013.
This book describes itself as being "The complete beginner's guide to exploring the night sky." These are very apt words, for that is exactly what this book is about. Through numerous excellent drawings and photographs we are taken on a tour of the universe.
Steampunk Lego, by Guy Himber. San Francisco: No Starch Press, 2014.
Are there steampunk fans on your gift list? This book filled with dirigibles, floating Victorian cities, pirate ships, robots, and other alternate universe curiosities will surely fascinate them. But here’s the twist: all of the iconic steampunk creations found within the pages of this book were built from LEGO! Curated by award-winning LEGO builder and special effects master Guy Himber, this full-color coffee table book showcases an eclectic variety of models designed by dozens of the world's best LEGO artists.
Threatened, by Eliot Schrefer. NY: Scholastic, 2014.
This book recounts the story of Luc, an orphan adolescent in Gabon who agrees to help a researcher find chimps in the jungle. Luc is resourceful in learning how to survive in this environment and his tricks for living in the jungle are both interesting and edifying. Luc is an AIDS orphan and, therefore, the book also touches on the societal impacts of HIV/AIDS in Gabon. Threatened is a 2014 National Book Award finalist.
Wild Ocean: Sharks, Whales, Rays, and Other Endangered Sea Creatures, edited by Matt Dembicki, Golden, CO: Fulcrum Publishing, 2014.
This is a comics anthology featuring 12 endangered sea creatures in stories written and illustrated by 12 renowned graphic artists and illustrators. Developed as part of a campaign by the nonprofit PangeaSeed to shed light on the dangers facing marine life around the world, the narrative and visual styles are as varied as the endangered animals they feature. It should be a great way to introduce graphic novel fans to important conservation concepts. Conversely, it also serves to introduce budding conservationists to graphic novels and stories at the highest level.