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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 DNA Detective by Tanya Lloyd Kyi, for younger readers a tie between You Wouldn't Want to Live Without Bacteria! by Roger Canavan and Your Guide to the Periodic Table by Gill Arbuthnott; the winner for youngest children is Grandmother Fish by Jonathan Tweet. This year an Icelandic author asked us if we accepted foreign-language nominees, and, since we lack common sense, we said “sure”. But we are a society with international members, so we would like to formally announce that in the future, children’s science books in any language will be accepted as nominees; we hope members nominating such books will also volunteer native speakers to act as guest judges. This year, we were fortunate to have as guest judges James McGarry, a Canadian IT specialist with 4 children and an ability to read Icelandic; E. Wayles Browne, a linguist at Cornell University, and Roy Wright, an authority on Icelandic sagas. 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.
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.
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 email@example.com.
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