Good Math, Bad Math

Over at fellow SBer {Worlds Fair][worldsfair}, they've put up an unofficial "Ask a ScienceBlogger" question, about childrens books:

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.

I've got two kids, a girl who's almost six, and a boy who's three. And they're both showing serious signs of being pre-geeks. Whenever we go to a new place, the first thing they do is head for the bookshelves to see if there are any books they haven't seen yet. My daughter's school had a book fair last year, and we ended up spending a little over $100 on books for a kindergartener, and another $30 or so for the (then) 2yo. So obviously, I end up spending a lot of time reading childrens books!

There are a few books that really stand out in my mind as being *special*:

1. "Giraffes Can't Dance", by Giles Andreae, illustrated by Guy Parker-Rees. This isn't a science book at all, but it's simply one of the most wonderful children's book I've seen. The story is wonderful, the rhythm and the rhyme structure are fantastic, and the art is bright and beautiful in a cartoonish sort of way.
2. "Our Family Tree: An Evolution Story", by Lisa Westberg Peters, illustrated by Lauren Stringer. We bought this one for my daughter last december, after PZ recommended it on his blog. It's a beautiful book - great art, and it's actually really *compelling* for a child. Most kids science books have a kind of dull style to the writing; my daughter will generally want to read them once or twice, but once she understands what's in them, she doesn't want to read them again. But this one, she's either read it or had it read to her at least fifty different times.
3. "Rumble in the Jungle, Commotion in the Ocean, et al", by Giles Andreae, illustrated by David Wojtowycz. We started getting this series when my daughter was threeish, because it's by the same author as "Giraffes", and liked it so much that we have continued to get it for my son. Each book is about some environment and the animals that live in it. Each animal gets a little rhyme and a picture. The art is bright and colorful, and the rhymes are clever and very amusing to the kids.

UPDATE: I realized that I forgot one of *my* favorite books from my childhood: "The Lorax" by Dr. Seuss. In general, I'm not actually a huge Dr. Seuss fan: so many of his books are just rhyming nonsense. But the Lorax was one of my favorite books as a child; it turned me into a mini-environmentalist at the age of four. My son doesn't quite get the book yet; my daughter definitely does. No list of science-ish kids books would be complete without it.

[worldsfair]: http://scienceblogs.com/worldsfair/2006/07/childrens_book_roundup_and_a_q.php

Comments

  1. #1 Eric Gunnerson
    July 14, 2006

    My daughter loved the mad scientists club series. A group of kids who use science to make the adults in the town look silly.

    http://www.madscientistsclub.com/books.html

  2. #2 Markk
    July 14, 2006

    My favorite childrens book is sadly out of print. “Walk When the Moon is Full” by Francis Hammerstrom is a great set of twelve tales of what happens when a kid asks his mother something like, “Will we have to go to bed early til we are old?” and she is a student of ecologist Aldo Leopold (along with her husband), niece of Clarrence Darrow, and an open minded mother. Twelve tales of what is to be seen in nature at night when the moon is full. The description of the young owl looking at cars passing is specially good, along with the description of stars on the cold snow. Anyway it is just an enchanting little book.

  3. #3 ej
    July 14, 2006

    I loved The Universe and Dr. Einstein by George Gamow.

  4. #4 Riesz Fischer
    July 16, 2006

    “Is a Blue Whale the Biggest Thing There Is?” is a wonderful book for small children about relative sizes of things, expecially the earth and stars.

    “1,2,3,… Infinity” by George Gamov is a classic for older children.

    “The Left Hand of the Electron” by Isaac Asimov.

    The last 2 are a bit dated, but still very good.

  5. #5 G Barnett
    July 17, 2006

    Here’s another one (my folks gave it to my son last year) which shouldn’t be overlooked: Animalia by Graeme Base. Amazing illustrations, zany alliterations, wonderful hidden gems in each image.

    And then on the other, darker side, there’s Edward Gorey’s classic Gashleycrumb Tinies — the alphabet book you can imagine the Addams kids reading. Warning: may promote gothic tendencies. :)

  6. #6 Thomas Winwood
    July 17, 2006

    I like Seuss’ writing, but I never adopted the environmentalist mentality that he was apparently shoving down my throat the whole time. Odd, that.

  7. #7 Julia
    July 24, 2006

    I like Horton Hatches the Egg, because of all the iterations of “One hundred percent!”

    My father got _The Best New Thing_ by Isaac Asimov from the library frequently. 2 children who have been growing up on a satelite prepare to go back to Earth, and then find the best new thing when they get there. I loved that one, but stopped picking it because I knew he would on a regular basis. :)

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