Thursday, June 23, 2011

SPL Shelf Life [kids]

These reviews appeared in the Stratford Gazette on June 23, 2011 
Written by Sally Hengeveld, Librarian

Children are curious about many things in science. A well-written and attractively presented children’s science book can engage both an avid and a reluctant reader.  For the author, it can be a challenge to take complicated science and explain it at a level that can be understood by young inquiring minds, but many children’s science books have successfully done so, and the following new books are just two examples. 

Kaboom! Explosions of all Kinds, by Gillian Richardson, 83 pages.

Explosions of various kinds actually happen all the time in nature, from the quiet “pop” of seed pods to noisy volcanic eruptions, dramatic solar flares in space and huge supernovas in neighbouring galaxies.  Some explosions are man-made, such as fireworks, gunpowder, dynamite or the exploding fuel in the combustion chamber of an internal combustion engine.  Some explosions occur in our own kitchens, such as when we pop corn or shake a bottle of carbonated beverage.
What causes an explosion?  It happens when a rapid release of energy occurs – often a result of gases under an extreme pressure (such as heat) expanding and needing more space than what is available.
One of the best-known explosions on our planet occurs every 20 minutes or so in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. The spouts of Old Faithful, a geyser that erupts in steam when water beneath the earth’s surface reaches the boiling point, can be as high as a 20-story building.
Some of the most famous and dramatic explosions in history are described in this book, such as the Halifax Harbour Explosion of 1917, the Hindenburg tragedy (1937) and volcanic explosions such as the eruption of Mount St. Helens (1980, Washington State).
The many photos and careful selection of information (which is easy for children to understand but still adequate to explain each phenomenon) has resulted in an intriguing children’s science book which addresses a topic that’s sure to be of interest.  Sources of more information are provided.
** Recommended for ages 8 to 12 years.

Journey to Mars: Quest for the Red Planet, by Jonathan Webb, 48 pages.

For years, Mars has been the setting of many science fiction adventures in book and film. Little was actually known about the “red planet” but all sorts of fantastic possibilities – such as green aliens with ray guns, or creatures with tentacles - were imagined.  Modern technology has allowed us to learn more.  We now know that our neighbour planet has no humanoid life forms, and we also know that its air is composed mostly of carbon dioxide, temperatures are generally very cold, and the soil is toxic.  
Journey to Mars describes the spacecraft and cameras which have travelled to/near Mars, and invites young readers to imagine their own journey to this planet, complete with protective space suits and oxygen supplies.  Visitors can expect to see a barren landscape of craters, deep valleys, plateaux and jagged mountains on Mars, which is approximately one half of the size of Earth.  The largest volcano in our solar system, Olympus Mons, measuring three times the height of Earth’s Mount Everest, is found on this planet.  No trees, plants or flowers exist, and the soil is thin and stony.  There are no oceans, rivers, ponds or even puddles.  Looking into the atmosphere of Mars, visitors would likely see lots of reddish-coloured dust and possibly one of the two Martian moons.
Still today, however, much more is unknown about Mars than known.
This science book addresses a topic of great interest to children, using clear photos and a wealth of up-to-date information in an easy-to-understand format that draws many comparisons to Earth for young readers.  Further sources of information and reading are listed.
** Recommended for ages 8 to 12 years

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