I put a photo up on facebook of my son's Periodic Table of the Elements made with The Elements cards and everyone liked it so much that I thought I would mention a few science titles here that I was impressed with this year. First up is The Scientists by Andrew Robinson. I picked this up on a whim when it was prominently displayed at my local bookstore. The design is fantastic - 3-4 heavily illustrated pages on prominent scientists arranged chronologically within themes. I've been reading it out loud to my son (he's 11) and we've covered everyone from those we know (Newton) to those I'm completely unfamiliar with (Antoine Lavoisier - the father of modern chemistry). (Yes, I should have known who he was but my high school Chem class was really really bad.) Robinson provides some biographical info and also discussion of their great discoveries and position in science history. It's basic, but there is plenty enough here to understand what each person contributed and again - the illustrations are fantastic. The whole title has an "old world" feel - no glossy pictures but deep rich color and texture. It's published for adults but from my experience works for a wide range of ages.
The Elements cards are excellent - oversized and sturdy and can easily be arranged into all sorts of patterns. The accompanying book has been a best seller for awhile and author Theodore Gray just released a further study into the subject with The Elements Vault. We have both of these books and they give you a better idea of what the Periodic Table is all about and what all the elements are for then pretty much anything I've come across. Again, design is a big deal here - oversized, glossy, full of pictures, easy explanations, humor and sly wit. This is the first time I've really gotten a handle on this chart (we were just told to memorize it in that awful class - never why it mattered or even where the hell it came from). Lots of factoids here makes it quite appealing for younger readers. My son has poured over the first book again and again and I'd especially point this in the direction of teens; great stuff. (The original book is on wicked sale at Powells right now & free delivery.)
And finally, the entire Scientists in the Field series is worth taking a look at. These are published for the 12 & up crowd but every time I've had one out in a group of adults, they have been unable to resist them. I've reviewed quite a few and without fail I'm impressed by the information imparted, the excellent photos and the conversational tone. The best part is the many different professions I've discovered when reading these books from folks who track trash in the oceans to those who combat population growth in wild horses. Anybody who has dreamed of learning more about nature, the universe or even anthropology will find the series irresistible - in my perfect world they would be on every shelf and dominate the best of lists.