Biomes, Genetics, & Hurricanes: 16 Life Science Series for Students

Middle grade readers are well served this season with a large selection of titles covering habitats, ecosystems, and biomes.

Earth is an endlessly fascinating place to explore. This season’s crop of life science series investigates a wide variety of topics concerning the natural world. There are books about plants, mammals, and insects for all ages. Middle grade readers are well served with a large selection of titles covering habitats, ecosystems, and biomes. Earthquakes, hurricanes, and other natural disasters receive a lot of attention, and the titles that examine the hows and whys of such phenomena will likely interest curious students. These selections are sure to engage, enlighten, and challenge a wide range of readers.


Best, Arthur. Bayous. ISBN 9781502630889.

––––. Lakes. ISBN 9781502630933.

––––. Oceans. ISBN 9781502630964.

––––. Rivers. ISBN 9781502631008.

––––. Springs. ISBN 9781502631046.

––––. Wetlands. ISBN 9781502631084.

ea vol: 24p. (Our World of Water). glossary. index. photos. Cavendish Square. Jan. 2018. lib. ed. $24.91.

K-Gr 2 –A straightforward approach to Earth’s various bodies of water for beginning readers. The layout in each title follows a standard format: large text on one side of each spread and a full-page, uncaptioned photograph on the opposite side. Simple sentences provide a definition of the titular topic and offer information about additional characteristics, including some of the flora and fauna that inhabit surrounding areas. Unfamiliar words are repeated at the end of each volume and include a definition and pronunciation. VERDICT No bells and whistles here, just fundamental concepts and beautiful photographs. Appropriate for building literacy skills and science content knowledge.

Brundle, Joanna. Famine and Drought. ISBN 9781534524125.

––––. Hurricanes and Tornadoes. ISBN 9781534524149.

––––. Rivers and Mountains. ISBN 9781534524569.

––––. Volcanoes and Earthquakes. ISBN 9781534524170.

ea vol: 32p. (Transforming Earth’s Geography). glossary. index. maps. photos. Greenhaven. Jan. 2018. lib. ed. $27.25.

Gr 3-7 –The many ways Earth’s geography transforms, either slowly (mountains and rivers) or quickly (volcanic eruptions and hurricanes), are well introduced for upper elementary readers. Using accessible language and a visually pleasing mix of photographs, illustrations, and diagrams, Brundle presents a great deal of information in an entertaining package. Key science concepts are covered (e.g., what causes volcanoes to erupt), followed by real-life examples (the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 CE), encouraging readers to make connections both globally and historically. Select words appear in a red font throughout the text and are defined in a glossary. However, sources and additional resources are not included. VERDICT Educators looking to combine science concepts with historical examples will appreciate the cross-curricular approach. An adequate starting point for students.

Felix, Rebecca. Earthquakes. ISBN 9781532112225.

––––. Fossils. ISBN 9781532112232.

––––. Minerals. ISBN 9781532112249.

––––. The Rock Cycle. ISBN 9781532112256.

––––. Weather. ISBN 9781532112270.

Olson, Elsie. Volcanoes. ISBN 9781532112263.

ea vol: 24p. (Our Extreme Earth). glossary. illus. maps. photos. websites. ABDO. Dec. 2017. lib. ed. $24.21.

PreS-Gr 3 –The authors use clear and concise language in their exploration of various geographical wonders. Early elementary school readers will learn that earthquakes happen when the earth’s plates shift and that fossils are formed over millions of years. Each title features vivid photographs and the occasional drawing. Key scientists in the field, such as the seismologist Charles Francis Richter, are also profiled. Images of children introduce the material at the beginning and pose a question at the end of each book in an effort to make the information more relatable. VERDICT Bite-size nuggets of content for beginning readers.

Gagne, Tammy. Forest Ecosystems. ISBN 9781632354556.

––––. Freshwater Ecosystems. ISBN 9781632354563.

––––. Grassland Ecosystems. ISBN 9781632354570.

––––. Marine Ecosystems. ISBN 9781632354587.

McCarthy, Cecilia Pinto. Tundra Ecosystems. ISBN 9781632354594.

Miller, Mirella S. Desert Ecosystems. ISBN 9781632354549.

ea vol: 32p. (Earth’s Ecosystems). diag. further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. 12 Story Library. Jan. 2018. lib. ed. $31.35.

Gr 4-6 –With a satisfying mix of text and colorful photographs, this series explores Earth’s varied and fascinating ecosystems. Each spread covers a succinct amount of information relating to the ecosystem, where in the world it is located, and the flora, fauna, and insects that inhabit it. Eye-catching text boxes highlight interesting facts. Also addressed are the challenges confronting the environment, whether due to climate change or other human-created problems, as well as suggestions for how people can better care for the ecosystem. The titles end with an infographic-style food web. VERDICT Libraries needing to update environment-related collections can’t go wrong with this option.

Gardeski, Christina Mia. All About Deserts. ISBN 9781515797579.

––––. All About Grasslands. ISBN 9781515797586.

––––. All About Mountains. ISBN 9781515797548.

––––. All About Wetlands. ISBN 9781515797593.

ea vol: 24p. (Habitats). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Capstone. Jan. 2018. lib. ed. $21.99.

PreS-Gr 2 –An exploration of habitats for preschoolers. In each book, large font against an uncluttered background highlights a basic narrative. The characteristics of each ecosystem are defined, followed by either various examples (prairies and savannas in Grasslands) or more in-depth traits (hot days and cold nights in Deserts). Colorful photographs accompany the text on the facing page, depicting the landscape or the animal inhabitants. The series is well designed and has a sophisticated feel despite the very simple text. VERDICT Robust early nonfiction collections may want to consider.

Higgins, Nadia. Earth’s Record Breakers. ISBN 9781684101351.

––––. The Story of Earth. ISBN 9781684101290.

––––. Tectonic Plates Are on the Move. ISBN 9781684101443.

––––. Wind and Water Shape the Land. ISBN 9781684101214.

ea vol: illus. by Jia Liu. 24p. (What Shapes Our Earth?). further reading. glossary. photos. w/CD. Cantata Learning. Jan. 2018. lib. ed. $33.99.

PreS-Gr 3 –This series takes an interdisciplinary approach to science education by using music to teach basic concepts to youngsters. Each title stands alone, but together they address a variety of topics relating to the earth. Liu’s illustrations convey warmth and depict smiling children. Teaching tips and guided reading activities are provided, along with the lyrics and sheet music. For those who are less musically capable (or for kids who want to listen), a CD is included. Additionally, the music can also be accessed through a QR code. The songs all have a catchy upbeat chorus. VERDICT Most kids like to sing: Why not reinforce science knowledge with music? A fine addition to school and classroom libraries.

Jacobson, Bray. Amphibian Life Cycles. ISBN 9781538210338.

––––. Bird Life Cycles. ISBN 9781538210383.

––––. Fish Life Cycles. ISBN 9781538210420.

––––. Insect Life Cycles. ISBN 9781 538210468.

––––. Mammal Life Cycles. ISBN 9781 538210505.

––––. Reptile Life Cycles. ISBN 9781 538210543.

ea vol: 32p. (A Look at Life Cycles). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Gareth Stevens. Jan. 2018. lib. ed. $26.60.

Gr 2-5 –The focus of this series is the life cycle of vertebrates and insects. Each title opens with a physical description of the creatures being discussed, followed by a description of the habitat where many live. Reproduction and the various stages of life are covered, with a focus on a few particular species. In each book, straightforward text (with a few key word, in bold) sits opposite an eye-catching stock photograph. The text-filled pages also have leaf-shaped fact boxes, “Make the Grade,” which contain notable tidbits of information despite the unfortunate heading. VERDICT A solid introduction to life cycles for elementary students.

Kelley, K.C. Flowers. ISBN 9781681512877.

––––. Oceans. ISBN 9781681512884.

––––. Seasons. ISBN 9781681512853.

––––. Space. ISBN 9781681512891.

––––. Trees. ISBN 9781681512860.

––––. Weather. ISBN 9781681512846.

ea vol: 24p. (Spot Awesome Nature). photos. Amicus. Jan. 2018. lib. ed. $25.65.

PreS-Gr 2 –Vibrant photographs fill the entirety of most pages, alternating between close-ups of the subject and more panoramic vistas. Exploring basic elementary science topics, each title opens with a quartet of words and images young readers are encouraged to look for throughout the book. Petals, pollen, stem, and bud are the chosen terms for Flowers, while sun, moon, spaceship, and planet are the key words to look for in Space. The word search and the enchanting photographs are sure to captivate children. VERDICT Entertaining picks for little ones.

Mayerling, Tim. I See Birds. ISBN 9781620319376.

––––. I See Flowers. ISBN 9781620319475.

––––. I See Insects. ISBN 9781620319390.

––––. I See Leaves. ISBN 9781620319413.

––––. I See Plants. ISBN 9781620319437.

––––. I See Rocks. ISBN 9781620319451.

––––. I See Seeds. ISBN 9781620319635.

––––. I See Trees. ISBN 9781620319499.

ea vol: 16p. (Outdoor Explorer). index. photos. Jump!/Tadpole. Jan. 2018. lib. ed. $24.21.

PreS-Gr 1 –Step outside and what do you see? This series covers some of the most recognizable elements of the natural world. Throughout the series, full-page stunning photographs are overlaid with colorful text boxes, while simple repetitive sentences maintain the focus on a few key words. Each title includes a “Tools for Teachers” guide covering the literacy skills addressed in each book, science curriculum connections, and activities to do before and after introducing the topic. A visual dictionary called “Words to Know” concludes each volume, providing students with an opportunity to reinforce new vocabulary. VERDICT Teachers will value the curriculum guidance, and early readers will appreciate the immediacy of the content.

Murray, Julie. Blizzards. ISBN 9781 532120855.

––––. Floods. ISBN 9781532120862.

––––. Hail. ISBN 9781532120879.

––––. Hurricanes. ISBN 9781532120886.

––––. Thunderstorms. ISBN 9781532120893.

––––. Tornadoes. ISBN 9781532120909.

ea vol: 24p. (Wild Weather). glossary. index. photos. websites. ABDO. Dec. 2017. lib. ed. $27.07.

K-Gr 3 –Just the right combination of facts, visual imagery, and reading practice for young pupils curious about extreme weather phenomena. Each title defines the pattern (e.g., blizzards have winds 35 mph and over), explains the particular dangers (flood waters can carry away cars and houses), and describes how people can predict and prepare for the wild weather (meteorologists use satellites to predict hurricanes). Additional fascinating facts are highlighted (the largest hailstone ever recorded weighed two pounds and was eight inches across). ­VERDICT A solid choice for emerging readers that may pique interest in nonfiction.

Spilsbury, Louise. Desert Biomes. ISBN 9780778739920.

––––. Forest Biomes. ISBN 9780778739937.

––––. Freshwater Biomes. ISBN 9780 778739944.

––––. Grassland Biomes. ISBN 9780 778739951.

––––. Marine Biomes. ISBN 9780778739968.

––––. Tundra Biomes. ISBN 9780778739975.

ea vol: 32p. (Earth’s Natural Biomes). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Crabtree. Jan. 2018. lib. ed. $27.60.

Gr 4-6 –A bonanza of facts and eye-opening data about biomes. Following a well-structured format, each title describes the characteristics of each locale in detail, with an emphasis on plant and animal adaptations. Also discussed is where the biome can be found, how humans live there, and the impact they have on that environment. Text boxes draw attention to fascinating tidbits and are organized into three categories: “Amazing Adaptation,” “Fact File” (highlights a geographical location), and “Fact Focus” (draws attention to a noteworthy detail). The bold photographs are a huge draw; many have a decidedly humorous quality. Images such as a close-up of an arctic fox (whose nose appears to leap off the page) or two musk oxen snuggling to keep warm are sure to bring a smile to readers’ faces. VERDICT Great layout and chock-full of information. A top choice for middle grade readers.

Middle to High School

Allman, Toney. Genetics and Medicine. ISBN 9781682823255.

Blohm, Craig E. 3D Printing and Medicine. ISBN 9781682823316.

Hulick, Kathryn. Robotics and Medicine. ISBN 9781682823293.

Nardo, Don. Nanotechnology and Medicine. ISBN 9781682823279.

Roland, James. Virtual Reality and Medicine. ISBN 9781682823330.

ea vol: 80p. (Next-Generation Medical Technology). chron. diag. further reading. glossary. index. notes. photos. websites. ReferencePoint. Mar. 2018. lib. ed. $29.95.

Gr 7 Up –This series explores how advancements in genetics, nanotechnology, robotics, 3-D printing, and virtual reality have transformed the medical world. Titles open with a time line highlighting important milestones in each area. The bulk of the text consists of many examples of the tech in action within the field. Examples include engineered nanoparticles that can detect peanut allergies, prosthetic limbs improved by robotics, and a future in whic 3-D printers can create transplant organs from a patient’s own cells. The language is accessible and key concepts are repeated, reinforcing knowledge acquisition. A slightly oversize font and well-placed photographs and diagrams provide visual relief in an otherwise content-dense presentation. Sources are well documented, and additional resources and suggested websites for further research are included. VERDICT A fascinating look at cutting-edge technology that will likely inspire a few future medical professionals.

Amson-Bradshaw, Georgia. Earthquake Geo Facts. ISBN 9780778743828.

––––. Water Cycle Geo Facts. ISBN 9780778743941.

Howell, Izzi. Biome Geo Facts. ISBN 9780778743811.

––––. Earth’s Resources Geo Facts. ISBN 9780778743835.

––––. Mountain Geo Facts. ISBN 9780778743842.

––––. Population and Settlement Geo Facts. ISBN 9780778743859.

––––. River and Coast Geo Facts. ISBN 9780778743934.

––––. Volcano Geo Facts. ISBN 9780778743958.

ea vol: 32p. (Geo Facts). charts. diag. further reading. glossary. illus. index. photos. websites. Crabtree. Jan. 2018. lib. ed. $27.60.

Gr 4-7 –A scientific approach to Earth’s landscape. Throughout the series, a multitude of eye-catching photographs, graphs, charts, and diagrams effectively illustrate key concepts. Each title opens with its subject clearly defined and follows with case studies. Earth’s Resources, for example, explains the difference between renewable and non-renewable resources and, alongside an abundance of additional information, provides a more in-depth look at the mining of aluminum-rich bauxite ore, rain forest deforestation, genetically modified crops, North Sea fishing, and eco-cities. Each book does a great job pulling together and synthesizing information. Also included is a test section to review the knowledge gained. VERDICT Fact-filled and perfect for visual learners.

Atwood, Frederick D. Rocks & Minerals. ISBN 9781422239599.

Cleave, Andrew. Frogs. ISBN 9781422239575.

––––. Snakes & Reptiles. ISBN 9781422239605.

––––. Wildflowers. ISBN 9781422239629.

Sterry, Paul. Butterflies & Moths. ISBN 9781422239568.

––––. Insects. ISBN 9781422239582.

––––. Spiders. ISBN 9781422239612.

ea vol: 72p. (Exploring Nature). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Mason Crest. Jan. 2018. lib. ed. $33.27.

Gr 9 Up –So often books about spiders and butterflies or snakes and reptiles are written for a younger audience. This series is the exception—high school students interested in the natural world and willing to engage with densely packed volumes are the intended audience. Each title provides a comprehensive exploration of the subject. Butterflies & Moths, for example, begins with a general introduction and then covers anatomy, flight and migration, wing patterns and colors, various species, the life cycle, and some of the environmental challenges these creatures face. A variety of differently sized bold photographs break up the text; some are even a full page. An extensive index, Internet resources, and educational videos available through QR codes are included in the back matter. VERDICT An information-rich resource for studious teens.

Hofer, Charles. Washed Away by Floods. ISBN 9781538325698.

Keppeler, Jill. Blasted by Blizzards. ISBN 9781538325599.

Krajnik, Elizabeth. Twisted by Tornadoes. ISBN 9781538325674.

McAneney, Caitie. Slammed by Tsunamis. ISBN 9781538325650.

Shea, Therese M. Rocked by Earthquakes. ISBN 9781538325636.

Shofner, Melissa Raé. Hammered by Hurricanes. ISBN 9781538325612.

ea vol: 32p. (Natural Disasters: How People Survive). diag. glossary. index. photos. websites. PowerKids. Jan. 2018. lib. ed. $26.25.

Gr 4-7 –The alarming frequency of natural disasters makes this a timely series to consider. Each title first focuses on the environmental conditions that lead to the titular event before segueing to information about how technology helps scientists predict an event, and how readers can prepare and survive. Each title provides a list of safety tips, potentially comforting and empowering for students worried about extreme weather. Highlighted text areas draw attention to particular disasters in history, while photographs and illustrations add visual interest. VERDICT A fine mix of survival tips and scientific content makes this appropriate for middle grade students.

Spilsbury, Louise & Richard Spilsbury. Earthquake Shatters Country. ISBN 9781538213001.

––––. Forest Fire Creates Inferno. ISBN 9781538213056.

––––. Hurricane Hits the Coast. ISBN 9781538213094.

––––. Tornado Rips Up City. ISBN 9781538213131.

––––. Tsunami Crushes Coastline. ISBN 9781538213179.

––––. Volcano Melts Village. ISBN 9781538213216.

ea vol: 48p. (Earth Under Attack!). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Gareth Stevens. Jan. 2018. lib. ed. $31.95.

Gr 5-8 –This series packs a high quotient of drama while introducing the science behind some of Earth’s potentially more deadly natural phenomena. For example, readers will discover how tsunamis form while also learning about several areas around the world ravaged by them. Fact-filled text boxes have headings such as “Deadly Data” and “Earth Under Attack.” Each title includes a number of case studies called “Disaster Report,” focusing on a particular devastating event. The layout is visually dynamic and includes many vibrant photographs and other attention-grabbing devices, such as colorful headings and borders. In addition to the “can’t look away” pictures, educators will be pleased with the first-rate science content. VERDICT Appealing selections sure to attract readers.

All of the series included here have something to offer. However, there are a few standouts. Amicus’s “Spot Awesome Nature” is sure to be a hit with the youngest readers. For middle graders, don’t miss Crabtree’s two excellent offerings, “Earth’s Natural Biomes” and “Geo Facts.” Another good choice for middle grade readers captivated by weather-related headlines is Gareth Stevens’s “Earth Under Attack!” Finally, teens will be stimulated and engaged by the fascinating information presented in ReferencePoint’s “Next-Generation Medical Technology.”

Ragan O’Malley, Saint Ann’s School, Brooklyn

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