Modern science books for children almost invariably are full of pictures, captions, insets, charts, tables and facts, but appear to be intended to be browsed rather than read. In our grandparents' age, however, it was thought that simply reading a fascinating explanation of what causes an earthquake, how an icicle forms, or how a rose blooms would be of great interest to children, and the genre of narrative science, was a popular one. The Baldwin Project currently offers three of the most popular narrative science books of yesteryear. While each of these books has wonderful illustrations, the main attraction is their excellent description of a wide variety of scientific phenomena, all directed at grammar school and junior high school age children.
Arabella Buckley's The Fairy-Land of Science explains such topics as light, the water cycle, and the nature of gases, by describing "sunbeams," a "drop of water on its travels", and "the aerial ocean in which we live." Other topics presented are the great sculptors—water and ice, the way sound works, the life cycle of plants, bees, and the formation of fossil fuels. (234 pages, ages 10-13)
The Story Book of Science, by Jean Henri Fabre, relates the story of three children who ask their Uncle Paul to tell them "true stories." A keen observer of nature, Uncle Paul tells them fascinating stories of the world around them. Starting with observations of an insect colony, he explains many of the phenomena of science and nature including trees, various farm animals and plants, paper and printing, the making of silk, storms, the ocean, day and night, mushrooms, pearls, electricity, and more. He guides them in designing experiments and developing measuring tools, and teaches them to make observations themselves. (432 pages, ages 9-12)
In Madam How and Lady Why Charles Kingsley encourages children to read the landscape. Through a journey in his native England he covers such topics in detail as earthquakes and volcanoes, the creation of soil and sand from rocks and minerals, the ice age, and the coral reef. He also discusses the mysteries of prehistoric life, and explains, in general, such scientific concepts as analysis, synthesis, theory, and experimentation. (295 pages, ages 10-14)
All three of these wonderful books are available for purchase in quality paperback editions from Yesterday's Classics.