Science and nature books for first graders

Help first graders learn about the natural world around them. This book list will not only spark their curiosity about creatures as varied as beetles, sea turtles, and polar bears, but also offer important lessons about becoming an involved citizen.

By GreatSchools Staff

The Beetle Alphabet Book

The Beetle Alphabet Book
by Jerry Pallotta, illustrated by David Biedrzycki
Charlesbridge Publishing (2004), $17

A fun, informative way for kids to learn what a beetle is and isn't. Illustrations help readers see the unique features of the selected insects — pincers, antennae, and all. Upper- and lowercase letters are included on each page, and there's subtle humor throughout.

The Icky Bug Book

The Icky Bug Counting Book

The Icky Bug Counting Book
by Jerry Palotta, illustrated by Ralph Masiello
Trumpet (1992), $8

OK, not to be overly technical, but not all of these creepy-crawlies are insects — some are arachnids, diplopods, or crustaceans. But they're all pretty icky. Author Jerry Palotta chose 26 subjects, including stinkbugs, pill bugs, and periodical cicadas. Not only will kids learn that blister beetles are used for medicine and that honey pot ants make delicious snacks, but discerning readers will also notice that this is an ABC book in reverse, beginning with one zebra swallowtail butterfly and ending with 26 army ants.

Carolina's Story

Carolina's Story: Sea Turtles Get Sick Too!
by Donna Rathmell, photography by Barbara J. Bergwerf
Sylvan Dell Publishing (2005), $9

This photo essay chronicles the rescue, treatment, and eventual release of a critically ill loggerhead sea turtle at the South Carolina Aquarium. Becuase the author tends to anthropomorphize the turtle by attributing human emotions to it, this book might be comforting to kids going through difficult medical treatments. The large print and simple vocabulary are ideal for beginning readers.

The Polar Bears Home

The Polar Bears' Home: A Story About Global Warming
by Lara Bergen, illustrated by Vincent Nguyen
Little Simon (2008), $4

Made with recycled paper, this book shows how global warming affects two polar bear cubs and their family. Part of the new, eco-friendly Little Green Books line from Little Simon, The Polar Bears' Home includes tips for kids on what they can do to help slow down global warming — without scaring them. An upbeat, topical picture book.

Reptiles

Reptiles
by Simon Holland, edited by Mary Ling
DK Publishing (2002), $11

Packed with fascinating (and fun) facts — for example, "A chameleon's tongue is as long as the rest of its body" — this book also features eye-catching, up-close photos of the scaly creatures in their natural habitats. Published by Dorling Kindersley, responsible for the wildly popular Eyewitness series, the Eye Wonder series is aimed at a younger group of readers, with simpler vocabulary and less text on each page. The meanings of new words are clearly explained in context. If this book is a hit with your child, there are seven more in the series: Big Cats, Birds, Bugs, Explorer, Mammals, Ocean, Rain Forest, Rivers and Lakes, and Space.

Water Boy

Water Boy
by David McPhail
Harry N. Abrams (2007), $16

The words "You are mostly made of water" start a young boy on a mysterious exploration of that very substance. He moves from fear ("If his cat scratched him, would all the water leak out?") to kinship ("When he stood on the cliffs, the waves sang to him") and finally to control ("He was able to toss water from a glass and have it come snapping back, like a yo-yo"). The lack of a name (he is always called "the boy") and the deliberate cadence of the sentences give this book a sense of universality and solemnity while the luminous images — lit by a strange interior light — lend a dreamlike quality to every scene. Water Boy will appeal to the introspective child who sees or seeks magic in the everyday.

Why?

by Catherine Ripley, illustrated by Scot Ritchie, Maple Tree Press (2004)
ages 5 and up, $20

This book is an excellent resource for any classroom, school, or home library. Colorful illustrations accompany the fun and informative text, which is broken into bite-size categories such as "Bath-time Questions" (for example, why do my fingers get so wrinkled in the tub?) and "Kitchen Questions" (why do onions make you cry?).

Bottom line: The title sums it up: Why? The Best Ever Question and Answer Book About Nature, Science and the World Around You.

The Nature Treasury: A First Look at the Natural World

by Lizann Flatt, Maple Tree Press (2005)
ages 6 and up

Answering your youngster's questions about plants, animals, water, and just about anything else having to do with nature is easy with this reference book in hand. Broken up into 22 sections, The Nature Treasury covers topics like "How animals grow", "Soil up close," and "What animals eat." With double-page spreads depicting ecosystems ranging from savannas to tundras, this book will have kids searching the panoramas for the animals that live there. Large labeled ovals with the animals superimposed on them act as guides, so children can scan the scenes to find where the sea stars are hiding in the coral reef or the sidewinder in the desert. Children will be enchanted by the lush illustrations.

Bottom line: A great go-to book for curious kids — and parents who don't know all the answers!