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Books Nine books to help nurture your child’s inner scientist

Kira Vermond’s Why Don’t Cars Run on Apple Juice? answers questions that real kids have asked at the Ontario Science Centre.

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It’s National Science Reading Day on September 18 and there’s no better way to celebrate than with these science and nature books to help kids see the world through new eyes.

Kira Vermond’s engaging Why Don’t Cars Run on Apple Juice? illustrated by Suharu Ogawa (Annick Press, $19.95, 7-11) answers fantastic questions (with help from a team of science experts ) that real kids have asked at the Ontario Science Centre. You’ll discover everything from whether rats can burp to why jellyfish don’t have brains, plus parents you’ll also glean some useful facts to help answer those “why” questions about the human body, outer space and the Big Bang.

Is being a genius an accident? Elizabeth MacLeod and Frieda Wishinsky consider how accidents can lead to innovation, invention and scientific breakthroughs in How to Become an Accidental Genius (Orca Book Publishers, $24.95, 9-12), illustrated by Jenn Playford. They introduce us to amazing geniuses whose curiosity, tenacity and passion led to some great discoveries. People such as Mary Anderson, who invented windshield wipers, and Sarah E. Goode, who invented the first folding bed, to the Kellogg brothers, who accidentally invented corn flakes, and Sir Alexander Fleming, who discovered penicillin. You’ll also meet young inventors who are helping to clean up the environment such Param Jaggi and his EcoTube or Canadian Hayley Todesco and her tailings filter. Who knows? You might be an accidental genius, too.

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And if you want to know more about one particular accidental geniuses, check out The Boy Who Invented the Popsicle by Anne Renaud, illustrated by Milan Pavlovic (Kids Can Press, $18.99, 4-8). Renaud tells the story of Frank Epperson, who inadvertently invented the Popsicle, but she also gives readers insight into the science behind this frozen treat and provides some great easy-to-do science experiments. Milan Pavlovic’s illustrations help bring this delightful story to life.

Anne Renaud's The Boy Who Invented the Popsicle tells the story of Frank Epperson, who inadvertently invented the Popsicle, and includes the science behind the frozen treat.

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Digging Deep by Laura Scandiffio offers an investigation into how science helps us solve historical mysteries using tools and technology such as 3-D stereolithography, LIDAR (light detection and ranging using laser beams), CT scans, DNA and carbon-14 dating.

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Digging Deep by Laura Scandiffio (Annick Press, $16.95, 10+) is a fascinating investigation of how science helps us solve historical mysteries using tools and technology such as 3-D stereolithography, LIDAR (light detection and ranging using laser beams), CT scans, DNA and carbon-14 dating. Science helped historians find the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, lost in the Canadian Arctic in the 1840s; locate where King Richard III really was buried; and changed the way that we think about Stone Age man. This is the perfect book for kids who like both science and history.

The Grizzly Mother by Hetxw’ms Gyetxw (Brett D. Hudson), illustrated by Natasha Donovan (Highwater Press, $23, 9-12) is the second book in Highwater’s The Mothers of Xsan series, which beautifully explores the interconnected relationships between the grizzly, the Gitxsan First Nation and the landscape of the Northwest Interior of British Columbia. A lyrically poetic text, it delivers a wealth of information on the lives of grizzlies and the ecosystem they are part of, making this an invaluable introduction to the way we are all connected.

Acting Wild by Maria Birmingham looks at how humans behave similar to other animals, including birds and bugs.

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Mia Pelletier’s A Children’s Guide to Arctic Butterflies explores the cold-weather world that arctic butterflies inhabit.

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Connection is at the heart of the equally poetic You Are Never Alone by Elin Kelsey, illustrated by Soyeon Kim (Owlkids, $19.95, 4-12), which looks at the way our lives as human beings are connected to everything around us. Kelsey’s simple direct text, exquisitely enhanced by Kim’s 3-D artwork, celebrates the beauty of the world and reminds young readers that not only are they protected by a “generous world of green” but that they can make a difference by how they interact with that world. While Kelsey is all too aware of the environmental crisis we face, she wants to share how powerful and resilient ecosystems are as well.

Acting Wild by Maria Birmingham, illustrated by Dave Whamond (Owlkids, $18.95, 7-10), is a wonderfully wacky look at how we behave an awful lot like the birds, bugs and beasts that we share the planet with. Young readers will discover that both dogs and rats enjoy a laugh just like we do and that fish and monkeys both like to keep their teeth clean. Did you know that kangaroos like to box, ravens like tobogganing and octopuses like playing with Lego? Whamond’s playful illustrations are the perfect complement to this engaging look at just how much like animals we are.

And talking about rethinking how we look at the world, nothing will surprise young readers more than to discover that even in the Arctic, there are butterflies! Mia Pelletier’s lovely A Children’s Guide to Arctic Butterflies, illustrated by Danny Christopher (Inhabit Media, $16.95, 7-9), explores the very different cold-weather world that these fluttering, fragile-looking insects inhabit and, with Christopher’s exquisite illustrations, offers us a different way of looking at the Arctic landscape.

Peter Wohlleben’s Can You Hear the Trees Talking? uses the author's own experience as a naturalist and guide to lead young readers through the environmentally friendly forest he manages in Hummel, Germany.

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Peter Wohlleben’s Can You Hear the Trees Talking? (Greystone Kids, $24.95, 8-12) is a fantastic and accessible version of his bestselling The Hidden Life of Trees. Wohlleben’s uses his own experience as a naturalist and guide to imaginatively lead young readers through the environmentally friendly forest he manages in Hummel, Germany. More importantly, he introduces them to a world they might never have imagined – a world where trees communicate through the “wood-wide web,” have families and are not only able to see the world around them but have feelings about that world as well. He poses a series of basic questions for his readers – can trees talk, are trees brave, do trees sleep at night, how do trees know when it’s spring – and offers them his unique knowledge and shares his passion for trees, wonderful photographs of his forest and fun quizzes and simple activities.

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