One way that parents can involve themselves in their children’s learning in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) is to provide access to necessary resources, such as books. For parents looking for a selection of quality STEM books, the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) nominates a number of young adult nonfiction books for its annual Award for Excellence in Nonfiction, and some of these books feature STEM-related themes.
The following is a list of recent YALSA Nonfiction Award nominees, finalists, and winners—all relevant to STEM—by year.
Eyes of the World: Robert Capa, Gerda Taro, and the Invention of Modern Photojournalism, written by Marc Aronson and Marina Budhos, was a finalist for the Nonfiction Award. The book tells the story of two photojournalists who worked to document the Spanish Civil War, which was a fight against fascism and a forerunner to WWII. In this book, students can learn about how camera and film technologies played a role in shaping awareness of world events.
Nonfiction Award nominee Sachiko: A Nagasaki Bomb Survivor’s Story, written by Caren Stelson, tells the real-life story of a girl who survived the WWII nuclear bombing by the United States of the Japanese city of Nagasaki. Youth interested in the health sciences will find in this book a tale of both the physical and mental health effects of nuclear war.
Nancy Plain’s This Strange Wilderness: The Life and Art of John James Audubon, a Nonfiction Award nominee, uses the journals and letters of John James Audubon to tell the story of one of the first—and also one of the most famous—naturalists in the United States. Any student interested in the natural sciences will be impressed by Audubon’s attention to detail in his effort to document every bird on the American continent.
Paul Fleischman wrote Eyes Wide Open: Going Behind the Environmental Headlines, a 2015 nominee. Concerned about the death of a local bee population, the author embarks on an investigation into current global environmental problems. Climate change, fossil fuels, farming, pesticides, ocean health, and air quality are just a few of the topics a budding environmental scientist will find covered in this book.
Russell Freedman’s Becoming Ben Franklin: How a Candle-Maker’s Son Helped Light the Flame of Liberty recounts the life of Benjamin Franklin, one of early America’s most well-known engineers. Famous for experimenting with wood stove designs, electricity, and the lightning rod, Benjamin Franklin is sure to inspire future engineers who read this book, a Nonfiction Award nominee.
The winner of the 2013 YALSA Nonfiction Award, Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon, by Steve Sheinkin, combines mystery, science, and history to share the story of how the first atomic bomb was built. Readers with an interest in nuclear science will be interested to learn how international competition and intrigue played a role in the scientific process.
Sugar Changed the World: A Story of Magic, Spice, Slavery, Freedom, and Science, written by Marc Aronson and Marina Budhos, was a YALSA nonfiction award finalist. The book is primarily focused on sugar’s role in society throughout history, including the use of slave labor to harvest sugar cane. However, the authors explain that the scientific advancements involved in producing sugar substitutes were influential in changing the working conditions of those in the sugar industry. Youths interested in using science to solve social problems will surely find this book motivational.
Every Bone Tells a Story: Hominin Discoveries, Deductions, and Debates, a YALSA finalist, was written by Jill Rubalcaba and Peter Robertshaw. This book focuses on the scientific fields of archaeology and paleontology as it explores the discovery and analysis of four sets of ancient fossil remains. Readers interested in pursuing any science discipline will be interested to learn about the debates that remain after applying the scientific method, as the book shows that sometimes the scientific process results in more questions than answers.
Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream, written by Tanya Lee Stone, was a finalist for the YALSA Nonfiction Award in 2010, the first year this award was offered. Stone’s book tells the story of how a doctor at NASA in the 1960s wanted to know if women could pass the physical tests required to become an astronaut. He put a group of 13 women through the same procedures as the male potential astronauts, but no matter the results, women were not allowed to be astronauts at a time when only white men were authorized to fly into space. Aspiring space scientists, future health scientists, and those interested in women’s roles in STEM fields will find plenty to keep them engaged in this book.