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Books for budding scientists | Natural History Magazine

December 9, 2020

[Posted by Chuck Almdale]

Every year at Christmastime Natural History, the magazine of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, lists books for ‘budding scientists.’ Here’s a few from their Dec ‘20 – Jan ’21 issue. It’s not too late to order one and pick it up at your local bookstore and support our local businesses. Descriptions below are from Natural History, written by Dolly Setton.

For Young Readers
The Boy Who Dreamed of Infinity: A Tale of the Genius Ramanujan
by Amy Alznauer, Illustrated by Daniel Miyares: Candlewick Press, 2020; 48 pages, $17.99

When Srinivas Ramanujan (1887-1920) was a young boy in a small town in India, he chopped a mango in half, and in half again. He imagined that if he continued cutting, the number of bits would approach infinity; yet, if he put the pieces back together, there would be one mango. “Will and endless list of tiny numbers add up to one or to infinity?” he wondered. “What is big?” and “What is small?” His questions multiplied as he got older. He experimented and explored on his own. Without knowing their names, he filled notebooks with his discoveries about primes, partitions, and infinite sums. He solved problems that, unbeknownst to him, were considered unsolvable. After reading a pamphlet on infinity by Cambridge University mathematician G.H. Hardy (1877-1947), Ramanujan humbly introduced himself in a letter. Weeks later, Hardy responded – “magnificent, outlandish ideas” – and invited Ramanujan to visit him in England. Illustrated with warm watercolor paintings, this book stands out for its endearing biographical tale, its flavor of the beauty and mystery of math, and its sense of intellectual freedom and creativity to which children can relate.

Also recommended

The Big Book of Blooms
by Yuval Zommer; Thames & Hudson, 2020; 64 pages, $19.95

Packs: Strength in Numbers
by Hannah Salver; HMH Books for Young Readers, 2020; 48 pages, $17.99

Sharuko: El Archeologo Peruano Julio C. Tello / Peruvian Archeaologist Julio C. Tello
by Monica Brown, Illustrated by Elisa Chavarri, Translated by Adriana Dominguez;
Children’s Book Press, 2020; 40 pages $19.95

A Way with Wild Things
by Larissa Theule, Illustrated by Sara Palacios; Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2020; 32 pages, $17.99


For Intermediate Readers
Unseen Worlds: Real-Life Microscopic Creatures Hiding All Around Us
by Hélène Rajcak, Illustrated by Damien Laverdunt; What On Earth Books, 2019; 36 pages, $21.99

Peruse the table of contents, and anticipation of strange new visions of familiar vistas will grow: “The Miniature Jungle of Your Bed,” “The Secret Life of the Beach,” “A Parade of Ocean Floor Monsters.” Magnificent illustrations put microscopic beings, such as “lonely mud dragon,” at the center of a seemingly alien world that is really our own. On the ocean floor, “a snow of bacteria and plankton falls all around. Spiny silhouettes of loriciferans haunt the shadowy waters. Meanwhile, at the beach, “creatures slink around in the spaces between the grains of sand…the dark, damp mazes…are both an ideal hideaway and a well-stocked pantry.” Richly detailed illustrations and eloquent descriptions invite continued examination and wonder. A final spread describes the portal to these invisible worlds, the microscope.

Also recommended

The Ocean: Exploring Our Blue Planet
by Miranda Krestovnikoff, Illustrated by Jill Calder; Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2020; 64 pages, $23.99

Stay Curious! A Brief History of Stephen Hawking
by Kathy Krull & Paul Brewer, Illustrated by Boris Kulikov; Crown Books for Young Readers, 2020; 40 pages, $23.99

Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright! An Animal Poem for Every Day of the Year
Selected by Fiona Waters, Illustrated by Britta Teckentrup; Nosy Crow, 2020, 328 pages, $34.42


For Advanced Readers
The Natural History Puzzle Book
Dr. Gareth Moore; Carlton Books, 2019; 224 pages, $29.99

Why is space silent? What do dolphin clicks mean? What makes cypress trees fire resistant? Over 100 puzzles – inspired by London’s Natural History Museum – explore a variety of scientific questions, clearly sorted into three levels of difficulty. Easy puzzles, such as mazes and spot-the-differences, can be done by any age, while the more challenging ones, such as nonograms and bridge puzzles, might require an adult’s help. There are also quizzes and brainteasers, including questions like: “What is the longest bone in the human body?” and “How many genes does a banana have?” Readers get to keep territorial primates away from each other, trace the wiggle dance movements of bees and learn about the tectonic movement of plates. The puzzles are divided into six categories: animals, oceans, space, dinosaurs, human evolution, the natural world. Fun facts and scientific background are scattered throughout this beautifully designed book.

Also recommended

Music for Tigers
by Michelle Kardarusman; Pajama Press, 2020; 224 pages, $17.95

The Radium Girls: The Scary but True Story of the Poison that Made People Glow in the Dark
(Young Readers’ Edition) by Kate Moore; Sourcebooks Explore, 2020; 432 pages, $17.99

Rocket Science: A Beginner’s Guide to the Fundamentals of Spaceflight
by Andrew Rader, Illustrated by Galen Frazer; Candlewick Press, 2020; 64 pages, $16.99

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