Looking for the best STEM picture books? These fun picture books for STEM for elementary students are engaging for primary and upper elementary kids. Fiction and nonfiction books with lesson plans and activities linked. Picture books about scientists, space, animals, inventors and more to read aloud for your kindergarten, first, second, third, fourth or fifth grade students. Your students will delight in these classic and brand new STEM picture books! These are a great springboard for literature based STEM activities!
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Books On STEM
Oftentimes, when people think STEM, they think only of textbooks or your stereotypical informational texts. These books, many narrative non-fiction picture books, are told more as stories. The story element helps students see more of a story in the science. Check out some of the books!
Mae Among the Stars by Roda Ahmed
Inspired by the story of Mae Jemison, the first African American woman in space. When Little Mae was a child, she dreamed of dancing in space. She imagined herself surrounded by billions of stars floating gliding and discovering. Follow Mae as she learns that if you can dream it and you work hard for it, anything is possible. An amazing story about a diverse scientist!
The Secret Garden of George Washington Carver by Gene Barretta
When George Washington Carver was just a young child, he had a secret: a garden of his own.
Here, he rolled dirt between his fingers to check if plants needed more rain or sun. He protected roots through harsh winters, so plants could be reborn in the spring. He trimmed flowers, spread soil, studied life cycles. And it was in this very place that George’s love of nature sprouted into something so much more—his future. A man who truly revolutionized farming and crops!
Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty
Ada Twist’s head is full of questions. Like her classmates Iggy and Rosie—stars of their own New York Times bestselling picture books Iggy Peck, Architect and Rosie Revere, Engineer—Ada has always been endlessly curious. Even when her fact-finding missions and elaborate scientific experiments don’t go as planned, Ada learns the value of thinking her way through problems and continuing to stay curious.
Iggy Peck, Architect by Andrea Beaty
Some kids sculpt sand castles. Others make mud pies. Some construct great block towers. But none are better at building than Iggy Peck, who once erected a life-size replica of the Great Sphinx on his front lawn! It’s too bad that few people appreciate Iggy’s talent—certainly not his second-grade teacher, Miss Lila Greer. It looks as if Iggy will have to trade in his T square for a box of crayons . . . until a fateful field trip proves just how useful a mast builder can be.
Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty
Rosie Revere: currently the most famous children’s book engineer. Rosie Revere dreamed of becoming a great engineer. Where some people see rubbish, Rosie sees inspiration. Alone in her room at night, shy Rosie constructs great inventions from odds and ends. Hot dog dispensers, helium pants, python-repelling cheese hats: Rosie’s gizmos would astound—if she ever let anyone see them.
Afraid of failure, she hides them away under her bed. Until a fateful visit from her great-great-aunt Rose (AKA Rosie the Riveter!), who shows her that the first flop isn’t something to fear—it’s something to celebrate. And you can only truly fail, if you quit. This is one of the great books about perseverance and to inspire engineering activities for elementary students.
Ben Franklin’s Big Splash by Barb Rosenstock
Every inventor has to start somewhere, and one of the greatest innovators in our history was no exception. Ben Franklin developed his first invention while doing what he loved best: swimming! Ben’s Big Splash is the story of Franklin’s first invention, his journey through the scientific method, and the surprising successes that result when you’re willing to make mistakes. Barb Rosenstock’s rhythmic, whimsical style is the perfect complement to S. D. Schindler’s pen and ink and watercolor illustrations. Together they recreate history in an engaging and unique way. Both author and illustrator worked closely with Franklin experts, and the book includes Franklin quotes, an extensive author’s note, timeline, and bibliography.
Mesmerized by Mara Rockliff
Discover how Benjamin Franklin’s scientific method challenged a certain Dr. Mesmer’s mysterious powers in a whimsical look at a true moment in history.
The day Ben Franklin first set foot in Paris, France, he found the city all abuzz. Everyone was talking about something new—remarkable, thrilling, and strange. Something called . . . Science!
But soon the straightforward American inventor Benjamin Franklin is upstaged by a compelling and enigmatic figure: Dr. Mesmer. In elaborately staged shows, Mesmer, wearing a fancy coat of purple silk and carrying an iron wand, convinces the people of Paris that he controls a magic force that can make water taste like a hundred different things, cure illness, and control thoughts! But Ben Franklin is not convinced. Will his practical approach of observing, hypothesizing, and testing get to the bottom of the mysterious Mesmer’s tricks? A rip-roaring, lavishly illustrated peek into a fascinating moment in history shows the development and practice of the scientific method—and reveals the amazing power of the human mind.
Rocks in His Head by Carol Otis Hurst
Some people collect stamps. Other people collect coins. Carol Otis Hurst’s father collected rocks. Nobody ever thought his obsession would amount to anything. They said, “You’ve got rocks in your head” and “There’s no money in rocks.” But year after year he kept on collecting, trading, displaying, and labeling his rocks. The Depression forced the family to sell their gas station and their house, but his interest in rocks never wavered. And in the end the science museum he had visited so often realized that a person with rocks in his head was just what was needed.
Green City by Allan Drummond
In 2007, a tornado destroyed Greensburg, Kansas, and the residents, amidst their grief, were at a loss as to what to do next–they didn’t want to rebuild if their small town would just be destroyed in another storm. So they decided they wouldn’t just rebuild the same old thing; this time, they would build a town that could not only survive another storm, but one that was built in an environmentally sustainable way. Told from the point of view of a child whose family rebuilt after the storm, this companion to Energy Island is the inspiring story of the difference one community can make–and it includes plenty of rebuilding scenes and details for construction lovers, too! A beautiful story about how one town took tragedy and took themselves into the future.
Dear Mr. Blueberry, Dear Greenpeace by Simon James
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba
The inspiring story of how William Kamkwamba used discarded and recycled materials to save his home and his village in Africa by building a windmill.
Counting on Katherine by Helaine Becker
You’ve likely heard of the historic Apollo 13 moon landing. But do you know about the mathematical genius who made sure that Apollo 13 returned safely home? As a child, Katherine Johnson loved to count. She counted the steps on the road, the number of dishes and spoons she washed in the kitchen sink, everything! Boundless, curious, and excited by calculations, young Katherine longed to know as much as she could about math, about the universe.
Manfish: A Story of Jacques Costeau by Jennifer Berne
Before Jacques Cousteau became an internationally known oceanographer and champion of the seas, he was a curious little boy. In this lovely biography, poetic text and gorgeous paintings combine to create a portrait of Jacques Cousteau that is as magical as it is inspiring. An excellent book for studying the ocean through the eyes of one of its most well-known explorers.
Grand Canyon by Jason Chin
Rivers wind through earth, cutting down and eroding the soil for millions of years, creating a cavity in the ground 277 miles long, 18 miles wide, and more than a mile deep known as the Grand Canyon. Home to an astonishing variety of plants and animals that have lived and evolved within its walls for millennia, the Grand Canyon is much more than just a hole in the ground. Follow a father and daughter as they make their way through the cavernous wonder, discovering life both present and past.
Your Place in the Universe
Most eight-year-olds are about five times as tall as this book . . . but only half as tall as an ostrich, which is half as tall as a giraffe . . . twenty times smaller than a California Redwood! How do they compare to the tallest buildings? To Mt. Everest? To stars, galaxy clusters, and . . . the universe? A great book about talking about the size of things compared to other things.
The Great Kapok Tree by Lynne Cherry
Lynne Cherry journeyed deep into the rain forests of Brazil to write and illustrate this gorgeous picture book about a man who exhausts himself trying to chop down a giant kapok tree. While he sleeps, the forest’s residents, including a child from the Yanomamo tribe, whisper in his ear about the importance of trees and how “all living things depend on one another” . . . and it works.
Papa’s Mechanical Fish by Candace Fleming
Clink! Clankety-bang! Thump-whirr! That’s the sound of Papa at work. Although he is an inventor, he has never made anything that works perfectly, and that’s because he hasn’t yet found a truly fantastic idea. But when he takes his family fishing on Lake Michigan, his daughter Virena asks, “Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be a fish?”―and Papa is off to his workshop. With a lot of persistence and a little bit of help, Papa―who is based on the real-life inventor Lodner Phillips―creates a submarine that can take his family for a trip to the bottom of Lake Michigan.
Shark Lady by Jess Keating
Eugenie Clark fell in love with sharks from the first moment she saw them at the aquarium. She couldn’t imagine anything more exciting than studying these graceful creatures. But Eugenie quickly discovered that many people believed sharks to be ugly and scary―and they didn’t think women should be scientists.
Determined to prove them wrong, Eugenie devoted her life to learning about sharks. After earning several college degrees and making countless discoveries, Eugenie wrote herself into the history of science, earning the nickname “Shark Lady.” Through her accomplishments, she taught the world that sharks were to be admired rather than feared and that women can do anything they set their minds to. A great book about women in science and to encourage the budding marine biologist in your students!
Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin
Wilson Bentley was always fascinated by snow. In childhood and adulthood, he saw each tiny crystal of a snowflake as a little miracle and wanted to understand them. His parents supported his curiosity and saved until they could give him his own camera and microscope. At the time, his enthusiasm was misunderstood. But with patience and determination, Wilson catalogued hundreds of snowflake photographs, gave slideshows of his findings and, when he was 66, published a book of his photos. His work became the basis for all we know about beautiful, unique snowflakes today. A really interesting biography picture book for the winter months!
Hey Water! by Antoinette Portis
Hey, water! I know you! You’re all around. A young girl explores her surroundings and sees that water is everywhere. But water doesn’t always look the same, it doesn’t always feel the same, and it shows up in lots of different shapes. Water can be a lake, it can be steam, it can be a tear, or it can even be a snowman. As the girl discovers water in nature, in weather, in her home, and even inside her own body, water comes to life, and kids will find excitement and joy in water and its many forms.
Caroline’s Comets by Emily Arnold McCully
With courage and confidence, Caroline Herschel (1750-1848) becomes the first woman professional scientist and one of the greatest astronomers who ever lived. Born the youngest daughter of a poor family in Hanover, Germany, Caroline was scarred from smallpox, stunted from typhus, and used by her parents as a scullery maid. But when her favorite brother, William, left for England, he took her with him. The siblings shared a passion for stars, and together they built the greatest telescope of their age, working tirelessly on star charts.
Using their telescope, Caroline discovered fourteen nebulae and two galaxies, was the first woman to discover a comet, and became the first woman officially employed as a scientist–by no less than the King of England. The information from the Herschels’ star catalogs is still used by space agencies today.
The Girl Who Thought in Pictures by Julia Finley Mosca
When young Temple Grandin was diagnosed with autism, no one expected her to talk, let alone become one of the most powerful voices in modern science. Yet, the determined visual thinker did just that. Her unique mind allowed her to connect with animals in a special way, helping her invent groundbreaking improvements for farms around the globe!
Margaret and the Moon by Dean Robbins
Margaret Hamilton loved numbers as a young girl. She knew how many miles it was to the moon (and how many back). She loved studying algebra and geometry and calculus and using math to solve problems in the outside world. Soon math led her to MIT and then to helping NASA put a man on the moon! She handwrote code that would allow the spacecraft’s computer to solve any problems it might encounter. Apollo 8, Apollo 9, Apollo 10 and Apollo 11. Without her code, none of those missions could have been completed. An excellent book about women in STEM!
Otis and Will Discover the Deep by Barb Rosenstock
On June 6, 1930, engineer Otis Barton and explorer Will Beebe dove into the ocean inside a hollow metal ball of their own invention called the Bathysphere. They knew dozens of things might go wrong. A tiny leak could shoot pressurized water straight through the men like bullets! A single spark could cause their oxygen tanks to explode! No one had ever dived lower than a few hundred feet…and come back. But friends Otis and Will were determined to become the first people to see what the deep ocean looks like.
Misunderstood Shark by Ame Dyckman
The filming of an underwater TV show goes awry when the crew gets interrupted by a… SHARRRK! Poor Shark, he wasn’t trying to scare them, he’s just misunderstood! Then he’s accused of trying to eat a fish. Will Shark ever catch a break? After all, he wasn’t going to eat the fish, he was just showing it his new tooth! Or was he? Explosively funny, extraordinarily clever, and even full of fun shark facts, this surprisingly endearing story gets to the heart of what it feels like to be misunderstood by the people around you. With a surprise twist ending, our Misunderstood Shark will have kids rolling with laughter! A hilarious book about the ocean!
Mario and the Hole in the Sky by Elizabeth Rusch
The true story of how a scientist saved the planet from environmental disaster.
Mexican American Mario Molina is a modern-day hero who helped solve the ozone crisis of the 1980s. Growing up in Mexico City, Mario was a curious boy who studied hidden worlds through a microscope. As a young man in California, he discovered that CFCs, used in millions of refrigerators and spray cans, were tearing a hole in the earth’s protective ozone layer. Mario knew the world had to be warned–and quickly. Today Mario is a Nobel laureate and a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. His inspiring story gives hope in the fight against global warming.
If Sharks Disappeared by Lily Williams
A healthy ocean is home to many different kinds of animals. They can be big, like a whale; tiny, like a shrimp; and even scary, like a shark. Even though sharks can be scary, we need them to keep the oceans healthy. Unfortunately, due to overfishing, many shark species are in danger of extinction, and that can cause big problems in the oceans and even on land. What would happen if this continued and sharks disappeared completely? The kid-friendly, factual language makes this one of my favorite children’s books about the ocean.
Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly
Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden were good at math…really good. They participated in some of NASA’s greatest successes, like providing the calculations for America’s first journeys into space. And they did so during a time when being black and a woman limited what they could do. But they worked hard. They persisted. And they used their genius minds to change the world.
The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires
The girl has a wonderful idea. “She is going to make the most MAGNIFICENT thing! She knows just how it will look, and she knows just how it will work. All she has to do is make it, and she makes things all the time. Easy-peasy!” But making her magnificent thing is anything but easy, and the girl tries and fails, repeatedly. Eventually, the girl gets really, really mad. She is so mad, in fact, that she quits. But after her dog convinces her to take a walk, she comes back to her project with renewed enthusiasm and manages to get it just right.
Max Goes to Mars by Jeffrey Bennett
Come with Max as he takes off on his next exciting science adventure, this time joining astronauts on the first human mission to Mars. Equipped with a specially designed spacesuit, Max sniffs for signs of microscopic life. Will he find any? Read the exciting story to find out, and to learn how his trip to Mars helps his young friend Tori reflect on the beauty and fragility of our own planet Earth. Astronauts on the International Space Station read this book in both English and Spanish – check out the Story Time From Space here.
Max Goes to the Moon by Jeffrey Bennett
Max the Dog and a young girl named Tori take the first trip to the Moon since the Apollo era, and their trip proves so inspiring to people back on Earth that all the nations of the world come together to build a great Moon colony. From the colony, the views of Earth make everyone realize how small and precious planet Earth is.
Max Goes to the Space Station by Jeffrey Bennett
The prequel to the other books in the Science Adventures with Max the Dog series, this installment follows Max on his trip to the International Space Station where he shares in the adventures of astronaut life and helps save everyone from a potential disaster along the way. The book teaches children to see themselves and the planet in a new light and encourages readers to discover how they can help make the world a better place. Accompanying the story of how Max saves the day are numerous “Big Kid Box” sidebars that offer science facts and other pieces of fascinating information. Grown-ups and kids learn about science together with this fun and educational picture book about space.
On a Beam of Light by Jennifer Berne
Travel along with Einstein on a journey full of curiosity, laughter, and scientific discovery. Parents and children alike will appreciate this moving story of the powerful difference imagination can make in any life.
Solving The Puzzle Under The Sea by Robert Burleigh
Marie Tharp was always fascinated by the ocean. Taught to think big by her father who was a mapmaker, Marie wanted to do something no one had ever done before: map the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. Was it even possible? Not sure if she would succeed, Marie decided to give it a try. Despite past failures and challenges—sometimes Marie would be turned away from a ship because having a woman on board was “bad luck”—Marie was determined to succeed. And she did, becoming the first person to chart the ocean floor, helping us better understand the planet we call home.
The Boy Who Drew Birds by Jacqueline Davies
This fascinating picture book biography from beloved author of the Lemonade War series Jacqueline Davies and Caldecott honor–winning illustrator Melissa Sweet chronicles the life of scientist John James Audubon, who pioneered a technique essential to our understanding of birds thanks to his lifelong love for the species. If there was one thing James loved to do more than anything else, it was to be in the great outdoors watching his beloved feathered friends. In the fall of 1804, he was determined to find out if the birds nesting near his Pennsylvania home would really return the following spring. Through careful observation, James laid the foundation for all that we know about migration patterns today. Capturing the early passion of this bird-obsessed young man as well as the meticulous study and scientific methods behind his research, this lively, gorgeously illustrated biography will leave young readers listening intently for the call of birds large and small near their own home.
Ada Lovelace Poet of Science by Diane Stanley
Two hundred years ago, a daughter was born to the famous poet, Lord Byron, and his mathematical wife, Annabella. Like her father, Ada had a vivid imagination and a creative gift for connecting ideas in original ways. Like her mother, she had a passion for science, math, and machines. It was a very good combination. Ada hoped that one day she could do something important with her creative and nimble mind.
A hundred years before the dawn of the digital age, Ada Lovelace envisioned the computer-driven world we know today. And in demonstrating how the machine would be coded, she wrote the first computer program. She would go down in history as Ada Lovelace, the first computer programmer.
Guitar Genius by Kim Tomsic
A beautifully-illustrated true story of rock and roll legend Les Paul: This is the story of how Les Paul created the world’s first solid-body electric guitar, countless other inventions that changed modern music, and one truly epic career in rock and roll. How to make a microphone? A broomstick, a cinderblock, a telephone, a radio. How to make an electric guitar? A record player’s arm, a speaker, some tape. How to make a legendary inventor? A few tools, a lot of curiosity, and an endless faith in what is possible, this unforgettable biography will resonate with inventive readers young and old.
Joan Procter Dragon Doctor by Patricia Valdez
Back in the days of long skirts and afternoon teas, young Joan Procter entertained the most unusual party guests: slithery and scaly ones, who turned over teacups and crawled past the crumpets…. While other girls played with dolls, Joan preferred the company of reptiles. She carried her favorite lizard with her everywhere–she even brought a crocodile to school!
When Joan grew older, she became the Curator of Reptiles at the British Museum. She went on to design the Reptile House at the London Zoo, including a home for the rumored-to-be-vicious komodo dragons. There, just like when she was a little girl, Joan hosted children’s tea parties–with her komodo dragon as the guest of honor.
Me…Jane by Patrick McDonnell
As the young Jane observes the natural world around her with wonder, she dreams of “a life living with and helping all animals,” until one day she finds that her dream has come true. With anecdotes taken directly from Jane Goodall’s autobiography, McDonnell makes this very true story accessible for the very young–and young at heart.
One of the world’s most inspiring women, Dr. Jane Goodall is a renowned humanitarian, conservationist, animal activist, environmentalist, and United Nations Messenger of Peace. In 1977 she founded the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI), a global nonprofit organization that empowers people to make a difference for all living things.
Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine by Laurie Wallmark
Ada Lovelace, the daughter of the famous romantic poet, Lord Byron, develops her creativity through science and math. When she meets Charles Babbage, the inventor of the first mechanical computer, Ada understands the machine better than anyone else and writes the world’s first computer program in order to demonstrate its capabilities.
Grace Hopper Queen of Computer Code by Laurie Wallmark
Who was Grace Hopper? A software tester, workplace jester, cherished mentor, ace inventor, avid reader, naval leader—AND rule breaker, chance taker, and troublemaker. Grace Hopper coined the term “computer bug” and taught computers to “speak English.” Throughout her life, Hopper succeeded in doing what no one had ever done before. Delighting in difficult ideas and in defying expectations, the insatiably curious Hopper truly was “Amazing Grace” . . . and a role model for science- and math-minded girls and boys. An excellent story for Women’s History Month!
Packs Strength in Numbers by Hannah Salyer
Groups, packs, herds of millions, and more—our world teems with animals on land, air, and sea.
Packs is an inspiring celebration of how togetherness helps many creatures thrive, in both nonhuman and human communities.
Hedy Lamarr’s Double Life by Laurie Wallmark
Movie star by day, ace inventor at night: learn about the hidden life of actress Hedy Lamarr! To her adoring public, Hedy Lamarr was a glamorous movie star, widely considered the most beautiful woman in the world. But in private, she was something more: a brilliant inventor. And for many years only her closest friends knew her secret. Now Laurie Wallmark and Katy Wu, who collaborated on Sterling’s critically acclaimed picture-book biography Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code, tell the inspiring story of how, during World War Two, Lamarr developed a groundbreaking communications system that still remains essential to the security of today’s technology.
Giant Squid by Candace Fleming
The giant squid is one of the most elusive creatures in the world. As large as whales, they hide beyond reach deep within the sea, forcing scientists to piece together their story from those clues they leave behind. An injured whale’s ring-shaped scars indicate an encounter with a giant squid. A piece of beak broken off in the whale’s belly; a flash of ink dispersed as a blinding defense to allow the squid to escape– these fragments of proof were all we had . . . until a giant squid was finally filmed in its natural habitat only two years ago.
Honeybee by Candace Fleming
A tiny honeybee emerges through the wax cap of her cell. Driven to protect and take care of her hive, she cleans the nursery and feeds the larvae and the queen. But is she strong enough to fly? Not yet! Apis builds wax comb to store honey, and transfers pollen from other bees into the storage. She defends the hive from invaders. And finally, she begins her new life as an adventurer. The confining walls of the hive fall away as Apis takes to the air, finally free, in a brilliant double-gatefold illustration where the clear blue sky is full of promise– and the wings of dozens of honeybees, heading out in search of nectar to bring back to the hive.
Moonshot by Brian Floca
Simply told, grandly shown, and now with eight additional pages of brand-new art and more in-depth information about the historic moon landing, here is the flight of Apollo 11. Here for a new generation of readers and explorers are the steady astronauts clicking themselves into gloves and helmets, strapping themselves into sideways seats. The book presents their great machines in all their detail and monumentality, the ROAR of rockets, and the silence of the Moon. Here is a story of adventure and discovery—a story of leaving and returning during the summer of 1969, and a story of home, seen whole, from far away.
Star Stuff: Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos by Stephanie Roth Sisson
When Carl Sagan was a young boy he went to the 1939 World’s Fair and his life was changed forever. From that day on he never stopped marveling at the universe and seeking to understand it better. Star Stuff follows Carl from his days star gazing from the bedroom window of his Brooklyn apartment, through his love of speculative science fiction novels, to his work as an internationally renowned scientist who worked on the Voyager missions exploring the farthest reaches of space. This book is generally marketed for younger students, but this book is best enjoyed and understood by older students making it one of my favorite narrative nonfiction books for 4th grade.
I’m Trying to Love Spiders by Bethany Barton
I’m Trying to Love Spiders will help you see these amazing arachnids in a whole new light, from their awesomely excessive eight eyes, to the seventy-five pounds of bugs a spider can eat in a single year! And you’re sure to feel better knowing you have a better chance of being struck by lightning than being fatally bit by a spider. Comforting, right? No? Either way, there’s heaps more information in here to help you forget your fears . . . or at least laugh a lot!
Literature Based STEM Activities
These books truly show that STEM does not need to mean that reading and books are forgotten! Basing your STEM activities off of stories or situations in stories helps students create a connection to the activity. Think about your Kindergarten STEM projects or for any grade level. Having that common context will give students some common vocabulary and ideas to share all while developing problem-solving and literature discussion skills.
Best STEM Picture Books
What are some of your favorite STEM picture books? Are there any must read STEM picture books that I left out? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll add it!