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 AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize for Excellence in Science Books 

2017 SB&F Prize Winners

2017 AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prizes Honor Science Books About Animal Diversity, Intelligence in Birds, Mapping, and Scientific Research

Animal diversity, crow researchers, mapping a land on fire, and what it's like to do scientific research are subjects of the winners of 2017 American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)/Subaru Science Books & Film Prizes for Excellence in Science Books.

The AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prizes for Excellence in Science Books, now in their 11th year, celebrate outstanding science writing and illustration for children and young adults. AAAS and Subaru of America, Inc. co-sponsor the prizes to recognize recently published works that are scientifically sound and foster an understanding and appreciation of science in readers of all ages.

This year's prizes are better positioned than ever to have an impact on the writing and publishing of outstanding science books for all ages. Winning the prize can have a significant impact on popularity and sales of a recognized book. Thanks to an expanded partnership between AAAS and Subaru, more than 40,000 winning books were donated to schools throughout the country in 2016 as part of the Subaru Loves Learning initiative.

“For over 50 years, AAAS and SB&F have sought to provide expert guidance to teachers, librarians, and parents on the selection of books that engage young minds with science. Working with Subaru to donate books to schools has added another dimension to our work. It is very gratifying to go beyond recognizing the best books to actually getting them into the hands of kids where they belong," Sosa said.

The 2017 prizes recognize efforts in four categories: Children's Science Picture Books, Middle Grades Science Books, Young Adult Science Books, and Hands-on Science Books. Winners received $1,500 and a plaque on 18 February during the 201 AAAS Annual Meeting in Boston, MA.

The 2017 prize recipients are:

Children's Science Picture Book

Tooth by Tooth, by Sarah Levine. (Illus. by T.S. Spookytooth.) Millbrook Press, 2016.

Amazing and bold illustrations like a floret of broccoli wedged between two molars and make this book a visual and verbal standout. The book is written in engaging terms that spark the imagination. Together, the appealing drawings and text convey lots of accurate and informative. Young readers learn how to differentiate teeth among mammalian carnivores, herbivores and omnivores. They are shown that humans share similar types of teeth. They are walked through the purpose of specialized teeth like tusks and can visualize the scale of an elephant’s tusk that is accented by a compact, red backpack. In the explanation of the absence of teeth in some mammals, readers are treated to an illustration of ants perched on an anteater’s tongue. Sketches of skulls successfully balance the study of natural history. The book’s accessibility is vital to readers just gaining scientific literacy. The book includes a useful glossary and suggestions for further reading. Because creatures are biologically accurate, yet whimsically presented, readers will enjoy learning about critters’ teeth.

Middle Grades Science Book

Crow Smarts: Inside the Brain of the World's Brightest Bird, by Pamela S. Turner. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016.

In Crow Smarts, Pamela S. Turner makes the case for the New Caledonian being the world’s brightest bird. Turner and nature photographer Andy Comins join Dr. Gavin R. Hunt and his research team from the University of Auckland in field expeditions to observe crows using and producing wood-probing tools in the New Caledonian forest. The local species of crow uses sticks and makes hooked tools from twigs or the leaves of the Pandanus plant to dig out grubs from logs. Adult crows teach their young to use and produce such tools. Turner briefly covers the use of multiple tools by other animals – humans, chimpanzees, orangutans, and capuchin monkeys – and notes that only the New Caledonian crows and humans are known to make hooked tools. The book does a marvelous job connecting nature and nurture behaviors in animals. And, like all the other books in the Scientists in the Field series, it provides an intimate and realistic portrait of the researchers who have devoted their professional lives to studying nature.

Hands-On Science Book

Ricky's Atlas: Mapping a Land on Fire, by Ludith L. Li. Oregon State University Press, 2016.

Ricky Zamora and his mother travel from their home in Blue River, on the western side of the Cascade Mountains in Oregon, to his Uncle John’s ranch on the eastern side of the Cascades. Ricky uses his trip as an opportunity to draw maps of what he sees as the terrain changes from the western side of the range to the eastern side. As they approach the ranch, they witness a severe thunderstorm and lightning ignites a wildfire. Ricky leverages the experience to learn more about wildfires and document his knowledge on a variety of maps. The author uses a narrative, hand-drawn maps, illustrations and diagrams to provide rich content. In an easy-to-read style, the author contrasts the climate and vegetation on the windward and leeward sides of the Cascade Mountains, details how firefighters contain a wildfires and how wildfires can help the growth of vegetation and specific types of trees. The maps show changes in vegetation, elevation, amount of rainfall and include scales to show distance. The section of prehistoric fossils helps the reader understand that at one time, a prehistoric sea and sea creatures covered the region. This helps students understand the climatic differences of moist air traveling over a mountain range and creating lush vegetation on one side and a drier climate on the leeward side.

Young Adult Science Book

Lab Girl, by Hope Jahren. Alfred A. Knopf, 2016.

Reading Hope Jahren’s Lab Girl is almost like reading three books for the price of one. In addition to being a memoir by a three-time, Fulbright-winning geobiologist, it is also a fascinating tutorial on botany, paleontology and soil studies. Of even greater value to school- and college-age readers, as well as parents and teachers, is how well the author describes the life of a real scientist as one who “doesn’t perform prescribed experiments,” but “develops her own and thus generates wholly new knowledge.” The author’s obvious love of science and the book’s exquisite writing show how thoroughly she has channeled and extended her parents’ interests. Lab Girls begins with Jahren accompanying her father to his teaching lab, with table surfaces so solid they couldn’t be damaged with a hammer and includes her undergraduate and graduate education, subsequent teaching positions and research postings as far afield as an isolated Arctic Ocean island. Jahren also addresses the compound challenges she faced as a woman scientist in a male-dominated profession, coupled with her eventual diagnosis as a manic-depressive. This book is one of the very few scientist memoirs that are also a great read.

The AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize for Excellence in Science Books is sponsored by Subaru.