Nano: The Spectacular Science of the Very (Very) Small – Perfect Picture Book Friday

No better way to enter 2022 than with a book of the future!

A book that shows why an award-winning physicist is also an adept science communicator.

A book that’s sure to bring WOW!s to the couch or classroom.

The first spread presents a cross section of a child’s house with labels, where the author explains what materials are and how they are physically different.

Making materials science relatable : Text ©Dr. Jess Wade Illustration ©Melissa Castrillón

Materials that a child is familiar with like paper, glass, and chocolate are compared before the author asks:

What makes different materials light, heavy, strong, or flexible?

To find out, you need to look closely…very closely….

In fact, you need to look right inside them.

Text ©Dr. Jess Wade Illustration ©Melissa Castrillón

Voilá! We enter the world of atoms, molecules, and elements. Melissa Castrillón’s illustrations do a fabulous job of adding context, as the little girl leads us through the explanations. The author and illustator never lose sight of the need to keep this tiny world relatable, using visuals of objects that children know well (including human bodies, comprising 11 elements. Science teachers, can you name them all?).

The first example focuses on a specific arrangement of carbon—graphite in pencils.

Graphite is soft and smudgy, because layers of carbon atoms slide over one another—which makes it easy to leave a mark on paper.

And then this well-known material turns it into something unexpected. Peeling graphite into one thin layer turns it into graphene,

…a substance so thin that it’s see-through. But it’s more flexible than rubber and stronger than steel. in fact, it’s the strongest material known to human beings. If you made a tightrope out of graphene, an elephant could walk along it without breaking it.

Text ©Dr. Jess Wade Illustration ©Melissa Castrillón

Graphene, a “nanomaterial,” is just ONE ATOM THICK!!!!

Cue the WOW!!!!!

This book contains so many more descriptions of how scientists are using nanomaterials in important ways, I am repeatedly WOWed! Nano should be in every classroom, on every coffee table, in every kid’s bedroom in this country. Let’s get revved up by the science of our future!

Back matter explains a bit more about nanoscience, microscopes, spectroscopy, and how chemists, physicists, and engineers approach nanotechnology in different ways. I can’t say enough about the art, created in pencil and colored digitally. The palette is eye-catching, and the composition is masterful.

Kudos to Candlewick, a publisher that brings such beautiful and engaging STEM books into the world!


Make molecules, using a variety of materials.

Enjoy this fabulous set of nano activities for kids from the Center for Nano Science at Penn State.

Learn more about atoms and molecules in this lesson, including a video.

Title: Nano: The Spectacular Science of the Very (Very) Small

Author: Dr. Jess Wade

Illustrator: Melissa Castrillón

Publisher: Candlewick, 2021

Themes: materials, STEM, nanotechnology

Ages: Elementary school

For more perfect picture book recommendations, please visit Susanna Hill’s website.

14 thoughts on “Nano: The Spectacular Science of the Very (Very) Small – Perfect Picture Book Friday

  1. Patricia Tilton says:

    I love that children are being exposed to nanotechnology at a young age. This really looks like a wonderful STEM book for teachers in the classroom. And, as an adult I would find it interesting. I worked for the Air Force where nanotechnology was “big” in the 1990s. It was a time they were partnering with universities and the field exploded. It was very difficult to understand, for many of us who weren’t scientific. So this book would grab my attention. It is so beautifully crafted and organized. Thanks for sharing!

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