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Best STEM Books 2021

STEM books offer endless opportunities for engaged learning. They invite students to see the world differently and to think in new ways about what they observe.

We have chosen titles that provoke readers to examine the “thinking stance” of characters—not simply to look at actions and results.

Best STEM Books winners explore problems and possible solutions in the scientific world and, where applicable, in the lives of the protagonists. Instead of focusing on specific content, the Best STEM Books emphasize real-world issues that cross disciplinary boundaries.

Teachers can use these books to foster and model “minds-on” work. Parents, grandparents, and other caregivers can involve even the very youngest children in the process of STEM thinking.

How do we prepare 21st-century kids for challenges and jobs that we at present cannot even describe? The Best STEM Books help by celebrating convergent and divergent thinking, analysis and creativity, persistence, and the sheer joy of figuring things out.

Best STEM Book Award Winner

Winning Titles

Ada Lovelace (The First Names Series)

Ben Jeapes
Illustrated by Nick Ward
ABRAMS / Abrams Books for Young Readers

How did the first computer come to be? Explore Ada Lovelace's determination, imagination, and amazing life as she becomes the brains behind the creation of the computers. 

Ada Lovelace


All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys' Soccer Team

Christina Soontornvat
Candlewick Press

Suspense and perseverance combine with STEM in this thrilling account of the rescue of 12 young soccer players and their coach who were trapped for 17 days in a flooded cave.

All Thirteen


Beastly Bionics: Rad Robots, Brilliant Biomimicry, and Incredible Inventions Inspired by Nature

Jennifer Swanson
National Geographic Children's Books

Explore the ways that engineers look to nature to solve problems. Using vivid photographs, this book highlights inventions like spider robots, firefly lightbulbs, turtle body armor, and more.

Beastly Bionics


Changing the Equation: 50+ US Black Women in STEM

Tonya Bolden
ABRAMS / Abrams Books for Young Readers

Meet more than 50 black women who advanced progress in medicine, engineering, computer science, and more despite societal barriers against black women in the academy and the laboratory.

Changing the Equation


Galileo! Galileo!

Holly Trechter and Jane Donovan
Illustrated by Holly Trechter and Jane Donovan
Sky Candle Press

The engaging tale of the Galileo probe’s mission shows the problem solving scientists and engineers faced from conception through to its final journey into Jupiter’s atmosphere in graphic novel form.

Galileo! Galileo!


Gnu and Shrew

Danny Schnitzlein
Illustrated by Anca Sandu
Peachtree Publishing Company Inc. 

This book takes young readers on a playful journey into engineering and design thinking using two delightful characters, Gnu and Shrew.

Gnu and Shrew


Jumbo: The Making of the Boeing 747

Chris Gall
Illustrated by Chris Gall
Macmillan Children's Publishing Group / Roaring Brook Press

Discover the story behind the creation of Boeing’s 747 passenger plane. Through vivid illustrations and clever text, discover how engineers designed, redesigned, and persevered to bring the world’s largest and fastest passenger jet to reality. 



Machines in Motion: The Amazing History of Transportation

Tom Jackson
Illustrated by Chris Mould
Bloomsbury Children's Books 

For centuries humans have been solving problems about how to move things over land, water, and air. Dive into the fascinating history of machines as shared through detailed cartoons, captions, and timelines.

Machines in Motion


Machines That Think!: Big Ideas That Changed the World #2

Don Brown 
ABRAMS / Amulet Books

This graphic novel traces the evolution of artificial intelligence from 820 CE Baghdad, Iraq, to the modern era that is both visually and intellectually approachable.

Machines that Think


Marie's Ocean: Marie Tharp Maps the Mountains Under the Sea

Josie James
Illustrated by Josie James
Macmillan Children's Publishing Group / Henry Holt BYR 

Known as one of the greatest oceanographic cartographers, Marie Tharp's work is extraordinary as she dives deeper into the ocean beyond the water, creatures, and coral and uncovers what is underneath. 

Marie's Ocean


Mission to the Bottom of the Sea

Jan Leyssens
Illustrated by Joachim Sneyers
Clavis Publishing

Wanting to explore the depths of the sea but limited by the equipment of the time, William Beebe, along with engineer Otis Barton, set out to design and construct the Bathysphere. See how this innovation changed our view of the oceans.

Missions to the Bottom of the Sea


Newton and Curie: The Science Squirrels

Daniel Kirk
ABRAMS / Abrams Books for Young Readers

Follow the adventures of Newton and Curie, inquisitive siblings who happen to be squirrels, as they investigate gravity, forces, and simple machines on the playground and in their forest home.

Newton and Curie


Numbers in Motion: Sophie Kowalevski, Queen of Mathematics

Laurie Wallmark
Illustrated by Yevgenia Nayberg
Creston Books 

Meet Sophie Kowalevski, first female mathematician. In a time when women were not permitted to be in a man's world, Sophie's drive and persistence paved a way for all young girls to learn and develop a love of math.

Numbers in Motion


The Polio Pioneer

Linda Elovitz Marshall
Illustrated by Lisa Anchin
Random House Children's Books / Alfred A. Knopf BFYR

Have you wondered who makes vaccines and how they do it? This book tells the story of Jonas Salk who worked on a successful flu vaccine among other vaccines. 

The Polio Pioneer


"Smelly" Kelly and His Super Senses: How James Kelly's Nose Saved the New York City Subway

Beth Anderson
Illustrated by Jenn Harney
Boyds Mills & Kane / Calkins Creek

This is the humorous, true story of James “Smelly” Kelly and how his extraordinary sense of smell saved the New York City subway in the early 1900s.

Smelly Kelly


Spaceman (Adaptation for Young Readers): The True Story of a Young Boy's Journey to Becoming an Astronaut

Mike Massimino
Random House Children's Books / Delacorte BFYR 

Written especially for young readers, this autobiography is the incredible story of Mike Massimino’s arduous journey to fulfill his lifelong dream of becoming an astronaut.



Who Gives a Poop?: Surprising Science From One End to the Other

Heather L. Montgomery
llustrated by Iris Gottlieb
Bloomsbury Children's Books

From laboratories to forests, and hospitals to landfills, join us on a learning adventure that is #1 about #2! Learn from scientists and engineers doing their business to investigate the fascinating world of poop using STEM thinking and problem solving.

Who Gives a Poop?


Wood, Wire, Wings: Emma Lilian Todd Invents an Airplane

Kirsten Larson
Illustrated by Tracy Subisak
Boyds Mills & Kane / Calkins Creek 

Emma Lilian Todd’s persistence through failures and revisions resulted in her becoming the first woman to design a successful airplane – an inspiring story of a great inventor.

Wood, Fire, Wings


Work It, Girl: Blast Off Into Space Like Mae Jemison 

Caroline Moss
Illustrated by Sinem Erkas
Quarto Group / Frances Lincoln Children's Books 

An inspiring, engaging, and empowering look into Mae Jemison’s positive impact, not only on the scientific community, but on the world. “Never be limited by other people’s limited imaginations.” —Mae Jemison 

Blast Off Into Space Like Mae Jemison

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