Inside Hurricanes Book Review

Inside Hurricanes by Mary Kay Carson is part of the Inside Series published by Sterling. These middle grade books come with ten fold out pages for extra big looks at the topic.

With hurricane season well under way, children are likely to be curious about these enormous weather systems. Readers soon learn that as Carson says, “Hurricanes are disasters that have called ahead to say they’re coming.”

Incorporating history and science, the author explains how hurricanes happen, what we know about them, and how they effect people. Scattered throughout are “I was there!” sidebars about real life experiences with hurricanes, which help children relate to these hard to imagine events.

The illustrations and photographs in the book are just plain amazing. Satellite images of hurricanes, photographs of trees bent in the wind, and photographs of the damage afterward will blow you away. Hurricanes are huge events and the photographs help give it scale and capture the destructive energy.

Inside Hurricanes has hands-on activities sprinkled throughout, including making a simple barometer, assembling a preparedness kit, and recording interviews of people who have lived through disasters.

If you are looking for an interesting and current look at hurricanes, this book is well worth consideration.

You know how much I enjoy hands-on activities. That’s why I have a related activity looking at how differently shaped buildings react to high winds at Growing With Science.

More about Inside Hurricanes:
Series: Inside Series
Publisher: Sterling
Published: October 2010
Age range: from 8 to 12
48 pages
ISBN: 1-4027-7780-9
ISBN13: 9781402777806

This book was provided for review.

Frozen Secrets Gives Chills

Sally M. Walker’s new young adult book, Frozen Secrets:  Antarctica Revealed is sure to send shivers through its readers. Cutting edge science and spectacular photographs mixed with adventure and extreme hardships, it is a winning combination.frozen-secrets

Antarctica is not for the timid. The narration starts with the ill-fated journey of Robert Falcon Scott, who undertook an arduous trek across Antarctica only to find he missed being the first person to the South pole by 35 days. On the way back he and his team perished. Tragically, they were only 11 miles from a supply depot when they collapsed. This glimpse of history sets the stage for the hardships modern day explorers face in this land of extreme cold.

Like an explorer herself, Walker uncovers and discloses may aspects of the leading edge scientific research that is being carried out in Antarctica, from biologists and geologists to paleobotanists. Giant lakes under the ice? Dinosaur fossils in Antarctica? Who knew?

The photographs and illustrations are also spectacular. From actual photographs of Scott’s expedition as it set off (how did they get those?), to seals with sensors attached, to the amazing scenes of Antarctica’s snow and ice-covered splendor, you almost get the feel of a coffee table book. The text makes it much more than that, however.

In case you were wondering, Frozen Secrets is indeed a young adult book. From the story of tragedy at the beginning to photographs of frozen and decaying dead dogs, both the level of the text and the subject matter are belong solidly to the young adult category.

Sally Walker’s book Secrets of a Civil War Submarine: Solving Mysteries of the H.L. Hunley (reviewed here) won the Sibert. Her Written in Bone:  Buried Lives of Jamestown and Colonial Maryland was a finalist for the YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults. It is a given that this book will be in contention for top awards as well. Pick up a copy when it comes out and you’ll see why.

Reading level: Young Adult
Library Binding: 104 pages
Publisher: Carolrhoda Books (October 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1580136079
ISBN-13: 978-1580136075


Nonfiction Monday is a blogging celebration of nonfiction books for kids. For more information, stop by Anastasia Suen’s Nonfiction Monday page. This week’s post is at Rasco From RIF.

And next week, be sure to send your Nonfiction Monday posts here to Wrapped In Foil!

This book was provided for review.

Chemistry: Getting a Big Reaction

Do you know a child who is interested in science but finds the traditional nonfiction books a bit too tame and lame? Looking for something a little edgy with a bite of humor (“You have to keep your ‘Ion’ this bunch…”)? Then you might want to take a look at the Basher series science books. chemistry-basher

Chemistry: Getting a Big Reaction! by Dan Green and Simon Basher is not written like a textbook. It is organized more like a reference book, such as a dictionary or an encyclopedia. The different terms/concepts are developed as characters. The sections are written in the first person from that character’s point of view, and each section stands on its own. For example, Acid says, “I’m mad, I’m bad, and thoroughly dangerous to know. Given a chance I’ll eat away Metal and burn through your skin.” (In case you wondered, all characters’ names are capitalized.)

As with Punctuation: The Write Stuff, each character has an accompanying illustration to show what it would look like. The illustrations appear to have roots in Japanese chibi; they are cute and brightly colored, such as the bright orange character in the center of the cover, which represents “Combustion.” These images really help visual learners remember details about what the terms mean. The symbolism of the illustrations works more clearly for some concepts than others, probably because of the complex nature of the topic.

I like that Green chose to include organic materials like esters, found in ingredient lists on labels of common products. The section on “Smart Materials” is fascinating. It inspired me to look up more and write a blog article about them.

The overall organization of material, however, is not as strong as it could be. Why did Green add a discussion of the elements carbon and nitrogen at the very end of the book, after a discussion of complex molecules like proteins that are made up of those elements? He also talked about enzymes, which are basically proteins, well before defining and discussing proteins.

Organizational flaws aside, this book would be useful for the child that needs to brush up on chemistry terminology or who has struggled with chemistry presented in a more traditional way. The concepts are really shaken up and given a lively new twist, which makes them fresh and interesting.

Reading level: Ages 9-12
Paperback: 128 pages
Publisher: Kingfisher (July 6, 2010)
ISBN-10: 0753464136
ISBN-13: 978-0753464137

Basher Science: Chemistry: Getting a Big Reaction

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In this video, you can see some of the other books offered in this series.


Nonfiction Monday is a blogging celebration of nonfiction books for kids. For more information, stop by Anastasia Suen’s Nonfiction Monday blog. This week’s post is at Playing By The Book.

This book was provided for review.

Ants for the Youngest Reader

Ants by Melissa Stewart is part of the National Geographic Readers series. That means the lucky author has access to the fantastic photographs available in the National Geographic archives. Right away I recognized a couple of photographs by ant specialist and National Geographic photographer, Dr. Mark Moffett. What a visual treat!Ants-stewart

The text is both spunky and age appropriate. Even better, all the information is current and accurate. In the margins are extremely silly riddles and puns, sure to catch the interest of young children.

Most of the different kinds of ants are identified, but the names aren’t central to the text. If the child is curious about the ants in the photograph, he or she can find out what kind of ant it is. Otherwise the child can continue reading without interruption.

In the back is a novel visual glossary showing a photograph of an ant colony, for example, with the word and definition below it. I really like the idea, although Stewart could have easily added more words. I expect she didn’t because space was a constraint. Inside of the back cover is an activity to do an “Ants Dance” to celebrate reading the whole book, which is a wonderful addition.

If you are looking for a beginning reader book about ants, I strongly recommend this one. It is excell-Ant. 🙂

Reading level: Ages 4-8
Paperback: 32 pages
Publisher: National Geographic Children’s Books (January 12, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1426306083
ISBN-13: 978-1426306082


Nonfiction Monday is a blogging celebration of nonfiction books for kids. For more information, stop by Anastasia Suen’s Nonfiction Monday page. This week’s post is at Three Turtles and Their Pet Librarian.