The best books for inspiring your young scientist

Who am I?

From a girl who defied death to set nearly every aviation record in a rickety bi-plane, to a team of young women who literally invented computer coding with no guidance and very little credit, to a boy who revolutionized chemistry when he used the scientific method to create the color purple from coal tar, I write books about young people who followed their dreams to accomplish amazing things. There’s no reason to wait until you grow up to become a scientist. The books I’ve chosen will inspire your young scientist to explore and invent - right now!


I wrote...

Perkin's Perfect Purple: How a Boy Created Color with Chemistry

By Tami Lewis Brown, Debbie Loren Dunn, Francesca Sanna (illustrator)

Book cover of Perkin's Perfect Purple: How a Boy Created Color with Chemistry

What is my book about?

Before William Perkins’ time, the color purple was reserved for the rich and royal. But in 1856, during his spring break from school, young William experimented on coal tar at a lab he’d set up at home. The result? The first artificial dye in a glorious shade of vivid purple! Before he knew it the whole world was clamoring for Perkin's Perfect Purple—Purple for the People. And a new field of organic chemistry had been born. 

Francesca Sanna’s illustrations, based on historic documents and color tones, practically glow off the page. The endnotes include even more science detail, photographs, a thorough bibliography, and a “colorful” science experiment to do at home. I co-wrote this text with my friend and fellow writer, Debbie Loren Dunn.

The books I picked & why

Shepherd is reader supported. We may earn an affiliate commission when you buy through links on our website. This is how we fund this project for readers and authors (learn more).

Starstruck: The Cosmic Journey of Neil Degrasse Tyson

By Kathleen Krull, Paul Brewer, Frank Morrison (illustrator)

Book cover of Starstruck: The Cosmic Journey of Neil Degrasse Tyson

Why this book?

Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson visited New York’s Hayden Planetarium for the first time when he was just nine years old and the stars grabbed him. In Starstruck, non-fiction master Kathleen Krull and co-author Paul Brewer use relatable incidents, like a family trip when young Neil sees the dazzling night sky and decides to give up his ambition to be a baseball player to become an astrophysicist. Concepts like the Big Bang Theory and the reclassification of Pluto are explained simply but intelligently. Neil deGrasse Tyson’s road from inspired boy to world acclaimed scientist wasn’t easy, but it’s hard to imagine any kid- or adult- who won’t be motivated by this star-crossed journey.


Me... Jane

By Patrick McDonnell,

Book cover of Me... Jane

Why this book?

Not all scientists work in laboratories. Me...Jane tells the story of primatologist Jane Goodall, climbing trees with her stuffed chimp, Jubilee, and a tattered copy of Tarzan. Sepia-tinged spreads look like pages torn from young Jane’s science notebook, with everything from sketches of wings to notes from “Alligator Club” meetings. Jane’s path - spending time outdoors, reading about science and nature, and studying hard – will feel both commendable and achievable. When it was published Me… Jane received many well-deserved awards and accolades. This book deserves a spotlight on your young scientist’s bookshelf, too. 


Beatrix Potter, Scientist

By Lindsay H. Metcalf, Junyi Wu (illustrator),

Book cover of Beatrix Potter, Scientist

Why this book?

We all know Beatrix Potter wrote and illustrated Peter Rabbit and other children’s books, but how many people are aware that young Beatrix was a groundbreaking mushroom scientist? In Beatrix Potter, Scientist, Metcalf unveils the secret scientific side of Beatrix Potter, long before her books became classics. Beatrix studied all sorts of fungi, discovering a mushroom known as the Old Man Of The Woods, but as a female she was prohibited from presenting a scientific paper to London’s Linean Society. I love one of this book’s underlying messages, that someone can be an artist AND a scientist; there’s no need to choose one or the other. There’s also a terrific author’s note and strong supporting end matter for further study.


The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

By William Kamkwamba, Bryan Mealer, Elizabeth Zunon (illustrator)

Book cover of The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

Why this book?

Gorgeous collage by Elizabeth Zunon brings the Malawi drought and teenager William Kamkwamba’s engineering solution to life in the picture book version of The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind. Multicultural and celebratory in tone, William’s curiosity and ingenuity take center stage, along with his engineering triumphs, while some of the harsh realities of Malawi’s famine, detailed in the adult edition of this title, are omitted. There is also a chapter book for elementary school readers and a Netflix film based on this title. Clearly, it’s a STEM story that’s perfect for any age.


Awesome Science Experiments for Kids: 100+ Fun STEAM Projects and Why They Work

By Crystal Chatterton,

Book cover of Awesome Science Experiments for Kids: 100+ Fun STEAM Projects and Why They Work

Why this book?

Your kiddo is excited about science… now what? Science experiments at home don’t have to be hard or hazardous. Chrystal Chatterton’s Awesome Science Experiments uses ordinary household products or items that are very easy to find. The instructions are step by step and simple to follow. Best of all the concepts are, well, real science. Chatterton explains the ideas in understandable but authentic scientific language—no dumbing things down here. Best of all these projects are a lot of fun!


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in toys, World War 2, and London?

5,888 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about toys, World War 2, and London.

Toys Explore 21 books about toys
World War 2 Explore 975 books about World War 2
London Explore 421 books about London

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Mysteries of the Universe, Zoo in the Sky, and Pluto Gets the Call if you like this list.