The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has announced the finalists for its Science Books and Films prizes. Here are the finalists for best picture book.
"Eggs," by Marilyn Singer, illustrated by Emma Stevenson. Holiday House, New York, 2008. 32 pp. $16.95. Eggs provide a shelter in which a developing animal can breathe, be nourished with food and drink, and grow. They are laid by birds, invertebrates, fish, amphibians, reptiles, and even some mammals. Singer presents examples of their innumerable shapes, sizes, colors, and patterns. She also discusses how burial, brooding, and nests protect eggs, and she describes varieties of hatching. Stevenson's detailed gouache paintings convey the eggs' allure.
"Sisters and Brothers: Sibling Relationships in the Animal World," by Steve Jenkins (illustrator) and Robin Page. Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 2008. 32 pp. $16. Animals and families always fascinate children, but the facts about siblings that fill this book will also engage adults. For example, young shrews line up holding each others' tails, with the mother leading the way. Female termites lay 30,000 eggs a day, whereas giant anteaters are always single offspring. Nile crocodiles cooperate even before they hatch, but hyena cubs can fight to the death. The authors' collages are sure to appeal to young readers.
"Spiders," by Nic Bishop. Scholastic, New York, 2007. 48 pp. $17.99. Spider enthusiasts and arachnophobes alike will be drawn to the amazing, up-close photographs in this informative introduction to these eight-legged predators. The concise, well-written text offers numerous interesting facts about spiders. For example, they were among the earliest terrestrial predators, having arisen more than 350 million years ago. And although "silk is the secret of spider success," many of the more than 38,000 species do not use webs. Fishing spiders dart over the water's surface, and some jumping spiders can leap 20 times their body length to pounce on prey.
"Wings," by Sneed B. Collard III, illustrated by Robin Brickman. Charlesbridge, Watertown, Massachusetts, 2008. 32 pp. $16.95. ISBN 9781570916113. Paper, $7.95. Insects, birds, and bats all move through the air on wings. Collard introduces the diversity of these appendages and their uses. Wings can be covered with scales, feathers, or bare skin. They allow peregrines to twist and turn in a dive, leaf-nosed bats to lazily flap over the ground, milkweed bugs to move short distances among patches, and Arctic terns to migrate between the polar regions. They help animals chase, catch, flee, and mate. To illustrate this variety, Brickman sculpted painted paper into colorful collages.
"The Wolves Are Back," by Jean Craighead George, illustrated by Wendell Minor. Dutton Juvenile, New York, 2008. 32 pp. $16.95. The wolves of Yellowstone were once shot until they were eliminated. However, with changed values and the yearning to again hear howls in the wild, wolves were reintroduced to the national park in 1995. As the wolves multiplied, wildflowers reappeared (wolves chased away the mountain sheep that had eaten them) and birds returned (wolves hunted bison and elk that had trampled young aspen needed for perches and grasses needed for food). By following along as a wolf pup wanders the Lamar Valley, readers learn how wolves are even important to halting riverbank erosion. George's simple text and landscape artist Minor's beautiful illustrations convey the importance of maintaining all parts of ecosystems.
AAAS has also announced nominees in the Middle Grades and Young Adult categories.