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Are you looking for top-notch science books for middle-grade-aged children? Here are my picks for some of the best of 2012.

Sometimes a science book may have a lot of large color illustrations and look like a picture book. However, the text and reading level of these books are intended for children roughly 9-12 years old. (If you are looking for picture books for younger kids, try this previous post about science picture books.)

Note:  "My review" links take you to full reviews of the books at Wrapped In Foil blog, many with suggestions for hands-on activities. "Related science activities" links take you to posts here at Growing With Science, often inspired by the book. Linked titles go to Amazon for further information.

2012 Science Books for Middle Grades:


Awesome Snake Science!: 40 Activities for Learning About Snakes by Cindy Blobaum

Review and related science activities

Albert Einstein and Relativity for Kids: His Life and Ideas with 21 Activities and Thought Experiments (For Kids series) by Jerome Pohlen
A Black Hole Is Not a Hole by Carolyn Cinami DeCristofano and illustrated by Michael Carroll
Sneed B. Collard III's Most Fun Book Ever About Lizards by, you guessed it, Sneed B. Collard III

My review

Related science activities

Citizen Scientists: Be a Part of Scientific Discovery from Your Own Backyard by Loree Griffin Burns and  Ellen Harasimowicz (Photographer)
Giant Squid: Searching for a Sea Monster (Smithsonian) (Smithsonian) by Mary M Cerullo and Clyde F.E. Roper

Review and related science activities

Moonbird: A Year on the Wind with the Great Survivor B95 by Philip Hoose

My Review

The Mighty Mars Rovers: The Incredible Adventures of Spirit and Opportunity (Scientists in the Field Series) by Elizabeth Rusch
The Plant Hunters: True Stories of Their Daring Adventures to the Far Corners of the Earth
by Anita Silvey*

* I do have a slight reservation about this book, due to a few errors (tigers are not found in South America, for example). Others, however, have been very positive about it.

Do you have any favorite science books for middle-grade-aged children that were published in 2012? We'd love to hear about them.

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We are pleased to be hosting STEM Friday this week, a celebration of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math books for children. The theme for today is wildflowers, so be sure to click through the link and check it out. (This post contains affiliate links to Amazon).

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We are fast approaching the the centennial of Lady Bird Johnson's birth, December 22, 2012, and it seemed like a perfect time to pull out Miss Lady Bird's Wildflowers: How a First Lady Changed America
by Kathi Appelt and illustrated by Joy Fisher Hein. This is a beautiful picture book biography that overflows with the beautiful wildflowers that Lady Bird Johnson enjoyed so much. (For a full review of the book, see our sister blog, Wrapped in Foil.)

You may wonder how a picture book about a former first lady who loved wildflowers could be used as a jumping off point for STEM. Here are just a few ideas:

Science:

- use the website and the guide in the backmatter of the book to identify all the lovely wildflowers in the illustrations

  • Seed dispersal
  • Ecology issues, such as how introduced and invasive plants change an area
  • Food webs
  • Weather and climate, and how that effects plants

Technology:

  • Use a computer program to design a wildflower garden
  • Construct two weather stations and compare the weather in a wildflower garden versus a parking lot

Engineering:

Wildflower seeds come in many different sizes and shapes. Investigate how wildflower seeds are planted, harvested, processed or threshed, and packaged for sale. Can you think of a machine to do this in a better way?

Math:

Investigating wildflowers can be a wonderful way to promote all aspects of STEM.

Lupine life cycle

Let's take a look at the life cycle of one of Lady Bird Johnson's favorite flowers, the bluebonnet or lupine. Her favorite was Lupinus texensis, the Texas bluebonnet. We are showing the arroyo lupine, Lupinus succulentus, which is a similar plant.

Lupine seeds

sprout into seedlings. The first two smooth oval "leaves" are actually the cotyledons.

Soon the regular leaves emerge and the plants begin to grow.

In a few short months the lupines begin to flower.

Honey bees and other pollinators pollinate the flowers. When the flower has been pollinated, the white part turns red.

Now the petals fall off and the seed pods begin to form. You can see the dark green seeds forming inside.

When they are mature, the pods turn brown. Do you see the ones towards the bottom of the photograph that are twisted? The pods burst open when they are mature and send the seeds shooting through the air. Hopefully, the seeds will land in a good location and grow into new lupines the following year.

Plant some wildflowers so you can follow your own plant life cycles. In the Sonoran Desert the time to plant wildflowers flowers for a spring bloom is right now (November).

Related activities/information:

Be sure to check either Kathi Appelt's (click on the icon next to the "brand new" image) or Joy Fisher Hein's websites for a beautiful and fun activity kit (in .pdf) to download that accompanies the book. The kit includes a word search, card matching game and many ideas for hands-on learning.

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
Free .pdf curricula to download at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center (Four curricula for grades pre-k through 6)
Hands-on activities at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Miss Lady Bird's Wildflowers is a beautiful book about an inspiring lady. Hopefully, it will encourage some young scientists and engineers, as well.

Reading level: Ages 4 and up
Hardcover: 40 pages
Publisher: HarperCollins; 1st edition (February 15, 2005)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0060011076
ISBN-13: 978-0060011079

Book was provided for review purposes.


Come visit the STEM Friday blog each week to find more great Science, Technology, Engineering and Math books.

Are you looking for some top-notch science picture books for kids? I have generated a list of some of the best from titles nominated in the Cybils nonfiction picture book category and from the National Science Teacher's Association 2012 trade book list.

"My review" links take you to full reviews of the books at Wrapped In Foil blog, many with suggestions for hands-on activities. "Related science activities" links take you to posts here at Growing With Science, often inspired by the book. Linked titles go to Amazon for further information.

We're hosting STEM Friday this Friday, so look for more about science books for kids all week!

Check out these 2012 Science Picture Books:


A Leaf Can Be . . . (Millbrook Picture Books)
with poetic text by Laura Purdie Salas and breathtaking illustrations by Violeta Dabija

My review

Related science activities

Life in the Ocean: The Story of Oceanographer Sylvia Earle by Claire A. Nivola

My review

A Place for Bats
by Melissa Stewart and illustrated by Higgins Bond
Awesome Autumn by Bruce Goldstone

My review

Related science activities

Nic Bishop Snakes
by Nic Bishop
Related science activities

and more related science activities

A Rock Is Lively
by Dianna Hutts Aston and illustrated by Sylvia Long

Also by Dianna Hutts Aston and illustrated by Sylvia Long:

A Butterfly Is Patient

My review

Related Science activities

Plant a Little Seed
by Bonnie Christensen
Can We Save the Tiger? by Martin Jenkins and illustrated by Vicky White

My review

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Young Readers Edition by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer and illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon

My review

Related science activities

The Story of Silk: From Worm Spit to Woven Scarves (Traveling Photographer)
by Richard Sobol (Traveling Photographer)

My review

Note:  although this looks like a picture book, the text is more like a chapter book.

Polar Bears, Penguins, and Other Mysterious Animals of the Extreme Cold (Extreme Animals in Extreme Environments) by Ana Maria Rodriguez
Let's not forget Bird Talk: What Birds Are Saying and Whyby Lita Judge

and the other recent children's books about birds from earlier this month

Eggs 1, 2, 3: Who Will the Babies Be?
by Janet Halfmann and illustrated by Betsy Thompson

Also by Janet Halfmann:

Little Black Ant on Park Street (Smithsonian's Backyard Collection)

See my review

North: The Amazing Story of Arctic Migration by Nick Dowson and illustrated by Patrick Benson
For the Birds: The Life of Roger Tory Peterson by Peggy Thomas and illustrated by Laura Jacques
Island: A Story of the Galápagos by Jason Chin

My Review

Also by Jason Chin
Coral Reefs

My review of Coral Reefs

The Honeybee Man by Lela Nargi and illustrated by Kyrsten Brooker

Edit: Now there's a list of 2012 science books for middle grade children as well.