Best Books for Kids

Beautiful Science Books for 4-8 Year Olds

recommended by Our Children's Editor

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Scientific picture books provide an enjoyable way for kids to explore different fields of science without realising how much they are learning. Our Children’s Editor picks science books for kids age 4-8 that are informative but also a pleasure to look at, both for children and for the adults that are reading with them.

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A Seed Is Sleepy

A Seed Is Sleepy is an award-winning picture book (32 pages) about botanical science for children age 4-6. It is part of the beautiful Nature Books series by Dianna Hutts Aston and Sylvia Long. Other titles are: An Egg Is Quiet, A Rock Is Lively, A Nest Is Noisy, A Butterfly is Patient, A Beetle Is Shy, and A Shell Is Cozy. Together, these books give children an idea of the complexity and beauty of the natural world, and a sense of how much there is still to discover.

A Seed Is Sleepy celebrates the incredible variety of seeds, and introduces facts about plants such as how they make their food through photosynthesis. We encounter the Texas mountain laurel which might wait ten years to bloom; the redwood – the world’s tallest tree – which can grow from a seed the size of a freckle; and the dandelion whose fine hairs can take its seed 160 kilometres from the parent plant. The ink and watercolour illustrations are detailed and attractive, and the book is well tailored to 4-6 year olds by being both simple and very informative.

How Colour Works

How Colour Works is a vibrant picture book (32 pages) about the science of colour, written by Catherine Barr. The bright, splashy pictures with simple shapes and animals are by Yulia Gwilym, an award-winning illustrator originally from Ukraine. Readers learn about light waves, pigment, how the eyes of humans and different animals work, blue light, sunlight, camouflage and much else besides. The book comes with a useful glossary at the end.

Bright in the Night

Bright in the Night is a 48-page scientific picture book by award-winning Swedish author and illustrator Lena Sjöberg. It has double-page spreads on different topics, mostly about nocturnal animals in various habitats but also other themes such as fluorescent mushrooms and city lights. This is an effortless way for children to be introduced to concepts such as bioluminescence and biofluorescence. With a broad range of topics tied by a common theme, most children age 4-8 will find something of interest in this beautiful information book.

The Big Book of Bugs

The Big Book of Bugs is the first in Yuval Zommer’s award-winning Big Book series, which seamlessly combines engaging and beautiful illustrations with interesting facts. Readers learn that bugs live nearly everywhere on our planet (including in our homes), and are introduced to key groups of creepy-crawlies such as beetles, moths, butterflies, bees, snails, crickets, grasshoppers, worms and spiders.

Other titles in this series include The Big Book of Beasts about wild animals, The Big Book of the Blue about life in the ocean, The Big Book of Birds, and The Big Book of Blooms about flowering plants. There is also a sticker book spin-off series. Longer than a normal picture book (64 pages) and in a large format, The Big Book of Bugs and other titles in this natural science book series are probably best suited for children age 5-8.

Creatures of the Deep: The Pop-Up Book

Creatures of the Deep is a fabulous wordless pop-up book, not a traditional story or science book, or particularly a book for kids. As there is no text, children can enjoy it as soon as they are able to turn the pages without breaking the elaborate three-dimensional paper engineering created by Maike Biederstädt.

Creatures of the Deep is based on underwater illustrations from Ernst Haeckel’s Art Forms in Nature (Kunstformen der Natur) prints originally published between 1899 and 1904. It is an amazing work of art that instils a feeling of wonder about the underwater world. Although there are only seven pop-ups readers get a sense of the incredible variety of the flora and fauna there.

Haeckel is known for his use of vivid colours, exceptional detail and fascination with mathematically-based patterns in nature. In addition to being an inspiration to budding marine biologists, this book can provide a handy new approach if you want to talk about geometry with children who think they don’t like maths.

What else?

For readers who are interested less in the artwork itself and more in scientific content with illustrative art, Gut Garden: A Journey into the Wonderful World of Your Microbiome is an excellent science book in a fast-moving field, probably best suited for kids age 6-9. Gut Garden explains about different types of microbiomes, digestion and the immune system. This title has won a teachers’ book award and was shortlisted for the 2020 Royal Society Young People’s Book Prize.

I am a book. I am a portal to the universe. is a brilliant, interactive book which won the 2021 Royal Society Young People’s Book Prize. It is less about art than design; the artist describes herself as a designer and artist who uses data as a creative material, while the author is a data journalist who explores ways of communicating data. In our interview with Katharine Cashman, Chair of the judging panel, she describes it as “a true and very creative art and science fusion”. This book appeals to quite a wide age range, with shapes and colours to visualise information and more detailed information towards the end of the book.

Staying with this fun and prestigious prize, a different title by Catherine Barr was shortlisted for the 2022 Royal Society Young People’s Book Prize. It is called Fourteen Wolves, with gorgeous mixed media pictures by award-winning artist Jenni Desmond, who has illustrated a number of children’s books featuring animals in the wild. Fourteen Wolves is about the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone National Park in the 1990s, enabling children to understand the interconnectedness of ecosystems and the role of predators in keeping them stable.

The Pebble in My Pocket by Meredith Hooper, illustrated by Chris Coady, looks like a traditional picture book but it is relatively text-heavy and probably best suited for children age 5-8. Written by a historian using the trope of a single pebble through time, it is packed with information about natural history. It is perfect for kids who are not attracted to textbook-style reading and who would rather absorb learning through stories filled with illustration.

It is also worth mentioning a couple of excellent science books for 4-8 year olds that have made it onto our Best Books of the Year list for kids in recent years:

Nano: The Spectacular Science of the Very (Very) Small, a 32 page picture book written by Dr. Jess Wade, Research Fellow at Imperial College in London, where she investigates spin selective charge transport through chiral systems in the Department of Materials. This is an award-winning book illustrated by Melissa Castrillón.

Above and Below: Sea and Shore, by Harriet Evans and award-winning illustrator Hannah Bailey, is part of a series for children age approximately 5-9. Books in the Above and Below series are only 22 pages long, but the pages are split with a flap on each two-page spread, making them packed with bite-sized information.

Finally, two beautiful, large format scientific picture books for slightly older children (6 years and up) are well worth seeking out. Both illustrated by Spanish artists, they encourage young readers to observe nature and understand the interconnectedness of the natural world:

The Secret Life of Butterflies by Roger Vila (Head of the Butterfly Diversity and Evolution Lab at the Institute of Evolutionary Biology in Barcelona), illustrated by Rena Ortega and

What a Shell Can Tell by Helen Scales (PhD in marine biology from the University of Cambridge, UK), illustrated by Sonia Pulido.

May 30, 2023

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Our Children's Editor

Our Children's Editor

Our children's editor, Tuva Kahrs, is in charge of book recommendations for kids on Five Books. As well as interviews with authors and experts, she carefully picks the best books of the year to bring you the very best books for kids of all ages as they are published. Here are her recommendations of the best kids' books of 2023 and the best teen books of 2023.

Our Children's Editor

Our Children's Editor

Our children's editor, Tuva Kahrs, is in charge of book recommendations for kids on Five Books. As well as interviews with authors and experts, she carefully picks the best books of the year to bring you the very best books for kids of all ages as they are published. Here are her recommendations of the best kids' books of 2023 and the best teen books of 2023.