We have recently discovered the Scientists in the Field series and have been loving them. This is a relatively recent children’s book series written in partnership with the Smithsonian. The books are very detailed and meaty. Most have several chapters and more than fifty pages of small text with beautiful color photos. They’re too detailed for most early elementary readers and are perfect for upper elementary and middle school. They cover topics in every major branch of science, but like every aspect of children’s books, there are vastly more about the life sciences than anything else, which is part of why I didn’t know this series until someone mentioned it online.
Once I looked it up, I realized I had seen several of the titles already, including one about oceans and waves and another about Mars that I deemed cool, but too complex for the kids way back in first grade. We had also read one, the book Hidden Worlds, about microscopy. I raved about how excellent Hidden Worlds was here back in the fall and it’s still one of my favorites of the ones we’ve read. I was thrilled to discover that there were dozens more like it out there!
Unlike so many science books for kids, the goal of these books is not to introduce vocabulary and concepts about a topic, though they may do that too. Instead, the books follow a scientist or a group of scientists and use that as a jumping off point to tell a story. Some books talk about a specific project or expedition. Others talk about a scientist’s life and work. I love how detailed the books are not just about scientific theories and methods, but the practical parts of being a scientist. In Quest for the Tree Kangaroo, the expedition’s packing list is included to give you an idea of what it’s really like to do field work (don’t forget the 48 rolls of toilet paper!). In Project Seahorse, we learn about the life of a fisherman whose livelihood is impacted by the scientists’ work.
It’s also great that each book shows different types of scientists at different points in their careers. In The Bat Scientists, one of the scientists is the founder of a worldwide group and one of the foremost experts in his field, but others are field scientists doing different jobs and with different backgrounds. In other books, we meet students and interns. All of this is a great way to show kids all the different types of careers and paths there are in science.