Creating this list of science-themed early chapter books was quite an education for me! I certainly learned a few new facts along the way. If your child always has his nose in a non-fiction, fact-filled book and you're wondering how you can sneak in a little fiction, these early chapter books may be just the ticket.
Early chapter books are primarily aimed at kids ages 6 to 10. If your child has moved beyond easy readers, but isn't quite ready for middle grade novels, try one of these selections. You can always pair these books with a few titles from my math chapter book list for some good, STEM-themed reading fun. (Note: book covers and titles are affiliate links.)
Calpurnia Tate, Girl Vet (series) by Jacqueline Kelly, illustrated by Jennifer L. Meyer. This is a spin off of the excellent middle grade novel about a budding young naturalist, Calpurnia (see below). In this series, Calpurnia and her younger brother learn to take care of the local wildlife.
Zoey and Sassafras (series) by Asia Citro, illustrated by Marion Lindsay. Zoey is can-do girl scientist who learns she has a super secret skill: she can see magical creatures. Her not-so secret skill is applying the scientific method to taking care of these creatures when they are injured. This charming early chapter book series that teaches kids scientific concepts with a fantasy twist is a welcome addition to a growing body of STEM literature.
Phineas L. MacGuire . . . Erupts!: The First Experiment (From the Highly Scientific Notebooks of Phineas L. MacGuire) (series) by Frances O'Roark Dowell, illustrated by Preston McDaniels. Phineas (aka "Mac") is a fourth grader who goes through life looking at everything from a scientific angle. He observes, collects and applies data, but when he is paired with the new kid at school for a science experiment the pair have to figure out how to work together. The writing is funny and clever and kids will easily relate to the characters. The book even includes several experiments for readers to try at home.
Trouble Next Door (Carver Chronicle series) by Karen English, illustrated by Laura Freeman. This book thoughtfully presents a moral dilemma that Calvin must work through as he learns how to make the right decisions when his science fair data doesn't connect the dots in the way he wants.
Franny K. Stein, Mad Scientistby Jim Benton. Franny is a young mad scientist (yes, for real!) but I love how her problems are that of a normal kid. She just wants to fit in with the other kids at school. Since she is a scientist she makes observations about what the other kids are doing (playing with dolls, dressing "cute") and eating (squishy white bread sandwiches instead of pumpkin ravioli) and then conducts experiments to see how best she can adapt. It turns out, however, that her uniqueness is what helps her be accepted and appreciated by her classmates. This very clever series is lots of fun for both boys and girls.
Frank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor (series) by Jon Scieska, illustrated by Brian Biggs is a humorous series that is great for so-called "reluctant readers." Frank is a boy genius bent on winning a science competition with his robot inventions but his rival, T. Edison, is determined to thwart him.
The DATA set (series) by Ada Hopper, illustrated by Sam Ricks. A trio of Latino friends, each with a unique set of skills—Laura loves to tinker, Gabe knows all about animals, and Ceasar has a passion for history— solve mysteries with a distinct STEM bent. In this first book (there are four in the series) the friends' adventure begins when a local mad scientist's invention wrecks havoc on their toys. The large font, numerous illustrations and light humor makes it a great choice for early readers.
How Oliver Olson Changed the Worldby Claudia Mills, illustrated by Heather Maione. At school, Oliver is paired with the chatty Crystal to work on a diorama of the solar system. He struggles with his confidence and independence from his helicopter parents in ways third graders can understand. One of my favorite parts of this book was the way Oliver wrestles over how and why Pluto is no longer considered a planet. He ends up giving Pluto a sign reading "Let me in!" I think that must be how most parents who remember Pluto's former status feel! If your child is fascinated by Pluto, another fun read is Stink: Solar System Superhero.
Andrew Lost by J.C. Greenberg, illustrated by Mike Reed. My son loved the Andrew Lost series. Andrew and his cousin Judy are accidentally shrunk when a science experiment goes haywire. In each book their miniature size allows them to experience close up a different science theme - from the senses, to the environment, to the ocean, and so forth. There are a lot of facts in these books. A LOT. Truthfully, I didn't enjoy this series as a read aloud and there was one character that I found particularly annoying. However, I do recommend this series for kids who love non-fiction, and it's a great series to read if your kids like The Magic School Bus.
Marty McGuire Digs Worms! by Kate Messner, illustrated by Brian Floca. I love the Marty McGuire series! In the second book Marty and her classmates are inspired by a visiting environmentalist to work on earth-themed science projects. Marty decides to turn the school cafeteria garbage into compost. She applies scientific reasoning to her project but also learns to deal with disappointment when big plans go awry. Kate Messner's writing is intelligent, humorous and engaging, never dumbed down. Lots of facts are sprinkled throughout the book -- highly recommended.
Magic School Bus. (authors vary) The ubiquitous magic school bus hardly needs an introduction! Each book looks at a different subject of scientific inquiry with Ms Frizzle and her gang of school kids. Animals, bats, germs, electricity, geology, dinosaurs, ad infinitum. If there is a science subject it hasn't covered, I don't know what it is!
Violet Mackerel's Natural Habitatby Anna Bradford, illustrated by Elanna Allen. Violet spots a sparrow caught in a shopping mall, while running errands with her mother. Seeing the sparrow sparks questions in Violet's mind. What will it eat in the mall? Would it rather be outdoors? Has he always lived in the mall? Thus begins Violet's scientific inquiry into natural habitats. Her sister is creating a science project for school and Violet decides to conduct her own natural habitat observations by collecting and keeping a ladybug from the garden.
Ivy and Bean What's the Big Idea? by Annie Barrows, illustrated by Sophie Blackall. In book 7 of the very popular (and deservedly so) Ivy + Bean series, the two second grade friends attempt to come up with a science fair project that will stop global warming. After several attempts at well meaning, but rather misguided (yet hilarious) experiments, the girls' final project is brilliant in its simplicity.
Ready, Freddy! #22: Science Fair Flopby Abby Klein, illustrated by John McKinley. Most extensive early chapter book series will have at least one science-themed installment. First grader Freddy struggles with science. He comes up with a mold-growing project but his mom accidentally throws it away (understandable!) and he rushes to complete a project in time. This book is a safe choice for early chapter book readers and fans of the Ready, Freddy series.
Project Droid (series) by Nancy Krulik and Amanda Burwasser, illustrated by Mike Moran. Logan's mom is an inventor and she decides to send her lifelike robot named Java to school with her real life son. In this installment, Logan hopes that Java's computer brain will help him win the third grade science fair. Lots of humor make this a fun science themed early chapter book for kids.
More book lists to love:
- The Best and Most Inspiring STEM Books for Kids
- 55 Science Picture Books
- Science Fiction Picture Books
Inspire your kids to do their own experimenting at home:
I helped write a book! 52 STEAM projects for kids ages 4-10. Magically inventive, wild and wonderful projects with clear instructions and colorful how-to photos. BUY: eBook | Amazon Print |UK/EU customers only: eBook