Science and nature books for second graders

From playful penguins to mighty dinosaurs, there's something to fascinate everyone on this book list. Beyond our recommended critter curriculum, titles on the benefits of recycling and vermicomposting (in which worms do all the good work) will introduce children to the ABCs of environmentalism.

By GreatSchools Staff


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!

Compost by Gosh!

Compost by Gosh! An Adventure With Vermicomposting
by Michelle Eva Portman
Flower Press (2002)

Never heard of vermicomposting? It's a system for turning food waste into planting soil with the help of worms. Michelle Eva Portman provides an entertaining primer on the process by introducing readers to a young girl and her mom as they convert a storage box into a house for their new "pets," a bunch of wriggly red worms. Accompanied by adorable illustrations, Compost by Gosh! includes a how-to section for children to try vermicomposting at home.

Why Do Leaves Change Color?

Why Do Leaves Change Color?
by Betsy Maestro, illustrated by Loretta Krupinski
HarperTrophy (1994), $6

Autumn brings colder temperatures, and with it magnificent fall foliage. But why do leaves change colors? This question is explored in Betsy Maestro's enjoyable picture book. If you're looking for activities with leaves for your child or places to explore beautiful foliage, this is the book for you.

Michael Recycle

Michael Recycle
by Ellie Bethel, illustrated by Alexandra Colombo
Worthwhile Books (2008), $16

Written to celebrate Earth Day (April 22), Michael Recycle recounts the adventures of a young superhero whose powers allow him to teach people about recycling. Kids will relate to this "green-caped crusader" and the idea that one person can make a difference.

Emperor Penguins

Emperor Penguins

Emperor Penguins
by Roberta Edwards, illustrated by Carol Schwartz
Grosset & Dunlap (2007), $4

This early reader is full of fun facts about emperor penguins — their life cycle, habitat, predators, and even what they like to do for playtime. With easy-to-understand explanations and plenty of illustrations, Emperor Penguins is a great choice for young animal lovers.

Encyclopedia Prehistorica Dinosaurs

Encyclopedia Prehistorica: Dinosaurs
by Matthew Reinhart and Robert Sabuda
Candlewick Press (2005), $28

Parents should keep in mind that this pop-up book might be too scary for younger kids (on one page the jaws of a T. rex leap out at the reader). Also, some of the information is controversial, though the coauthors are usually careful to indicate this. Nonetheless, the stunning 3-D artwork and fun facts on extinction, paleontology, and more than 50 prehistoric species may inspire your child to do some dinsoaur detective work of his or her own.