April 28


10 Middle Grade Books That Will Help You STEAM UP Your Classroom! by Jennifer Swanson

STEAM –Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math—books are more popular than ever today. And they should be. STEAM book Engage. Excite. and Inspire kids.

Most importantly, STEAM books show diversity. Science works best when it is a collaboration of ideas, particularly those that come from people of all different backgrounds. Using these books in your library or classroom invites children to discuss issues, explore the world around them, and to listen and be open to ideas that may be different from their own. STEAM books are one way to bring people and thoughts together in a positive and productive way.

I’ve heard from many teachers and librarians that they sometimes find it difficult to learn about new STEAM middle grade books that might be useful to have in their classrooms. The following is just a small list of the amazing middle grade STEAM books that are out there, available for kids to read, explore, and follow their dreams.



STEAM books that are fun!

Alexander Graham Bell for Kids: His Life and Inventions, by Mary Kay Carson (June, 2018)

This exciting biography includes science and history background on Bell’s era, as well as sidebars and biographies of inventors and scientists who influenced—and competed with—him. Readers will build telegraphs, liquid transmitters, intercoms, metal detectors, and tetrahedral kites as they explore the science behind Bell’s wide-ranging inventions.

This book is a great addition to any classroom because it has lots of hands-on fun.


Something Rotten: A Fresh Look at Roadkill  by Heather Montgomery (October, 2018)

A humorous look at a serious problem. More than one million animals a day are killed by cars. That’s in the United States alone. This book dissects a rattler, digs into decaying bodies, and “fleshes” a fox to acquire his skin – fun facts, gross out gut-reactions, and real research all told through the lens of curiosity.  Along the way, readers meet a scientist looking to cure a contagious cancer, citizens stringing up rope bridges to save endangered monkeys, and a boy rebuilding animal bodies from the bones up. All thanks to roadkill.


STEAM books show scientists in action!

Zoo Scientists to the Rescue by Patricia Newman (2017)

Patricia Newman, author of the Sibert Honor-winning Sea Otter Heroes: The Predators That Saved an Ecosystem, is back with another endangered species title. She interviews three different zoo scientists who breed, care for, and study endangered species. Readers will discover how zoo scientists are helping us learn more about these remarkable, at-risk species before it’s too late!


Untamed: The Wild Life of Jane Goodall by Anita Silvey (2015)

This excellent biography of Jane Goodall, is a must read! It depicts a girl of humble beginnings and training, who was able to make scientific breakthroughs thought impossible by more experienced field observers when she was only in her twenties. Jane dedicated her life to protecting the environment so that chimpanzees and other animals will continue have a place and a future on our planet.


STEAM books answer our questions about how things work!

Engineered!: Engineering Design at Work by Shannon Hunt (2017)

How do you land a rover on Mars, resolve a perpetual traffic jam or save a herd of caribou from potential extinction? Ask an engineer! Author Shannon Hunt presents nine real-life problems for which engineers designed inventive (and even crazy!) solutions. This terrific introduction to some fascinating practical applications of engineering is sure to inspire the natural engineer in every child.


Astronaut-Aquanaut: How Space Science and Sea Science Interact by Jennifer Swanson (2018)

Space and the ocean. If you don’t think they go together, think again! Both deep-sea and space explorers must worry about pressure, temperature, climate, and most importantly, how to survive in a remote and hostile environment. Readers will take an amazing journey up in space with astronauts and dive deep down in the ocean with aquanauts to explore the far-off places of our planet and the solar system.


STEAM books show the world around us!

Back from the Brink: Saving Animals from Extinction by Nancy Castaldo (2018)

This book shows actual steps that are being taken to bring certain species back from the edge of extinction. An important and powerful book about the choices humans make and how it affects the animals on our planet. This rich, informational book has a hopeful tone: all these animals’ numbers are now on the rise. A great way for kids to understand what they can do to help the world.


Forest World by Margarita Engle (2017)

From award-winning author Margarita Engle comes an amazing novel in verse that tells the story of a Cuban-American boy who visits his family’s village in Cuba for the first time—and meets a sister he didn’t know he had. This book expertly weaves Engle’s immense knowledge of science with a beautiful story of family loss, and ultimately determination and friendship. It is a must read!



And of course, STEAM books are inspiring!

Chasing Space  by Leland Melvin (2017)

In this inspiring memoir, adapted from the simultaneous version for adults, young readers will get to learn about Leland Melvin’s remarkable life story, from being drafted by the Detroit Lions to bravely orbiting our planet in the International Space Station to writing songs with will.i.am, working with Serena Williams, and starring in top-rated television shows like The Dog Whisperer, Top Chef, and Child Genius.

Leland’s exciting and motivational story will definitely encourage the next generation of can-do scientists to dare to follow their dreams.


Hidden Figures Young Readers’ Edition by Margot Lee Shetterly

This amazing book brings to life the stories of Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden, who lived through the Civil Rights era, the Space Race, the Cold War, and the movement for gender equality, and whose work forever changed the face of NASA and the country.

One of my favorite STEAM books of all time.


Have fun STEAMing UP your classroom!


Jennifer Swanson is the author of over 30 nonfiction books for kids, mostly about science. She is also the creator of the STEM Tuesday blog (www.STEMTuesday.com)  which highlights middle grade STEAM books. You can find her at www.JenniferSwansonBooks.com