Simplifying Matter: Physical Science | Series Made Simple Spring 2011

SMS_LogoWeb.2(Original Import)Read Series Made Simple, School Library Journal's guide to the latest series nonfiction

Children are innately curious about the physical world in which they live. The series included here tap into this interest by explaining the science behind a variety of topics. Electricity, gravity, matter, simple machines, robotics—the topics are not new, but the need to present current information in the most engaging manner possible keeps authors and scientists going back to the drawing board. There is something here for every age group, but middle-grade readers are the potential recipients of the best new series available this spring.

Preschool—Grade 4

SMS1104w_auch_physical(Original Import)AUCH, Alison. All About Temperature. ISBN 978-1-4296-6608-4. CONRAD, David. Gravity All Around. reprods. ISBN 978-1-4296-6606-0. LC 2010034310.LC 2010034308. WATERS, Jennifer. All Kinds of Motion. ISBN 978-1-4296-6607-7. LC 2010034309. WEBER, Rebecca. The Power of Energy. ISBN 978-1-4296-6605-3. LC 2010034311. ea vol: 24p. (Pebble Plus: Physical Science Series). photos. further reading. glossary. index. Web sites. CIP. Capstone. 2011. PLB $23.99. PreS-Gr 2—With five lines of text on the left page of each spread and a full-page photo on the right, each of these titles addresses its topic in a direct and simple manner. Certain concepts are explained well but others are not as clear. Temperature’s discussion of how a thermometer works is excellent, as is Motion’s explanation of how wind is formed and how hot-air balloons rise. However, in the latter book, readers learn that water moves, but never the causes behind the movement. Each title includes a hands-on experiment with both textual and visual directions; the activities in Temperature and Motion are superior to those in the other titles. A link to Capstone’s is included, where readers can find up-to-date, age-appropriate websites.

pulleysbodden(Original Import)BODDEN, Valerie. Inclined Planes. ISBN 978-1-60818-008-0. LC 2009048830. ————. Levers. ISBN 978-1-60818-009-7. LC 2009048838. ————. Pulleys. ISBN 978-1-60818-010-3. LC 2009048859. ————. Screws. ISBN 978-1-60818-011-0. LC 2009048860. ————. Wedges. ISBN 978-1-60818-012-7. LC 2009048861. ————. Wheels and Axles. ISBN 978-1-60818-013-4. LC 2009048844. ea vol: 24p. (Simple Machines Series). photos. reprods. further reading. glossary. index. Web sites. CIP. Creative Education. 2011. PLB $24.25. K-Gr 2—In these attractive titles, simple language in a large font describes each machine and its uses. Mentions of how the device has been used throughout history add interest, and the photos are bold and well placed. Explanations of how the machines work vary; some are clear while others are confusing. In Wheels, for instance, the lines, “If you tried to turn an axle by itself, you would have to push or twist very hard. You do not have to push as hard to move a wheel. But you do have to turn the wheel farther,” unfortunately lack any example of this problem. Also, the hands-on activities that are designed to encourage readers to take a closer look at the mechanisms are so basic as to be useless.

technologybehindinternet(Original Import)BRASCH, Nicolas. Amazing Built Structures. maps. ISBN 978-1-59920-565-6. LC 2009054432. ————. Everyday Appliances. ISBN 978-1-59920-566-3. LC 2009054433. ————. The Internet. map. ISBN 978-1-59920-567-0. LC 2009054445. ————. Machines of Speed and Flight. map. ISBN 978-1-59920-568-7. LC 2009054434. ————. Robots and Artifical Intelligence. ISBN 978-1-59920-569-4. LC 2009054435. ————. Sports and Sporting Equipment. ISBN 978-1-59920-570-0. LC 2009054436. ea vol: 32p. (The Technology Behind Series). diags. illus. photos. reprods. glossary. index. Web sites. CIP. Smart Apple Media. 2011. PLB $28.50. Gr 4-8—An introduction to the general topic is followed by 13 spreads, each answering a question such as, “Why Does the Gateway Arch Sway in the Wind?” (Amazing Built Structures) or “Why Doesn’t a Microwave Oven Get Hot?” (Everyday Appliances). Topics are not explored in great depth, but readers are given adequate clear and concise information in an engaging format. Historical information is interspersed throughout, addressing, for example, the history of robot invention in Robots and Artificial Intelligence and that of running shoes in Sports and Sporting Equipment. Readers are sure to find The Internet particularly engaging, as it explores a variety of high-interest topics including how the Internet works, the difference between it and the World Wide Web, and how search engines and Twitter function. Sidebars highlight vocabulary, interesting facts, and relevant websites (a welcome change from their usual location at the back of the book). Lackluster photos and a pastel color scheme detract from this otherwise compelling series.

realscientistspace(Original Import)RILEY, Peter. Electricity. diags. ISBN 978-1-59771-279-8. LC 2010005370. ————. Forces. ISBN 978-1-59771-280-4. LC 2010005370. ————. Light. ISBN 978-1-59771-281-1. LC 2010005372. ————. Materials. ISBN 978-1-59771-282-8. LC 2010005373. ————. Sound. reprods. ISBN 978-1-59771-283-5. LC 2010005374. ————. Space. illus. ISBN 978-1-59771-284-2. LC 2010005375. ea vol: 32p. (The Real Scientist Investigates Series). photos. glossary. index. Web sites. CIP. Sea-to-Sea. 2011. PLB $28.50. Gr 3-5—Solid scientific material is presented in accessible language and a visually engaging, boldly colored layout. Budding scientists are encouraged to hone their skills by recording observations, making predictions, and analyzing results. Hands-on activities are included on almost every spread, indicated by a “science box” that lists materials needed as well as visual and textual instructions. The many color photos feature diverse children demonstrating the activities. This enticing series is sure to make “real” scientists out of its readers.

Grades 5 and Up

energyofmatter(Original Import)ANGELO, Joseph A., Jr. Energy of Matter. Sept. ISBN 978-0-8160-7605-5. LC 2010044118. ————. Extreme States of Matter. Oct. ISBN 978-0-8160-7606-2. LC number unavailable. ————. Gaseous Matter. ISBN 978-0-8160-7607-9. LC 2010034289. ————. Liquid Matter. ISBN 978-0-8160-7608-6. LC 2010024865. ————. Quantifying Matter. ISBN 978-0-8160-7609-3. LC 2010015829. ————. Solid Matter. ISBN 978-0-8160-7610-9. LC 2010018626. ea vol: 219p. (States of Matter Series). diags. photos. reprods. appendix. chron. further reading. glossary. Web sites. CIP. Facts On File. 2011. PLB $45. Gr 9 Up—A common sentence opens the introductions to the titles in this series, stating that, “The history of civilization is essentially the story of human beings understanding and manipulating matter.” Using the National Science Education Standards as a guideline, the titles explore all states of matter in depth. The text-heavy volumes don’t reduce science to a series of bullet points; rather they thoroughly investigate a topic and place it within historical and contemporary context, making the material accessible to all students, science buffs or not. A few illustrations are included, but the narrative is the primary vehicle for information. Back matter includes a detailed chronology and extensive web and print resources.

SMS1104w_bateman_physical(Original Import)BATEMAN, Graham, ed. Electricity and Electronics. ISBN 978-1-936333-07-3. LC 2010015489. ————. Light and Sound. ISBN 978-1-936333-06-6. LC 2010015492. ————. Magnetism. ISBN 978-1-936333-08-0. LC 2010015490. ————. Matter, Energy, and Heat. ISBN 978-1-936333-05-9. LC 2010015426. ————. Mechanics. ISBN 978-1-936333-09-7. LC 2010015491. ea vol: 64p. (Facts at Your Fingertips: Introducing Physics Series). charts. diags. illus. photos. further reading. glossary. index. Web sites. CIP. Brown Bear Bks. 2011. PLB $35.65. Gr 8 Up—These small-print, compact volumes, which assume a solid grasp of basic scientific knowledge, are jam-packed with information. The material is visually interesting with many sidebars, graphs, and diagrams highlighting or elucidating important concepts. Information within each title is divided into distinct, stand-alone sections for more targeted research, but students will benefit from reading the books cover to cover, as much of the material builds upon previous chapters. For example, Electricity and Electronics begins with the discovery of the atom and the electron and continues in chapters such as “Current and Stored Charge” and “Making Chips.” Each chapter also defines important vocabulary and includes an accessible “Try This” activity.

For the youngest readers, neither Capstone’s “Pebble Plus: Physical Science” nor Creative Education’s “Simple Machines” are must-haves, although if deciding between the two, go with the former. Sea-to-Sea’s “The Real Scientist Investigates” is the best choice for younger middle-grade readers with its eye-catching layout, solid information, and hands-on approach. Another option for more advanced middle-grade readers is Smart Apple Media’s “The Technology Behind.” Kids are sure to be interested in the material, although the color scheme is a little sappy. For older teen readers both Brown Bear’s “Facts at Your Fingertips: Introducing Physics” and Facts On File’s “States of Matter” approach their topics in an in-depth manner.

Read Series Made Simple, School Library Journal's guide to the latest series nonfiction

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing