STEM education has seen a major bump over the past decade. From astronomy to robotics, students are expected to examine what sort of things shape the world around them. Some children have immediate interest in these ideas while others are hesitant. All are well-served by great books on the topic.
Here are five picture books to instill children (and parents) with excitement while exploring science, technology, engineering, and math concepts:
Rosie Revere, Engineer
by Andrea Beaty
Illustrated by David Roberts
Though Rosie may seem quiet, her mind is brimming with ideas for new inventions. When her Great-Great Aunt Rose talks about her lifelong dream of flying, Rosie sets off tinkering. Although things don’t go according to plan, that might just be a good thing.
Andrea Beaty’s rhyming text looks at the importance of failure during the creation process. After all, great engineers rarely achieve perfection on their first attempt. Matched with David Roberts’ watercolor illustrations, where pages overflow with quirky debris and sketches by Rosie, this is the perfect work for inspiring inventors to try and try again.
by Jon Scieszka
Illustrated by Lane Smith
After her teacher suggests anything can be viewed as a math problem, that’s exactly how one girl begins to see life. Her morning routine confronts her as a time calculation and pizza for lunch turns into fractions. Soon the questions become overwhelming with no logical solutions and she has to break the curse while considering what really makes a math problem.
Jon Scieszka is one of the leading voices in picture book humor, and it’s used wonderfully here to calm the common anxiety over math. Word problems, from the standard to the downright wacky, are dissected and shown in everyday circumstances.
Lane Smith’s collage illustrations are rich and manic as the curse spins out of control, but also incredibly warm as the narrator finally discovers that problems have solutions.
Bright Sky, Starry City
by Uma Krishnaswami
Illustrated by Aimée Sicuro
Phoebe loves space. But as she and her father set up telescopes in front of his shop, she becomes worried. The bright lights from the city might block out any view of Saturn or Mars. Worse, rain and lightning move in. However, when the power goes out and the sky clears, the night sky reveals itself in stunning detail.
The text by Uma Krishnaswami is both lyrical and informative, and Phoebe’s affection for the stars and planets is tangible through the page. Informative facts flow from her and weave effortlessly into the narrative.
The mixed-media illustrations by Aimée Sicuro capture the frantic shuffle of city life before opening up to the beautiful, calm night imagery. Together, the text and illustrations leave readers ready to try their own stargazing.
How the Dinosaur Got to the Museum
by Jessie Hartland
A boy in a museum examines the skeleton of a massive Diplodocus longus and ponders how it got there. Flashing back, he traces the skeleton’s journey, starting with its unearthing in Utah in 1923. From there, paleontologists remark on its authenticity, excavators carefully remove it from the earth, and a host of others work to reveal the dinosaur at its present location in the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.
This is a remarkable sketch of the archeological process, aided by Jessie Hartland’s deceptively simple illustrations that make the descriptive text more accessible. Through repetitive prose, she explains the multitude of skills necessary to undertake such a massive project, from paleontologists and welders, to cleaners and curators. The back of the book contains more information about the museum and pairs perfectly with a physical visit or virtual tour on its website.
11 Experiments That Failed
by Jenny Offill
Illustrated by Nancy Carpenter
Is a diet of only ketchup and snow sustainable? Does bologna have the same properties as a Frisbee? The narrator here understands that science can explain the important questions in her head. Sometimes the results can be downright disastrous, but that’s part of being a scientist.
Jenny Offill translates the questions of a fictional girl into hilariously testable hypotheses. Though these often end in imaginative failure, each spread shows the full process of carrying out an experiment.
Nancy Carpenter’s collages are accented by graph paper backgrounds, making the pages feel like they came out of the narrator’s actual notebook. This simplistic look at the scientific method will have children ready to craft and test their own hypotheses.