Physics and Astronomy Books for Kids

There are so many children's books on Physics and Astronomy, it's difficult to know where start. Here's a list of highly acclaimed books, though by no means comprehensive.

You are Stardust by Elin Kelsey and Soyeon Kim. Every tiny atom in our bodies was originally from a star that exploded long before we were born.

Bang! How we came to be. (2011, by Michael Rubino, Random House, $17.00, ages 13-16). A monumentally ambitious book about what’s happened in the last 16 billion years. The science is up-to-date, and once life emerges on Earth, whatever is being discussed (worm, fish or dinosaur) is always charmingly referred to as "we." The book has nice illustrations that aren’t always adequately captioned—parents may need to be prepared to explain astrophysics and paleontology.

“Beyond the Solar System” 
by Mary Kay Carson, 128 pages, ages 10 to 13.
This book takes readers back to the beginnings of space exploration — thousands of years ago, when people began stargazing — and forward to today’s search for planets in distant parts of the

Milky Way galaxy. Find out about superstars — Isaac Newton, for example — and lesser-known but important scientists such as astronomer Annie Jump Cannon. Along with history lessons, readers get 21 activities, such as making a black hole and creating a model of Albert Einstein’s universe using a T-shirt. The activities are perfect “boredom busters” for cold winter days.

Amusement Park Science. Dan Greenberg. Newbridge (2002). Learn the role science plays in rides such as the bumper cars, carousels, roller coasters, and more.
And Everyone Shouted “Pull!”: A First Look at Forces and Motion. Claire Llewellyn. Picture Window Books (2004). Hop on the cart and join the farm animals as they find out how to take their heavy load on the hilly journey to market.

Day Light, Night Light. Franklyn M. Branley. Scott Foresman (Revised 1998). Branley offers an elementary explanation of properties of light: reflective light, speed of light, and what happens inside an electric light bulb. Sunlight, candlelight, flashlight, campfire, lanterns, and stars are discussed. Simple experiments, such as placing a white plate in a dark room, provide hands-on opportunities for young learners.

Electrical Circuits. Lewis Parker. Perfection Learning (2005). This overview of electricity includes electricity in nature, current electricity, battery power, and how various types of electric circuits work.

Electricity. Karen Bryant-Mole. Heinemann (1998). This non-fiction chapter book explains the basic principles of electricity by using everyday experiences. Includes simple, hands-on activities that children can do themselves.

Energy: Heat, Light, and Fuel. Darlene Stille. Picture Window Books (2004). This nonfiction chapter book is a delightful introduction to energy resources – how energy gets things done, where energy comes from, and how to conserve energy. The cartoonish illustrations and “fun facts” sections enhance the simple, straightforward text.

Essential Energy Series. Robert Snedden. Heinemann Library (2001). Through photographs, charts, captions, and fact boxes, this series looks at renewable and nonrenewable energy resources, how they are used, and how they impact the environment. Titles include: Energy Alternatives, Energy from Fossil Fuels, and Energy Transfer.

Forces (Science All Around Me). Karen Bryant-Mole. Rigby Interactive Library (1997). Vivid photographs, clear text, and a variety of simple experiments help readers explore forces in the world around them. Includes table of contents, glossary, and index.

Forces and Motion. Lisa Trumbauer. Newbridge Educational Publishing (1998). Through full-color photographs and examples from everyday life, this nonfiction book introduces basic concepts of motion. Available in big book format.

Forces and Motion: My World of Science. Angela Royston. Heinemann (2003). Color photographs and simple text provide an explanation of forces and motion and examples from everyday life.

I Fall Down. Vicki Cobb. HarperCollins (2004). Simple experiments introduce the concept of gravity and its relationship to weight.

I See Myself. Vicki Cobb. Harpercollins Juvenile Books (2002). A little girl finds out about vision, light, and reflection by playing with a mirror, a flashlight, and a bouncing ball. This book encourages children to experiment and provides well-written explanations even very young children will understand.

Investigations series: Floating, Pulling, Pushing, Rolling, Sliding. Patricia Whitehouse. Heinemann (2003). This series for primary students takes an inquiry-based approach to helping them make observations about force and motion. Each book consists of five separate experiments related to the titles and includes photographs and headings in the form of questions.

Kids’ Paper Airplane Book. Ken Blackburn and Jeff Lammers. Workman (1996). This activity book provides information on the principles of aerodynamics, suggestions for designing airplanes, and instructions for folding paper planes and doing stunts.

Let’s Try it Out in the Water. Seymour Simon. Aladdin Paperbacks (2001). Presents simple activities and experiments that demonstrate buoyancy by observing why some things sink and others float in water. Helps students learn to classify objects by their physical properties.

The Magic School Bus in the Haunted Museum: A Book about Sound. Linda Beech (1995). From an episode of the TV series The Magic School Bus, Ms. Frizzle’s class visits a haunted museum where they learn about the science of sound.

The Magic School Bus Plays Ball: A Book about Forces. Joanna Cole. Scholastic (1998). On a field trip inside a physics book, Ms. Frizzle’s class plays baseball in a world without friction and learns all about friction and forces.

The Magic School Bus Taking Flight: A Book about Flight. Gail Herman. Scholastic (1997). Ms. Frizzle and her class shrink to fit inside a model airplane and learn about how wings and moving air affect flight.

Magnetic and Nonmagnetic. Angela Royston. Heinemann (2003). This Heinemann First Library series introduces magnetism by way of everyday situations and objects. It contains colorful photos, as well as activities and questions to encourage further exploration.

Magnets. Karen Bryant-Mole. Heinemann (1998). This non-fiction chapter book explains the basic principles of magnetism by using every day experiences. Includes simple, hands-on activities that children can do themselves.

Motion: Push and Pull, Fast and Slow. Darlene Stille. Picture Window Books (2004). This engaging nonfiction chapter book explores how things move, inertia, gravity, and friction. Cartoonish illustrations and fun facts accompany the simple, straightforward text.

Roller Coaster! Motion and Acceleration. Paul Mason. Raintree (2007). This exciting book puts the reader in the shoes of a roller coaster designer. Full-color photographs, bold print words, and insets reveal the forces that affect roller coaster motion.

Sound and Light. Karen Bryant-Mole. Heinemann (1998). This engaging non-fiction chapter book explains the basic principles of sound and light by using everyday experiences. Includes simple, hands-on activities that children can do themselves.

Sound (Energy Works! Series) Jenny Karpelenia. Perfection Learning (2004). Explains that vibrations create sound, how high and low pitches are made, how the ear works, and how musical instruments make sound.

Sounds All Around. Wendy Pfeffer. HarperCollins (1999). This book provides a simple explanation of sounds and hearing. It describes how sound waves vibrate through the air, and how tiny bones in the ear vibrate. It also explains how animals hear, and notes that sound waves travel through the solid ground as well as through air and water.

Switch On, Switch Off. Melvin Berger. Thomas Crowell (1989). This book gives a clear introduction to electricity-what it is, what it does, and how it is made. The author explains circuits and generators, light bulbs, and plugs. He also shows how to make electricity using a magnet, a compass, and a piece of wire.

Temperature: Heating Up and Cooling Down. Darlene Stille. Picture Window Books (2004). A blanket isn’t hot. So how does a blanket keep you warm? Find the answer to this and other hot facts in this simple introduction to temperature and thermal energy.

What Makes a Magnet? (Let’s-Read-And-Find-Out Science series, Stage 2). Franklyn M. Branley. HarperCollins (1996). Branley explains how magnets work and includes instructions for making a magnet using a magnet and a compass.

What Makes a Shadow? Clyde Robert Bulla. HarperCollins (1994). With simple words and charming illustrations, this book explains how shadows are produced. Young readers will discover what makes the shadows they see and will be introduced to the fun of making shadows of their own.

Energy: Heat, Light, and Fuel. Darlene Stille. Picture Window Books (2004). This nonfiction chapter book is a delightful introduction to energy resources – how energy gets things done, where energy comes from, and how to conserve energy. The cartoonish illustrations and “fun facts” sections enhance the simple, straightforward text.

The Moon Book. Gail Gibbons. Holiday House (1998). The concise text describes lunar phases, eclipses, tides, and a brief history of lunar exploration. The illustrations offer effective and accessible depictions of the phases of the moon and eclipses.

The Moon Seems to Change. Franklyn Branley. HarperTrophy (1987). Because the moon revolves around the Earth, it seems to grow and shrink. Children can read this Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out Science book about the phenomena of the moon’s phases and can model with an orange, a pencil, and a flashlight how the moon looks different at different times of the month.

My Place in Space. Robin Hirst. Orchard Books (1992). When a bus driver asks Henry and his sister if they know where they live, Henry responds with a detailed description, locating their house by street, town, country, planet, solar system, galaxy, and universe.

Postcards From Pluto: A Tour of the Solar System. Loreen Leedy. Holiday House (1993). A group of young students is given a guided tour of the solar system by a robot. After each stop, the explorers write postcards back home that contain information about each planet. The text is accompanied by paintings that portray realistic images of each planet.

Spots of Light: A Book About Stars. Dana Meachen Rau. Picture Window Books (2006). Simple text and digitally generated illustrations explains the “birth” of stars, star colors, constellations, and galaxies.

Stars. Steve Tomecek. National Geographic (2003). Offers basic concepts about stars are carefully explained – why they seem to rise and set, what one actually looks like, distance from the sun, etc. Vivid artwork and clearly labeled diagrams help to extend the text.

Sun. Steve Tomecek. National Geographic (2001). This fun, fact-filled book answers many questions about the sun. Colorful artwork and engaging hosts – two kids and a purple cat - help children learn about our nearest star.

The Sun is My Favorite Star. Frank Asch. Harcourt (2000). This book for very young children uses colorful computer-enhanced watercolor illustrations and simple text to teach about our sun. Children learn that the sun is a star that illuminates the moon, dries up the morning dew, and causes shadows and rainbows.

Sun Up, Sun Down: The Story of Day and Night. Jacqui Bailey. Picture Window Books (2004). This amusing title guides readers through a day on Earth, clearly explaining the effect of Earth’s rotation and orbit. Colorful cartoons and insets keep the book lively and engaging. End matter includes “More Great Stuff to Know,” “Try It and See,” a “Fact Hound” website, and a small trivia section.

Stargazers. Gail Gibbons. Holiday House (1992). Simple text and illustrations tell what stars are, why they twinkle, how constellations were named, and how telescopes are used to study stars.

Sun. Steve Tomecek. National Geographic (2001). This fun, fact-filled book answers many questions about the sun. Colorful artwork and engaging hosts – two kids and a purple cat - help children learn about our nearest star.

There’s No Place Like Space (Cat in the Hat’s Learning Library). Tish Rabe. Random House (1999). The perfect first space book for early readers, There's No Place Like Space takes young children on a whirlwind tour of the solar system, with a few constellations thrown in for good measure. Cat in the Hat straps on his space suit and rhymes his way among the nine planets, presenting important information along the way. Even older children will be engaged by the abundance of space facts presented in entertaining, Dr. Seuss-style rhymes.

When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer. Walt Whitman and Loren Long. Walt Whitman's poem "When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer" is an enduring celebration of the imagination. Here, Whitman's wise words are beautifully recast by New York Times #1 best-selling illustrator Loren Long to tell the story of a boy's fascination with the heavens. A thought-provoking and imaginative introduction to a unit on astronomy.

When the Moon is Full: A Lunar Year. Penny Pollack. Little, Brown, and Company (2001). Hand-colored woodcuts and lyrical poems portray the twelve full moons of the year. Traditional Native American names, from the Wolf Moon in January to the Long Night Moon in December, follow the monthly path of the moon throughout the year. A question-and-answer section at the end provides information about the moon’s surface, lunar eclipses, the true meaning of a blue moon, etc.

How Do You Lift a Lion? Robert E. Wells. Albert Whitman and Co. (1996). Have you ever tried to lift a lion? Gravity makes it difficult, but you could do it with a lever. Lively text and watercolors engage readers while they learn the function of levers, wheels, and pulleys.

Using Electricity. Angela Royston. Heinemann Library (2003). This Heinemann First Library series introduces electricity by way of everyday situations and objects. It contains colorful photos, as well as activities and questions to encourage further exploration.

Starry Messenger. Peter Sis. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux (1996). Help students understand how science and technology have advanced through the contributions of many different people, cultures and times in history with this lushly-illustrated Caldecott Award-winner. Galileo Galilei courageously broke with tradition to explore new ideas and challenge accepted truths. He offered objective evidence that the earth was not the fixed center of the universe but that it and all the other planets revolved around the sun. Galileo kept careful notes and made beautiful drawings of all that he observed. This book tells the story of his discoveries, rise to prominence and final days as a prisoner of the Church.

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