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

2014 SB&F Prize Winners

Four engaging books that explore the inner workings of a school garden, the discovery of two-million-year-old fossils, the joys and possibilities of backyard bird watching, and the practical and ethical implications of biotechnology on our relationships with domesticated animals and wildlife earned top honors in the 2013 AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize competition.

 This year's prizes—which promote science literacy by showcasing the importance of good science writing and illustration—recognize the work of four authors as well as a photographer. 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.

“AAAS is pleased to join with Subaru to celebrate these outstanding science books and authors,” said Alan I. Leshner, chief executive officer of AAAS and executive publisher of its journals, Science, Science Translational Medicine, and Science Signaling. “The books we honor this year demonstrate the range of scientific inquiry and invite children and young adults to actively ngage in the excitement of scientific discovery.”

The 2014 prizes recognized efforts in four categories: Children’s Science Picture Books, Middle Grades Science Books, Young Adult Science Books, and Hands-on Science Books. In addition, a special prize was awarded to the Scientists in the Field series of books, published by Houghton-Mifflin Harcourt. Winners will receive $1500 and a plaque on 15 February during the 2014 AAAS Annual Meeting in Chicago.

 Tom Doll, president of Subaru of America, Inc., congratulated the winners for their outstanding contribution to science writing and illustration. “As a technology company, we are delighted to be able to support such a worthy organization as AAAS,” he said.

 The prizes are administered by the AAAS review journal, Science Books & Films (SB&F). SB&F editor-in-chief Maria Sosa was impressed by the range of topics and approaches represented by the winners and finalists. “Exciting and new scientific discoveries as well as time-honored activities such as gardening and bird watching can all fall under the umbrella of science. You never know what will capture a child’s imagination; having an array of subjects from which to choose enhances opportunities for reading and exploring science,” she said.

 The prize winners also help support the practices that undergird the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and the Common Core Standards. “Through interviews with the winning authors, blogs posts, social media chats, and K-12 lesson plans based on their books, we are not only supporting science teaching and learning, but also the Common Core standards that emphasize the use of quality informational text,” said Shirley Malcom, head of the AAAS Directorate for Education and Human Resources.

Children's Science Picture Book

It’s Our Garden: From Seeds to Harvest in a School Garden, by George Ancona. (Photos by George Ancona) MA: Candlewick, 2013.

Writer/photographer Ancona shares his fascination with a school garden that serves as a learning laboratory near his home in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Over the course of a year, he photographed students, their friends, teachers, and families as they tended to the garden, from seed to harvest. In keeping with scientific traditions, the students featured in Ancona’s book make plans, act on them, observe the results, and keep records. Ancona's photographic essay is enhanced by the students' drawings of the plants and insects that keep the garden thriving, and the wildlife that finds a home there. Appropriate for elementary-school readers, the book may also inspire adults to help organize gardens for children's schools.

Middle Grades Science Book

The Skull in the Rock: How a Scientist, a Boy, and Google Earth Opened a New Window on Human Origins, by Lee R. Berger & Marc Aronson.  DC: National Geographic Children’s Books, 2012..

When nine-year-old Matthew Berger showed his father, paleoanthropologist Lee Berger, a fossil he had found in the hills near Johannesburg, South Africa, a remarkable journey of discovery was launched. Matthew’s discovery turned out to be a nearly complete fossil skeleton of a previously unknown species, Australopithecus sediba (a major find in the hominid tree). In this book, which serves both as an autobiography of an adventurer and an introduction to the origins of humans in Africa, Berger and co-author Aronson bring the story of an important discovery to life for young readers. The authors offer step-by-step explanations of paleontological techniques, using photographs from the field and laboratory. Readers also take a step back in time to look at Berger’s early interest in the natural world, as an inquisitive young boy growing up in Georgia

Hands On Science Book

Look Up!: Bird-Watching in Your Own Backyard, by Annette LeBlanc Cate.  MA: Candlewick, 2013.

This engaging introduction to bird-watching encourages kids to get outdoors with a sketchbook and really look around. Quirky, full-color illustrations portray dozens of birds chatting about their distinctive characteristics, including their color, shape, plumage, and beak and foot types. Interactive and enjoyable tips in this book bring an age-old hobby to new life for the next generation of bird-watchers. Pointing out that unless we know what is usually around us, we will fail to notice when something is different, Cate does not simply discuss looking at birds—she also provides her readers with a solid introduction on how to observe their environment.

Young Adult Science Book

Frankenstein's Cat: Cuddling Up to Biotech’s Brave New Beasts, by Emily Anthes.  NY: Scientific American/Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013.

Journalist Emily Anthes takes her readers from “petri dish to pet store” in her succinct summary of how humans have developed and used technology over the past decade to modify other animals for their own purposes. For example, Anthes explains, various forms of genetic manipulation have resulted in the sale of glowing fish in pet stores, the “pharming” goat milk for medicines, and the cloning of pets, livestock, and endangered species. Frankenstein’s Cat leverages conversational language, supplemented by frequent footnotes that add rather than distract from the main text. Any readers with an eighth-grade reading ability will easily grasp the accurately portrayed science behind key technologies. This extremely accessible book presents both sides of the ethical debate about the impact of these technologies on animals. It should leave readers with a clear, basic understanding of how the science works. Students who read this book will be left with not only a clear grasp of its subject matter, but also an excellent example on how to develop an argument from evidence.

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