So, over at the World’s Fair, they’ve put together an unofficial ask a scienceblogger:

Are there any children’s books that are dear to you, either as a child or a parent, and especially ones that perhaps strike a chord with those from a science sensibility? Just curious really. And it doesn’t have to be a picture book, doesn’t even have to be a children’s book – just a book that, for whatever reason, worked for you.

So, I’m quite late to the party, but nevertheless I’ve listed some books below–some science, most not–that either I read as a kid, or I read with my kids now, or both.

My third grade teacher, Mrs. Bauman, read us both “Where the Red Fern Grows” and “Summer of the Monkeys” (both by Wilson Rawls) during the school year. I was rather impatient when it came to reading, so I checked them both out of the library and read them myself before she was more than a chapter or so in. And even so, I still cried at the ending of both books.

I also loved E.B. White, for “The Trumpet of the Swan” and “Charlotte’s Web”. Never much of a fan of “Stuart Little”, though.

I mentioned previously that, as a young kid, I read a lot of Berenstain Bears books. We still have some of those around for my own kids, and there are links in that post to ones that are science-related.

We had a lot of books in my house, but there came a point when I got bored with everything we had, so I spent one summer exploring our garage. I read all of my mom’s old Nancy Drew books, and went through a phase where I loved solve-it-yourself mysteries–“Encyclopedia Brown”, “Two-minute mysteries”, anything that encouraged me to solve it first. I can’t say I wouldn’t have become a scientist without these, but it certainly honed my rational thinking skills. And as noted in this article:

Most medical research is like criminal investigations: endless searches for clues that seem to add up to nothing.

Anyhoo. I have many of the books mentioned above for my own kids and we read some aloud, but they’re too young for some of them. One of their favorites is another one of my beloved books from childhood–“Where the Wild Things Are” by Maurice Sendak. This one we still sometimes “read” while driving on long car trips, since we all have it memorized, and the kids can blow off some fidgeting by “roaring their terrible roars” and “gnashing their terrible teeth” while driving down the highway.

They’re also Eric Carle fans. When I was a kid, the only book I knew of his was “The Very Hungry Caterpillar”. My kids, however, learned many of their colors by reading “Brown bear, brown bear, what do you see?” He has two books with gimmicks–“The Very Lonely Firefly” lights up, and “The Very Quiet Cricket”, well, ain’t so very quiet, but they’re fun to read.

I have a number of other books to recommend, both for kids and adults, but didn’t want to turn this just into a big list…I’ll try to compile the others as a list by topic and post it in the future.

Comments

  1. #1 Benjamin Cohen
    July 26, 2006

    Dammit, I forgot about Eric Carle!
    And Encyclopedia Brown! More egregious to forget E.B. as a friend of mine has a book coming out this Fall on Ole Encyclo Brown (Here, though it’s not available yet). Well, you could look at some odler ones too. Like this, though I know these aren’t the E.B. we were talking about. Nevertheless.

    Oh hell. I should put this up at my blog.

  2. #2 impatientpatient
    July 26, 2006

    THe night Max wore his wolf suit and made mischief of one kind and another……..
    his mother called him wild thing, and max said- i’ll eat you up
    So he was sent to bed without eating anything……

  3. #3 Stephen Uitti
    July 27, 2006

    “Where the Wild Things Are” is poetry, in a bit of disguise. It either helps or hurts that my son’s name is Max.

  4. #4 Tara C. Smith
    July 27, 2006

    Benjamin, that new EB book looks hilarious!

    And now I have all of “Where the wild things are” running through my head again…

  5. #5 Julie Stahlhut
    July 27, 2006

    I’ve used Charlotte’s Web in an organismal-bio lab, to illustrate the concept of a semelparous life history.

  6. #6 biosparite
    July 27, 2006

    A ways out of the age demographic here, but when I was a kindergartener in the mid-50’s my father’s manager’s wife gave me what I believe was titled THE GIANT GOLDEN BOOK OF ASTRONOMY with text and paintings that inspired me to read all I could on the subject since then. My mother read it to me cover to cover several times until I learned to read for myself. There was one picture in particular of people out on a spring night looking up at the Milky Way that still resonates with me when I find a bright night sky far from city light pollution. I believe the same organization that publishes the Golden Nature Guides published this large, hardbound book on astronomy. Of course much has changed in the science, but the illustrations are still powerful.

  7. #7 adamsj
    July 27, 2006

    I seem to remember “Where the Red Fern Grows” as a fourth-grade book, but I was in a combined third-fourth grade class at my Lutheran school, so it’s hard to say with certainty. Much as I loved it (we raised coonhounds), even got given a copy, I’d never read “Summer of the Monkeys” till last June. It, too, is a lovely book–maybe better.

    I suppose I’d have to send myself a copy back to nineteen-hrmph to make a fair judgement.

  8. #8 Janet Ginsburg
    July 27, 2006

    My friend Stuart J. Murphy has written a series of picture books that focus on mathematical concepts for young children, published by HarperCollins. There are now 63 books (!), split into there levels for kids Pre-K to about 3rd grade. I’ve found that people have either never heard of them or are groupies (http://www.stuartjmurphy.com). Several of the books do a nice job of blending science with math (“Dave’s Down to Earth Rock Shop,” “Coyotes All Around,” “Earth Day — Hooray!”) One of Stuart’s books, “Less Than Zero,” which is about negative numbers, was ranked a “Best Book of the Year” by Science Books & Films magazine (AAAS).

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