Curriculum Tie-in

STEM Tuesday– Getting Your Comic-on with Great Science Graphic Novels — Book List


Can you believe it is already December? We hope that you have found some amazing reads here this year. To finish out 2018 we’ve selected some comics and graphic novels that might have you looking at STEM in an entirely new way.

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit Older than Dirt: A Wild But True History of Earth by Don Brown and Dr. Michael R. Perfit  

Almost 14.5 billion years ago, it all started with a BIG BANG. What began as a cloud of gas and dust became our planet. Sibert Honor medalist Don Brown tackles the history of our planet in his latest.



Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgThe Great American Dust Bowl by Don Brown

Another title from Don Brown for your bookshelf provides readers with information about one of the worst environmental disasters of our planet. This is a great book to pair with The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck and Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse.


Support Independent Bookstores - Visit Support Independent Bookstores - Visit Science Comics series

We’ve featured select titles within this STEM series before, but we wanted to be sure to tell you about the newest title released this fall:  Solar System: Our Place in SpaceOther titles include Volcanoes, Coral Reefs, Robots & Drones, Rockets, and The Brain. Check them out.


Support Independent Bookstores - Visit Support Independent Bookstores - Visit Twisted True Tales from Science series 

Stephanie Bearce is the creator of another great science comics series. Budding science fair enthusiasts will enjoy Explosive Experiments and Disaster Discoveries. The truth is always stranger than fiction!


Support Independent Bookstores - Visit The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Computer  by Sydney Padua

A bit of a departure from our normal middle-grade focus, this informative and fun young adult graphic novel includes tons of primary information as it explores the lives of Ada Lovelace and inventor Charles Babbage. It was too good to pass up!


Plus, we wanted to share a few fiction titles that pair well with the above nonfiction science comics:

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit Secret Coders by Gene Luen Yang and Mike Holmes

We featured the Monsters and Modules installment of this series back in June, but there are lots of other (alliterative) titles to consider.  Potions and Parameters. Paths and Portals. Robots and Repeats. Secrets and Sequences. The combination of logic puzzles, basic coding instruction, and mysteries is perfect for budding STEM wizards.


Support Independent Bookstores - Visit Support Independent Bookstores - Visit Support Independent Bookstores - Visit Lowriders in SpaceLowriders to the Center of the Earth; and Lowriders Blast from the Past by Cathy Camper and illustrated by Raul the Third

Lupe Impala, El Chavo Flapjack, and Elirio Malaria love working on cars, specifically lowriders. Sketched in pen-and-ink, the stories are chock full of science facts and several Spanish words/phrases. These titles will entertain as they inform.



STEM Tuesday — Not-So-Scary STEM Books

STEM TUESDAY from the mixed up files



image from DavidArsenault


It was a dark and stormy night…which was just perfect for curling up with one of these Halloween-ish STEM books.





The Bat Scientists by Mary Kay Carson (HMH books for young readers, 2013)

There are so many creepy bat books, but this one talks about something even creepier: a killer fungus that threatens the bats’ very survival. Meet Dr. Merlin Tuttle and his team of researchers and learn about their work uncovering white-nose syndrome and searching for ways to protect the bats.



Mummies: Dried, Tanned, Sealed, Drained, Frozen, Embalmed, Stuffed, Wrapped, and Smoked...and We're Dead Serious CoverMummies: Dried, Tanned, Sealed, Drained, Frozen, Embalmed, Stuffed, Wrapped, and Smoked…and We’re Dead Serious by Chris Sloan (National Geographic Kids 2010)


Travel the world to check out thousands of years of mummified history. Learn the science of how these mummies were preserved in the past and the tools and technology used to search for their secrets in the present .





Oh, Rats!: The Incredible History of Rats and People, by Albert Marrin (Puffin, 2014)

Biology, ecology, epidemiology, and history–it’s a winning combination. Real rat history is as terrifying as a ghost story. Plus, there’s an ominous picture of a rat on the front cover.





Pumpkin Jack by Will Hubbell (Albert Whitman, 2000)

No Halloween reading list would be complete without a pumpkin book. Unfortunately, while there are a lot of interesting pumpkin picture books for young readers, the pickings are slim for older readers. Therefore, I’ll suggest Pumpkin Jack for a read-aloud or a quick reading “snack.” It uses a fictional story frame, but follows the  life cycle of a jack-o-lantern as it rots, goes to seed, and regenerates for a new Halloween celebration.


Monster Science: Could monsters survive (and Thrive!) in the real world? By Helaine Becker (Kids Can Press, 2016)

This is a silly look at six  monsters and the serious scientific questions they raise. Can a jolt of electricity really bring a person (or Frankenstein) to life? Could two species blur to form a werewolf? When is a corpse like a vampire? Everything you ever wanted to know about the real-life possibilities for Frankenstein, vampires, Bigfoot, zombies, werewolves and sea monsters.

How They Croaked by Georgia Bragg and Kevin O’Malley (Bloomsbury)

This award-winning book for reluctant readers is a fascinating collection of remarkable deaths–and not for the faint of heart.

Over the course of history, men and women have lived and died. In fact, getting sick and dying can be a big, ugly mess–especially before the modern medical care that we all enjoy today. From King Tut’s ancient autopsy to Albert Einstein’s great brain escape, How They Croakedcontains all the gory details of the awful ends of nineteen awfully famous people







How They Choked  by Georgia Bragg and Kevin O’Malley (Bloomsbury)

The team behind the bestselling How They Croaked shines a light on the darker sides of history’s most famous failures, perfect for reluctant readers!

Everyone makes mistakes. Sometimes, epic failures even lead to super successes . . . sometimes they become deep dark secrets. But remember–to fail is human, to laugh about our shortcomings divine. From Montezuma II’s mistaking a conqueror for a god to Isaac Newton turning from science to alchemy to J. Bruce Ismay’s jumping the lifeboat line on the TitanicHow They Choked knocks fourteen famous achievers off their pedestals to reveal the human side of history.



******* Have you entered our CoSTEM Contest?? There’s still time! Entries are due Midnight November 6th, 2018*************

See the details here

Enter NOW to win these prizes!

1st Place —  Receives 5 autographed STEM Books from our STEM Tuesday team + $25 Barnes & Noble Gift card

2nd Place — Receives 3 autographed STEM Books from our STEM Tuesday team + $15 Barnes & Noble Gift card

3rd Place—   Receives 2 autographed STEM Books from our STEM Tuesday team  +$10 Barnes & Noble Gift card



Jodi Wheeler-Toppen is a former science teacher and the author of the Once Upon A Science Book series (NSTA Press) on integrating science and reading instruction.  She also writes for children, with her most recent book being Dog Science Unleashed: Fun Activities to do with Your Canine Companion. For Halloween, she plans to dress like a harried mother of young children.

We’re talking nonfiction with a librarian!

As an author of primarily nonfiction, I thought it would be interesting to interview a librarian about all-things nonfiction for middle grade readers.

Rachel Stewart, the children’s services librarian for the Maumee (Ohio) Branch of the Toledo Lucas County Library was kind enough to answer questions I had about the topic from her perspective. Rachel has been with the TLCPL for five years. Her background is in elementary education, taught in traditional as well as a Montessori school, where she also served as an administrator. As you would expect, she is an active reader, enjoying various genres and subjects

As a children’s librarian, what nonfiction titles/subjects do you find appeal to middle grade readers the most? Middle grade readers are drawn to books about making and doing. When filling our new nonfiction displays, I notice that books related to STEAM subjects go fast, especially those that involve LEGO building or crafts. The DK book series is a constantly popular one. It is so popular that we have a designated, ongoing display of those books for customers to browse. This tells me that kids have a natural curiosity about a wide variety of topics and enjoy the graphic layout and photographs within these books.

I know that in our library system, the biographies for children, from PB to YA are shelved with biographies for adult readers. Does this lessen the exposure to young readers? (As opposed to shelving them in with children’s books?) We keep a constant display of the “Who Was/is…?” series, which has been very useful to parents and children alike. We often do temporary displays of PB bios and are currently doing a long-term display of YA/adult bios. Most often, when a child asks about bios, it is about a specific person and we can point them in the right direction (if such a book exists). We frequently do juvenile nonfiction displays on a wide variety of topics and usually include bios. There are pros and cons to interfiling, however, a major positive is that interfiling encourages young readers to choose books that they may not be exposed to in the juvenile section. Interfiling also allows adults with a lower reading level to feel comfortable browsing for books on a topic of interest.

Do you find that MG readers are borrowing nonfiction titles simply out of curiosity or because of school assignments? I believe that MGs are borrowing for both reasons. The NF displays that we keep up are heavily trafficked and browsed. I will often recommend narrative NF to reluctant NF readers just to open that door.

Does the library do much programming in nonfiction for middle grade readers? Nonfiction programming is a priority within the Toledo Lucas County Public Library system. At Maumee we have a popular programming series for grades 1-8 called “No School? No Problem!” that is focused on STEAM activities and scheduled when the local schools are off. When presenting those programs, we always include a large selection of related books for attendees to browse.

Do you have any amusing experiences with middle grade readers relating to nonfiction topics you care to share? I enjoy loading a child up with books on a favorite topic. I witness visible excitement and anticipation as if taking that stack home will be like opening a gift. 

 I also happen to have an 11-year-old that is a voracious reader of both fiction and nonfiction. He is spoiled by new books almost daily and I love when he asks what I brought for him. He is a fan of the Nat Geo and Guinness Books about world records and amazing facts. I am amused when he feels the need to share (at rapid-fire pace) interesting trivia from those books while I am driving or getting ready for work in the morning.

What are some of your favorite middle grade nonfiction titles? I have a love of cookbooks and am thrilled whenever we get new juvenile titles. Cooking encompasses so many practical life skills and supports emotional well-being. I believe learning to cook and bake should be a core part of childhood.

Thank you Rachel for your time and input!