How and Why Wonder Books

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How and Why Wonder Books were a series of illustrated American books published in the 1960s and 1970s that was designed to teach science and history to children and young teenagers. The series began in 1960, and was edited under the supervision of Dr. Paul E. Blackwood of the Office of Education at the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare. The series was published by Wonder Books, Inc., a division of Grosset & Dunlap.


There were 74 unique titles in the series, each one starting with the phrase The How and Why Wonder Book of… as a key component of the book's name. All 74 volumes were published in a softcover format, with pages measuring 8½ × 11 inches (21.6 × 27.9 cm) in size. A number of the titles were also produced in hardcover versions, too; these being referred to as either the "Trade Editions" or the "Library Editions." Each How and Why Wonder Book uniformly contained a total of 48 pages, with the only exception being The Environment and You, which contained 64 pages.[1]

The softcover books were numbered consecutively in series starting at 5001 (with the only exception being the final book in the series entitled Fossils).[2] The hardcover versions were numbered differently from the softcover issues.

  1. 5001 Dinosaurs
  2. 5002 Weather
  3. 5003 Electricity
  4. 5004 Rocks and Minerals
  5. 5005 Rockets and Missiles
  6. 5006 Stars
  7. 5007 Insects
  8. 5008 Reptiles and Amphibians
  9. 5009 Birds
  10. 5010 Our Earth
  11. 5011 Beginning Science
  12. 5012 Machines
  13. 5013 The Human Body
  14. 5014 Sea Shells
  15. 5015 Atomic Energy
  16. 5016 The Microscope
  17. 5017 The Civil War
  18. 5018 Mathematics
  19. 5019 Flight
  20. 5020 Ballet
  21. 5021 Chemistry
  22. 5022 Horses
  23. 5023 Explorations and Discoveries
  24. 5024 Primitive Man
  25. 5025 North America
  26. 5026 Planets and Interplanetary Travel
  27. 5027 Wild Animals
  28. 5028 Sound
  29. 5029 Lost Cities
  30. 5030 Ants and Bees
  31. 5031 Wild Flowers
  32. 5032 Dogs
  33. 5033 Prehistoric Mammals
  34. 5034 Science Experiments
  35. 5035 World War II
  36. 5036 Florence Nightingale
  37. 5037 Butterflies and Moths
  38. 5038 Fish
  39. 5039 Robots and Electronic Brains
  40. 5040 Light and Color
  41. 5041 Winning of the West
  42. 5042 The American Revolution
  43. 5043 Caves to Skyscrapers
  44. 5044 Ships
  45. 5045 Time
  46. 5046 Magnets and Magnetism
  47. 5047 Guns
  48. 5048 The Moon
  49. 5049 Famous Scientists
  50. 5050 The Old Testament
  51. 5051 Building
  52. 5052 Railroads
  53. 5053 Trees
  54. 5054 Oceanography
  55. 5055 North American Indians
  56. 5056 Mushrooms, Ferns and Mosses
  57. 5057 The Polar Regions
  58. 5058 Coins and Currency
  59. 5059 Basic Inventions
  60. 5060 The First World War
  61. 5061 Electronics
  62. 5062 Deserts
  63. 5063 Air and Water
  64. 5064 Stars
  65. 5065 Airplanes and the Story of Flight
  66. 5066 Fish
  67. 5067 Boats and Ships
  68. 5068 The Moon
  69. 5069 Trains and Railroads
  70. 5070 Ecology
  71. 5071 The Environment and You
  72. 5072 Extinct Animals
  73. 5073 Snakes
  74. 5076 Fossils

When publication of the How and Why Wonder Book series first commenced in 1960, only the initial six titles in the series were produced. As time went by, and as the series proved to be highly successful, more new titles were added to expand its scope.

At the same time, a handful of titles also disappeared from the comprehensive "checklists" (located on back covers) when these volumes were revised and republished under a different title and/or series number. Specifically, there were six titles that were removed from checklists when they were reissued with a later series number. They were:

  1. 5006 Stars (reissued as 5064 Stars)
  2. 5019 Flight (reissued as 5065 Airplanes and the Story of Flight)
  3. 5038 Fish (reissued as 5066 Fish)
  4. 5044 Ships (reissued as 5067 Boats and Ships)
  5. 5048 The Moon (reissued as 5068 The Moon)
  6. 5052 Railroads (reissued as 5069 Trains and Railroads)

Although some of the titles were not altered from earlier versions, both the cover artwork and the interior content were changed. Thus, it is easy to distinguish between the early versions and the latter issues by the cover art alone.

The first 69 books in the series were issued with beautifully illustrated cover art, otherwise referred to as Painted Covers, during the 1960s. Later reprints in the 1970s, however, switched to Photo Covers. In fact, four of the last five volumes in the series were only produced in a photo cover version (Ecology, Extinct Animals, Snakes, and Fossils). Strangely enough, one of the final five titles (The Environment and You) was only issued in a painted cover, even though it was not released until the 1970s.

Because of the striking cover artwork, and thanks largely to the nostalgic appeal of these books, they have become collectable items once more today.

The mystery of the missing series numbers[edit]

A mystery for collectors is the absence of How and Why Wonder Book volumes numbered 5074 or 5075. While it may well have been the original intent of publishers to fill in these missing gaps in the series sequence, this was never done. With the advent of the ISBN numbering system, the 5075 number was eventually assigned to a 1985 hardcover reprint of Earl Schenck Miers book America and Its Presidents (ISBN 0-448-05075-7). The ISBN number associated with number 5074 (ISBN 0-448-05074-9) has never been assigned.

Price Stern Sloan How and Why Editions[edit]

Price Stern Sloan took over the publication of the How and Why series and released many of the existing titles with new covers. In addition they added some new titles to the list:

  1. Space
  2. Solar System
  3. Living Things
  4. Planet Earth
  5. Motorcycles
  6. Automobiles
  7. Ships and Submarines
  8. Robots
  9. Radiation
  10. Aircraft

The first four of these had the series name How and Why Wonder Books above the title; the remainder reverted to the original The How and Why Wonder Book of... formulation.

How and Why Activity Books[edit]

Price Stern Sloan also released a matching series of activity books that contained mazes, puzzles and games about the subject they contained. Titles released in this series were:

  1. Beginning Science
  2. Cats
  3. Dinosaurs
  4. The Earth
  5. Four Famous Dinosaurs
  6. Human Body
  7. Insects
  8. Prehistoric Animals
  9. Reptiles
  10. Rocks and Minerals
  11. Sharks
  12. Space
  13. Wild Animals
  14. Wild Animals of North America

The UK Series[edit]

During the 1960s and 1970s, the How and Why Wonder Book series was concurrently published in the United Kingdom by Transworld Publishers of London. For the most part, both the cover artwork and the inner content of the UK volumes were identical to those of the U.S. publications. However, a handful of the UK versions contained either revised text and/or unique cover art. Many of these revisions were done to reflect European species (Birds, Insects) or to emphasize regional conditions.

The UK series was published using a completely different numbering sequence from the U.S. series (Dinosaurs is number 6501,[3] Stars is 6503,[4] etc.). Also, the UK version of Extinct Animals has a painted cover as opposed to the U.S. version's photo cover.

The following standard series titles were released in the UK by Transworld Publishers. Unless otherwise indicated, both the content and cover art used were identical to those of the American versions:

How and Why Wonder Books
How and Why Wonder Books
  • 6501 Dinosaurs
  • 6502 Weather
  • 6503 Stars
  • 6504 The Human Body
  • 6505 Chemistry
  • 6506 Horses
  • 6507 Planets and Interplanetary Travel
  • 6508 Wild Animals
  • 6509 Lost Cities
  • 6510 Dogs
  • 6511 Fish
  • 6512 Caves to Skyscrapers
  • 6513 Our Earth
  • 6514 The First World War (different cover art from US version)
  • 6515 Explorations and Discoveries (different cover from later US softcover, but same as US hardcover and initial US softcover)
  • 6516 Mathematics
  • 6517 Primitive Man
  • 6518 Science Experiments
  • 6519 The Microscope
  • 6520 Flight
  • 6521 Prehistoric Mammals
  • 6522 Atomic Energy
  • 6523 Robots and Electronic Brains
  • 6524 Ballet
  • 6525 Electricity
  • 6526 Machines
  • 6527 Sound
  • 6528 Ants and Bees
  • 6529 Light and Colour
  • 6530 Reptiles
  • 6531 Rocks and Minerals
  • 6532 Beginning Science
  • 6533 Famous Scientists
  • 6534 The Polar Regions
  • 6535 North American Indians
  • 6536 The Lady of the Lamp (identical to US Florence Nightingale version, but unique title)
  • 6537 Winning of the West
  • 6538 Time
  • 6539 Basic Inventions
  • 6540 Magnets and Magnetism
  • 6541 Old Testament
  • 6542 Oceanography
  • 6543 Building
  • 6544 Deserts
  • 6548 Rocks and Minerals (Revised Edition of #6531)
  • 6550 Electronics
  • 6551 Air and Water
  • 6552 Railways (new text and cover art as compared to US Railroads edition)
  • 6553 Birds (revised text and unique cover art)
  • 6554 Coins (new text and cover art as compared to US Coins and Currency edition)
  • 6555 Extinct Animals (was UK release first, subsequently released in US with different cover)
  • 6557 World War II (revised text and unique cover art)
  • 6561 Wild Flowers (revised text and unique cover art)
  • 6562 Trees (unique cover art)
  • 6564 Fossils (was UK release first, subsequently released in US with different cover)
  • 6568 Butterflies and Moths (revised text and unique cover art)
  • 6571 Insects (revised text and unique cover art)
  • 6572 Robots and Electronic Brains (Revised Edition of #6523)
  • 6575 Electronics (Revised Edition of #6550)
  • 6579 Ships (unique cover art)
  • 6580 Dogs (Revised Edition of #6510)
  • 6581 Beginning Science (Revised Edition of #6532)
  • 6585 Snakes
  • 6586 Planets and Interplanetary Travel (Revised Edition of #6507)
  • 6592 Weather (same cover image as U.S. edition, but revised content to #6502)
  • 6595 Deserts (Same content as US edition but unique cover as compared to #6544)

In addition to the foregoing, Transworld expanded the UK series with the release of the following new, unique titles:

Early editions of the UK volumes had a "checklist" on their back covers, similar to American copies. This format was used up until #6536 (Lady of the Lamp); released in 1967. However, soon thereafter, the format of the back cover was revised to show a photo of a random selection of some of the volumes available in the series.

In addition, Transworld published two How and Why BUMPER WONDER Books which were "puzzles, quizzes, jokes, amazing facts" using content and images from the various How and Why editions.

One feature of most UK editions of the How and Why books was that the back inner cover featured an advertisement for a "Collector's Binder" to hold your How and Why books. The ad read "The new How and Why collector binder holds 12 titles; a wonderful way to build your own reference library! It is available from the publishers of the How and Why books for only 16/-. Supplies are limited so send for yours now." This back inner cover advertisement was a standard feature for many years.

It also appears that four of the ISBN series numbers contained within the sequential Transworld numbering block were never assigned to volumes within the How and Why Wonder book series; these being volumes #6582 (ISBN 0-552-86582-6), #6588 (ISBN 0-552-86588-5), #6590 (ISBN 0-552-86590-7) and #6594 (ISBN 0-552-86594-X). An ISBN search of these numbers indicates that they were never assigned to published volumes.

Although the above lists are comprehensive for How and Why Wonder Book volumes published by Grosset & Dunlap and Transworld in the 1960s and 1970s, it should also be noted that certain volumes in the series continued to be published by Price Stern Sloan into the 1980s and that additional unique titles were added to the series. New How and Why Wonder Book titles included Radiation, Ships and Submarines, Planet Earth, Living Things, Automobiles, Motorcycles, Space, Robots, Aircraft, and the Solar System. None of these titles was available earlier than 1987 and thus they do not appear in the foregoing checklists.

Dutch translations[edit]

Dutch translations of the American originals were published, originally in softcover and later in hardcover, by Zuid-Nederlandse Uitgeverij at Deurne, Belgium under the titles "HOE EN WAAROM" or "Het HOE EN WAAROM boek van".

German translations[edit]

German translations were published from 1961, originally in softcover and later in hardcover, by Tessloff Verlag, Hamburg, Germany, under the title "Was ist was". The edition was fairly successful and produced audio CDs and DVDs later on.

Writers, illustrators and photographers[edit]

Many individuals contributed to the How and Why Wonder Book series. They consisted of a wide spectrum of authors, artists and photographers. Some of these individuals contributed to several volumes in the How and Why Wonder Book series, while many others appeared on a one-time basis only. A partial listing of many of the individuals that contributed to the series is outlined below.

Writers: Darlene Geis, George Bonsall, Jerome J. Notkin, Sidney Gulkin, Nelson W. Hyler, Clayton Knight, Norman Hoss, Ronald Rood, Robert Mathewson, Felix Sutton, Martin L. Keen, Donald F. Low, Donald Barr, Earl Schenck Miers, Esther Harris Highland, Harold Joseph Highland, Lee Wyndham, Margaret Cabell Self, Irving Robbin, Grace F. Ferguson, Robert Scharff, Gene Liberty, Jean Bethell, Dr. Gilbert Klaperman, Geoffrey Coe, Amy Elizabeth Jensen, Dr. Paul J. Gelinas, Clare Cooper Cunniff, Shelly Grossman, Mary Louise Grossman, Matthew J. Brennan and Georg Zappler.

Illustrators and photographers: - Kenyon Shannon, George Pay, Robert Patterson, Charles Bernard, James Ponter, Cynthia Koehler, Alvin Koehler, Darrell Sweet, Douglas Allen, Ned Smith, Walter Ferguson, John Hull, George J. Zaffo, William Fraccio, Tony Tallarico, Leonard Vosburgh, Rafaello Busoni, Matthew Kalmenoff, Denny McMains, William Barss, Robert Doremus, Shannon Stirnweis, Shelly Grossman, Dougal MacDougal and John Barber.

Spotlight Wonder Books and the 7900 Series[edit]

Closely associated with the How and Why Wonder Book series are two other series of softcover books produced by publisher Grosset and Dunlap in the 1960s under the Wonder Books banner. They are the Spotlight Wonder Book series and the otherwise nameless "7900" series.

Spotlight Wonder Books[edit]

The Spotlight Wonder Book series focused on famous people or institutions as opposed to science topics. They were identical to How and Why Wonder Books in terms of their size (8½ × 11 inches, or 21.6 × 27.9 cm) and the fact that they also contained the standard 48 pages. Titles included the following:

  1. 6900 The Story of John F. Kennedy[5]
  2. 6901 Into Space with the Astronauts[6]
  3. 6902 The Story of Winston Churchill[7]
  4. 6903 The White House and the Presidency[8]
  5. 6904 The Capitol and Our Lawmakers[9]
  6. 6905 The Story of the American Negro[10]
  7. 6906 The Story of the F.B.I.[11]
  8. 6907 The Story of Pope John XXIII[12]

The 7900 Series[edit]

Similar in size and style to How and Why Wonder Books and Spotlight Wonder Books, the 7900 series pertained to television personalities/programs or fictional characters. Titles included:

  1. 7900 Portrait of Skipper[13]
  2. 7901 Monsters[14]
  3. 7902 Bewitched[15]
  4. 7903 The Man from U.N.C.L.E.[16]
  5. 7904 Soupy Sales[17]

Conquest of the Moon[edit]

In 1969 Wonder Books/Grosset and Dunlap published Conquest of the Moon, a 64-page book in the same format as a How and Why Wonder Book consisting of revised content from #5048 The Moon and expanded to include the story of the Apollo 11 moon landing mission.[18]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Brennan, Matthew J. The Environment and You. Grosset and Dunlap, Wonder Books, 1972
  2. ^ Burton, John Fossils. Grosset and Dunlap, Wonder Books, 1976
  3. ^ Geis, Darlene The How and Why Wonder Book of Dinosaurs. Transworld Publishers, London. The 6501 series number is derived from the ten-digit ISBN 0-552-86501-X
  4. ^ Hoss, Norman The How and Why Wonder Book of Stars. Transworld Publishers, London. The 6503 series number is derived from the ten-digit ISBN 0-552-86503-6
  5. ^ Miers, Earl Schenck The Story of John F. Kennedy. Grosset and Dunlap, Wonder Books, 1964
  6. ^ Scharff, Robert Into Space with the Astronauts. Illustrated with official National Aeronautics and Space Administration photographs and drawings. Grosset and Dunlap, Wonder Books, 1965
  7. ^ Miers, Earl Schenck The Story of Winston Churchill. Grosset and Dunlap, Wonder Books, 1965
  8. ^ Miers, Earl Schenck The White House and the Presidency. Grosset and Dunlap, Wonder Books, 1965
  9. ^ Miers, Earl Schenck The Capitol and Our Lawmakers. Grosset and Dunlap, Wonder Books, 1965
  10. ^ Miers, Earl Schenck The Story of the American Negro. Grosset and Dunlap, Wonder Books, 1965
  11. ^ Miers, Earl Schenck The Story of the F.B.I.. Grosset and Dunlap, Wonder Books, 1965
  12. ^ Nevins, Albert J. The Story of Pope John XXIII. Grosset and Dunlap, Wonder Books, 1966
  13. ^ Lenhart, Ellen Portrait of Skipper. Illustrated by Claudine Nankivel. Grosset and Dunlap, Wonder Books, 1964. Skipper is a registered trademark of Mattel, Inc.
  14. ^ Adapted and Abridged by Gibson, Walter Monsters, Three Famous Spine-Tingling Tales. Contains Frankenstein and the Monster, Dracula the Vampire and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Illustrations by Tony Tallarico. Grosset and Dunlap, Wonder Books, 1965
  15. ^ Lenhart, Ellen Bewitched. Illustrated by Beverly Edwards. Grosset and Dunlap, Wonder Books, 1965
  16. ^ Gibson, Walter The Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Coin of El Diablo Affair. Illustrated by I. H. Guyer. Grosset and Dunlap, Wonder Books, 1965
  17. ^ Gelman, Barbara and Shorin, Robert Soupy Sales. Illustrated by Tony Tallarico. Grosset and Dunlap, Wonder Books, 1965
  18. ^ Sutton, Felix and Maurer, Alvin Conquest of the Moon. Pictures by Raul Mina Mora and NASA. Grosset and Dunlap, Wonder Books, 1969

External links[edit]