From Australia’s Shark Bay to Brazil’s Pantanal wetlands to turn-of-the-twentieth-century New York, these new titles show scientists in their natural habitats.
Nikola Tesla — visionary, inventor, electrical engineer — is often overshadowed in textbooks by scientists such as Edison and Marconi. In Elizabeth Rusch’s Electrical Wizard: How Nikola Tesla Lit Up the World, the only biography published for young readers, Tesla is shown as an individual who knows what he wants to accomplish but struggles to turn that idea into a tangible product. Stylized illustrations by Oliver Dominquez surround Tesla with scientific instruments while utility poles and wires crowd his New York City streets. (Candlewick, 5–9 years)
Lives of the Scientists: Experiments, Explosions (and What the Neighbors Thought) introduces twenty influential scientists in short, lively chapters. Author Kathleen Krull emphasizes memorable, and often humorously idiosyncratic, character traits. In addition, she points out historical and societal barriers that so many of the scientists, particularly the women, faced. As in previous Lives Of… volumes, illustrator Kathryn Hewitt provides a big-headed but pristine, almost airbrushed portrait of each subject; details about the scientists’ work receive whimsical spot art. (Harcourt, 7–12 years)
The Dolphins of Shark Bay by Pamela S. Turner, part of the Scientists in the Field series, follows biologist Janet Mann and her colleagues from the Shark Bay Dolphin Project as they investigate the behaviors of a bottlenose dolphin pod which — unique among the species, and rare among nonhuman animals — uses tools. Biographical information about the research team, as well as scientific content about the highly intelligent creatures, is integrated into Turner’s journal-like account of her visit to the bay. Scott Tuason’s color photographs portray the scientists and the dolphins at work and play in Shark Bay. (Houghton, 8–12 years)
The Tapir Scientist: Saving South America’s Largest Mammal, another Scientists in the Field title, takes globetrotting author Sy Montgomery to the Pantanal wetlands of Brazil, where scientist Patricia Medici and her team study the endangered long-snouted mammal. Montgomery’s dramatic account of tracking the elusive animals is interspersed with scientific information about the various tapir species, samples of Medici’s data on tapir movements, and explanations of the technologies used in the research. Nic Bishop’s excellent photographs portray the field researchers and the tapirs that they study, as well as many other fascinating animals of the region. (Houghton, 8–12 years)
From the January 2014 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.