2020 STEM Book Roundup

Written & Illustrated by: 

See Individual Reviews Below

For ages: Elementary & MG

Language: English

Topics Covered:

  • Historical Figures
  • Women in STEM
  • Activism
  • Environmental Activism
  • Trailblazers

Since the end of this…eventful…year is upon us, I decided to make a roundup of some of my favorite books that came out this year in the STEM/Environmental category for books. Please enjoy this roundup, as well as the collection of strange anecdotes about my own life that I chose to share with you all. If they’re in any way at all relatable to you, comment below so I don’t feel so precocious and alone. Happy reading!

Plasticus Maritimus: An Invasive Species

By: Ana Pêgo and Isabel Minhós Martins

Illustrated by: Bernardo P. Carvalho

Translated by: Jane Springer

Marine Biologist Ana Pêgo got the inspiration for this book after noticing how much plastic had started to appear on the beach near her childhood home in Portugal. She gives ocean plastic its own scientific name as a tongue in cheek way to address the epidemic. The authors break down (unlike plastic, haha) how plastic is formed, how it ends up in oceans, and the critical work that is needed in order to rectify the issue.

We’ve all read books and learned about recycling. I like the way Plasticus Maritimus speaks directly to the reader in the first person and implores them to understand the implications of some parts of our lifestyle. I do think the need for some disposable items (like pre-peeled fruit or straws) for disabled citizens should have been discussed briefly, and the need to switch to compostable plastics for these items. I really like the illustrations in this book, they get across the seriousness of the plastic pollution issue without having graphic photographs of injured animals. There are some real photographs that showcase different litter that was found, and it’s treated like field research artifacts. There are also tips about collecting your own artifacts and litter of plasticus maritimus, and ideas for responding to naysayers and climate change deniers. One part of the book I also really found fascinating was famous cargo ship disasters and the things they released into the ocean, like Kinder Eggs and rubber ducks!

This book was kindly sent by Greystone Kids, but all opinions are my own!


Curated by: Katy Wiedemann (illustrations) & Jennifer Z. Paxton (words)

I feel like the more I talk about the bookish child I was, the less you fine folx will be surprised that I was a Surgery Channel kid. I’m also obsessed with scientific illustrations, and am a huge fan of this entire Welcome to the Museum series (I’ve reviewed Botanicum before as well)! I love all of these detailed illustrations and the oversized volume that Anatomicum is fits the bill for something I would absolutely leave on a coffee table or a shelf where I can pull it down, flip through and learn something about gall bladders or the peripheral nervous system.

Something I also appreciate is that several skin tones are represented. I know you’ve all seen old (re: Eurocentric and racist) illustrations in old textbooks that only have white cadavers. This one isn’t entirely white, and the anatomical illustrations are absolutely gorgeous. If you’re the type of person to find a cutaway diagram of the nose and tongue inside a skull beautiful (which I obviously am, always have been, always will be) this is a book that I would easily have prints framed and put on my walls.

This book was generously sent by Candlewick Press, and all those opinions are cooked up by me, professional thinker about books. Once Lee and I went on a quest to 4 Target’s for a life-size skeleton to keep in our car’s (her name is Bertie) backseat, so I feel like that anecdote helps you understand my love for biology.

Ocean Anatomy: The Curious Pieces & Parts of the World Under the Sea

Written by: Julia Rothman with John Niekrasz

Illustrated by: Julia Rothman

I really love this book and immediately upon receiving it I dove in. I think it pairs nicely with Plasticus Maritimus in that it discusses the ocean (obviously) and some threats to its health, but also focuses primarily on the different marine life that one can find and has lovely illustrations.

My first aspirational career as a child was a marine biologist, and this is definitely book that I would have pored over for hours while in a treehouse or the woods. Like the cover suggests, there are detailed anatomy illustrations of different species as well as diagrams on what lives at different oceanic levels. I’m enamored with the sections on sharks, rays, jellyfish, and cephalopods (I’ve been known to give spontaneous lessons about chromatophores at my local aquarium, and this is 100% as dorky as it sounds). Now might be the time to mention that I have a half sleeve tattoo of ocean animals…so really, how could I not love this book? The chapter setup is a way that I love in reference books. They can be read all together or flipped to a certain one to learn all about nautical flags, seals, or nudibranchs. If you thought there was only one kind of shrimp, you are quite wrong my friend! My personal favorite is the pistol shrimp, but you’ll have to check out this book to learn why!

This book was kindly sent by Storey Publishing as a submission for the #bookstagang_bestof2020 list, however all opinions are still mine mine all mine.

Animals Mate: A Book About Where Babies Come From

Written & Illustrated by: Emily Farranto

Let’s begin this review with a story from when I ran a summer day program. I was supervising children and staff members on a visit to the zoo, and upon reaching the bear exhibit, it was quite obvious that the bears were engaging in some afternoon delight. Stricken with the fear of having to explain mating to 65 children in the blazing July heat in front of the event itself, we called it “wrestling” and moved onto another less exciting habitat. Animals Mate would have come in handy that day, and I’m glad it’s here now!

This book focuses on the animal kingdom with only the briefest of mentioning humans. I like this feature of the book because the language used to describe animal mating is heteronormative and binary reinforcing, which makes complete sense when talking about scientific animal reproduction. It’s not meant as a book about the human “birds and bees” talk, it’s meant to open the door to talk about wild animals and teach the beginning bits of knowledge needed for more in-depth conversations down the road, especially where human gender diversity comes into play.

Animals Mate teaches readers about the biological necessity of adult animals mating and how babies are formed. It also gives a few specific examples like koalas, and that animal instincts kick in when it’s time for them to mate. The book walks a nice line of educational and bridging the gap for those awkward conversations that kids always ask. In the back is a note from creator Emily Farranto where she talks more about how the book came out of questions from her son, and how she went about ensuring open lines of communication and honesty for many years to come.

This book was kindly sent by Familius as a submission for the #bookstagang_bestof2020 and opinions are very much my own.

Sound: Shhh…Bang…POP…BOOM!

Written by: Romana Romanyshyn

Illustrated by: Andriy Lesiv

Translated by: Vitaly Chernetsky

This book is quirky in every definition of the word and I love it. It has the funky illustration style that I dig oh so much and while I’m normally more of a jewel-toned gal, I’m a big fan of these neon colors with metallic silver details. Aesthetics aside, the contents of the text is also really awesome!

The text itself is sparse and creatively placed on the pages, making it a fun journey throughout the book while reading. The book even incorporates the endpapers, which I think is such a unique and cool idea! Sound incorporates just that…all things sound and silence! The little fragments of information spread over the pages made me want to seek out the teeny letters, turn the book around, and flip back and forth between pages to draw parallels and revisit different aspects of the soundiverse…(it’s totally a word).

This book was kindly sent by Chronicle Kids as part of a wonderful suprise box of books! It also happened to be a submission for the #bookstagang_bestof2020 list, but you guess it: all these words that form my reviews are bespoke and braincrafted by yours truly.

50 Maps of the World

Written & Researched by: Kalya Ryan and Ben Handicott

Illustrated by: Sol Linero

Humans, I love a good infographic book. I want to pick up a giant book, flip to a random page, and learn trivia facts. I want maps, notable moments in that country’s history, and fun illustrations to transport me on a mini vacation across the globe.

There’s an excellent index in the back, and if I was still in the classroom this would have already been taped back together again several times over. I love visual mediums like this, that bring these maps to life for the reader. The key facts box is really cool too, and I enjoyed learning the different names for currency in each country and fun tidbits like official bird and flower. At this point, my list of coffee table books could probably make their own coffee table, but I love the way 50 Maps of the World engages readers and then teaches them ultra-cool stuff about people we don’t always get a chance to meet in day to day life!

This book was kindly sent by Quarto, and if you’ve gotten this far into my roundup, you’ll know that all these thinky-thoughts are solely my own.

The Language of the Universe: A Visual Exploration of Mathematics

Written by: Colin Stuart

Illustrated by: Ximo Abadia

I am not a math person. I’m a “took remedial math several times to graduate” person. Science? Yes. Biology? Yes. Math? No thank you, next please…The Language of the Universe book? Possibly the easiest time I’ve ever had learning about math (yes I know it’s for children, the point very much still stands).

First off, this giant book is very visually appealing and the illustrations are in the graphic style that I just can’t get enough of. All of the infographics help break up what are so often in textbooks giant blocks of text, and help to illustrate the specific points being made. The book itself is broken into four sections: math in the natural world, space, technology, and physics, chemistry and engineering. There are all sorts of humorous bits stuck into the illustrations like a vampire to illustrate half-lives, or a captain floating in the water after his boat was packed with too much cargo.

I think the main aspect that I like about this is that it makes mathematics engaging and approachable to learn about. It makes comparisons to things we’ve done (like pack a suitcase) to help explain what makes bees such engineering geniuses. I don’t think I’ve ever been excited to read about math before, and I keep coming back to this book!

This book was generously sent by Candlewick Press, and all those opinions up there about it are IP of myself, especially all the anecdotes.


If any of these books struck your fancy and you need them in your collection, please consider purchasing from our Bookshop, from which we make a small commission that goes towards website costs. The books in this roundup have all been added to my Pint-Sized Professor (Nature/STEM) booklist!