The Frog Scientist

I just got my hands on a very interesting book for the younger set: it’s aimed at kids in grades 5-8, and it’s a description of the life and work of a real live scientist, someone who does both field and lab work, and studies development and the effects of environmental toxins on reproduction. The man is Tyrone Hayes at UC Berkeley, and the book is The Frog Scientist(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll), by Pamela Turner. It’s excellent stuff — it humanizes the scientist and also does a very good job of letting kids see what scientists actually do in their research, and why they’re doing it. If you’ve got a young one who’s thinking about being a scientist when she or he grows up, you might want to grab this book as a little inspiring incentive.

Plus it has lots of fabulous photos of frogs. You can’t go wrong.

One other thing: the School Library Journal is having a battle of the books, with a poll to bring a book up into the final round of voting. There’s a shortage of science books in the listing: there’s The Frog Scientist, and another one about Darwin, Charles and Emma, but otherwise, while the other books may be very good (I have heard good things about The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, and it’s not because it has the word “evolution” in the title), there isn’t much in the way of kid’s books on science. If you’re familiar with any of these, vote!


  1. AZ Writer (Kim Hosey) says

    Reminds me of The Tarantula Scientist, which my son absolutely loves. I love it too, come to that. When you can find them, kids’ science books are the best. I find them to be more informative than a lot of my own books sometimes, maybe because the good ones do an incredible job of starting and explaining from scratch without talking down to readers. My son has a cosmology book that explains (albeit in a simplified way) the concepts better than any text I’ve read.

    I’ll have to grab Frog Scientist now!

  2. satansparakeet says

    I think I’m going to have to stick with Tales from Outer Suburbia since it is the only one I’ve actually read, and because it is excellent.

    I think it’s a little hard to place fiction and non-fiction books in competition with each other. You have to be a really good non-fiction title to compete in that kind of playing field.

  3. obligate.scientist says

    It looks like there’s a whole Scientists in the Field series of these books, including the Tarantula Scientist mentioned above.

    Anyone else know if any of the other books in this series are that good?

  4. AZ Writer (Kim Hosey) says

    You’re right, and it’s a great series, at least as far as I can tell. We checked out The Bug Scientists a while back, and that one was good too. (We’re kind of on an arthropod kick lately.) I think they even have one about invasive species, which I think is really cool.

    Of course, now my son is going in to school (he’s in 2nd grade; he’s a few years ahead in reading) and being an insufferable know-it-all to all his classmates. I’ve never been so proud.

  5. jenbphillips says

    both my kids (now 7&9) have enjoyed reading/being read the Magic School Bus books in their slightly younger years, and both have really loved paging through the picture-heavy ‘encyclopedia’ type science volumes as well. A couple of evolution based books that we’ve had good luck with are:
    How Whales walked into the Sea by Faith McNulty
    What Mr. Darwin Saw by Mick Manning.


  6. AZ Writer (Kim Hosey) says

    For graphic goodness and easily digestible information, Animal Tracks and Signs was a hit with my son. There was another one that was almost entirely about holes and scat they leave behind that he loved, but the title escapes me.

    I agree wholeheartedly on the encyclopedia-type books. My son is in LOVE with them. We hear about them all day: “Did you know the aardwolf’s status is uncommon? Did you know armadillo lizards can roll up in a spiky ring? Guess what the aye aye’s status is. C’mon, guess. Yeah. Endangered! Let’s go save them, right now.” And so on. All thanks to animal encyclopedias. He even thumbs through my field guides constantly — I couldn’t find my birds of North America field guide to save my life; guess who had it? (Did you know the cattle egret hangs out with livestock? I do now.) Photos/pictures are great; whatever gets them into it! Also, anything arranged in either a fun narrative (like Scientists in the Field), or broken up into factoid-form. Kids eat that up.

  7. says

    I’ll second Sven’s kwokkation at #2 from a slight distance: Hayes is a great speaker, too, and knows how to put a slide-talk together. Anyone here who books speakers, keep him in mind. Accessible anddetailed.

    Ron Sullivan

  8. frank says

    I think the Scientists in the Field series is great; however, it’s highly male-dominated. There must be some women scientists who do great things. I’d start with Jill Banfield at Berkeley.

  9. Paul Burnett says

    I understand Harun Yahya’s “Atlas of Creation” is available at a greatly reduced price, with free shipping from Turkey.

  10. Brian Excarnate says

    Can anyone comment on how appropriate the content of the Scientists in the Field series is? Specifically, is it just the reading level that has The Frog Scientist at grades 3-5 (publisher) or 5-8 (School Library Journal) or 4-7 (“Ages 9-12”, Amazon)?

  11. Brian Excarnate says

    I have mixed feelings about answering my own post, however I wrote the author and she replied it was most appropriate for upper elementary and middle school students.

    Any different opinions or comments about the series in general?

  12. iHunger says

    Picked it up from the library today and my 13 year old son already read it — he said it was creepier than fiction; one chemical discussed in the book was causing a large number of frogs to be hermaphrodites in concentrations as low as one part per ten billion, but three parts per one billion was considered safe for human consumption.

  13. Lyvvie says

    Hooray! that is exactly what i need for my 10 year old who love Red eyed Tree Frogs and wants to be a Marine Biologist. Perfect! Thank you!!

    (Hope you have a wonderful time while visiting us in Melbourne!)

  14. Helvella says

    I’ll have to check that book out. I don’t pay as much attention to individual science books my kids get as I do to the novels. If the kids are interested in a particular topic we’ll check out whatever they have at the library and books store, typically they go for the DK Eye Wonder style reference books. I agree that The Magic School Books are particularly good for the younger set.

    On the topic of fiction, I’m not at all surprised to see The Hunger Games was victorious in the main battle. That book is easily one of the best works of speculative fiction I’ve read. It’s a quick read but it stays with you for a long time afterward. Excellent characters, riveting action and pacing, compelling storyline. Just be warned if you start reading it, book two is as good as book one but ends on a terrible cliff-hanger and book three, which should be the final book, isn’t due out until this summer.

  15. Ye Olde Blacksmith says

    Posted by: jenbphillips | March 9, 2010 11:32 AM

    both my kids (now 7&9) have enjoyed reading/being read the Magic School Bus books in their slightly younger years, and both have really loved paging through the picture-heavy ‘encyclopedia’ type science volumes as well. A couple of evolution based books that we’ve had good luck with are:
    How Whales walked into the Sea by Faith McNulty
    What Mr. Darwin Saw by Mick Manning.


    Oh, I totally forgot about the “Magic School Bus”! We already have a pretty good children’s encyclopedia that we love. I will definitely check out those other titles as they sound perfect.


  16. shonny says

    This was also a nature feature on TV, wasn’t it?
    Think I remember watching it on ABC or SBS in Australia.
    Fascinating program of the kind there is way too few! (Many is still too few!!)

  17. renwick says

    How about “Evolution: How We and All Living Things Came to Be” by Daniel Loxton? It just came in the mail last night and my 8 yld daughter and I are looking forward to reading it.

    Also, she and I have read the first two books in the The Prometheus Project series by Dougals E. Richards (Trapped and Captured). My daughter enjoyed them. I liked them because she had noticed that most heros in books were boys and these have a strong girl as part of the brother/sister team.

  18. Sharon Astyk says

    Let me also put in a vote for encyclopedias, particularly animal ones. We have no fewer than seven, and two more out from the library, and my kids’ narratives are just like #10’s. This morning my six year old informed me that a sloth’s wild diet is somewhat different than the diet of Matilda, the sloth at the Central Park Zoo, (which consists, I am told, of yams, spinach and celery, which my children call “sloth salad”), and asked how zookeepers adapt diets. Which is sending us back to the library.

    Other kids science series worth having – my son Simon loved the graphic Max Axiom series – a cartoon scientist/hero who does a good job explaining evolution, photosynthesis, energy, the scientific method, etc… They are well done, and if the level is a bit above my 8 year old at the moment, he’s getting increasingly close. There’s a similar series on archaeology, with the heroine Isabel Soto – and nicely, both she and Axiom are not white.

    My four year old loves magic school bus as well. In the four to six stage, we’re also fond of Bobbie Kalman’s environmental series – including ones on soil biology, agriculture, etc…

    There are a lot of other individual good ones as well.


  19. says

    When I was in (I thing) the forth grade, I read a book called ‘The Earth for Sam.’ About Earth history and paleontology. I loved it. Don’t know if there has been an up dated version but there should be.