Who hasn’t turned to David Macaulay’s original The Way Things Work (1988) or The New Way Things Work (1998) to understand how something works by seeing it explained using illustrations, instead of just text? His books are standard reference sources in many libraries where I’ve worked. I’m really happy to know that an even newer revised and updated edition called The Way Things Work Now will be published in October 2016.
I’m a visual learner and it really helps to see how something works with images, as opposed to just with text. Many teens learn visually as well. Science concepts that are hard to imagine are much easier for teens (and adults) to grasp if we can visualize them. So much of what we are familiar with can be explained using science. Kids on a playground may not realize that everything they’re playing on uses physics: a swing is a pendulum, a see-saw is a basic lever and a slide is friction and gravity.
To accompany some of the other recent posts relating to science books for teens, here are just a few graphic novels where science is made more fun, interactive and understandable for teens in a graphic novel format. The books listed range from middle grade books with appeal to older readers, to those published for adults with teen appeal.
In 2016, First Second will begin publishing its Science Comics series. Coral Reefs written and illustrated by Maris Wicks and Dinosaurs by MK Reed and Joe Flood are both being published May, 2016. Volcanoes, written and illustrated by Jon Chad will be published in October 2016. (all Gr. 4 & up)
Every volume of Science Comics offers a complete introduction to a particular topic. Coral Reefs examines the biology of coral reefs as well as their ecological importance using Wicks’ signature appealing and accurate illustrations.
Human Body Theater: A Nonfiction Revue written and illustrated by Maris Wicks. (2015) (Gr 4-8)
A talking skeleton tells all about the human body as part of its “all- singing, all-dancing” stage show. The skeleton entertainingly but accurately explains how each body system works, what can go wrong with it, and how to care for it. Lots of humor is reflected in Wicks’ colorful and detailed illustrations. (2016 Great Graphic Novels for Teens)
Jay Hosler’s The Last of the Sandwalkers (2015) written and illustrated by the author. (Gr. 5 & up)
In this fun and informative graphic novel, Lucy is a tiny field scientist who is also a beetle. She lives in a beetle civilization where beetles write books, run restaurants, and even do scientific research. But, the powerful elders don’t want too much research to be done because they guard a terrible secret about the world outside the shadow of the palm tree. Lucy defies them to lead a team of researchers into the desert to discover more of the wider world…but what lies in wait for them is going to change everything Lucy thought she knew.
Howtoons: Tools of Mass Construction by Dr. Saul Griffith, illustrated by Nick Dragotta (2015) (Gr. 4-8)
This 360 page part graphic novel, part instruction manual, features siblings Tuck and Celine who are urged to make something out of household treasures to keep them out of trouble. Howtoons was originally created by scientists Saul Griffith, Joost Bonsen and artist Nick Dragotta from MIT. Just a few of the science projects here include ice cream in a bag, an electric motor, bugeye lens, an underwater scope, a terrarium, a mini-submarine, spring-loaded chopsticks, pneumatic muscles, and rockets.
Howtoons: [Re]ignition by Fred Van Lente, illustrated by Tom Fowler. (2015) (Gr. 4 – 8)
Part graphic novel story, part science/energy instruction manual and energy history lesson, in which siblings Celine and Tuck and their parents are in suspended animation riding out an energy crisis. When the kids wake up, and find their parents gone, they must try to find them. As they cross a strange new world, they have to rely on their science knowledge to save them – and the world. Along the way, they learn to build such projects as a wind turbine, a solar cooker, and a go-kart.