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A Closer Look at Things that Float and Things that Don't
Welcome to the SB&F Editor's Blog. I am Maria Sosa, Editor-in-Chief of SB&F. Through this blog I hope to interact with the SB&F community and post news and information related to science books, videos, authors, opportunities and other topics of interest to our readers. I hope you find the blog useful and entertaining. Please, join the conversation by posting a comment on our Facebook page. I'd love to hear from you!


This is the first in a series of posts that takes a closer look at the 2014 Finalists for the AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize.

Categories are very convenient, but they often have "permeable membranes" that make it hard to sort things into hard and fast groupings. Remember that when looking at the finalists for the 2014 SB&F Prize for Excellence in Science Books.  Things that Float and Things that Don't (Holiday House, 2013), witten by David A. Adler and illustrated by Anne Raff, is a finalist in the Children's Science Picture Book category, but it could just as easily be a candidate for the Hands-on Science Book category.

As an introduction to the concepts of density and buoyancy for young elementary students, it challenges students to see for themselves which things float and which things don't. It provides the kind of crystal clear, child-friendly text and adorable, eye-catching illustrations that characterize the best children's picture books.

This book meshes perfectly with the Next Generation Science Standard's emphasis on learning that focuses on science and engineering practices. Does a lump of clay float? How can you make it float? Is the density of ice the same as the density of water? Why do ice and icebergs float? These are some of the questions it poses that youngsters can find answers to using simple materials.

Early in the book Adler defines density as weight relative to size, which is important for students to grasp at this age as young children may wrongly believe that density only has to do with weight. In the very first page this misconception Adler challenges this misconception by pointing out that if a passenger on a large boat threw a small pebble into the water, the pebble would sink while the much heavier boat would stay afloat!

Adler is very adept at describing mathematical concepts in words, and Raff's drawings cleverly reinforce the text. For example, he describes a cubic foot of water as "enough water to fill a box one foot high, one foot wide, and one foot deep" and states that it would weigh "a bit more than sixty two pounds." An accompanying illustration helps students visualize this definition by picturing a fish tank, clearly marked with these dimensions and placed on a digital scale that shows its weight to be 62 pounds.

Things that Float and Things that Don't would be a perfect complement to classroom lessons such as Science NetLink's Sink or Float lesson. It could also be used by parents to involve children in science inquiry around the house. (Even though Adler advises students to use "things that won't be damaged by water" to satisfy their curiosity about which things float and which don't, it would be a good idea to have kids run their list of potential items past a responsible adult, just in case.)

This book could also be used to support the Common Core Math Standards that focus on measurement skills, interpretation of data, and incorporation of key ideas and details in the text. In English language arts it could be used in a variety of ways, from building the foundations of technical vocabulary to making meaning and building inferences from text. The well-designed illustrations can be quite useful in helping to develop skill in explaining how specific images contribute to and clarify a text.

So is it a math book or a science book? Is it a picture book or a hands-on science book? You can decide for yourself, but I would argue that ultimately it doesn't matter. It's a darned good book for kids on a fundamental science concept that they should all understand!

Links for More Information:

David Adler's webpage

A video interview with David Adler

Anna Raff's trailer

Anna Raff's website

Anna Raff's blog


The AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize for Excellence in Science Books is sponsored by Subaru.

Posted 12 Nov 2013 11:13 AM by Maria Sosa