Every year, for over 40 years, the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) has published its list of Outstanding Science Trade Books, considered the best science, engineering and design books for students in grades K-12.
These titles would be great choices for science teachers interested in hosting literature circles — “a popular reading strategy that emphasizes student interest and conversation” — in their classrooms. Learn more here: “Literature Circles For Science” (William Straits and Sherry Nichols, NSTA, 30 October 2006).
Here are some highlighted recommendations for high school students (all are available in the CA Library collection):
Terrible Typhoid Mary: A True Story of the Deadliest Cook in America by Susan Campbell Bartoletti — What happens when a person’s reputation has been forever damaged? With archival photographs and text among other primary sources, this riveting biography of Mary Mallon looks beyond the tabloid scandal of Mary’s controversial life. “Expertly weaving together both historical background and contemporary knowledge about disease and public health, Bartoletti enlivens Mallon’s story with engrossing anecdotes and provocative critical inquiry while debunking misconceptions” (Booklist starred review).
A Global Warming Primer by Jeffrey Bennett — Is human-induced global warming a real threat to our future? Most people will express an opinion on this question, but relatively few can back their opinions with solid evidence. But the truth is, the basic science is not that difficult. “Without moralizing, Bennett offers strong evidence for the effects of global warming and urges cooperation and action across political party and international lines to prevent a calamitous future” (School Library Journal).
The Story of Seeds: From Mendel’s Garden To Your Plate, and How There’s More of Less To Eat Around the World by Nancy Castaldo — With a global cast of men and women, scientists and laypeople, and photographic documentation, Castaldo chronicles where our food comes from, and more importantly, where it is going as she digs deeper into the importance of seeds in our world. “This stellar interdisciplinary resource may need hand-selling to get readers beyond its plain packaging, but be prepared to satisfy readers’ thirst for more information about, for instance, protecting Russia’s international seed vaults during WWII, finding Glass Gem corn, and fighting biopiracy. A terrific, engrossing resource” (Booklist starred review).
Radioactive!: How Irène Curie and Lise Meitner Revolutionized Science and Changed the World by Winifred Conkling — Shares the story of how the daughter of Marie and Pierre Curie discovered artificial radioactivity and won a Nobel Prize in spite of being denied an advanced education, inspiring physicist Lise Meitner to make a vital discovery about nuclear fission. “Black-and-white period photos, scientific asides and diagrams, and a time line enhance the well-cited text. A thorough and engaging study of two female scientists worth their weight in radium” (Booklist starred review).
Eyes Wide Open: Going Behind the Environmental Headlines by Paul Fleischman — A summary of today’s environmental challenges also counsels teens on how to decode conflicting information, explaining the role of vested interests while identifying the sources behind different opinions, helping teens make informed choices. “The presentation of facts and the author’s positive message are what shine here. An excellent and thought-provoking take on a well-worn subject” (School Library Journal).
Chocolate: Sweet Science & Dark Secrets of the World’s Favorite Treat by Kay Frydenborg — A fascinating account for teen readers that captures the history, science, and economic and cultural implications of the harvesting of cacao and creation of chocolate. Readers of Chew On This and The Omnivore’s Dilemma will savor this rich exposé. “Covering controversy over labor laws, the chemical makeup of chocolate, and recent attempts to map the cacao genome, Frydenborg offers a wealth of information that will likely encourage students to think critically about the ecological and human cost of their favorite candies and maybe even prompt them to choose sustainable alternatives” (Booklist).
Steve Jobs: Insanely Great, A Graphic Biography by Jessie Hartland — Told through a combination of black-and-white illustrations and handwritten text, this fast-paced and entertaining biography in graphic format presents the story of the ultimate American entrepreneur, the man who brought us Apple Computer, Pixar, Macs, iPods, iPhones, and more. “Luddites and iFans alike should find this volume an illuminating introduction to Jobs’s life and the recent history of consumer electronics” (School Library Journal).
Bubonic Panic: When Plague Invaded America by Gail Jarrow — Traces the efforts of doctors to halt the spread of the plague during the 1900 outbreak in San Francisco, discussing how political leaders tried to keep the epidemic from being publicized and the scientists working to unlock the secrets of the disease. “The intertwined themes of prejudice against Asian Americans, public health officials hampered by politicians, and mistrust of scientific research (which indicated that fleas carried plague from rodents to humans) make the story complex, revealing a good deal about human nature as well as the period and the disease itself” (Booklist).
Magnificent Minds: 16 Pioneering Women in Science and Medicine by Pendred E. Noyce — Introduces readers to the lives, sayings, and dreams of sixteen women over four centuries and chronicles their contributions to mathematics, physics, chemistry, astronomy, computer science, and medicine. “A wonderful collection of stories…[Noyce provides] explanation and context of both a scientific and a geopolitical nature” (Shirley Malcolm, head of Education and Human Resources, American Association for the Advancement of Science).
Florence Nightingale: The Courageous Life of the Legendary Nurse by Catherine Reef — This riveting biography explores the exceptional life of a woman who defied the stifling conventions of Victorian society to pursue what was considered an undesirable vocation. “Budding scientists will enjoy seeing the changing theories about contagion, such as the later-debunked miasma theory, of which Florence was a staunch believer. A captivating and inspiring study of one woman’s perseverance and the good that came from it” (Booklist starred review).