The K-12 education children's book committee reads children's science books and awards the best the DeBary Awards. There is a slight bias towards botany and biological science, but books on all topics, from Astronomy to Zoology, are considered. Nominators should submit the title and author of the book and briefly explain the merits of the book. Nominations can come from APS members or nonmembers. The committee will read nominated books and select the best. We cannot accept free copies of books, but we are happy to look at pdf versions sent by email. Contact Nina Shishkoff at email@example.com.
The committee for the American Phytopathological Society DeBary Award for Outstanding Children’s Science Books is happy to announce this year’s winners: The winner for best science book for older children is The Invisible War: A Tale on two scalesby Alisa Wild, Briony Barr, Gregory Crocetti, and Jeremy Barr, illustrated by Ben Hutchings; the winner for intermediate readers is A Seal Named Patches by Roxanne Beltran and Patrick Robinson; the winner for youngest children is Plants Feed Me by Lizzy Rockwell. As always, we pick “winners” because it’s expected, but we trust parents to look at the list of books and have an idea which ones will suit their children.
What APS members said about this book: This book explains agronomy by introducing 20 international agronomists and their work (including Nobel Prize winner Norman Borlaug) with busy graphics and chopped up text. Packed with a tremendous number of facts on soils, crops, ecology, climate change and science careers and essential for a school library. Includes a glossary.
Botanicum: Welcome to the Museum Written by Kathy Willis; Illustrated by Katie ScottReleased: 2017, Big Picture Press Age Level: Grade 3-Adult Price: $35ISBN-10: 0891183493, ISBN-13: 978-0891183495
What APS members said about this book: This book showcases the plant world (by natural group and ecosystem) with superb large format botanical illustrations. It is more of an adult’s coffee table book than a children’s book; however, the right child might memorize the whole thing. Includes algae and fungi, so be prepared to discuss kingdoms.
Human Body Theater: A non-fiction reviewWritten by Maris WicksReleased: 2015, First SecondAge Level: Grades 4-8Price: $9.99ISBN-10: 1596439297, ISBN-13: 978-1596439290
What APS members said about this book: The human body is presented as vaudeville, on a theater stage with a skeleton Master of Ceremony and cartoony talking, singing organs and bones. Although it will work for younger readers, the facts are presented in a sophisticated way and the emoji graphic style will also resonate with older kids. Strongly endorsed by one of our student interns who had just taken human anatomy in college. Includes a glossary.
The Invisible War: A tale on two scales [winner]Authors/creators/contributors: Ailsa Wild, Briony Barr, Gregory Crocetti, Jeremy Barr; Illustrator: Ben Hutchings Released: 2016, Scale Free NetworkAge Level: Grades 5-7Price: $38.21ISBN-10: 0992587255, ISBN-13: 978-0992587253
What APS members said about this book: This is certainly the “War and Peace” of digital graphic novels about disease. It describes the experience of an Australian nurse during World War I as she tends to soldiers suffering from dysentery; meanwhile, it imaginatively describes disease from the point of view of the microbes. Highly recommended because it will attract kids who aren’t necessarily interested in biology. Includes a massive Appendix explaining both the science and historical facts.
Conservation Tales: The Cerulean Warbler Written by Tom J. McConnell; Illustrated by Sami PfaffISBN: 978-0-9863369-3-5Age level: Grades 3-5
andConservation Tales: The Cerulean Warbler Written by Tom J. McConnell; Illustrated by Sami Pfaff and Sierra HensleyISBN: 978-0-9863369-4-2Released 2017, Airway PublishingAge level: Grades 3-5Price: $13
What APS members said about these books: These books tell the story of children learning about an animal and the conservation efforts to protect it, replicating a high-quality field trip experience. Includes activities students can do at home or school. Illustrations are a mix of photographs and watercolors that are a little lacking in coherence.
Destroy this book in the name of Science! Written by Mike BarfieldReleased: 2017, Buster Books ISBN-10: 1780554435, ISBN-13: 978-1780554433Age Level: Grades 3-5 Price: $12.99
What APS members said about this book: This is a superior example of a kid’s scientific activity book, with optical illusions and things to cut out, each with a description of the science behind it.
I, Humanity Written by Jeffrey Bennett Released: 2016, Big Kid ScienceISBN-10: 193754852X, ISBN-13: 978-1937548520Age Level: Grades 2-4Price: $9.99
What APS members said about this book: This book attempts to turn the history of astronomy into a narrative of human discovery. Although filled with interesting astronomical facts and illustrations and ending on a note of optimism about the future, this book didn’t completely win the affection of the judges due to the portentous narration by an omniscient “humanity” proud of everything it has accomplished. Includes a glossary, activity list and note to teachers and parents.
A Seal Named Patches [winner]Written by Roxanne Beltran and Patrick Robinson Released 2017, University of Alaska PressISBN-10: 1602233314, ISBN-13: 978-1602233317Age Level: 2-4Price: $15.95
What APS members said about this book: This book follows scientists as they study Weddell seals in Antarctica. The text skimps on the details of research they conducted in favor of the story of Patches the seal, but her story echoes the story of the entire species in words the youngest child can understand, plus Patches melted our hearts. Outstanding photographs.
Toilet Written by David Macaulay and Sheila KeenanReleased: 2015, Square FishISBN-10: 1626722153, ISBN-13: 978-1626722156Age Level: Grades 1-4Price: $7.99-$17.99
What APS members said about this book: TThis book on how toilets, septic tanks and sewers work with clear diagrams cannot fail to interest young children and then horrify them.
ABC’s of Earth ScienceWritten by A. C. LemonwoodReleased: 2015, Jumbo Minds, Inc.ISBN-10: 1944049010, ISBN-13: 978-1944049010 Age Level: Preschool-Grade 1Price: $9.99
What APS members said about this book: We couldn’t understand what age group this alphabet book was designed for. Forcing scientific definitions into an A-Z format is arbitrary (“Apex” for “X” is just plain cheating) and puts a lot of responsibility on the parent to more fully explain complicated concepts. The illustrations were adequate.
Plants Feed Me [winner]Written by by Lizzy Rockwell Released 2015, Holiday HouseISBN-10: 0823433072, ISBN-13: 978-0823433070Age Level: Preschool-Grade 1Price: $5.00–$13.41
What APS members said about this book: This is a good beginning botany book for very young children. Nicely illustrated with pictures of plants and the parts we eat.
Thanks to our committee: Margot Becktell, Albert Culbreath, Margery Daughtrey, Margaret McGrath, Chuanxe Hong, Cristi Palmer, Diana Sherman, and Nina Shishkoff, our guest judges and all the volunteers who came to our committee meeting at the APS annual meeting in Tampa. Nominations will be accepted for the next DeBary list of outstanding children’s science books through Jul 2016. Remember that we are now accepting good science book in all languages (but would appreciate the nomination of guest judges, preferably APS members, who speak the language). We cannot accept free copies of books, but we are happy to look at pdf versions sent by email (which only judges will read). Contact Nina Shishkoff at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Aevar the scientist: Dinosaurs in Reykjavík Written by Ævar Thór Benediktsson with illustrations by Rán Flygenring. [language: Icelandic]Released: 2015, Forlagið. Published in a special font, called Dyslexie, designed to help kids with dyslexia read faster. Age Level: 7-13Price: approximately $30 USD
What guest judges said about this book: One guest judge (Roy Wright) said: “Thanks for the delightful reading experience, much easier and quite a bit more fun to read than a gory saga, and accurate but a bit thin on scientific detail for nerdier readers. Another fun aspect for a linguist is the really clever meanings of the neologistic dinosaur names, but the author's command of teen-age angst is the salient feature of this prize-worthy book, in his elegantly slangy icelandic!“ The other judges thought the science was sketchy (Iceland is too young to have had dinosaurs), but thought that Aevar and his friends were very good company. The illustrations need no translation: they are hilarious. In sum: this is an author who needs an English language edition.
DNA Detective [winner]Written by Tanya Lloyd Kyi, Illustrated by Lil CrumpRelease date: August 7, 2015, Annick PressAge Level: 12 – 14Price: Hardcover $24.95, Paperback $14.95
What APS members said about this book: A miscellany of short pieces on genetics, some of them excellent, like an explanation of hemophilia, how a virus is decimating Tasmanian Devils, how mammoths might be brought back to life, etc. Will keep older readers engaged for a long time.
Elements of Evil Written and illustrated by Brooke Arnold Release date: October 1, 2015, ThunderStone Books Age Level: 10 – 14Price: Paperback $9.99
What APS members said about this book: A diary written by a girl who wants to be a supervillain aided by her pet hedgehog. An ambitious attempt to combine humor, secret codes, science experiments and life lessons. Judges either liked it or didn’t.
Phineas Gage: A Gruesome but True Story About Brain ScienceWritten by John FleischmanRelease date: November 1, 2004, HMH Books for Young ReadersAge Level: 10 – 14Price: Paperback $9.95
What APS members said about this book: Tells the true story of a railroad worker who suffered a serious head injury in 1848 and helped scientists understand the working of the brain. However, the book is much more: a history book covering science and philosophy of the period and the story of a man’s tragedy. For the right older reader, this will be a sensational book. With a glossary, index, and reference list.
Women in ScienceWritten and illustrated by Rachel IgnotofskyRelease date: July 26, 2016, Ten Speed PressAge Level: 12 – 14Price: Hardcover $16.99
What APS members said about this book: We wanted to like this book, but the biographical blurbs were too short and dry and the illustrations were curiously un-engaging, treating each woman like a trading card.
ABCs of Biology and ABCs of Earth Science (Jumbo Minds' Science ABCs)Written by AC Lemonwood Release date: September 23, 2016, Jumbo Minds Inc (Kindle Editions)Age level: 8-12Price: Kindle $9.99
What APS members said about this book: An alphabet book of random science facts that are too difficult for young readers to understand, in a format older readers will find juvenile.
Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine Written by Laurie Wallmark; Illustrated by April ChuRelease date: October 13, 2015, Creston Books Age Level: 5 – 9Price: Hardcover $12.87
What APS members said about this book: This is another science biography, nicely illustrated, but handicapped by the way it avoids describing any mathematics.
The Fossil Girl: Mary Anning's Dinosaur Discovery Written and Illustrated by Catherine BrightonRelease date: July 23, 2007, Frances Lincoln Children’s BooksAge Level: 5 – 9Price: Paperback $9.99
What APS members said about this book: Easily the best illustrated book we saw this year, this tells how a Georgian-era English girl and her younger brother discovered the first fossil of an Ichthyosaur. A science biography rather than science, but who doesn’t love fossils?
The Illustrated Compendium of Amazing Animal Facts Written and illustrated by Maja Säfström Release date: March 29, 2016, Ten Speed PressAge Level: 6 – 12Price: Hardcover $14.99
What APS members said about this book: A collection of whimsical animal illustrations and random animal facts that is short on science. The illustrations are charming.
It’s Catching: The Infectious World of Germs and Microbes Written by Jennifer Gardy; Illustrated by Josh HolinatyRelease date: April 15, 2014, Owlkids BooksAge Level: 8 – 12Price: Paperback $13.95
What APS members said about this book: This was another good random-fact science book, which we liked a lot, except for the illustrator’s insistence on drawing eyes and a mouth on every single spore, virus and bacterium.
Luella Agnes Owen: Going Where No Lady Had Gone Before Written by Billie Holladay Skelley, Illustrated by Rachel BowmanRelease date: October 31, 2015, Goldminds Publishing, LLCAge Level: 8 – 11 Price: Paperback $12.99
What APS members said about this book: This tells the true story of a 19th century Missouri girl who loved geology, and grew up to be an authority on caves. Another science biography without a great deal of scientific fact.
Mysterious Patterns: Finding Fractals in Nature Written by Sarah C. Campbell, Photographs by Richard P. CampbellRelease date: April 1, 2014, Boyds Mills PressAge Level: 7 – 10Price: Hardcover $16.95
What APS members said about this book: There’s not a lot of science here once you explain what a fractal is, but the photographs are tremendous and kids will love going off to hunt for fractals in their neighborhood.
Water Wow! An Infographic Exploration Written by Paula Ayer and Antonia Banyard, Illustrated by Belle WuthrichRelease date: April 12, 2016, Annick PressAge Level: 9 – 12Price: Hardcover $22.95, Paperback $12.95
What APS members said about this book: An excessively busy book of facts about water. With a glossary, index, and reference list.
You Wouldn't Want to Live Without Bacteria![winner]Written by Roger Canavan, Illustrated by Mark BerginRelease date: February 1, 2015, Franklin WattsAge Level: 8 – 12Price: Paperback $9.95
What APS members said about this book: Fairly coherent for one of these random-fact books, and with high quality science information. With a glossary and index.
Your Guide to the Periodic Table (Drawn to Science: Illustrated Guides to Key Science Concepts) [winner]Written by Gill ArbuthnottRelease date: April 1, 2016, Crabtree Publishing CompanyAge Level: 6 – 12Price: Paperback $11.95
What APS members said about this book: The judges liked this book a lot for all the snappy facts about the chemical elements with a few non-dangerous science projects (making silly putty, growing crystals).
Grandmother Fish: a child’s first book of evolution [winner]Written by Jonathan Tweet; Illustrated by Karen LewisRelease date: September 6, 2016, Macmillan Publishing Age Level: 4 – 6Price: Hardcover $17.99
What APS members said about this book: This traces our ancestry from fish to reptiles to mammals using a series of grandmothers. Be prepared to answer a lot of questions, but a teaching guide is helpfully included in the back of the book.
The Tree Doctor (Dr. Seuss - Step into Reading) Written by Tish Rabe. Illustrated by Tom Brannon Release date: January 8, 3013, Random House Books for Young ReadersAge Level: 4 – 6Price: Paperback $3.99
What APS members said about this book: Not as good as real Dr. Seuss, and not very scientific, but how many kids’ early reader books are there about plant pathologists? Also a great stocking stuffer for older relatives who have no idea what you do for a living.