April 24, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Out-of-This-World Knowledge: General Science | Series Made Simple Spring 2013

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Ever responsive to changing fads in educational theory, nonfiction publishers are, with varying success, already tweaking their new titles to conform to the Common Core science standards. These efforts range from inserting a few vague ideas for activities or demonstrations into otherwise conventional surveys of well-traveled informational territory to festooning texts with review questions, primary-source documents, photos and graphics, and suggestions for ongoing projects or lines of thought. As always, though, true value lies in a focus on presenting facts and information in ways that will engage readers and kindle their interest in finding out more. In the best books, the bells and whistles serve those time-tested goals.

Preschool-Grade 4

BAXTER , Roberta. States of Matter in the Real World. charts. reprods. ISBN 978-1-61783-745-6; ISBN 978-1-61480-836-7; ISBN 978-1-61783-795-1. LC 2012946823.
CARMICHAEL , L. E. The Scientific Method in the Real World. chart. reprods. ISBN 978-1-61783-743-2; ISBN 978-1-61480-834-3; ISBN 978-1-61783-793-7. LC 2012946795.
EBOCH , Chris. Magnets in the Real World. reprods. ISBN 978-1-61783-742-5; ISBN 978-1-61480-833-6; ISBN 978-1-61783-792-0. LC 2012946802.
KOONTZ , Robin. Light in the Real World. reprods. ISBN 978-1-61783-741-8; ISBN 978-1-61480-832-9; ISBN 978-1-61783-791-3. LC 2012946820.
MILIOS , Rita. Sound in the Real World. charts. reprods. ISBN 978-1-61783-744-9; ISBN 978-1-61480-835-0; ISBN 978-1-61783-794-4. LC 2012946821.
MULDOON , Kathleen M. Forces and Motion in the Real World. reprods. ISBN 978-1-61783-740-1; ISBN 978-1-61480-831-2; ISBN 978-1-61783-790-6. LC 2012946819.
WARD , Sarah E. Electricity in the Real World. charts. reprods. ISBN 978-1-61783-738-8; ISBN 978-1-61480-829-9; ISBN 978-1-61783-788-3. LC 2012946827.
ZUCHORA-WALSKE , Christine. Energy in the Real World. charts. ISBN 978-1-61783-739-5; ISBN 978-1-61480-830-5; ISBN 978-1-61783-789-0. LC 2012946828.
ea vol: 48p. (Science in the Real World Series). chron. diags. further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. ABDO/Core Library. 2013. PLB $32.79; ebook $32.79; pap. $15.64.
Gr 3-5–Finely tuned to the needs and methods of a CCSS-based curriculum, these explanations of some aspect of the physical world intersperse a main text with recaps and review or study questions every few pages. All the titles close not only with leads to somewhat more detailed resources, but also several open-ended concepts for consideration and suggestions for enhancement activities. The narratives are divided into easily manageable sections, and the clean design incorporates informative, crisply reproduced, captioned photos; reproductions; diagrams; and graphics. Sidebars often include short but substantial passages from primary-source documents with the requisite analytical glosses and questions to test comprehension. The volume on the history and uses (in and outside the lab) of the scientific method are particularly valuable.

BERNE , Emma Carlson. Bright!: Light Energy. ISBN 978-1-4488-9649-3; ISBN 978-1-4488-9888-6. LC 2012020045.
––––. Hot!: Heat Energy. ISBN 978-1-4488-9647-9; ISBN 978-1-4488-9886-2. LC 2012017917.
––––. Loud!: Sound Energy. ISBN 978-1-4488-9648-6; ISBN 978-1-4488-9887-9. LC2012019921.
––––. Shocking!: Electricity. ISBN 978-1-4488-9650-9; ISBN 978-1-4488-9889-3. LC 2012021117.
––––. Speeding!: Mechanical Energy. ISBN 978-1-4488-9651-6; ISBN 978-1-4488-9890-9. LC 2012022319.
––––. Transforming!: Chemical Energy. ISBN 978-1-4488-9652-3; 978-1-4488-9891-3 LC 2012022947.
ea vol: 24p. (Energy Everywhere Series). glossary. index. photos. websites. Rosen/PowerKids Pr. 2013. PLB $22.60; ebook $22.60.
Gr 3-4
–Though presenting broad concepts well enough, these introductions to different kinds of energy are, at best, unsystematic when it comes to details. For instance, though the author explains in Heat just what BTUs measure, in Electricity she mentions amperes, volts, and watts without specifically defining their differences. Furthermore, readers may be more confused than enlightened by statements such as this one in Chemical: “A carrot is an example of chemical energy stored in plants.” Captioned color and black-and-white photos illustrate the texts, and side boxes contain information on pioneering scientists such as James Joule and Nikola Tesla as well as additional facts. The glossaries and indexes are more scattershot than useful.

BRAUN , Eric. Let’s Rock!: Science Adventures with Rudie the Origami Dinosaur. ISBN 978-1-4048-7971-3; ISBN 978-1-4048-8068-9. LC 2012029512.
––––. Plant Parts Smarts: Science Adventures with Charlie the Origami Bee. ISBN 978-1-4048-7970-6; 978-1-4048-8072-6. LC 2012029514.
TROUPE , Thomas Kingsley. Diggin’ Dirt: Science Adventures with Kitanai the Origami Dog. ISBN 978-1-4048-7969-0; ISBN 978-1-4048-8066-5. LC 2012029511.
––––. Magnet Power!: Science Adventures with MAG-3000 the Origami Robot. ISBN 978-1-4048-7972-0; ISBN 978-1-4048-8070-2. LC 2012029513.
ea vol: illus. by Jamey Christoph. 24p. (Origami Science Adventures Series). further reading. glossary. index. websites. Picture Window. 2013. PLB $26.65; pap. $5.95.
Gr 1-3–In each of these thinly disguised lectures, a newly folded origami dog, robot, bee, or dinosaur has an informative conversation about a science topic with an animate item or a living creature. Each figure has a distinct personality, so the give-and-take is as entertaining as the art.  Except for Magnet and Plant, the origami exercises are a flub–the folding directions at the end of the other two titles do not create the models shown in the lively collage illustrations, but rather even simpler, more abstract versions. Young readers will get to gander at three types of rocks with dinosaur Rudie, learn about soil components with dog Kitanai, get an overview of plant parts with bee Charlie, and glimpse at some of the technological uses of magnets with robot MAG-3000. This set is certainly unusual enough in presentation to have some appeal as a change of pace, and a link in each volume to more information on a dedicated publisher’s website will appeal to young researchers whose curiosity has been piqued.

BYRNE , Eileen. Electricity for the Future. reprods. ISBN 978-1-4339-8394-8; ISBN 978-1-4339-8397-9. LC 2012020374.
MCWILLIAMS , Eileen. Pioneers of Electricity. chron. reprods. ISBN 978-1-4339-8412-9; ISBN 978-1-4339-8411-2. LC 2012031461.
SHEA , C. O. Conductors and Insulators. reprods. ISBN 978-1-4339-8389-4; ISBN 978-1-4339-8392-4. LC 2012019597.
VAIL , Grace. Motors and Generators. reprods. ISBN 978-1-4339-8404-4; ISBN 978-1-4339-8407-5. LC 2012023549.
WEINGARTEN , Ethan. What Is a Circuit? reprods. ISBN 978-1-4339-8414-3; ISBN 978-1-4339-8417-4. LC 2012031420.
WILSON , Roman. How Does a Battery Work? ISBN 978-1-4339-8399-3; ISBN 978-1-4339-8402-0. LC 2012020694.
ea vol: 24p. (Electrified! Series). diags. further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Gareth Stevens. 2013. PLB $22.60; ebook $22.60.
Gr 2-3–Shocking in topic if not treatment, these serviceable introductions explain how electricity is generated, stored, and transported. Staid color photos of wires, circuit boards, and, occasionally, children using games or other electronic gear are combined with simply phrased but equally dry texts. “Power Fact!” text boxes (usually one per spread), reproductions, and diagrams are also included. The level of detail is high enough to contain, for instance, clear definitions of “anode,” “cathode,” and “electrolyte” in Battery, and (aside from a photo in the same volume that mislabels a rechargeable battery as an alkaline one), the information is accurately presented. Though there are no project ideas or research questions, the resources in each volume’s back matter are audience appropriate. Future is a useful broad survey of alternate energy sources, and Pioneers offers a good historical overview of our evolving understanding of just what electricity is and does.

GREGORY , Helen. Healthy Eating. ISBN 978-1-4765-0036-2. LC 2011023094.
––––. Pushes and Pulls. ISBN 978-1-4765-0039-3. LC 2011023297.
MOORE , Elizabeth. Looking at Rocks. ISBN 978-1-4765-0037-9. LC 2011023097.
––––. Oceans. ISBN 978-1-4765-0038-6. LC 2011033666.
ea vol: 24p. (Wonder Readers Next Steps: Science Series). glossary. index. photos. websites. Capstone. 2013. PLB $21.99.
K-Gr 1–Uniformly sized to fit small hands but massively divergent in breadth of topic, these primers pair easy-to-comprehend color photos, one per page, with simple descriptive captions of one-to-three short sentences. Oceans is, inevitably, ridiculously superficial, and at the opposite extreme Pulls takes on such a narrow concept that it waxes redundant. The other two titles offer a somewhat better balance between length and content, though in Eating readers are confusingly urged that, “You should eat food from all of the food groups every day” after being informed that “Oils are not a food group, but you need some every day” on a page that features a photo of butter, cake, candies, and a donut. Each volume ends with a suggestion for a doable enrichment activity.

HAWKINS , Jay. Bright Ideas: The Science of Light. ISBN 978-1-4777-0320-5; ISBN 978-1-4777-0390-8.
––––. Hot Stuff: The Science of Heat and Cold. ISBN 978-1-4777-0321-2; ISBN 978-1-4777-0391-5.
––––. It’s Alive!: The Science of Plants and Living Things. ISBN 978-1-4777-0322-9; ISBN 978-1-4777-0392-2.
––––. Material World: The Science of Matter. ISBN 978-1-4777-0323-6; ISBN 978-1-4777-0393-9.
––––. Push and Pull: The Science of Forces. ISBN 978-1-4777-0324-3; ISBN 978-1-4777-0394-6.
––––. Super Sonic: The Science of Sound. ISBN 978-1-4777-0325-0; ISBN 978-1-4777-0395-3.
ea vol: illus. by Andrew Painter. 32p. (Big Bang Science Experiments Series). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Windmill. 2013. PLB $26.50; ebook $26.50.
Gr 3-4–Each volume in this misleadingly titled series offers 10 low-tech science activities, none of which will produce more than a small-scale pop, ooze, or mess. The projects are arranged in random order, varying widely in complexity, and occasionally two are confusingly jammed together on the same spread. Most are simple enough to create but some, such as one that requires holding a water balloon over a candle and another that asks students to interweave the pages of two old phone books aren’t well suited for the intended audience. Color photos illustrate the step-by-step instructions, and the goofy cartoon characters are scattered about the cluttered pages. Furthermore, even adult helpers may have difficulty finding “mirrored cardboard” for one experiment or cutting a table-tennis ball in half for another. Every book concludes with an excellent resource list.

HERRINGTON , Lisa M. Beans to Chocolate. ISBN 978-0-531-24741-9; ISBN 978-0-531-24707-5.
––––. Milk to Ice Cream. ISBN 978-0-531-24742-6; ISBN 978-0-531-24708-2.
––––. Tomatoes to Ketchup. ISBN 978-0-531-24743-3; ISBN 978-0-531-24709-9.
––––. Trees to Paper. ISBN 978-0-531-24744-0; ISBN 978-0-531-24710-5.
ea vol: 32p. (Rookie Read: About Science Series). glossary. index. photos. websites. Children’s Press. 2013. PLB $23; pap. $5.95.
K-Gr 2 Carefully avoiding any references to specific brands, these engaging introductions follow common products from farm (or forest) through each major manufacturing step. One-to-five sentence-long explanations (e.g., “Milk is needed to make ice cream. Milk comes from cows.”) accompany the bright, full-page or larger, captioned color photos. Challenging vocabulary words are set apart in bold fonts and defined in the glossaries, which also contain pronunciation guides. “Fun Fact!” text boxes contain interesting asides, such as “Americans use about three bottles of ketchup per person each year.” The level of detail is well suited to new readers, and each stage is recapped in a chart at the end of every volume. More information is available on a dedicated page on the publisher’s website.

JEMISON , Mae & Dana Meachen Rau . Discovering New Planets. illus. ISBN 978-0-531-25503-2; ISBN 978-0-531-24063-2. LC 2012035762.
––––. Exploring Our Sun. illus. ISBN 978-0-531-25502-5; ISBN 978-0-531-24062-5. LC 2012035788.
––––. Journey Through Our Solar System. illus. reprods. ISBN 978-0-531-25501-8; ISBN 978-0-531-24061-8. LC 2012035789.
––––. The 100 Year Starship. reprods. ISBN 978-0-531-25500-1; ISBN 978-0-531-24060-1. LC 2012035761.
ea vol: 48p. (A True Book: Dr. Mae Jemison and 100 Year Starship Series). chron. diags. further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Children’s Press. 2013. PLB $29; pap. $6.95.
Gr 3-5–These titles offer properly tantalizing surveys of our local stellar neighborhood and its ongoing exploration. “The 100 Year Starship” initiative aims “to investigate, research, and prepare for humans to travel beyond our solar system to other stars.” Each volume opens by asking readers two true or false questions, promising they’ll “find the answer in this book.” Despite handsome packaging, star-quality authors, helpful time lines, closing ”True Statistics” summaries, and resource lists with online extensions, the information is readily available in existing sets. The illustrations feature an undifferentiated mix of photos and speculative paintings, and the texts contain moot claims, such as that the Big Bang began with a particle and that atoms “are the tiniest forms of matter.” The unbalanced focus on the U.S.’s space program and probes means that astronauts from Russia and China are mentioned only briefly and creates a misleading impression that NASA has been the whole show.

LAWRENCE , Ellen. Color. ISBN 978-1-61772-738-2; ISBN 978-1-61772-786-3. LC 2012050812.
––––. Dirt. ISBN 978-1-61772-737-5; ISBN 978-1-61772-787-0.
––––. Motion. ISBN 978-1-61772-739-9; ISBN 978-1-61772-788-7. LC 2012049188 .
OWEN , Ruth. Water. ISBN 978-1-61772-736-8; ISBN 978-1-61772-789-4.
ea vol: 24p. (Fun-damental Experiments Series). further reading. glossary. illus. index. photos. websites. Bearport. 2013. PLB $23.93; ebook $23.93.
K-Gr 3–Arranged, roughly, in order of complexity, the demonstrations in these volumes are also clearly laid out, with simply phrased directions matched to clear color photos or photorealistic images followed by questions about what young experimenters have observed (e.g., “Which push made the ball travel farthest–a roll, a throw, or a kick?”). Cartoonlike figures help elucidate the steps. Each volume closes with explanations of expected results and suggestions (with more questions) for related activities, plus brief glossaries (that contain pronunciation guides) and an up-to-date resource list. Though there are just seven projects per volume, some–such as Dirt’s leadoff, which asks children to list the ingredients in a shaken jar of soil and water–are more challenging than they seem. By and large, this set offers informative, easy-to-achieve insights into selected principles of physics and chemistry.

METZ , Lorijo. Using Beakers and Graduated Cylinders. ISBN 978-1-4488-9685-1; ISBN 978-1-4488-9924-1. LC 2012029011.
––––. Using Clocks and Stopwatches. ISBN 978-1-4488-9689-9; ISBN 978-1-4488-9928-9. LC 2012033063.
––––. Using Hand Lenses and Microscopes. ISBN 978-1-4488-9687-5; ISBN 978-1-4488-9926-5. LC 2012030675.
––––. Using Rulers and Tape Measures. ISBN 978-1-4488-9688-2; ISBN 978-1-4488-9927-2. LC 2012032008.
––––. Using Scales and Balances. ISBN 978-1-4488-9686-8; ISBN 978-1-4488-9925-8. LC 2012029968.
––––. Using Thermometers. reprods. ISBN 978-1-4488-9684-4; ISBN 978-1-4488-9923-4. LC 2012027661.
ea vol: 24p. (Science Tools Series). diags. glossary. index. photos. websites. Rosen/PowerKids Pr. 2013. PLB $22.60; ebook $22.60.
Gr 2-4 Along with offering outstandingly clear explanations of how common scientific instruments work, these introductions supply exciting suggestions for hands-on projects and experiments, from comparing the densities of difference kinds of foods in the kitchen to keeping a temperature log. Various scales of measurement and useful terms such as “meniscus” are carefully defined, and features  such as instructions for preparing slides in Microscope and spreads defining the systematic techniques of the Scientific Method and the work of scientists add value to the set as a whole. Diagrams clarify and complement the text while the color photos of target-age children (sporting safety goggles where appropriate) enthusiastically enjoying science provide further incentive to observe physics, chemistry, and biology in action.

PORTMAN , Michael. Are There Other Earths? ISBN 978-1-4339-8257-6; ISBN 978-1-4339-8260-6. LC 2012019207.
––––. Are UFOs Real? ISBN 978-1-4339-8262-0; ISBN 978-1-4339-8265-1. LC 2012020882.
––––. Could an Asteroid Harm Earth? ISBN 978-1-4339-8267-5; ISBN 978-1-4339-8270-5. LC 2012022060.
––––. Is There Life on Mars? ISBN 978-1-4339-8272-9; ISBN 978-1-4339-8275-0. LC 2012027588.
––––. Where Did the Moon Come From? reprods. ISBN 978-1-4339-8277-4; ISBN 978-1-4339-8280-4. LC 2012031293.
––––. Why Isn’t Pluto a Planet? diags. ISBN 978-1-4339-8282-8; ISBN 978-1-4339-8285-9. LC 2012031421.
ea vol: 32p. (Space Mysteries Series). charts. further reading. glossary. illus. index. photos. websites. Gareth Stevens. 2013. PLB $25.25; ebook $25.25.
Gr 2-4–These quick surveys infuse high-interest topics with enough drama to draw casual browsers. The account of Pluto’s demotion may be an exception, as it was accomplished not by fiery violence or a huge explosion but by the votes of members of the International Astronomical Union. UFOs, in contrast, has plenty of suspense, but the result is an uncritical, sensationalistic account of prominent sightings complete with a “You Decide!” closing. The other volumes are somewhat more successful in presenting informational content in stimulating ways. “Out of This World!” sidebars throughout every title deliver bite-size facts, e.g., “In 1609, the Italian astronomer Galileo became the first person to observe Mars through a telescope.”  Aside from a science fiction magazine cover misidentified as a book of short stories in UFOs, the mix of photos, reproductions, digital composites, and speculative art supply sufficiently informative and stimulating visuals.

WALTON , Ruth. Let’s Bake a Cake. ISBN 978-1-59771-386-3. LC 2011052692.
––––. Let’s Drink Some Water. ISBN 978-1-59771-384-9. LC 2011052690.
––––. Let’s Get Dressed. ISBN 978-1-59771-383-2. LC 2011052689.
––––. Let’s Go to the Playground. ISBN 978-1-59771-388-7. LC 2011052694.
––––. Let’s Read a Book. ISBN 978-1-59771-387-0. LC 2011052693.
––––. Let’s Ride a Bike. chron. ISBN 978-1-59771-385-6. LC 2011052691.
ea vol: illus. by author. 32p. (Let’s Find Out Series). glossary. index. maps. photos. Sea-to-Sea. 2013. PLB $28.50.
Gr 1-3 Just the tickets for inquiring young minds, these perspective-broadening introductions start with familiar activities or items and go on to examine how they work or where they come from. In Playground, for instance, a look at a slide expands into discussions of gravity and friction; and Book touches on writing, illustrating, editing, papermaking, color printing, libraries, Braille, and more. Whew! Along with big, colorful photos or photo-collage illustrations, these volumes are enhanced by extensive glossaries and features ranging from quizzes and science activities to a tempting recipe for chocolate cake. The energetic designs are cheerful and inviting.

Grades 5 & Up

BINGHAM , Jane. The Bermuda Triangle. maps. ISBN 978-1-4109-4986-8; ISBN 978-1-4109-4991-2. LC 2012012694.
––––. Crop Circles. ISBN 978-1-4109-4988-2; ISBN 978-1-4109-4993-6. LC 2012012697.
HILE , Lori. The Loch Ness Monster. ISBN 978-1-4109-4987-5; ISBN 978-1-4109-4992-9. LC 2012012695.
––––. Mermaids. reprods. ISBN 978-1-4109-4989-9; ISBN 978-1-4109-4994-3. LC 2012012738.
ea vol: 48p. (Solving Mysteries with Science Series). chron. diags. further reading. glossary. illus. index. photos. websites. Raintree. 2013. PLB $31.43; pap. $8.99.
Gr 4-6–Solving nothing and providing precious little hard science, these expeditions into the land of woo offer gatherings of unsourced anecdotes and speculative references to possible causes of supernatural phenomena, from weather or physical forces to gravity waves, aliens, or outright hoaxes. The texts are interspersed with atmospheric photos, illustrations, maps, and reproductions. Each volume contains a diagram of the scientific method and final spreads with lengthy time lines and “Summing Up the Science” sections, among other back matter. Despite the overall skeptical tone and frequent invitations for readers to weigh the “evidence,” children are not supplied with the tools to reach rational conclusions.

ABDO’s “Science in the Real World” provides the most complete Common Core toolkits, while both Sea-to-Sea’s “Let’s Find Out” and PowerKids’s “Science Tools” offer distinctive angles on topics that are not frequently covered, as well as lively presentations and high production values. The connections made in Children’s Press’s “Rookie Read: About Science” between familiar items and their manufacture should be of particular interest to younger readers, and hands-on learners will find stimulating challenges aplenty in Bearport’s “Fun-damental Experiments.” Individual volumes in other series are well worth considering to fill holes in collections.