Thursday, November 24, 2011

SPL Shelf Life [kids]

The Elephant Scientist, by Caitlin O’Connell and Donna M. Jackson, 70 pages.

While studying elephants in Nambia, researcher Caitlin O’Connell encountered an intriguing mystery. She noticed that the pachyderms sometimes behaved quite oddly while they were walking, when they would suddenly freeze and lean forward on their feet as if they could sense something. Could they be sensing vibrations of some sort through their feet?

Working with other scientists, O’Connell eventually discovered the explanation. The elephants were indeed sensing vibrations through the many vibration-sensitive cells located in their footpads. These cells allow them to “hear” waves or vibrations transmitted through the ground. In fact, although elephants are also known to communicate over long distances with low-frequency rumbles, they often “talk” to each other with their feet. The special cells in their feet allow them to feel even the tiniest movement, causing nerve impulses to be sent to their brain. When this happens, the elephants stand in place so that they can focus and “hear” the message that is being sent.

Interestingly, O’Connell had previously observed the same behaviour in much smaller creatures – planthoppers. These tiny insects also feel vibrations in their feet from surrounding plants, leaves, twigs and the ground, and they freeze in position while “receiving” their message. Various other types of insects act in a similar fashion. 

The Elephant Scientist incorporates clear explanations of the process through which a researcher was able to solve a fascinating scientific mystery, as well as eye-catching photos, a useful glossary and sources of further information (which include Internet links to videos of some of O’Connell’s elephant experiments).

** Recommended for ages 8 to 13 years.

You Asked? Over 300 Great Questions and Astounding Answers, by the editors of Chickadee and Owl Magazines, 160 pages.  

Do animals in hot climates – such as elephants and lions – get sunburns?  If not, why not? On a hot day, why does a long asphalt road look as if it has water on it?  Which is colder: the North Pole or the South Pole? What causes people and animals to sink in quicksand?  If a black hole can’t be seen against the blackness of space, how do scientists know where these holes are located? Do rainbows ever happen at night? (yes, occasionally - but they are much harder to see than those occurring during the daytime.)  How do stars twinkle? How do mice squeeze through such tiny holes? Do woodpeckers get headaches when they hammer on trees? Why are feet so ticklish? And why does it hurt so much when you hit your “funny bone”?

To parents and teachers, it seems as if kids are always asking the most challenging science questions possible! However, this updated reissue of a very useful title for children, You Asked, can help. It includes 350 of the most puzzling questions that have been submitted to Chickadee and Owl, two award-winning Canadian children’s magazines, on the subjects of animals, plants, earth sciences, technology and the solar system. The answers and explanations to these intriguing questions are informative and easy for young readers to understand.

Curious kids (and adults) will enjoy discovering lots about the world around (and above) them with this illustrated volume.

** Recommended for ages 8 to 12 years.

These reviews appeared in The Stratford Gazette on November 24th. Written by Sally Hengeveld, Librarian.

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