Non-Fiction Scientists & Explorers
While fictional books can be exciting, a whole new level of adventure occurs when humans explore nature. Mr. Swingle inspires his students to learn about true adventures in his AR challenge for non-fiction novels.
Knowledge, Environmental & Anthropology
Every Bone Tells a Story: Hominin Discoveries, Deductions, and Debates
AR points: 6
Summary: Jill Rubalcaba and Peter Robertshaw recount the unearthing of four hominins--Turkana Boy, Lapedo Child, Kennewick Man, and Iceman. Each discovery leads not only to deductions that scientists made in laboratories, but also to controversial debates over the scientists' differences of opinion over how, or even if, the pieces fit together.
Learn how specialized the field of archaeology has become and how new technology can change both scientists' theories and the way we view the past.
Space: A Memoir
AR points: 12
Summary: YAAA story of the '60s and '70s as seen through the eyes of a bright and introspective girl. As the book begins, the 40-year-old author describes the family photos she has just received from her sister. From here, she takes readers back to her childhood and to her family's move to the Cape Canaveral area of Florida in 1966. The space program was in full gear and Jesse was caught up in the excitement. The space race, Vietnam, poverty, women's rights, the drug culture, Cuban refugees, civil rights, and divorce all touched Jesse's life, and she skillfully handles her evolving perceptions. At 10, she was a keen observer but did not always understand the whys of a situation. At 16, she understood her family's difficulties all too well. Her mother's sacrifices for her husband, including having to give up a job she loved because of the move, caused disappointment to turn into depression and her doctor prescribed valium just as the young people in the neighborhood began to dabble in and deal illegal drugs. Jesse's sister tried to hold the family together. It could not be done; but all was not lost. Life limped on. Kercheval's narrative style artfully takes readers through the years with Jesse, enabling them to view situations as she did as she matured. Space is a family's coming-of-age story.
AR points: 21
Summary: It was 1957, the year Sputnik raced across the Appalachian sky, and the small town of Coalwood, West Virginia, was slowly dying. Faced with an uncertain cuter, Homer HIckam nurtured a dream to sen rockets into outer space. The introspective son of the mine's superintendent and a mother determined to get him out of Coalwood forever, Homer fell in with a group of misfits who learned not only how to turn scraps of metal into sophisticated rockets but how to sustain their hope in a town that swallowed its men alive. As the boys begin to light up the tarry skies with the flaming projectiles and dreams of glory, Coalwood, and the Hickams, would never be the same. (Also, the story concludes with The Coalwood Way, RL 5.2 and 17 AR points.)
The Man Who Went to the Far Side of the Moon
AR points: 1
Summary: Do you know the story of Michael Collins, the Apollo 11 astronaut who went all the way to the moon but never walked on its surface? Instead, he orbited the moon 14 times, surrounded by 701 power switches and 20 pounds of checklists. Reminiscent of a scrapbook, this extraordinary book chronicles what Michael Collins did, saw, and thought about in space. Through fascinating facts, quotes, checklists, original drawings, and photos taken both in space and on Earth, it also tells how the astronauts prepared for their historic journey, what they brought with them, and what they left behind.
Engineering, Physics, & Chemistry
The Radioactive Boy Scout: The Frightening True Story of a Whiz Kid and His Homemade Nuclear Reactor
AR points: 11
Summary: Growing up in suburban Detroit, David Hahn was fascinated by science. While he was working on his Atomic Energy badge for the Boy Scouts, David’s obsessive attention turned to nuclear energy. Throwing caution to the wind, he plunged into a new project: building a model nuclear reactor in his backyard garden shed.
Posing as a physics professor, David solicited information on reactor design from the U.S. government and from industry experts. Following blueprints he found in an outdated physics textbook, David cobbled together a crude device that threw off toxic levels of radiation. His wholly unsupervised project finally sparked an environmental emergency that put his town’s forty thousand suburbanites at risk. The EPA ended up burying his lab at a radioactive dumpsite in Utah. This offbeat account of ambition and, ultimately, hubris has the narrative energy of a first-rate thriller.
The World of Flight
AR points: 1
Summary: Why does a wing cause lift? What makes an airship rise and fall? How is a helicopter steered? In The World of Flight, amazing technology - past and present - and the principles of flight are made accessible to young readers, with lucid text by Bill Gunston, and stunning cutaway illustrations by artists Ian Howatson and Sebastian Quigley.
Alexander Graham Bell: Giving Voice
AR points: 14
Summary: Profiles the inventor of the telephone, who was also a teacher of the deaf, co-founder of the National Geographic Society, and creator of the metal detector.
Bomb: The Race to Build--and Steal--the World's Most Dangerous Weapon
AR points: 10
Summary: In December of 1938, a chemist in a German laboratory made a shocking discovery: When placed next to radioactive material, a Uranium atom split in two. That simple discovery launched a scientific race that spanned 3 continents. In Great Britain and the United States, Soviet spies worked their way into the scientific community; in Norway, a commando force slipped behind enemy lines to attack German heavy-water manufacturing; and deep in the desert, one brilliant group of scientists was hidden away at a remote site at Los Alamos. This is the story of the plotting, the risk-taking, the deceit, and genius that created the world's most formidable weapon. This is the story of the atomic bomb.
Material Changes and Reactions
Sports Science Projects: The Physics of Balls in Motion
AR points: 3
Summary: How can sports be scientific? Author Madeline Goodstein explains in Sports Science Projects: The Physics of Balls in Motion. Baseballs, golf balls, and footballs are just some of the balls compared and examined. Why do baseballs have stitches? Why does a tennis ball have fuzz? How is a Ping-Pong ball changed if you fill its center? By experimenting with the projects, students will find out how much science governs the games they play. They will also discover they have been following the rules of science all along! This book is filled with excellent ideas for science fair projects.
Go Fly a Bike!
Life Science & Biology
Decoding Our DNA:
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
AR points: 18
Summary: Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors, yet her cells—taken without her knowledge—became one of the most important tools in medicine. The first “immortal” human cells grown in culture, they are still alive today, though she has been dead for more than sixty years. If you could pile all HeLa cells ever grown onto a scale, they’d weigh more than 50 million metric tons—as much as a hundred Empire State Buildings. HeLa cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer, viruses, and the atom bomb’s effects; helped lead to important advances like in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions.
Yet Henrietta Lacks remains virtually unknown, buried in an unmarked grave.
Charles Darwin: The Life of a Revolutionary Thinker
AR points: 6
Summary: Patent debunks several commonly held beliefs about Darwin as she explores the life of the young man, "ill suited to education," who would turn the world of science upside down. A poor student, Darwin preferred hunting to scholarship, and he drifted from medicine to the clergy in search of a suitable career. He satisfied his personal curiosity by taking geology and botany courses, and it was a geology connection that led him to board the Beagle. Patent recounts his momentous four-year journey, noting that it was not some epiphany in the Galapagos that led to his theory of natural selection. Rather, he came to it slowly, after returning home and applying other scientists' ideas about biological adaptation to his firsthand observations. Throughout, the author balances the man as scientist with the man as devoted husband and father, building a blended portrait of an individual who let his observations shape his beliefs instead of the other way around. Numerous black-and-white photographs and illustrations add visual appeal, and a chronology, a map, notes, and a glossary are appended.
James Watson & Francis Crick: Decoding the Secrets of DNA
AR points: 3
Summary: Scientists Francis Crick and James Watson mapped the structure of DNA and helped solve many genetic riddles.
Phineas Gage: The Gruesome but True Story About Brain Science
AR points: 2
Summary: Phineas Gage was truly a man with a hole in his head. A railroad construction foreman, Phineas was blasting rock near Cavendish, Vermont, in 1848 when a thirteen-pound iron rod was shot through his brain. Miraculously, he survived another eleven years and became a textbook case in brain science. But he was forever changed by the accident, and what happened inside his brain will tell you a lot about how your brain works and what makes us who we are.
The Debate About Genetic Engineering
AR points: 2
Summary: Discusses moral and ethical aspects of genetic engineering.
Beak of the Finch
AR points: 22
Summary: On a desert island in the heart of the Galapagos archipelago, where Darwin received his first inklings of the theory of evolution, two scientists, Peter and Rosemary Grant, have spent twenty years proving that Darwin did not know the strength of his own theory. For among the finches of Daphne Major, natural selection is neither rare nor slow: it is taking place by the hour, and we can watch.
In this dramatic story of groundbreaking scientific research, Jonathan Weiner follows these scientists as they watch Darwin's finches and come up with a new understanding of life itself.
Animals & Zoology
Medicine & Health
Invincible Microbe: Tuberculosis and the Never-Ending Search for a Cure
AR points: 4
Summary: This is the story of a killer that has been striking people down for thousands of years:
tuberculosis. After centuries of ineffective treatments, the microorganism that causes TB was identified, and the cure was thought to be within reach—but drug-resistant varieties continue to plague and panic the human race. The “biography” of this deadly germ, an account of the diagnosis, treatment, and “cure” of the disease over time, and the social history of an illness that could strike anywhere but was most prevalent among the poor are woven together in an engrossing, carefully researched narrative.
AR points: 6
Summary: 1793, Philadelphia. The nation's capital and the largest city in North America is devastated by an apparently incurable disease, cause unknown . . . In a powerful, dramatic narrative, critically acclaimed author Jim Murphy describes the illness known as yellow fever and the toll it took on the city's residents, relating the epidemic to the major social and political events of the day and to 18th-century medical beliefs and practices. Drawing on first-hand accounts, Murphy spotlights the heroic role of Philadelphia's free blacks in combating the disease, and the Constitutional crisis that President Washington faced when he was forced to leave the city--and all his papers--while escaping the deadly contagion. The search for the fever's causes and cure, not found for more than a century afterward, provides a suspenseful counterpoint to this riveting true story of a city under siege.
Thoroughly researched, generously illustrated with fascinating archival prints, and unflinching in its discussion of medical details, this Newbery Honor-winning book offers a glimpse into the conditions of American cities at the time of our nation's birth while drawing timely parallels to modern-day epidemics. Bibliography, map, index.
AR points: 4
Series: Diseases and Disorders
Other titles in this series include:
AR points: 15
Summary: A light in the darkness for severely troubled children. Nine-year-old Cassandra, kidnapped by her father and found starving, dirty, and picking through garbage cans—a child prone to long silences and erratic, violent behavior, whose hard-won recollections of the nightmare she endured could not be fully trusted.
Charming, charismatic four-year-old Drake, who would speak only in private to his mother—his tough, unbending grandfather's demands for an immediate cure threatened to cause the delightful boy and his family irreparable harm.
And though she had never worked with adults, Hayden agreed to help fearful and silent eighty-two-year-old massive stroke victim Gerda—discovering in the process that a treatment's successes could prove nearly as heartbreaking as its limitations.
The Hot Zone: A Terrifying True Story
AR points: 16
Summary: A highly infectious, deadly virus from the central African rain forest suddenly appears in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. There is no cure. In a few days 90 percent of its victims are dead. A secret military SWAT team of soldiers and scientists is mobilized to stop the outbreak of this exotic "hot" virus. The Hot Zone tells this dramatic story, giving a hair-raising account of the
appearance of rare and lethal viruses and their "crashes" into the human race. Shocking, frightening, and impossible to ignore, The Hot Zone proves that truth really is scarier than fiction.
Death Be Not Proud
AR points: 8
Summary: Johnny Gunther was seventeen years old when he died of a brain tumor. During the months of his final illness everyone near him was unforgettable impressed by his level-headed courage, his wit and quiet friendliness, and, above all, his unfaltering patience through the times of despair and those few heartbreaking days when it seemed, unbelievably, that all would be well. This deeply moving book is a father's memoir of a brave, intelligent, and spirited boy in his fight to overcome a dreadful disease that doctors had only begun to understand.
Medicines from Nature
AR points: 5
Summary: A fascinating journey through the endless search for new and more effective medications. Despite enormous advances in the 20th century, drug-resistant, disease-causing agents and diseases such as AIDS have prompted the rise of researchers known as ethnobotanists. Thomas describes their activities with an air of urgency. As plant and animal species are destroyed by human development and traditional healers in remote regions die without passing on their knowledge, the possibility of discovering new medicines decreases. The author explores how likely sources of medicines and treatments are identified, how they are tested for efficacy against specific diseases, and differences that exist between natural and synthetic drugs. While many books (particularly those on rain forests) stress the importance of plants as possible sources of new medicines, few have delved into the many marine and other nontropical animals discussed here. This book's real strength, however, is its coverage of the future of pharmaceutical development. It describes activities of the National Cancer Institute's National Products Repository, international biodiversity preservation efforts, and unique cooperative pharmaceutical companies. Perhaps the most promising and most chilling line of endeavor is the development of transgenic animals that contain some human DNA. Genetic scientists are beginning to create cows, sheep, and goats that can produce milk containing human blood protein and other proteins useful in treating human clotting disorders.
AR points: 2
Summary: Frank discussion of the issue of prescription drug abuse.
Outbreak: Disease Detectives at Work
AR points: 4
Summary: What happens when a strange new illness affects many people all at once? Epidemiologists - the disease detectives - are called in to investigate the situation. The recent outbreaks of West Nile Virus, avian flu, and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) have presented unique challenges to epidemiologists. In all-new sections, this updated edition reveals the efforts involved in identifying and containing the spread of these life-threatening diseases. Also included is the latest information on HIV/AIDS, as well as a special section about the difficulties involved in dealing with deliberate acts of bioterrorism, such as anthrax attacks. Outbreak takes a look at epidemics and pandemics that have plagued people throughout history, and the men and women responsible for battling them.
Ryan White: My Own Story
AR points: 11
Summary: At 13, all-American kid and honors student Ryan White learned he had a deadly disease with no cure. AIDS. He had contracted it through the blood products he received for his hemophilia. His home town of Kokomo, Indiana, responded - not with compassion, but with fear and hate. When Ryan White was told he couldn't return to school, he decided to fight back. He went to court and won. But that was only the beginning of his fight to educate the public about AIDS. This young teenager dared speak out when others kept silent. And the whole world listened.
Go Ask Alice
AR points: 7
Summary: The torture and hell of adolescence has rarely been captured as clearly as it is in this classic diary by an anonymous, addicted teen. Lonely, awkward, and under extreme pressure from her "perfect" parents, "Anonymous" swings madly between optimism and despair. When one of her new friends spikes her drink with LSD, this diarist begins a frightening journey into darkness. The drugs take the edge off her loneliness and self-hate, but they also turn her life into a nightmare of exalting highs and excruciating lows. Although there is still some question as to whether this diary is real or fictional, there is no question that it has made a profound impact on millions of readers during the more than 25 years it has been in print.
Sports Nutrition for Teen Athletes
AR points: 1
Summary: Whether you're smashing a home run, scoring a goal, or setting up a teammate for a spike, you need energy. A healthful, balanced diet will give you the energy you need to take the field like a champion. Provide your body with fuel and stay hydrated, and you'll be ready for any challenge that comes your way.
Agriculture & Plants
Geography & Exploration
Into the Wild
AR points: 12
Summary: In April 1992 a young man from a well-to-do family hitchhiked to Alaska and walked alone into the wilderness north of Mt. McKinley. His name was Christopher Johnson McCandless. He had given $25,000 in savings to charity, abandoned his car and most of his possessions, burned all the cash in his wallet, and invented a new life for himself. Four months later, his decomposed body was found by a moose hunter....
We Were There Too: Young People in U.S. History
AR points: 17
Summary: From the boys who sailed with Columbus to today's young activists, this unique book brings to life the contributions of young people throughout American history. Young readers will be hooked as they meet individuals who were caught up in our country's most dramatic moments - Olaudah Equiano, kidnapped from his village in western Africa and forced into slavery, Anyokah, who helped her father create a written Cherokee language, Johnny Clem, the nine-year-old drummer boy who became a Civil War hero, and Jessica Govea, a teenager who risked joining Cesar Chavez's fight for a better life for farmworkers.
Touch the Top of the World
AR points: 19
Summary: Erik Weihenmayer was born with retinoscheses, a degenerative eye disorder that would leave him blind by the age of 13. He shares his struggle to push past the limits imposed on him by his visual impairment - and by a seeing world. He tells the story of his dream to climb the world's highest peaks and how he is turning that dream into astonishing reality. It is about finding the courage to reach for that ultimate summit and transforming your life into something truly miraculous.
A Night to Remember
AR points: 8
Summary: First published in 1955, A Night to Remember remains a completely riveting account of the Titanic's fatal collision and the behavior of the passengers and crew, both noble and ignominious. Some sacrificed their lives, while others fought like animals for their own survival. Wives beseeched husbands to join them in lifeboats; gentlemen went taut-lipped to their deaths in full evening dress; and hundreds of steerage passengers, trapped below decks, sought help in vain.
The Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Adventure
AR ponts: 11
Summary: In August 1014, days before the outbreak of the First World War, the renowned explorer Ernest Shackleton and a crew of twenty-seven set sail for the South Atlantic in pursuit of the last unclaimed prize in the history of exploration: the first crossing on foot of the Antarctic continent. Weaving a treacherous path through the freezing Weddell Sea, they had come within 85 miles of their destination when their ship, Endurance, was trapped fast in the ice pack. Soon the ship was crushed like matchwood, leaving the crew stranded on the floes. Their ordeal would last for 20 months, and they would make two near-fatal attempts to escape by open boat before their final rescue.
Addicted to Danger
AR points: 14
Summary: Among the world's most fearless climbers, Jim Wickwire has traveled the globe in search of fresh challenges. He was one of the first two Americans to reach the summit of K2, the world's second highest peak, the toughest and most dangerous to climb. But with the triumphs cam tragedies that haunt him still. During several difficult times, he was forced to look on helplessly as four of his climbing companions lost their lives. A successful Seattle attorney, Wickwire climbed his first mountain in 1960. Deeply compelled by the thrill of risk, he pushed himself to the limits of physical and mental endurance for 35 years, before facing a turning point that threatened his faith in himself and his hope in the future.
Into Thin Air
AR points: 17
Summary: Into Thin Air is a riveting first-hand account of a catastrophic expedition up Mount Everest. In March 1996, Outside magazine sent veteran journalist and seasoned climber Jon Krakauer on an expedition led by celebrated Everest guide Rob Hall. Despite the expertise of Hall and the other leaders, by the end of summit day eight people were dead. Krakauer's book is at once the story of the ill-fated adventure and an analysis of the factors leading up to its tragic end. Written within months of the events it chronicles, Into Thin Air clearly evokes the majestic Everest landscape. As the journey up the mountain progresses, Krakauer puts it in context by recalling the triumphs and perils of other Everest trips throughout history. The author's own anguish over what happened on the mountain is palpable as he leads readers to ponder timeless questions.
AR points: 42
Summary: In this sweeping adventure story, Stephen E. Ambrose presents the definitive account of one of the most momentous journeys in American history. Ambrose follows the Lewis and Clark Expedition from Thomas Jefferson's hope of finding a waterway to the Pacific, through the heart-stopping moments of the actual trip, to Lewis's lonely demise on the Natchez Trace. Along the way, Ambrose shows us the American West as Lewis saw it -- wild, awesome, and pristinely beautiful.
Trapped in Ice! An Amazing True Whaling Adventure
AR points: 4
Summary: In this true story that reads as action-adventure, learn how 1,219 members of the world's largest whaling expedition managed to survive after becoming entrapped within an Arctic ice shelf.
Sir Edmund Hillary: View from the Summit
AR points: 21
Summary: Adventurers the world over have been inspired by the achievements of Sir Edmund Hillary, the first man ever to set foot on the summit of Mount Everest. In this candid, wry, and vastly entertaining autobiography, Hillary looks back on that 1953 landmark expedition, as well as his remarkable explorations in other exotic locales, from the South Pole to the Ganges. View From The Summit is the compelling life story of a New Zealand country boy who daydreamed of wild adventures; the pioneering climber who was knighted by Queen Elizabeth after scaling the world's tallest peak; and the elder statesman and unlikely diplomat whose groundbreaking program of aid to Nepal continues to this day, paying his debt of worldwide fame to the Himalayan region.
The Saga of Lewis & Clark: Into the Unchartered West
AR points: 7
Summary: Beautifully written and illustrated, this book follows Lewis and Clark from the inception of their expedition to their celebrated homecoming. In an effort to seek out -- and stake out -- the fabled Northwest Passage, Captains Lewis and Clark led the expedition from Missouri through uncharted territory to Oregon. They fought rivers, suffered sunstroke, encountered and befriended Indians, and survived hunger, fatigue, and sickness. The journals brought back by various members, excerpted here, present the first written account of the area west of the Mississippi, including the newly acquired Louisiana Purchase. Illustrations focus on running maps that serve as time lines, current photographs of still-virgin wilderness, annotated sketches selected from the hundreds of plants and animals (which the expedition documented for the first time), and artifacts created or first archived by Lewis and Clark themselves.
Return with Honor
AR points: 10
Summary: The incredible true-life thriller of one man's fierce struggle to survive in the hostile territory of war-torn Bosnia, told in his own words. For six days and nights Scott O'Grady eluded the Bosnian Serbs who relentlessly hunted him, relying on his survival training, cunning, and deep faith in God. The amazing story of how O'Grady managed to live through a missile impact at 27,000 feet, the techniques he used to survive in a barren and hostile landscape, and the real story behind the daring daylight rescue mission carried out by the U. S. Marines.