We Recommend: Science Chapter Books Edition

It's time for We Recommend, in which  readers ask for suggestions, and we try our very hardest to come up with the perfect book in answer (and then you guys come up with even more amazing choices in the comments). Looking for a recommendation? E-mail us! We're very agreeable.

I must admit, I embark on this We Recommend with my confidence much shaken. See, I really thought I had a superpower. People would come to my house, or we'd walk to a bookstore, and they'd want, or even need, a book, and with a few well chosen questions I would come up with the perfect book for their situation. L. went on her trip to Greece with Middlemarch and was so happy on the beach. G. headed to the Dominican Republic with The Golden Compass and you couldn't even speak to her until she finished it because she was transported. A dejected M. was comforted by the oceanic rolling of Master and Commander. They were all so happy! I felt I had some special skill! Not marketable, of course, or I wouldn't be me, but still! And I tried to use my power only for good, I swear I did. What went wrong?

First there was this, in which I feel that I utterly failed to find books to bring relief to a family in trouble. Then, when G. went to Asbury Park for the weekend, I sent her off with a book I loved, Lucky Us by Joan Silber—and it was a total dud. She couldn't even bring herself to finish it! Not that it isn't still an excellent book, but the subject matter just was too painful. My sure touch has deserted me.

So it is with great trepidation that I approach this next challenge. But back on the horse. Here we go:

My son is 5 1/2, and is reading fairly well on his own.  He is in the middle of the Fly Guy series, which seem to be at a just-right reading level for him.  He is in constant search for "big kid stuff", so he is THRILLED that he can read these easy chapter books on his own.  I'm looking for more chapter books at about this level, appropriate for boys.  The other caveat is that his first love is science – extreme weather, the human body, outer space – he can't get enough of it.  His bedtime read-aloud choice is usually from his Children's Encyclopedia.  He also loves adventure stories – he really enjoyed Pippi Longstocking and the My Father's Dragon series.

Let us admit, he sounds like a delightful gent. And he loves science. I must note that the subject line of this email said "Easy nonfiction for boys," but I'm just going to skip right over that, and just go for what seems fun.

At first blush, I thought of the Magic Schoolbus books. Because I LOVE them. But he sounds like he would be more comfortable with a book that looks like a chapter book, something really grown-up looking. And just for the heck of it, I'm throwing in two. First this:


And also this, about a kid who gets tiny and goes through all sorts of disgusting and excellent adventures. Diana loved it in 1st grade:


Silly. Fun. Science. It's all there.

I hope.

But what do you guys think? No doubt, your touch hasn't left you.

9 thoughts on “We Recommend: Science Chapter Books Edition

  1. I have a few that would have to be real alouds but he could probably follow (I don’t think they would be too scary).
    First is a national parks series, my daughter only read the first one but it was enjoyable. The series is about the Parker family and I think the first one is on Bryce and Zion nationl park. Maybe the Great Brain series? Or a personal favorite, The Mad Scientists’ Club.


  2. Did you know there are Magic School Bus chapter books? Or at least there were a few years ago when I was teaching. My first grade boys devoured these!


  3. Someone suggested the Moongobble books in another post and they are fantastic! More science fiction than science.
    Also, my son loves the Dinosaur Cove books by Rex Stone. Two boys, Tom and Jamie discover a secret world where the dinosaurs are living.
    Finally, I’ve heard great things about the Neptune Adventure series, but alas, my library doesn’t carry these books.
    And yes, the Magic School Bus does have chapter books–they are great.


  4. I would add as a suggestion on a similar level to these the Horrible Science books. However, I just wanted to point out that all the suggestions (Magic School Bus Chapter books, Franny Stein, and Andrew Lost) are all significantly harder books than Fly Guy. A kid reading Fly Guy *might* could tackle Franny K. Stein, but probably not. He would probably do much better with something like the National Geographic Readers, the Rookie Read About Science books or any of the other early reader science books.


  5. I don’t know whether these might be slightly below the reading level of this boy, but we love the Usborne Beginners series for science:
    (the above is a UK link, but I’m sure the books are widely available)
    At the moment we’re reading the books to our 4-year-old, because they offer the sort of entry-level science that he is eager for and is (mostly) able to understand. They are definitely aimed at early independent readers, though. Lots of great pictures and factoids.


  6. I adore both Franny K Stein and Andrew Lost. My older son really learned to adore chapter books with Andrew Lost, and my younger (will start kindergarten next year, so still in the being-read-to age) will listen to an entire Franny K Stein at once. They’re both very funny and, though harder than Fly Guy, manageable. Franny K Stein in particular has enough pictures to break up the text a little more. And Andrew Lost has lots of actual science details worked into the story; my son loved telling me all about spiders or whatever Andrew was encountering in that book.
    They’re not chapter books, but the various DK Readers have served us really well. They’re easy to search by reading level or by topic, and they have lots of titles that range from purely fiction to purely informational. And with the glossary at the end and other little details, I feel like early readers are being slightly challenged, not pandered to–important to kids who want to feel they’re growing up, rather than being reminded of how big they aren’t yet.


  7. In the “next level up from Fly Guy” range, you might try Alexander McCall Smith series about Akimbo. My son loved the two we tracked down: Akimbo & the Lions & Akimbo & the Baboons. Lots of actual animal info plus a zippy adventure that wasn’t too scary. & kind people, too.


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