Children are natural scientists – their budding minds brim with questions, and they're prone to experimentation, poking and prodding the world around them to see what happens. Just watching a baby push toys off the edge of a high chair can be an inspiring experience, because you can see the way repetition allows the child to formulate theories about cause (push block!) and effect (block falls!).
We love to see books that encourage children's innate enthusiasm for exploration and demonstrate that science is for everyone. For instance, Six Dots: A Story of Young Louis Braille, by Jen Bryant and Boris Kulikov, depicts the why and how of a young inventor at work; for younger readers, Gus's Garage, by Leo Timmers, promotes tinkering and the do-it-yourself ethos that drives the development of scientific tools from telescopes to microarrays. The Watcher: Jane Goodall's Life with the Chimps, by Jeanette Winter, lets children know that skills they already have – the enthusiasm to sit and watch ants or potato bugs skitter in the dirt – are the foundation of scientific research. These books beautifully convey the practice of science to young readers (and their families!).
Contemporary scientific exploration also builds upon the expertise of those who have come before us. Which, again, is something most children intuitively understand: inundate your parents with questions until you reach the limits of their understanding, then investigate further yourself. So our family is thrilled when we find books that can repackage the current state of the art in a format accessible to even the youngest readers. Baby Loves Green Energy!, by Ruth Spiro, is an accurate, endearing board book; Grandmother Fish, by Jonathan Tweet and Karen Lewis, depicts evolution through the progression of most recent common ancestors that Homo sapiens has shared with other species. We were pleased to find that Power Up comfortably straddles these categories, encouraging children's natural tendency toward exploration alongside accessible, holistic information about science and wellness.
This author-illustrator duo also created the award-winning A Hundred Billion Trillion Stars, which celebrates the power of numbers and how a sense of scale helps us understand the world. Power Up features some of that number play, but its main goal seems to be helping young readers connect their own embodied experiences – and potential for discovery – to science. When our family read Power Up at bedtime, our preschooler started piping up: “I do that!” – which we imagine to be the exact response Fishman and Greenberg hoped for.
Fishman explains in an author's note that the book's title and framing device are intended as a playful take on mass-energy equivalence, an idea that isn't explored in the text beyond Einstein's famous equation displayed prominently in a picture. Nor are the various types of energy inside a body – mass, atomic, chemical, electrovoltaic, and so on – explicitly enumerated. But the basic principle that our bodies have and need energy provides a lovely lens for Fishman to connect children with the awe-inspiring breadth of human endeavor and healthy practices for mind and body. Greenberg's illustrations follow a young person of color, her caregiver, and many other children endearingly engaged in activities both profound (building cities!) and mundane (eating broccoli!).
Biology is, in our humble opinion, a particularly beautiful science, but we'd wager that most of us who teach it are generally motivated by science's potential to inspire the next generation. As our enthralled kiddo repeated “That's just like ME” on page after page, we realized that this book has the power to do just that.