Young children are natural born scientists, conducting experiments with their food (What happens if I drop this on the ground?) and household pets (What happens if I throw a ball to the dog?). Here are nine fresh picture books that will encourage young scientists’ interest in astronomy, zoology, coding, space exploration, and more.
Pluto Gets the Call, by Adam Rex and Laurie Keller
Little Pluto is bursting with pride about being the ninth planet in our solar system. Until he gets a phone call from some Earth scientists, who tell him he’s been kicked out. “They asked if I’d like to be known as the solar system’s largest ice dwarf, and I was like, How’d you like to be known as Earth’s…meanest…jerk, huh?” Devastated Pluto goes on an existential quest through the solar system to talk to all the planets and determine his place in the universe in this hilarious and informative book. Rex makes the obligatory jokes that kids will love about the gas giant planets and the name of Uranus, but also takes the story in a surprisingly profound direction when the wise sun counsels him, “Pluto, you were orbiting around me for billions of years before the word ‘planet’ was even invented.” Pluto may not be considered a planet anymore, but he’s now the underdog hero that every kid needs.
Why Evergreens Keep Their Leaves, by Annemarie Riley Guertin and Helena Pérez Garcia
In this sweet folktale, Redbird seeks shelter for the winter, but the snobby birch, oak, and maple tree refuse to let him nest in their branches. Luckily, the fir, juniper, and blue spruce prove more welcoming. The Frost Queen is so proud of how these trees helped Redbird, she deems them evergreen, while the other trees must always lose their leaves for the winter. Helena Pérez Garcia’s vibrant, rich-hued, high-contrast paintings practically pop off the page as she portrays the bird and the trees from one unexpected angle after another.
Tintin on the Moon, by Hergé
Fans of the classic Belgian comic by Hergé will love this book, which collects the stories “Destination Moon” and “Explorers on the Moon” in one volume. Originally published in 1953 and 1954 respectively, the illustrations convey all the whimsy and imagination of the dawn of the space age, with Tintin’s orange spacesuit for moon exploration that makes him look like the Michelin man, bright rockets, secret missions, and mishaps galore.
Astro Girl, by Ken Wilson-Max
Speaking of space exploration, this story chronicles a young girl named Astrid’s insatiable enthusiasm for all things star-related. While her mom is away on a business trip, she tells anyone who will listen about her dream of becoming an astronaut. Her dad gamely swings her around and tosses her in the air to mimic zero gravity, and feeds her freeze-dried foods for practice. When her mom finally returns, the reader learns that Astrid has a pretty terrific astronaut role model right in her own house.
How to Code a Rollercoaster, by Josh Funk and Sara Palacios
The Curiosity Rover would never have completed a perfect landing on Mars without the right code instructing it to do so. In this second in the series of books sponsored by Girls Who Code, an organization that aims to teach all girls to code, young Pearl takes her robot friend to the amusement park. They want to maximize their fun and minimize their line-waiting time. It turns out, there’s a code for that. Josh Funk introduces coding concepts including variables, loops, and sequences as Pearl figures out the best way to use her ten tokens for the day.
Baby Loves the Five Senses: Hearing and Baby Loves the Five Senses: Sight, by Ruth Spiro and Irene Chan
These cute board books break down scientific concepts with simple explanations and appealing illustrations. The hearing book shows how the vibration of a guitar string makes air molecules vibrate too, bumping into their neighbors and producing a wave of sound. That sound wave reaches baby’s ears and sets the ear bones in motion, eventually reaching the brain as an electrical signal. The sight book depicts how light reaches baby’s eyes, passing through the pupil to the retina, enabling him to see.
Under Threat: An Album of Endangered Animals, by Martin Jenkins and Tom Frost
This compendium of knowledge about thirty endangered animals features eye-catching graphic design, with each animal portrayed on a full-page postage stamp from its country of origin. Information on each animal, from polar bears to Russian sturgeons to the indri of Madagascar, includes a map, the animal’s estimated population, and a narrative about what made the creature decline. For several of these animals, conservation efforts have begun to reverse population losses, which may inspire young readers to pitch in and help.
Sleep: How Nature Gets its Rest, by Kate Prendergast
If your child is having one of those can’t-fall-asleep nights, this is a great book to read them for gentle inspiration. Prendergast shows how horses sleep in the field, sloths sleep upside down, and harvest mice snooze all curled up in their nests. The colored-pencil illustrations have a sweet, retro flair that evokes picture book classics, and the depictions of the slumbering animals are so peaceful that parents might nod off along with their kids after contemplating them.