Science and nature books for middle schoolers

Tired of the dry, academic tomes that purport to teach science? GreatSchools rounds out our grade-by-grade recommendations for science and nature books with this excellent, irrevent collection by artist Simon Basher, plus topical picks on the environment and global warming.

By GreatSchools Staff

Astronomy: Out of this World!

Astronomy: Out of this World!
by Simon Basher and Dan Green
Kingfisher (2009)

Part of a highly original series, Astronomy features eye-popping illustrations in the style of Japanese animation. In Simon Basher's world, the planets talk about themselves, offering facts, statistics, and boasts — and a little bit of whimsy. Basher's books make learning science fun.

The Periodic Table: Elements With Style!

The Periodic Table: Elements With Style!
by Simon Basher and Dan Green
Kingfisher (2007)

Learn about the elements with The Periodic Table, which zeroes in on 64 elements and presents their relevant data in creative, punchy prose. "I may be undersized, but don't underestimate me," says Hydrogen. This book makes a great reference, with all the information your child would want to know about these elements — everything from density to melting point. It's also a great way to spark your children's curiosity about chemistry.

Physics: Why Matter Matters!

Physics: Why Matter Matters!
by Simon Basher and Dan Green
Kingfisher (2008)

With a new spin on a taxing subject, the authors group concepts into accessible topics: "Old School," "Hot Stuff," "Wave Gang," "Light Crew," "Atom Family," "Nuclear Heavies," and "Electric Cuties." This book covers everything from gravity to the theory of relativity. As with the others in this series, the writing is lively and not afraid to get weird.

Guinea Pig Scientists

Guinea Pig Scientists: Bold Self-Experimenters in Science and Medicine
by Leslie Dendy and Mel Boring, illustrated by C. B. Mordan
Holt (2005), $20

This book tells the true stories of 10 scientists and medical researchers who devoted their lives — and risked their own health — to do scientific research. The accounts are intriguing and fascinating, but be warned that they don't all have happy endings. George Fordyce explored the limits of the human ability to endure extreme heat, Peruvian medical student Daniel Carrion and American doctor Jesse Lazear inoculated themselves with deadly tropical diseases, and Lazzaro Spallanzani swallowed a variety of things to study the process of digestion. Each chapter includes a section "Now We Know," which expands and updates the information. This book will appeal to young scientists, but it's not for the squeamish.

An Inconvenient Truth

An Inconvenient Truth: The Crisis of Global Warming
by Al Gore
Viking Juvenile (2007), $16

This version of An Inconvenient Truth is an adaptation for younger readers of the 2006 bestseller and Oscar-winning documentary by the same name. The juvenile and teen edition contains simplified text enhanced by dramatic photographs, illustrations, and graphs. Al Gore suggests that the global-warming crisis provides an opportunity for change through four simple steps. A must-read for kids and their parents.

Hurricane Force

Hurricane Force: In the Path of America's Deadliest Storms
by Joseph B. Treaster
Kingfisher (2007), $17

The author of this book, longtime New York Times reporter Joseph Treaster, was in New Orleans in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina struck. He draws on his experiences covering Katrina and its aftermath to provide younger readers with a first-hand look at these deadly storms. Along with his eyewitness accounts, there is information about what scientists currently know about how and why hurricanes form, how they are tracked, and how they affect coastal areas. Precautions and planning for future storms are also discussed. Dramatic color photos enhance the solid information presented in this book.

Everything Kids' Environment Book

Everything Kids' Environment Book
by Sheri Amsel
Adams Media (2007)

The books in Adams Media's Everything Kids' series provide encyclopedic yet entertaining introductions to their topics, and this volume on the environment is no exception. Perfect for curious children, this guide — filled with eco-friendly activities and puzzles — shows them how to reduce waste, recycle materials, and protect plants and animals.