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Announcing the Finalists for the 2015 AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize in the Young Adult Category
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The AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize for Excellence in Science Books celebrates outstanding science writing and illustration for children and young adults. The prizes, meant to encourage the writing and publishing of high-quality science books for all age groups, are awarded in four categories: Children’s Science Picture Books, Middle Grades Nonfiction Science Books, Young Adult Science Book and Hands-on Science/Activity Book. We are pleased to announce the Finalists for the 2015 Prize in the Young Adult category.


The books are appraised according to the following criteria:.

  • The book has the ability to engage young adult readers in science.
  • The book encourages the discussion and understanding of scientific ideas.
  • The book contains no serious errors or deficiencies in explanations of science content or processes.
  • The book has a clear purpose and is well organized.
  • In accordance with Project 2061’s Habits of Mind benchmark, the book should enable high school readers to view science and technology thoughtfully, being neither categorically antagonistic nor uncritically positive.

One book will be chosen as the winner in this category, and the author will be honored at the 2015 AAAS Annual Meeting in San Jose, CA. This year’s finalists are:

The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, by Elizabeth Kolbert. NY: Henry Holt, 2014.

Award winning journalist and author Kolbert blends field reporting with natural and intellectual history to reveal the mass extinction that is already taking place on our planet. She introduces us to a dozen species, some already gone, others facing extinction, including the Panamian golden frog, staghorn coral, the great auk, and the Sumatran rhino. Through these stories, Kolbert provides a moving account of the disappearances occurring all around us and traces the evolution of extinction as concept. For teen audiences, the book should encourage the discussion and understanding of scientific ideas through a writing style that is down-to-earth and full of explanations of even the more potentially confusing aspects of the science, such as the possible chemical reactions that lead to extinction. 

Extreme Medicine: How Exploration Transformed Medicine in the Twentieth Century, by Kevin Fong. NY: The Penguin Press, 2014.

Fong’s strong narrative voice and his belief that medical discovery is akin to extreme geographical exploration bring the reader fully into a discussion of science, medical practice, and innovation.  He offers compelling stories of doctors and patients that include just enough detail to contextualize and educate without overwhelming. His passion for his work as a doctor and his clear compassion for the ill (or harmed) shows in every case he describes. His curiosity taps the reader’s curiosity. And, more than anything else, the unanswered questions invite young readers into the challenge of charting the future path of medicine.

Shocked: Adventures in Bringing Back the Recently Dead, by David Casarett. NY: Current/Penguin Random House, 2014.

Casarett recounts his exploration of the science of resuscitation and shows how far the science has come.  His coverage of the history of resuscitation goes back to the 18th century, when early attempts at resuscitation involved public displays of barrel rolling, a form of horseback riding, and blowing tobacco smoke into the patient’s various orifices. The colorful history of resuscitation is a topic that is sure to be a fascinating one for young adult readers.  Casarett has included many first hand reports and stories that will appeal to young adult readers.  His writing style is lively and surprisingly humorous for a book on this topic.

The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons: The History of the Human Brain as Revealed by True Stories of Trauma, Madness, and Recovery, by Sam Kean. NY: Hachette/Little, Brown and Company, 2014.

Beginning in the 16th century with Henri II in France, and concluding with the 19th century life of Phineas Gage, Kean traces the history of neurosurgery through a series of biographical sketches covering individuals who have advanced our knowledge of the brain and how it works. Kean ties each to a development in neuroscience that leads to modern theories about the workings of the brain. Kean’s conversational and often humorous tone is engaging and a rebus providing an overview of each chapter asks readers to interact with the text.  Cases build one upon the other and Kean deftly draws connections between subjects and scientists across time. 

The AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize for Excellence in Science Books is sponsored by Subaru. The prizes began in 2005 when four lifetime achievement awards were given to authors of children’s science books. It honored authors whose books promoted science literacy. Today, the AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize for Excellence in Science Books continues to recognize stand-out science books.

Posted 14 Oct 2014 3:38 PM by Maria Sosa