World's Fair

The question posed this time:

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.

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- SCIENCEBLOGGER ANSWERS -

Dave, World’s Fair
So, today is the last day of the Children’s book workshop, and it’s been a nice change of pace for sure. The instructor, Susan Juby, was excellent and the content generally helpful and did I say, nice change of pace? I also picked up a few great quotes about children in general, and in children’s lit specifically. [more]

Tim, scienceblogs.com
I’ve always liked The Gas We Pass, the Story of Farts, and Everyone Poops: Baroom!

Janet, Adventures in Ethics and Science
Deciding on the *favorite* would be really hard in our household, but maybe we can bust out a good list. And as it happens, today’s Sprog Blogging looks at three children’s books: [more]

Mark, Good Math, Bad Math
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! [more]

Bora, A Blog Around the Clock
Here is my list of childhood favourites, the books that turned me on to science – a list that reflects the time and place where I grew up: As a little kid, I have practically memorized the 1971 translation of the 1968 book The new golden treasury of natural historyby Bertha Morris Parker (under the title of Riznica Prirode) [more].

Ben Cohen, World’s Fair
I have to answer on behalf of my son, who’s currently quite smitten with some outstanding children’s books. For my own sake, I was always a big fan of Make Way for Ducklings, although I can’t say that was for scientific or even ecological reasons (though I know I could in the least recast it for an environmental-ecological theme). Now, as for Whitt, he’s enamored less with books that show him why something is the way it is and more with anything that shows him how he can make things, or at least see how it works. So, he’ll love a good anatomy book, not so much because he then knows *why* blood flows all around, but because he can see *how* it does. And so Richard Scarry books fit the bill really nicely there, the ones that show the inside of cars or waterwheels or buildings under construction. Cars and Trucks< and Things That Go and What do People Do All Day?, are the tops. So I offer those as great children’s books.

Karmen, Chaotic Utopia
As both a mom and a kid at heart, I couldn’t resist joining in Children’s Book week (month?) started by the World’s Fair. Behind every child is a budding scientist. They approach the world with an unrelenting curiosity, testing hypothesis at every corner [more].

Tara, Aetiology
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. [more]

- CHILDREN’S BOOKS AUTHOR ANSWERS -

From Susan Juby, author of Alice, I Think
For recommendations, a couple of books come to mind. Gerald Durrell wrote a series of books about his family and his early career as a naturalist. The first book was called My Family and Other Animals and it was brilliantly funny and pure magic for those of us obsessed with the natural world and all of its creatures. The second book is more recent. It’s called The Radioactive Boy Scout: The Frightening True Story of a Whiz Kid and His Homemade Nuclear Reactor by Ken Silverstein. It’s about a teenager who tries to build a nuclear reactor in his backyard garden shed. The book grew out of Silverstein’s article in Harper’s Magazine and it’s a fascinating exploration of obsession and loneliness and atomic energy.

From Rhea Tregebov, author of Sasha amd the Wiggly Tooth
So glad you’re covering this issue. As you know, I’m a children’s author myself, and share your sense of the importance of kids’ lit. While I didn’t read this myself as a kid, I do find it one of the most astounding picture books around: Vera B. Williams’ Cherries and Cherry Pits. The level of sophistication both visually and in terms of narrative is really remarkable and beyond that, the message that she has is very signficant. I won’t say more, but I do recommend this book to all readers, kids and non.

From James McCann, author of Rancour, President of CWILL.BC (Childrens Writers and Illustrators of British Columbia)
My biggest influences of science in fiction would have to be Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (written as a satire of an HG Wells novel), Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (originally a short story called “The Firefighter”), and, more recently, Darwinia by Robert Charles Wilson. In each there is an element of science that warns us of how we may lose our humanity should we rely too much on technology as our companion/entertainment, and in each is a tale of morality that stays true throughout the decades.
While religion brings us closer in relationship to each other, technology brings us closer in relationship to machines.

* * *

And looks like we have another post from Jacob.
“It would take more than a million Earths to make a ball as big as the sun. It would take about 109 Earths to make a straight line across the sun.”

Thanks to everyone who particpated. Cheers ~Dave

Comments

  1. #1 coturnix
    July 24, 2006

    Thank you for putting all of this together and for prompting us to think about this. My copy of Morris Parker’s book just arrived in the mail today and I am overwehelmed by nostalgia. Sure, it is in English this time around, but every single illustration brings out memories….

  2. #2 Benjamin Cohen
    July 24, 2006

    Holy crap, Dave. A beautiful picture.

  3. #3 Karmen
    July 24, 2006

    A lovely ensemble! I’m glad that “Animalia” by Ghrame Base made it into the graphic. I forgot all about his works when writing my answer. Any sci-fi addicts out there should look carefully at the “D” page for a Dalek and a Doctor Who.

  4. #4 Khalil A.
    July 25, 2006

    Um… I bet you anything that the editors got the idea for to ask this question by reading your blog.

  5. #5 SkookumPlanet
    July 25, 2006

    Hey, I recognize some of those covers! I want to second The Radioactive Boy Scout, recommended by Susan Juby. The kid came close to building a reactor in a backyard garden shed by scrounging material from where ever he could find it. He didn’t quite get to the operational stage, but had his reactor worked his entire neighborhood would have glowed-in-the-dark — he wasn’t clear about the concept of radiation. But the NRC came in “moonsuits” and hauled it all away, including the shed, while the neighbors watched. It’s a quick read.

  6. My favorite book growing up was “Our Universe” this amazing astronomy/cosmology primer put out by National Geographic. This 3lbs tome went with me everywhere I went, which probably goes a long way towards explaining why I was never properly socialized as a child.

    Everything from the Roman name origins of the planets to the Chandrasekhar limit is covered in here, all presented in a graphic style that makes the concepts understandable and interesting to young readers. A great book.

  7. #7 Ann
    July 26, 2006

    The Forgotten Door by Alexander Key, The Tripod series by John Christopher, and Madeleine L’Engle’s Time Quartet.

  8. #8 Marius
    July 27, 2006

    What a great topic! My very first Science Fiction book I ever read was The Runaway Robot by Lester delRay. I still have a copy. I keep trying to get my daughter interested in it, but so far no luck.

  9. #9 Melissa Techman
    July 27, 2006

    …Make Way For Ducklings. I read it to classes each year (I am a K-5 school librarian). All ages love it. I follow up: Pretend you are a young artist named Marc Simont and you open the front door to your small apartment in NYC and your room-mate, Robert McCloskey, says, “Quick, I need you to hold them so I can draw them!”. You follow him to the bathroom and he makes you sit on the toilet, holding ducklings one by one, next to a tub full of feathered, busy siblings…
    We talk about observation, inspiration and persistence, also the Caldecott Medal (Simont got one years later for The Stray Dog.)

  10. #10 Jim
    July 27, 2006

    “Tell Me Why” was indispensible to my parents

  11. #11 Katie
    July 27, 2006

    I definitely agree with Ann – Madeleine L’Engle’s time quartet were some great books. I got A Wrinkle in Time when I was in the third grade, and I loved it…I still recommend it to friends who are looking for books for their kids to read…Especially if their kids are into science.

  12. #12 Derek
    July 27, 2006

    If you want to enjoy a very silly science-oriented book with your kids, you simply have to take a look at “That Pesky Toaster”, by Ben Hillman. It’s my hands-down favorite. You can see some highlights at http://www.benhillman.com/bh_pages/toast.html.

  13. #13 Art C
    July 27, 2006

    The Danny Dunn Series were big with me I barely remember the stories,but I was sure hooked at an early age.

  14. #14 Gwen
    July 28, 2006

    I too loved “A Wrinkle in Time”, and it spurred a career in chemistry for me. Both of my sons liked the Magic School Bus books.

  15. #15 Rich
    July 28, 2006

    I loved the question.. thanx.
    My reccomendation is “The Mad Scientist’s Club” and “The New Mad Scientist’s Club” by Bertrind R. Brinley.

    Both were a great read for a 10 year old and I just bought both for my son.. Check them out. Sandlot meets Jimmy Neutron.

  16. #16 32-P
    July 28, 2006

    “The Green Book,” re-released as “Shine,” by Jill Paton Walsh. Slightly upsetting, but very very good: how can science help us live on other planets, and what kind of knowledge becomes useful when you’re away from home?

  17. #17 Joel Finkle
    July 28, 2006

    It was juvenile SF/F that got us started in the children’s bookselling business: A lot of the ones above were in my favorites, but a few that weren’t mentioned:
    * The Trumpet of the Swan by EB White — much better than Charlotte’s Web.
    * The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary — strange little fantasy story including toy cars that go just because you’re making pbpbpbpbpb noises
    * Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIMH — lots of science hidden in there, and the idea of a hidden world in your backyard (but not as far-fetched as the movie version)
    * The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet by Eleanor Cameron (and four sequels) — This had us planning to build spaceships in the vacant lot next door

    Plus Danny Dunn (Williams and Abrashkin, iirc), Alfred Hitchcock’s Three Investigators (various authors, I think), and the occasional not-quite-juvie stuck in the juvenile section of the public library (Bova’s The Dueling Machine) or the middle-school library (Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land poised next to The Star Beast in a school district that tried to ban Huckleberry Finn)

  18. #18 Barb
    July 28, 2006

    “The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet”, its sequels, and of course, the “Danny Dunn” series. Irene (from DD) was the best (and only) girl scientist around! Well, maybe Nancy Drew and Nan Boobsy did use scientific deductions to solve their mysteries, but Irene used SCIENCE!

  19. #19 Bill Brown
    August 4, 2006

    I’ll second the Mad Scientists Club recommendations.

    I read nearly all the books in the Encyclopedia Brown, Einstein Anderson, and the Hardy Boys series. It wasn’t science exactly, but I found that it strengthened my powers of deduction and observation. For a long time, I really wanted to be a physicist.

  20. #20 moon cake
    September 10, 2007

    I definitely agree with Ann – Madeleine L’Engle’s time quartet were some great books. I got A Wrinkle in Time when I was in the third grade, and I loved it…I still recommend it to friends who are looking for books for their kids to read…Especially if their kids are into science.

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