Four groundbreaking books that present scientific information in innovative ways to young audiences have earned the 2015 AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize for Excellence in Science Books.
Each of the winners invites readers to explore their own world or to prepare themselves to explore other worlds. One introduces the world of microbes to the very youngest readers, while another connects the exploration of the physical world to the medical advances of the last century. A third "trains" the astronauts who will be the first humans to set foot on Mars, and the fourth shows youngsters how to explore the environment through the eyes of a naturalist.
AAAS and Subaru of America, Inc. co-sponsor the prizes to recognize recently published works that are scientifically sound and foster an understanding and appreciation of science in readers of all ages. This year's prizes -- which promote science literacy by showcasing the importance of outstanding science writing and illustration -- recognize the work of four authors as well as an illustrator.
"AAAS is pleased to join with Subaru to celebrate these outstanding science books and authors," said Alan I. Leshner, chief executive officer of AAAS and executive publisher of its journals, Science, Science Advances, Science Translational Medicine, and Science Signaling. "By encouraging young people to engage with the world through exploration and discovery, the winning books help lay the groundwork for a lifelong relationship with science."
The 2015 prizes recognize efforts in four categories: Children's Science Picture Books, Middle Grades Science Books, Young Adult Science Books, and Hands-on Science Books. Winners will receive $1,500 and a plaque on 14 February during the 2015 AAAS Annual Meeting in San Jose, California.
Tom Doll, president of Subaru of America, Inc., congratulated the winners for their outstanding contributions to science writing and illustration. "As a technology company, we are delighted to be able to support AAAS in activities that promote children's exploration of science and technology," he said.
The prizes are administered by the AAAS review journal, Science Books & Films (SB&F). SB&F editor-in-chief Maria Sosa noted that the180 books considered for the prize across all four categories represented the largest number of submissions since the program's inception. "This year's competition was intense," she said. "Publishers and authors have certainly upped their game with this year's offerings. It bodes well for the integration of reading and science in formal and informal science education."
"These books make it easier to connect the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and the Common Core Standards," said Shirley M. Malcom, head of the AAAS Directorate for Education and Human Resources. "These books provide solid science information in really enjoyable packages. It's refreshing to be able to avoid the tradeoff between reading for pleasure and pleasurable reading for information "
The 2015 prize recipients are:
Winning Children's Science Picture Book
Tiny Creatures: The World of Microbes, by Nicola Davies. (Illustrations by Emily Sutton.) Somerville, MA: Candlewick, 2014.
In Tiny Creatures, zoologist and award-winning science writer Nicola Davies tackles what is undoubtedly an uncommon topic for a children's picture book. Microbes are central to almost every aspect of biology, but talking to very young children about microscopic life is difficult. In Tiny Creatures, Davies demonstrates how a conceptually difficult topic can be effectively introduced to the very young by tapping into prior knowledge of the world they can see and experience through their senses.
Throughout the book, Davies focuses on the fundamental elements of the concept "microbe," using clear, jargon-free text that is complemented by Sutton's charming illustrations. Davies effectively utilizes crosscutting concepts such as patterns, similarity, diversity, scale, proportion, quantity, and even processes to introduce and provide context for the understanding of microbes. Together, Davies and Sutton deftly introduce very young children to the invisible world of microbes.
Nicola Davies lives in Somerset, England. Her other award-winning books for children include Big Blue Whale, One Tiny Turtle, Surprising Sharks, and Bat Loves the Night. She is also well known as one of the original presenters of the BBC children's wildlife program The Really Wild Show. Sutton, a recent graduate of the Edinburgh College of Art, works in a range of materials, including pencil, pen and ink, and watercolors. Her artwork is influenced by her love for American folk art children's books illustrations from the early- to mid-20th century. These influences can be seen in Tiny Creatures, adding to its whimsical appeal.
Winning Middle Grades Science Book
Mission: Mars, by Pascal Lee. NY: Scholastic, 2013.
What if we started to train the astronauts of 2035 today? Pascal Lee does just that in his kid-friendly training guide for would-be Mars explorers. Lee, a planetary scientist with the Mars Institute and the SETI Institute, explains what it will take to send humans to Mars -- from spacesuits and exploration rovers, to surviving subzero temperatures and raging dust storms.
By showing the latest designs and plans for the Mission, Lee helps readers envision the possibilities, focusing on a future in which they can partake, rather than on accomplishments of the past. Readers are also introduced to research being done at NASA and around the world. Mission: Mars is also visually strong; the colorful illustrations are engaging and informative, and complement Lee's enthusiastic and infectious text. The book, written by a scientist who is a major player in the endeavor, is sure to inspire the next generation of space explorers.
Pascal Lee is co-founder and chairman of the Mars Institute, a planetary scientist at the SETI Institute, and the Principal Investigator of the Haughton-Mars Project (HMP) at NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California. He is widely recognized for his efforts to advance the human exploration of Mars, in particular via its asteroid-like moons Phobos and Deimos, and is a recipient of the United States Antarctic Service Medal and the Space Frontier Foundation's Vision to Reality Award.
Winning Young Adult Science Book
Extreme Medicine: How Exploration Transformed Medicine in the Twentieth Century, by Kevin Fong. NY: The Penguin Press, 2014.
Kevin Fong is an anesthesiologist who is also trained in intensive care medicine. His work involves researching how humans survive extremes such as heat, cold, and trauma in environments that include outer space and the deep sea. In Extreme Medicine, Fong's strong narrative voice and his likening of medical discovery to extreme geographical exploration immerse the reader fully into a discussion of science, medical practice, and innovation.
He offers compelling stories of doctors and patients that include just enough detail to contextualize and educate without overwhelming, making this book a perfect choice for teen and young adult readers. Fong begins his story with the explorer Robert Falcon Scott's death by freezing in Antarctica in 1912 and ends with the medical issues presented by a future manned trip to Mars. His passion for his work as a doctor and his clear compassion for the ill (or harmed) shows in every case he describes. As Fong states in the introduction, "Extreme Medicine is a book about medicine but also about exploration in its broadest sense -- and about how, by probing the very limits of our biology, we may ultimately return with a better appreciation of precisely how our bodies work, of what life is, and what it means to be human."
Fong is the founder of The Center for Altitude, Space and Extreme Environment Medicine at the University College London, where he is also a professor of physiology. He is also well known for his television appearances, particularly as a presenter of the long-running BBC2 science program, Horizon.
Winning Hands-on Science Book
The Kid's Guide to Exploring Nature, by Brooklyn Botanic Garden Educators. (Edited by Sarah Schmidt.) NY: Brooklyn Botanic Garden, 2014
This gorgeously illustrated guide calls on children to look closely at the world around them through 24 "adventures" that invite readers to explore the complex ecosystems of plants and animals in the woods, at the beach, and in a city park. Detailed, scientifically based drawings help young scientists identify hundreds of North American plants and animals, while dozens of fun projects include keeping a journal, conducting field experiments, and exploring nature with all five senses. The activities are organized by season and the book also includes summaries of common careers, such as nature educator and field biologist.
The book was created by the educators at Brooklyn Botanic Garden (BBG), a botanical garden in Brooklyn, New York. Founded in 1910 and located in the Prospect Park neighborhood, the 52-acre garden includes a number of specialty "gardens within the Garden," including the Brooklyn Botanic Garden's Children's Garden and a hands-on Discovery Garden. With a focus on greening the urban environment through education, sustainable practices, and stewardship, BBG encourages young people to be participants, not just spectators, in community horticulture and conservation.
Background on the Prizes
The prizes began in 2005 when four lifetime achievement awards were given to authors of children's science books. It honored authors whose books promoted science literacy. Today, the AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize for Excellence in Science Books continues to recognize stand-out science books.
Finalists were selected by a group of judges made up of librarians, scientists, and science literacy experts. Out of nearly 160 books up for consideration across all four categories, the judges selected 13 finalists. These finalists were then submitted to a second round of judging, and the winners were selected.
The AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prizes for Excellence in Science Books will be bestowed during the 181st AAAS Annual Meeting in San Jose, California, 12-16 February 2015. A ceremony and reception will be held in Room 220C of the San Jose Convention Center on Friday, 13 February at 6:15 p.m.
About AAAS: The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is the world's largest general scientific society, and publisher of the journal, Science as well as Science Advances, Science Translational Medicine and Science Signaling. AAAS was founded in 1848, and includes more than 250 affiliated societies and academies of science, serving 10 million individuals. Science has the largest paid circulation of any peer-reviewed general science journal in the world, with an estimated total readership of 1 million. The non-profit AAAS is open to all and fulfills its mission to "advance science and serve society" through initiatives in science policy, international programs, science education, and more. For the latest research news, log onto EurekAlert!, http://www.
About Subaru of America, Inc.: Subaru of America, Inc. is a wholly owned subsidiary of Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. of Japan. Headquartered in Cherry Hill, N.J., the company markets and distributes Subaru vehicles, parts and accessories through a network of over 600 dealers across the United States. All Subaru products are manufactured in zero- landfill production plants and Subaru of Indiana Automotive Inc. is the only U.S. automobile production plant to be designated a backyard wildlife Habitat by the National Wildlife Federation. For additional information visit http://www.
About Science Books & Film (SB&F): Since 1965, Science Books & Film (SB&F) has been the authoritative guide to science resources, bringing expert information to bear on choices of materials for a library, classroom or institution. Published by AAAS, SB&F is the only critical review journal devoted exclusively to print and nonprint materials in all of the sciences and for all age groups. Every year, SB&F evaluates nearly 1,000 books, videos, DVDs and software packages for general audiences, professionals, teachers and students from kindergarten through college.
AAAS is the world's largest general scientific society, dedicated to "Advancing science, Serving society."