CurriConnects Book List - The Way Things Work

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The Way Things Work
Experience science applied in the real world with these books about the how and why of the way things work. Some fiction, and some non-fiction, all will appeal to your curiosity and inspire young designers and engineers. Have students choose a book they can connect to concepts you are studying in science class or have them choose a book of interest and generate a list of the questions they would like to learn about after reading the book. The non-fiction selections offer possible informational texts to practice Common Core science literacy skills. For more on text complexity and Lexiles®, see this information from the Lexile Framework.

Preschool and Picture Books

The Adventures of a Plastic Bottle - Alison Inches, (978-1416967880) , Fiction
Interest level: 0-3, ESL level: 2
A plastic bottle tells its story from the oil refinery where the plastic was first begun, to the factory where it was made, to its usage, and finally, to its recycling and new form.

Big Machines - Karen Wallace, (978-0789454119) , Non-fiction
Interest level: 0-1, Lexile: 390, ESL level: 2
Great photos show the different parts of important heavy duty vehicles.

Billy and Baxter Learns to Build - C.D. Stampley, (978-1580870993) , Fiction
Interest level: 0-2, ESL level: 2
Billy and his pet dog visit various construction sites around their communitiy.

The Construction Crew - Lynn Meltzer, (978-0805088847) , Fiction
Interest level: 0-1, Lexile: 440, ESL level: 2
Readers find out which piece of heavy equipment is used for each stage of a building project.

Demolition - Sally Sutton, (978-0763658304) , Fiction
Interest level: 0-2, ESL level: 2
Drivers of heavy construction equipment help each other demolish a building.

Dig Dig Digging - Margaret Mayo, (978-1846167591) , Non-fiction
Interest level: 0-1, Lexile: 540, ESL level: 2
How do the various pieces of equipment work? What kind of work do they do?

Fire Truck - Peter Sis, (978-0688158781) , Fiction
Interest level: 0-1, Lexile: 40, ESL level: 2
Count the important parts of a fire truck found on a boy who has transformed overnight into a fire engine.

The Flight of the Dodo - Peter Brown, (978-0316083393) , Fiction
Interest level: 0-2, Lexile: 870, ESL level: 3 - 4
After a group of bird friends creates a marvelous machine that flies, their first venture out ends up a potential disaster when they steer into a storm.

Fly Guy Vs. the Flyswatter - Tedd Arnold, (978-0606232203) , Fiction
Interest level: 0-2, Lexile: 420, ESL level: 2
Fly Guy enjoys a visit to a fly swatter factory with his classmates.

Hot Rod Hamster - Cynthia Lord, (978-0545035309) , Fiction
Interest level: 0-1, Lexile: 500, ESL level: 2
Follow the lucky hamster who builds his own hot rod to race it against some larger dogs.

How Rolly Robot Saved the Starbabies - Denice Evans, (978-1554552016) , Fiction
Interest level: 0-2, ESL level: 2 - 3
Rolly Robot must use his skills of invention when the space ship he has used to escape his toy facotry gets into steering trouble.

Robot Zot - Jon Scieszka, (978-1416963943) , Fiction
Interest level: 0-1, Lexile: 390, ESL level: 2
Who will win in the battle between Robot Zot's team and the worthy kitchen appliance opponents?

Someone Bigger - Jonathan Emmett, (978-0192725592) , Fiction
Interest level: 0-1, Lexile: 510, ESL level: 2 - 3
Sam learns he is both big enough to fly a kite and to save his dad when a fierce wind picks his dad up off the ground.

These Hands - Margaret Mason, (978-0547215662) , Fiction
Interest level: 0-2, Lexile: 680, ESL level: 3
An African American grandfather shares his work experiences with an interested grandson; he tells about how he was not allowed to touch the bread at the factory where he worked helping with bread making.

Tough Trucks - Tony Mitton, (978-0753459171) , Non-fiction
Interest level: 0-1, Lexile: 710, ESL level: 2
Find out how trucks work and how to use and keep them running.

Zoom, A Book of Things That Go - Jennifer Frantz, (978-0061128592) , Non-fiction
Interest level: 0-1, ESL level: 2
Readers find out through opening tabs how various vehicles and working machines function.

Early Elementary Books

Binky the Space Cat - Ashley Spires, (978-1554534197) , Fiction
Interest level: 0-4, Lexile: 740, ESL level: 3 - 4
While Binky is building a ship to explore outer space, he has to protect the blueprints from alien eyes.

A Boy Called Dickens - Deborah Hopkinson, (978-0375867323) , Fiction
Interest level: 1-4, Lexile: 750, ESL level: 2 - 3
Readers get to experience work in a blacking factory as it was when Charles Dickens was a child laborer in one.

Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator - Roald Dahl, (978-0142410325) , Fiction
Interest level: 1-6, Lexile: 720, ESL level: 3
Charlie of chocolate factory fame goes into space with Mr. Wonka in an enormous elevator.

Condensation - William Rice, (978-1433314155) , Non-fiction
Interest level: 2-3, Lexile: 370, ESL level: 2 - 3
This text provides early elementary students with understandable explanations, graphics, and activities to help them understand the concept of condensation.

Eat My Dust! Henry Ford's First Race - Monica Kulling, (978-0375815102) , Non-fiction
Interest level: 1-3, Lexile: 360, ESL level: 2-3
Henry Ford enthusiastically races the car he built so he can make enough money to allow everyone to buy a car in this biography!

Energy Island - Allan Drummond, (978-0374321840) , Non-fiction
Interest level: 1-4, Lexile: 920, ESL level: 4
The Danish island of Samso serves as a model to other communities in using their own natural resources (wind and sun) to create enough energy for the entire area.

The Hallelujah Flight - Phil Bildner, (978-0399247897) , Fiction
Interest level: 0-3, Lexile: 760, ESL level: 3 - 4
James Banning and his copilot fly across America, the first African Americans to complete such an accomplishment.

How I Learned to Fly - R.L. Stine, (978-0439796200) , Fiction
Interest level: 1-3, Lexile: 370, ESL level: 2
Jack and Wilson are able to fly on their own, and inquiring scientists want to know how they do it.

Leonardo and the Flying Boy - Laurence Anholt, (978-0764138515) , Non-fiction
Interest level: 0-4, Lexile: 380, ESL level: 2
One of Da Vinci's students is interested in the flying machine his brilliant master wants built.

The Magic School Bus at the Waterworks - Joanna Cole, (978-0590403603) , Non-fiction
Interest level: 2-4, Lexile: 660, ESL level: 2 - 3
The Magic School bus ends up taking the children inside the city's water cleaning system.

Max Goes to the Recycling Center - Adria Klein, (978-1404852723) , Fiction
Interest level: 1-4, Lexile: 550, ESL level: 2
Max sees the workings of a recycling center and learns about what it is used for and why recycling is important.

My Light - Molly Bang, (978-0439489614) , Non-fiction
Interest level: 0-12, Lexile: 660, ESL level: 3
This book shows how the sun adds light, heat, and power to our world.

Otto: The Boy Who Loved Cars - Kara LaReau, (978-1596434844) , Fiction
Interest level: 0-3, Lexile: 660, ESL level: 2 - 3
Otto eats (Wheelies cereal), drinks, sleeps, and dreams cars so much that he turns into one!

Recycle Every Day! - Nancy Elizabeth Wallace, (978-0761451495) , Fiction
Interest level: 0-3, ESL level: 2
Minna learns about different kinds of recycling as she prepares a poster for a class project.

Star Jumper: Journal of a Cardboard Genius - Frank Asch, (978-1553378877) , Fiction
Interest level: 2-5, Lexile: 640, ESL level: 3
Alex very creatively designs his spaceship from simple materials and tries to keep his plans secret from his brother.

Ton - Taro Miura, (811-852466) , Non-fiction
Interest level: 0-12, ESL level: 2 - 3
This concept book demonstrates different weighing systems and means of weighing both pictorially and numerically.

Upper Elementary to Middle School Books

Benjamin Franklinstein Lives! - Matthew McElligott, (978-0399252297) , Fiction
Interest level: 4-7, Lexile: 590, ESL level: 2 - 3
A young boy causes Benjamin Franklin to come back to life while he is preparing a science project.

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind - William Kamkwamba, (978-0061730320) , Non-fiction
Interest level: 4-9, Lexile: 910, ESL level: 4
This autobiographical account tells of Wiliam Kamkwamba's discovery of windmills in a book and how he used his knowledge to bring water to his village and create electricity for its people.

Building Big - David Macaulay, (395-963311) , Non-fiction
Interest level: 3-12, Lexile: 1260, ESL level: 4
This book covers the planning and design processes for building large structures such as dams, domes, skyscrapers, bridges, and tunnels.

Bunker 10 - J.A. Henderson, (978-0152062408) , Fiction
Interest level: 5-10, Lexile: 680, ESL level: 3 - 4
After a huge explosion at a military installation where gifted teens assist with the research, the teens search for a means of escape as they encounter many questions like what was the cause of the explosion and are the beings they work with men or computers.

The Candymakers - Wendy Mass, (978-0316002592) , Fiction
Interest level: 2-6, Lexile: 740, ESL level: 3
When Logan competes in a Candy Makers contest with several friends, Logan has an edge since he grew up in his parents' candy factory.

Computer - DK Publishing, (978-0756682651) , Non-fiction
Interest level: 5-12, ESL level: 4
This book explains everything about computer development and usage.

Cool Engineering Activities for Girls - Heather E. Schwartz, (978-1429680219) , Non-fiction
Interest level: 2-7, Lexile: 740, ESL level: 3
Try some fun projects designed to teach girls how to use engineering skills and creativity.

Cool Tech - DK Staff, (978-0756682705) , Non-fiction
Interest level: 4-12, ESL level: 3 - 4
This educational book explains the technology behind the most up-to-date technology kids use today and also explains the history of the development of the internet and computer from an engineering perspective.

Electricity - Steve Parker, (978-0756613884) , Non-fiction
Interest level: 5-12, ESL level: 4
This book explains the development, workings, and uses of electricity.

Ghost in the Machinery - Stefan Petrucha, (978-1597070614) , Fiction
Interest level: 3-5, ESL level: 2
Nancy Drew, along with a scientist, tries to find a special engine that turns out to be haunted.

How Cool is This? - DK Staff, (978-0756686048) , Non-fiction
Interest level: 2-7, ESL level: 3
This fun and simple book explains the science behind the inventions we use everyday, from bubbles to computers with plenty of photos and graphics.

How Does a Car Work? - Sarah Eason, (978-1433934629) , Non-fiction
Interest level: 2-6, Lexile: 770, ESL level: 4
This book explains the technology behind building cars.

Hydroelectric Power: Power from Moving Water - Marguerite Rodger, (978-0778729341) , Non-fiction
Interest level: 4-8, Lexile: 1070, ESL level: 4 - 5
This book explores the marvels of the natural power source, water.

The Middle of Somewhere - J.B. Cheaney, (978-0440421658) , Fiction
Interest level: 4-8, Lexile: 900, ESL level: 3
While Ronnie travels with her scientist grandfather, she searches for order, but their voyage brings them into unexpected chaos.

Race for the Sky - Dan Gutman, (978-0689845543) , Fiction
Interest level: 4-7, Lexile: 880, ESL level: 4
Johnny wants to go fishing but his mother wants him to practice handwriting until one day the Wright brothers arrive and try to get their "flying machine"" up in the air."

Recycle This Book - Dan Gutman, (978-0385737210) , Non-fiction
Interest level: 4-9, ESL level: 3 - 4
Top authors give practical advice on how to better conserve our resources and use our waste productively.

Regarding the Sink: Where, Oh Where, Did Waters Go? - Kate Klise, (978-0152055448) , Fiction
Interest level: 3-7, Lexile: 950, ESL level: 3
A famous sink designer Florence Waters disappears while working on a 6th grade sink.

Simon Bloom, the Gravity Keeper - Michael Reisman, (978-0142413685) , Fiction
Interest level: 3-12, Lexile: 690, ESL level: 3
Although Simon finds a book that gives him the power to control the laws of physics, he finds himself desperate for the formulas inside when a pair of low-life creeps attack him.

Something out of Nothing: Marie Curie and Radium - Carla Killough McClafferty, (978-0374380366) , Non-fiction
Interest level: 4-9, Lexile: 1050, ESL level: 4 - 5
This biography details Marie Curie's life and discoveries.

The Teacher Who Forgot Too Much - Steve Brezenoff, (978-1434216090) , Fiction
Interest level: 2-6, Lexile: 480, ESL level: 3
Catalina takes a school field trip to a recycling center to see how it works, but she finds a factory stoppage and a suspicious manager.

The Way Things Work - David Macaulay, (978-0395938478) , Non-fiction
Interest level: 4-12, Lexile: 1180, ESL level: 4
Macauley's drawings and explanations cover a wide variety of how machines work, and the latest edition covers items in the digital world as well.

Water Power - Christine Peterson, (978-0516219424) , Non-fiction
Interest level: 1-4, Lexile: 1050, ESL level: 4 - 5
This book contains many additional resources for learning about water power that add significantly to the offerings of the text.

Why Should I Save Energy - Jen Green, (978-0764131561) , Non-fiction
Interest level: 3-8, ESL level: 3 - 4
This book explains, from a children's point of view, why conserving energy is important.

Wind Power - Tea Benduhn , (978-0836893649) , Non-fiction
Interest level: 1-4, Lexile: 680, ESL level:
This book shows the wonderful things about using a natural resource, wind, as a significant source of power

Wind Power Whiz Kid - Scott Nickel, (978-1434208545) , Fiction
Interest level: 4-8, Lexile: 400, ESL level: 2 - 3
After Buzz' father wants to help his town with a green windmill, the power plant owner objects.

Wind the World Over - Irene Boland, (978-1931721943) , Fiction
Interest level: 3-7, ESL level: 3
Ruby and Ian travel around the world to learn about the wind after finding a mysterious note while their father is getting new wind turbines.

Zap! I'm a Mind Reader - Dan Greenburg, (978-0448412634) , Fiction
Interest level: 3-5, Lexile: 390, ESL level: 2-3
An experiment involving electricity in Zack's science course leads to his getting a shock and gaining the ability to read people's minds.

Middle School to Young Adult Books

The Science of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials - Mary Gribbin, (375-831444) , Non-fiction
Interest level: 5-12, ESL level: 4
This book separates real science from Pullman's fantasy creations in his Dark Materials series.

Careers in Renewable Energy - Gregory McNamee, (978-0977372430) , Non-fiction
Interest level: 7-12, ESL level: 4
This book provides information on careers in renewable energy and references that are useful for those pursuing such careers.

Cat's Cradle - Kurt Vonnegut, (978-0385333481) , Fiction
Interest level: 8-12, Lexile: 790, ESL level: 4
Scientists, government agents, and ordinary people race to find a new form of ice as the author interviews the children of those responsible for the development of the atom bomb.

Empty - Suzanne Weyn, (978-0545172790) , Fiction
Interest level: 5-12, Lexile: 790, ESL level: 4
Teen classmates must take on the problem of oil supplies becoming depleted.

Flygirl - Sherri Smith, (978-0142417256) , Fiction
Interest level: 6-12, Lexile: 680, ESL level: 3 - 4
A light skinned African American does not reveal her true racial origins since she wants to become a pilot and join the Women Airforce Service group.

Harbinger - Sara Wilson Etienne, (978-0399256684) , Fiction
Interest level: 6-12, Lexile: 640, ESL level: 3 - 4
After social riots due to the loss of oil reserves, Faye finds herself in an institution for delinquents and the insane where she suffers from visions about how to save the earth.

In the Electric Eden - Nick Arvin, (142-002569) , Fiction
Interest level: 10-12, ESL level: 4
These short stories combine the author's background in technology effects with gripping details about human relationships.

Leviathan - Scott Westerfeld, (978-1416971733) , Fiction
Interest level: 6-12, Lexile: 790, ESL level: 3 - 4
Prince Alek and Deryn battle the Clanker Powers to prevent the latter from conquering the world using mechanically engineered machines.

The Magic of Reality - Richard Dawkins, (978-1439192818) , Non-fiction
Interest level: 7-12, ESL level: 4
Richard Dawkins explains apparent magic by using scientific principles.

UnBuilding - David Macaulay, (978-0395294574) , Fiction
Interest level: 8-12, Lexile: 1200, ESL level: 5
Imagine what it would be like to take down the Empire State Building; here you can find all the details and specifications.

A Web of Air - Philip Reeve, (978-0545222167) , Fiction
Interest level: 6-12, Lexile: 1000, ESL level: 4 - 5
After an apocalyptic world destruction, an aspiring engineer and an unusual partner try to construct a flying apparatus despite the opposition's plan to destroy their creation.

Books for Mature Teens and Adults

Arctic Gold - Stephen Coonts, (978-0312946951) , Fiction
Interest level: 10-12, ESL level: 4 - 5
The Russian mafia tries to take control of an Arctic area's oil reserves so an ex-Marine must come to the rescue of some kidnapped spies who had been working there.

Blowout - Byron Dorgon, (978-0765327376) , Non-fiction
Interest level: 11-12, ESL level: 5
An experimental power station is threatened while researchers continue their search for a new clean energy source in this adult thriller.

Dawn over Kitty Hawk - Walter Boyne, (765-304716) , Fiction
Interest level: 10-12, ESL level: 4 - 5
The Wright Brothers' struggle to overcome familial and social discouragement allows them to succeed in developing the world's first mechanized airplane.

The Gods Themselves - Isaac Asimov, (978-0553288100) , Fiction
Interest level: 8-12, Lexile: 790, ESL level: 4 - 5
Earth, moon, and planetary residents try to work together to control the development of harmful materials.

Grantville Gazette V - Eric Flint, (978-1439132791) , Fiction
Interest level: 10-12, ESL level: 4
Americans of modern times time travel to bring their modern inventions and technology to small-town Germans experiencing the 30-year war.

The McGraw-Hill Recycling Handbook - Herbert Lund, (978-0070391567) , Non-fiction
Interest level: 10-12, ESL level: 4
This non-fiction text gives an overview of recycling programs, operations, technology, and political and social concerns.

Night Flight - Antoine de Saint-Exup?ry , (978-0156656054) , Fiction
Interest level: 9-12, Lexile: 870, ESL level: 4 - 5
This classic is a fictionalized account of the mail service to South America in the early part of the 20th century and the struggles of the pilots to keep their planes running and fight the unpredictable weather.

Power Play - Ben Bova, (978-0765317865) , Fiction
Interest level: 10-12, ESL level: 5
An astonomy scholar advises a playboy U.S. Senate incumbent about electricity generation and finds himself in the center of political intrigue, love affairs, and murder.

Roaring Thunder - Walter Boyne, (978-0765347466) , Fiction
Interest level: 10-12, ESL level: 4 - 5
This fictionalized account of some famous aviators reveals how the lives of the families of test pilots are affected by their father's careers and developments in aviation.

Sandstorm - James Rollins, (978-0062017581) , Fiction
Interest level: 10-12, ESL level: 4 - 5
After a London museum explodes, scientists begin searching for the source of energy that caused the eruption and must travel to an imaginary city to complete their research.

Wings: A Novel of World War II Flygirls - Karl Friedrich, (978-1590135709) , Fiction
Interest level: 10-12, ESL level: 4
This historical novel gives the fictionalized account of an aspiring young woman from a dirt-poor family who works hard to become one of the first female pilots working for the military.