The best books for children of all ages on our planet’s geological wonders

Robert R. Coenraads Author Of Rocks and Fossils: A Visual Guide
By Robert R. Coenraads

Who am I?

I‘m a Sydney-based exploration geologist and science writer, travelling the world in search of gold, exotic metals, gemstones, and the stories they have to tell — writing is my tool to bring alive ideas and concepts important to me, and my popular books include Rocks, Fossils and Dinosaurs; Natural Disasters; and Geologica. Working in the world's poorest regions has also sparked a strong humanitarian interest. I'm the founding president of FreeSchools World Literacy – Australia, a charity dedicated to education of underprivileged children, and towards which earnings from my writing go. It is my belief that education for all, not just a privileged few, is key to solving the world's problems. 


I wrote...

Rocks and Fossils: A Visual Guide

By Robert R. Coenraads,

Book cover of Rocks and Fossils: A Visual Guide

What is my book about?

Rocks and Fossils' predominantly pictorial treatment lures even newcomers to the subjects of geology and paleontology. Packed with glossy color photographs of rocks, fossils, and landscapes, this book is a beauty—including a series of double-page ancient-life artworks depicting creatures from different geologic time periods, from the Precambrian forward. I describe how plate tectonics works, how life evolved, how minerals, rocks, and fossils are formed, and even give clues that people on fossicking trips should look out for. I strive to inspire the readers’ imagination of the ancient landscapes that the exciting discovery of a fossil, mineral, or gemstone conjures. A science work suitable for all ages and schooling, and available in multiple languages.

The books I picked & why

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Rocks and Minerals - A Guide to Minerals, Gems, and Rocks

By Herbert S. Zim, Paul R. Shaffer, Raymond Perlman (illustrator)

Book cover of Rocks and Minerals - A Guide to Minerals, Gems, and Rocks

Why this book?

I can’t go past recommending this tiny book! Way back when I was a kid, my geologist cousin, Rene Schellekens, gave me a cardboard box full of carefully wrapped crystal specimens he’d collected on his travels plus a copy of Zim’s Guide to Minerals, Gems, and Rocks, and that fabulous little guidebook became my bible. I knew, by heart, every word and beautiful hand-drawn and coloured image adorning its pages—each mineral’s crystal system, colour, hardness, and other physical and chemical properties. I have to say, that gift of Zim’s Guidebook led me into a lifelong career of geological exploration into the world’s distant corners, and even into the authoring of my own books on the natural sciences.


Rocks and Minerals - Reader's Digest Pathfinders

By Tracy Staeder,

Book cover of Rocks and Minerals - Reader's Digest Pathfinders

Why this book?

I just love the type of book that gets kids started in the sciences—bold, showy, and full of inspiring colour pictures, maps, and diagrams, and that’s just how the Rocks and Minerals Pathfinder has been designed—even the photos shot specifically by Weldon Owen for this book feature kids—kids collecting rocks, kids holding massive gold nuggets and kids sitting next to gemstone crystals as big as themselves. I’ve inspired my own kids by taking them around the world with me on geology field trips but these big, bright pathfinders books are the next best thing.

Earthquakes and Volcanoes

By Frederick Lin Sutherland,

Book cover of Earthquakes and Volcanoes

Why this book?

Earthquakes and Volcanoes is another one of the fabulous Reader’s Digest Pathfinders series specifically for kids. It features scientists at work measuring the temperature of red-hot lava, destructive earthquakes, and monstrous tsunamis bearing down on coastal ports. The cause of all of these is simply explained in the context of our planet’s shifting plate tectonic motor. The book’s author, Dr. Lin Sutherland, gave me a great helping hand during my Ph.D. degree at Macquarie University by organizing access to state-of-the-art uranium-lead age dating equipment for my sapphire samples. We became firm friends and colleagues after that, going on together to publish numerous research articles on sapphires and rubies.


Children's Encyclopedia of Earth

By Michael Allaby,

Book cover of Children's Encyclopedia of Earth

Why this book?

This book stands as one of the last great paper encyclopedias created for children in this day and age of digital searches, and that is what I love about it. As you leaf through its pages, it is reminiscent of turning the stone pages of our own planet’s 4.6 billion-year-old story, featuring the evolution of life, culminating in us! This beautifully illustrated and written encyclopedia presents the most up-to-date information about planet Earth in a style and format designed for children, but which will appeal to a wide range of readers. With hundreds of photographs, illustrations, diagrams, and maps, it presents an impressive overview of our globe—beginning with the history of the universe and ending with today's conservation issues. A truly spectacular reference. 


Earth: The World Atlas (Concise)

By Charles F. Gritzner,

Book cover of Earth: The World Atlas (Concise)

Why this book?

Finally, I can’t go past recommending the biggest book ever produced on this planet—and by big, I mean physically enormous. Earth Atlas comes in a variety of sizes, all of them big, with the biggest being The Earth Platinum Limited Edition. Measuring a whopping 6ft x 9ft (1.8m x 2.7m) and weighing 150 kg, it needs six people just to carry it around and two to turn its pages. It was the lifelong dream of Gordon Cheers of Millennium House to produce this Guinness-Book-of-Records-winning atlas with the help of a team of over 88 cartographers from around the world. I have had the pleasure of working with Gordon on a number of his other big publications including Scientifica, Geologica, and Maritimea.


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