It’s unlikely to have escaped the notice of the Irish populous and diaspora that this Friday is the greatest annual extravaganza of all time – The Late Late Toy Show.
Beaming to screens around Ireland since 1975 (and live streaming to screens around the world since 2009), The Toy Show is a family tradition, chock-full of firm favourites. For us at Siliconrepublic.com, one of those favourites gives us a look at some of the best kids books on shelves.
And so, knowing that The Toy Show is imminent, and anticipating our time in book corner, we’ve put together a list of delightful and fun books for budding STEM aficionados.
For makers and doers
The Icky Sticky Science Activity Book – Deborah Patterson and Graham Smith
Anyone who’s ever been to the Science Museum, London, knows that it’s quite probably the coolest place on earth, with exhibits dedicated to space travel, communication, machines, flight, and so much more.
Aimed at budding young Einsteins and Edisons, The Icky Sticky Science Activity Book brings the best of the Museum’s sense of curiosity, wonder and exploration into your own home, chock-full of experiments, explanations, puzzles, quizzes, doodles and games to entertain even the most demanding of attention spans.
This is great not just for kids who want to learn, but those who want to get a little bit messy while they do, with guides for fizzy fountains, gunge and other activities that require an acceptance of chaos. Hours – even days – of entertainment.
A must-read for: Kids who want to get their hands dirty.
100 Science Experiments – Georgina Andrews
Children are natural explorers and naturally curious, so, if they are to one day become flourishing researchers in a scientific field, then they need to be captivated by seeing science in the flesh.
Offering one hell of a starting point for parents hoping to show their kids some really cool and simple examples of science in action is Georgina Andrews’ 100 Science Experiments.
The familiar classics will all be there – like the baking soda volcano – but some other cool ideas include building your own compass to learn about the Earth’s magnetism, or delving into meteorology by creating your own weather vane.
A must-read for: Inquisitive minds.
Lego Awesome Ideas
‘What will you build?’ asks the cover of Lego Awesome Ideas and, indeed, starting from scratch with a bucket of coloured bricks can be a bit intimidating sometimes. So, to get the creative juices going, a flick through this guide is worth a gamble. By the end of it you may just be crowned a Master Builder!
Broken down into themes, Lego-lovers can find out how to build whole scenes from the Wild West to outerspace – and other worlds familiar to any fan of The Lego Movie.
Brick by brick, this companion book will help kids (and grown-ups) to build and transform their models, inspiring them to keep on creating.
A must-read for: Aspiring Master Builders of all ages!
My Crazy Inventions Sketchbook – Lisa Regan
The My Crazy Inventions Sketchbook offers kids the best of both worlds – a collection of real-life, weird and wacky inventions and the room to design their own.
Illustrator Andrew Rae’s drawings capture the fascinating world of crazy inventions, from dog umbrellas to shark-shaped submarines. Readers are prompted to allow inspiration to strike, with ample space left for kids to draw their own madcap designs.
And, as an extra added bonus, the book comes with a patent certificate (veracity unconfirmed) to make it all legit and above board.
A must-read for: The kid who starts every sentence with ‘What if there was…’
50 Science Things to Make and Do – Georgina Andrews and Kate Knighton
The perfect book for when you want to get your kids away from the TV or computer screen for a while.
50 Science Things to Make and Do contains 50 stimulating activities, including making your own foaming monsters, creating hanging crystals, building kaleidoscopes and more. It offers a fresh approach to the practical world of science, combining creative craft activities with the basics of physics, chemistry and biology. Each activity is accompanied by step-by-step instructions to make life as easy as possible for parents.
These sound like some pretty old-school experiments that us adults might also have tried when we were younger, so it’s nice to see some things don’t change.
A must-read for: Children (of any age) who need to get away from the TV screen.
Scratch and Sketch Robots
The easiest way into a child’s heart is through robots. Okay, so maybe that’s not a fact, but they’re definitely a winner with many kids out there.
So why not buy a book about robots, where the child scratches away the white outlines of robots to bring each amazing automaton to life in swirling colours or shiny foil?
Describing itself as a world of techno friends, the Scratch and Sketch robots are a fun bunch who get up to all sorts, like being a DJ, time travelling, exploring the sea floor and telling jokes.
A must-read for: Young tech-loving artists.
Hello Ruby – Linda Liukas
Hello Ruby is a story and workbook that will help introduce young minds to computational thinking. It was written and illustrated by Finland’s digital champion, Linda Liukas, the co-founder of Rails Girls and a former employee of Codecademy, which is a great place to start for anyone learning to code.
Young readers will enjoy following cheeky, inventive Ruby and her pals, the penguins, foxes, robots, Snow Leopard and Django on a treasure hunt. Meanwhile, adults reading along will also find this a soft and welcoming introduction into the fundamental concepts of programming.
Your child doesn’t even need a computer to complete the activities associated with each chapter of the book, as it’s all about learning how to think like a computer, with fun games and printable resources from the Hello Ruby website.
Nail these basics, and your kids will be skipping off to CoderDojo without a bother.
A must-read for: Those taking their first steps (in coding). Accompanied reading for five-to-seven-year-olds.
Coding for Beginners: Using Scratch – Jonathan Melmoth, Rosie Dickins, Louie Stowell
Coding is going to be an essential skill for people in the future, of that there is little doubt. In a study earlier this year, more than half of people surveyed said they believe coding should be introduced to the school curriculum at both primary and secondary level.
So, a book like Coding for Beginners is an ideal introduction to what will be a very important subject for the kids of today.
Aimed at complete beginners, this accessible book will teach children the basics of Scratch, allowing them to get inside the code of their computer and create simple games and animations on screen.
A must-read for: Any kid who has ever expressed an interest in CoderDojo. Ideal for eight-year-olds, according to one Amazon reviewer.
For inquiring minds
A Time Traveller’s Guide to Life, the Universe and Everything – Ian Flitcroft and Britt Spencer
In A Time Traveller’s Guide to Life, the Universe and Everything, Ian Flitcroft and Britt Spencer have explained the entire universe in a graphic novel narrated by Einstein.
The reader is invited to travel with Einstein through time and space as only he knows how and learn about difficult concepts – from relativity and black holes to basic quantum mechanics – while being thoroughly entertained.
There’s magic in the illustrations that bring these complex ideas to life, leaving an indelible imprint on the mind, which is all the better for it.
Recommended for: Science enthusiasts and the sci-curious of all ages will enjoy this book, and you can’t go wrong for kids aged 10 and up.
Professor Astro Cat’s Frontiers of Space – Dominic Walliman
They say never judge a book by its cover, but, to parse the immortal words of Captain Barbossa, that’s more of a guideline than an actual rule. Which is a relief, because if there was ever a book cover that grabbed me right from the get-go, it’s Dominic Walliman’s Professor Astro Cat’s Frontiers of Space. That title alone elicited exceptionally strong feelings of ‘I have no idea what’s happening here, but I love it’.
And, luckily, the book does not disappoint.
Professor Astro Cat is an expert on all things space, and has no qualms about imparting his wisdom on everything from stars and galaxies to gravity, planets and extraterrestrial life.
Professor Astro Cat is illustrated by award-winning Ben Newman, and the result is a colourful book that tickles the eyes as well as the mind.
A must-read for: Stargazers and universe trippers – the kids whose eyes are forever tilted to the heavens.
See Inside series – various authors
The See Inside series from Usborne is a collection of lift-the-flap books that offer children a glimpse inside some of the world’s most exciting buildings, countries and historical events.
The series also looks at a number of STEM-centric areas, including maths, science, how things work, inventions, space, the universe and the very planet we live on.
Clever illustrations and accessible language make these a joy to read for kids who want to know everything about everything.
A must-read for: Kids who always want to know more.
Welcome to Your Awesome Robot – Viviane Schwarz
Following the story of a little girl, her mother and a robot, this part-comic, part-instruction manual is a great way of promoting engineering to your kids. Or promoting robotics, which is even cooler.
The layout of Welcome to Your Awesome Robot is clever, and the book throws up ideas for some very accessible creations, which kids will be eager to make.
A must-read for: Kids who are fascinated by how things work, and are dying to try build something themselves.
Look Inside: Your Body – Louie Stowell
Look Inside: Your Body is a nice pull-out book to teach kids how their bodies work.
Going into the digestive system, for example, the entire thing opens into one large map of the body, with loads of layers and flaps revealing more and more information about how we process our food. Other sections deal with how we breathe and even how our brains work.
A must-read for: Curious minds and lovers of the interrogative ‘Why?’
You Are Stardust – Elin Kelsey
You know you’re on to a winner when the title of your book is inspired by one of the great science communicators of the 20th century, Carl Sagan.
Taking the styling of his famous Pale Blue Dot monologue, Elin Kelsey and South Korean artist Soyeon Kim have created a simply stunning book that helps teach kids the irreplaceable connection they unknowingly have with everything in the universe.
From the pollen they breathe in to the water they drink, the complexity of the universe is explained by Kelsey and Kim through the stunning illustrations and poems of You Are Stardust.
A must-have for: Budding astronomers, biologists and alien hunters.
Rosie Revere, Engineer – Andrea Beaty
Rosie Revere, Engineer is a rhyming book about a schoolgirl who wants to be an engineer. Rosie is an inventor until, one day, she gets mocked about it. Then, after disappearing into her shell, her aunt turns up to help Rosie build an airplane.
The story is simple, but it’s executed very creatively. In one nice touch, the opening pages are printed on mathematical paper, with those instantly-recognisable-from-childhood grids popping up throughout.
A must-read for: Any aspiring STEM enthusiast in need of a little encouragement.
Thanks to the team at Gobblefunked for so many of the fantastic suggestions on this list.
Main image via Shutterstock