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Readers will find new appreciation for rocks and their place among Earth’s inhabitants in this list of rock-centric fiction and nonfiction titles.
Forming for millions of years, often in one place, rocks can seem dull. We drive over them, walk past them, and kick them without thinking about their stories. Astronaut Neil Armstrong knew their value, however, when he stated, “Geologists have a saying: rocks remember.”
Many of the books in this article showcase the value of rocks and the history of the earth they “remember” and reveal to us. Other books recognize that rocks can be appreciated simply for the way they skip across water, sparkle in the light, or serve as a canvas for painted creations. If young readers still need convincing that rocks, well, rock, start with the irresistibly charming Old Rock in Deb Pilutti’s Old Rock (Is Not Boring).
Cave of Crystals. By Martha London. 2021. 32p. ABDO/Kids Core (9781532192845). Gr. 3–5. 910.202.Discovered beneath Mexico’s Sierra de Naica mountain in 2000, the Cave of Crystals is filled with gargantuan white selenite crystals (some reaching 36 feet!) and is featured here in impressive photographs. Part of the Engineered by Nature series, this title is divided into three chapters that explain the extreme conditions required for the crystals to form and how the cave was discovered and studied.
The Diamond and the Boy: The Creation of Diamonds and the Life of H. Tracy Hall. By Hannah Holt. Illus. by Jay Fleck. 2018. 40p. HarperCollins/Balzer+Bray (9780062659033). Gr. 1–4. 549.This clever dual narrative conveys how diamonds form naturally underground as rocks under pressure and how Hall discovered a way to make diamonds in a lab. While digitally enhanced illustrations contrast the diamond’s brilliance with earth tones, Holt (Hall’s granddaughter) builds tension in the side-by-side stories through shared text (e.g., rocks and Hall are both patient).
Earth Verse: Haiku from the Ground Up. By Sally M. Walker. Illus. by William Grill. 2018. 48p. Candlewick (9780763675127). Gr. 2–4. 550.Grouped by earth-science themes, including earth, rocks, minerals, fossils, earthquakes, and volcanoes, 29 haiku by Sibert-medalist Walker are accompanied by hazy colored-pencil interpretations of each concept. The poems range from metaphorical (e.g., imagining planet Earth as a hard-boiled egg) to directly instructional. Concluding narratives provide more information on each topic.
Igneous Rocks. By M. J. York. 2016. 24p. Child’s World (9781503808010). Gr. 2–4. 552.Straightforward text gives a thorough explanation of how volcanic eruptions form igneous rocks. Complemented by photos of various igneous rocks, this installment in the Geology Rocks! series differentiates between intrusive rocks (which form slowly deep below the earth’s surface) and extrusive rocks (which form quickly as lava leaves a volcano). Also in the series: Crystals and Minerals.
I’m Trying to Love Rocks. By Bethany Barton. Illus. by the author. 2020. 40p. Viking (9780451480958). K–Gr. 2. 552.In this lively informational picture book, a Black girl who loves geology attempts to convert an unseen, initially snarky onlooker (a stand-in for the book’s audience), who yawns at the thought of rocks. She explains such concepts as the rock cycle, the three kinds of rocks, how rocks are formed, and minerals and gemstones, while energetic, childlike illustrations help viewers visualize these concepts.
A Rainbow of Rocks. By Kate DePalma. 2020. 24p. Barefoot (9781782859864). PreS–Gr. 2. 552.Enchanting colors, eye-catching photos, and rhyming, descriptive text work together to introduce young readers to a variety of rocks. Double-page spreads pair rocks that share the same color (e.g., claystone and ruby) but also have unique qualities. A concluding section offers basic rock facts and a Q&A about rocks and minerals (“Does light shine through them?”). For more rock beauty, see Dianna Hutts Aston’s A Rock Is Lively (2012).
Rocks and Minerals. By Seymour Simon. 2017. 48p. Harper (9780062289186). Gr. 3–6. 552.Part photo-essay, part entry-level guide, the text begins with a tour of minerals before moving on to rock classification (igneous, sedimentary, etc.) and the geologic processes behind the formation of each. The final third of the book gets into the nitty-gritty of identification, offering clue-gathering methods for testing luster, fracture, hardness, etc. Clear, colorful photos depict numerous examples.
Rocks and Minerals: Geology from Caverns to the Cosmos. By Andy Hirsch. Art by the author. 2020. 128p. First Second (9781250203953). Gr. 4–8. 551.In this in-depth graphic novel, part of the Science Comics series, a young boy becomes an assistant to Sedona, a famous rock hunter. Together, they travel around the world as Sedona explains such earth-science concepts as the Big Bang Theory, Earth’s layers, the three kinds of rocks and their formation, minerals, and fossils. Action-packed scenes and infographics foster comprehension and appeal.
Rocks and Minerals: Get the Dirt on Geology. By Chris Eboch. Illus. by Alexis Cornell. 2020. 128p. Nomad (9781619308510). Gr. 5–8. 552.This geology primer presents in-depth coverage of rock topics, from volcanoes and erosion to the effects of groundwater and the connection between geology and energy. Part of the Inquire and Investigate Earth Science series, this book uses cartoon teen guides to reinforce concepts and comprises color photos, maps, diagrams, related questions, sidebars, and formative activities and experiments.
Rocks, Sticks, and the Forest Floor. By Robin Twiddy. 2019. 24p. KidHaven (9781534528697). Gr. 1–3. 577.3.Large panoramic and up-close photos of forest scenes and simple text relate types of rocks and sticks and their use as habitats for insects, animals, and plants in this nature guide. Part of the Forest Explorer series, the book begins with a list of equipment for observation and exploration and includes guided questions and related activities. A final section shows how to keep field notes.
The Science of Rocks and Minerals: The Hard Truth about the Stuff beneath Our Feet. By Alex Woolf. Illus. by Paco Sordo. 2018. 32p. Scholastic/Franklin Watts (9780531230787). Gr. 3–5. 552.Similar in style to books in the popular You Wouldn’t Want to Live Without series, this volume in the Science of the Earth series uses cartoonish art and themed double-page spreads to convey basic facts about rocks, minerals, and metals. A quick overview of Earth’s layers and the rock cycle sets readers up to learn about types of rocks; descriptions of minerals, crystals, gems, metals, and mining follow.
Sedimentary Rocks. By Jenny Fretland VanVoorst. 2019. 32p. Bellwether/Blastoff! Discovery (9781644870778). Gr. 3–5. 552.A quick explanation of these rocks also encompasses how they are identified. Next come the three main types of sedimentary rock (clastic, chemical, and organic) and the environmental conditions that produce them. This volume in the Rocks & Minerals series is packed with beautiful photos of sedimentary rock formations from around the world, as well as “Sedimentary Rock Profiles” that visually compile a rock’s stats.
Ultimate Rockopedia: The Most Complete Rocks & Minerals Reference Ever. By Steve Tomaceck. 2020. 272p. National Geographic (9781426339189). Gr. 4–8. 551.02.From flashy geodes to digital images of the Earth’s layers, this book’s visual elements are eye-catching and educational, in typical National Geographic style. After first defining rocks at a base level and explaining the Earth’s geosphere, this comprehensive title describes the rock cycle and three types of rocks. Several rocks are identified individually on nicely illustrated double-page spreads. See also: John Farndon’s Rocks, Minerals and Gems (2016).
Bring Me a Rock! By Daniel Miyares. Illus. by the author. 2016. 40p. Simon & Schuster (9781481446020). PreS–K.When Grasshopper, king of the insects, commands, “Bring me a rock!” his many-legged subjects return with large rocks, but a tiny beetle’s pebble is callously rejected for the king’s “majestic pedestal.” As Grasshopper lounges atop his new throne, it starts swaying, leaving a pebble-sized problem. Minimal text and verdant, expressive illustrations with funny details supply the humor in this tyrannical tale.
A Chip Off the Old Block. By Jody Jensen Shaffer. Illus. by Daniel Miyares. 2018. 32p. Penguin/Nancy Paulsen (9780399173882). K–Gr. 2.Rocky comes from a long line of rock stars, like Uncle Gibraltar and Great-Grandma Half Dome. Although he’s a little pebble, inside he feels like a boulder, so he sets out to make a difference in the world. Finally, at Mount Rushmore, he fills in a crack in Lincoln’s nose. Expressive illustrations highlight the humor, while a concluding section offers more information on Rocky’s family formations.
If You Find a Rock. By Peggy Christian. Illus. by Barbara Hirsch Lember. 2000. 32p. Clarion (9780152063542). Gr. 1–3. 552.Poetic, quiet text and thoughtfully composed, hand-tinted photographs of children interacting with rocks combine to explore the variety and purposes of rocks. There are stones for skipping or hiding tiny creatures, some are large enough for climbing, and others soothe us when we worry or grant us wishes. The best ones, however, are those that remind us of a person, a place, or a feeling.
Old Rock (Is Not Boring). By Deb Pilutti. Illus. by the author. 2020. 40p. Putnam (9780525518181). K–Gr. 2.Tall Pine, Spotted Beetle, and Hummingbird remark that it must be boring for Old Rock to be stuck in the same spot. In an effort to show that it’s just a matter of perspective, Old Rock (with an adorable smile and wide eyes) counters with rousing tales of being blasted out of a volcano, gliding to new lands in a glacier, and more. The picture book closes with a 1.8-billion-year summary of Old Rock’s life.
Petra. By Marianna Coppo. Illus. by the author. Tr. by Thames & Hudson and Debbie Bibo. 2018. 48p. Tundra (9780735262676). PreS–Gr. 1.Petra is a magnificent mountain—until a large stick appears, followed by an even larger dog that picks up Petra, who now appears mighty small. Whether an island, a boulder, or a pebble, depending on the perspective, Petra is always an adorable, self-confident rock. Because that’s how Petra rolls! The rock’s natural colors and range of expressions stand out against a white background.
A Rock Can Be . . . By Laura Purdie Salas. Illus. by Violeta Dabija. 2015. 32p. Lerner/Millbrook (9781467721103). PreS–Gr. 3. 552.What can a rock be? “Tall mountain / Park fountain / Dinosaur bone / Stepping-stone.” The ideas expressed in this picture book’s pithy, rhyming text are varied and wide-ranging. Each two-word phrase appears on its own page, accompanied by a soft, luminous illustration. The sometimes-cryptic phrases create a natural guessing game, and an appended section offers a paragraph explaining each one.
The Rock from the Sky. By Jon Klassen. Illus. by the author. 2021. 96p. Candlewick (9781536215625). K–Gr. 3.Turtle has a favorite spot to stand in, but Armadillo has a bad feeling about it and isn’t sure why. It may have something to do with the huge rock hurtling through the sky toward that exact spot. With Klassen’s signature deadpan humor and muted art, five related stories follow three hat-wearing creatures as they navigate friendship and narrowly escape death in this long-form picture book that is high in suspense and humor.
Rocks! Rocks! Rocks! By Nancy Elizabeth Wallace. Illus. by the author. 2009. 48p. Amazon/Two Lions (9780761455288). PreS–Gr. 2. 552.When Buddy the bear shows an interest in rocks, Mama takes him on the Rock Trail at the Nature Center, where he learns about types of rocks, how they are formed, and the causes of erosion. Along the way, he plays with a floating rock and makes up rock-related riddles. Collages incorporate colorful papers and photos of rocks in this addition to the picture-book series in which Buddy explores nature. The text concludes with several activities.
A Stone Sat Still. By Brendan Wenzel. Illus. by the author. 2019. 56p. Chronicle (9781452173184). PreS–Gr. 2.Wenzel’s text sets a steady, poetic beat as each spread observes the same boulder, impressionistically depicted through a specific animal’s perspective. Whether the stone is rough to a slug, smooth to a porcupine, a pebble to a moose, or a hill to a beetle, the layered artwork holds to the conventions of science. Periodically, a visual refrain returns to a snail that makes it way, bit by bit, over the stone.
These Rocks Count! By Alison Formento. Illus. by Sarah Snow. 2014. 32p. Albert Whitman (9780807578704). PreS–Gr. 3.Mr. Tate and his class hike up Rocky Ridge Mountain with their guide, Ranger Pedra, who dispenses facts along the way and encourages them to sense the stories inside the rocks around them. The next section comprises counting rocks, from one sculptor chipping hard stone to 10 panes of glass in a new home. Digital collage artwork lends a textured appearance to the featured rocks and landscapes.
What Can You Do with a Rock? By Pat Zietlow Miller. Illus. by Katie Kath. 2021. 40p. Sourcebooks/Jabberwocky (9781728217635). PreS–Gr. 3.A blue-haired child, an avid rock collector, describes some of the fun ways to interact with rocks, from kicking and skipping them to sorting and decorating them (any way you want!). Best of all, rocks can help make friends and share stories together. Soft watercolor illustrations depict both the enthusiasm and colorful rock features. Brief rock facts and tips on organizing rocks conclude the picture book.
Rock ArtA Boy Named Isamu. By James Yang. Illus. by the author. 2021. 40p. Viking (9780593203446). K–Gr. 2.In this imagined biography of Japanese American artist Isamu Noguchi, a young Isamu leaves the marketplace and wanders away, thinking about the textures, colors, and forms of objects in the natural world around him. “Stones are the most special of all.” Rather than celebrate the success of the adult sculptor, the spare text and illustrations focus on the boy who viewed the world as a gift.
Famous RocksEverest: The Remarkable Story of Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay. By Alexandra Stewart. Illus. by Joe Todd-Stanton. 2020. 64p. Bloomsbury (9781547601592). Gr. 3–6. 796.522095496.This oversized picture book is a dual biography of Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, the men who first conquered Mount Everest. Exciting text gives credit to the multitude of people who made the summit possible, including experienced mountaineers, previous explorers, doctors who studied the physical effects of high altitudes, and innovators who created equipment and protective clothing.
Grand Canyon. By Jason Chin. Illus. by the author. 2017. 56p. Roaring Brook/Neal Porter (9781596439504). Gr. 2–5. 979.Following a father and daughter from the North Rim to the South Rim, Chin’s virtual hiking tour takes readers from the oldest, deepest area of the Grand Canyon (the Inner Gorge) to the youngest (Ponderosa Pine Forest). His stunning illustrations do double duty, offering snapshots of the pair’s trek as well as myriad details in the page margins, such as diagrams explaining how the canyon was formed.
If Stones Could Speak: Unlocking the Secrets of Stonehenge. By Marc Aronson. 2010. 64p. National Geographic (9781426305993). Gr. 4–6. 936.2.Aronson investigates the work of archaeologist Mike Parker Pearson and his theory that Stonehenge is but one end of a memorial ritual pathway. He describes how the painstaking digs of Pearson’s Riverside Project provide insights into how some of the henges, mounds, and other ancient human works may have been created and used. Photos of researchers at work top off the study. See also: Mick Manning’s The Secrets of Stonehenge (2013).
Petra. By Sara Green. 2020. 32p. Bellwether/Blastoff! Discovery (9781644872703). Gr. 2–4. 939.4.Part of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World series, this volume guides readers through the experience of visiting Petra, while presenting its history and interesting sidelights. Descriptions of this complex, ancient wonder help students appreciate the ingenuity and artistry of the Nabataeans, who originally built a thriving city in the desert. Color photos, maps, time lines, and sidebars lend to the accessibility.
Angela Leeper is the Director of the Curriculum Materials Center at the University of Richmond, VA.
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