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.

Candy Bomber Hits the Right Spot

Candy Bomber:  The Story of the Berlin Airlift’s “Chocolate Pilot” by Michael O. Tunnell is a real treat. It has everything you could want from a book:  drama, roaring airplanes, human interest, history, and candy all mixed into a powerful true story.chocolate-bomber

Candy Bomber is about pilot Gail Halvorsen, who was assigned to fly food and supplies into West Berlin after World War II ended. West Berlin was under siege at the time by the Soviets. They were trying to gain control of all of Berlin by cutting off supplies to its inhabitants. The United States, Britain and France were working hard to overcome the blockade by flying in a stream of cargo planes filled with flour, potatoes, meat, and medicine, but not candy.

One day Gail Halvorsen decided to spend the day in West Berlin after flying in and out many times. At the end of the runway he met some children. Once he had talked to them, he decided to share the two pieces of gum he had in his pocket. When he saw what a rare and special treat it was to them, he realized he wanted to do more. He told the children to watch for a plane that wiggled its wings. The next day he wiggled the wings of his plane and then dropped candy in bundles tied to little parachutes.

The amazing thing is that immediately he began to receive letters and artwork from the grateful children. News of his kindness spread, and the candy drops became an official U.S. Air Force operation. Other pilots joined in and he began receiving candy donations to distribute. Even after Halvorsen moved on to another position, other pilots continued the candy drops. But the people of West Berlin would not forget his acts of kindness. Halvorsen continued to have contact with several of the children long after they had grown into adulthood.

Author Michael Tunnell has an obvious passion for his topic. He got to know Gail Halvorsen personally, because it turned out he lived in a Utah town not far away. The book is illustrated with actual photographs and letters from Halvorson’s own collection, supplied by Halvorsen himself. Not many authors get to enjoy such access to primary sources.

This was not an easy book to write because, instead of rising conflict with drama at the end, most of the intense parts of this story come at the beginning. Yet Tunnell has overcome this obstacle to write a very compelling book that will appeal to both boys and girls of a wide range of ages.

Just like a piece of chocolate, once you get your hands on it, you will want to savor it.

Related activities:

1. Download an activity and discussion guide at Charlesbridge

2. Today children would probably text or e-mail their thanks, but in the time this story starts the children sent Mr. Halvorsen cards, letters and drawings. Show the examples in the book and ask your children to make and send a letter, card or drawing to a special someone. Or consider exchanging letters with someone from another country.

3. Make a parachute and test it at Growing With Science

Reading level: Ages 9-12
Hardcover: 110 pages
Publisher: Charlesbridge Publishing; New edition (July 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1580893368
ISBN-13: 978-1580893367

Book supplied by publisher.


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 Moms Inspire Learning.

Punctuation: The Write Stuff – A Basher Book Review

Although Punctuation: The Write Stuff is written by Mary Budzik, it is definitely part of illustrator and designer Simon Basher’s unique series of books. Punctuation-simon-basherBasher books are edgy, with a sting of humor and a mountain of creativity, and this book is no exception.

The text is written in a light, conversational tone. The punctuation marks are characters who often introduce themselves to the reader, speaking in first person. Possessive Apostrophe (the character on the front cover) says, “When I get ahold of something, that’s that- you don’t get rid of me.” At the bottom of each page are reminders of things to do (and not to do) with that particular punctuation mark. What an excellent way to reinforce learning!

The illustrations feature sweet figures that appear to have roots in Japanese chibi. The characters have a lot of visual clues as to how that particular form of punctuation works. For example, the list-making comma has a list in its hand and a line of commas in its tool belt.

For the student who may not quite grasp grammar yet, this refreshing approach might be exactly what’s needed to bring clarity. The creative illustrations are absolutely fantastic for visual learners. It would also be a wonderful book for the child who simply wants a quick review of the basics from time to time.

In the back, the book shows off its educational roots with a summary of eight different parts of speech and some questions to test comprehension. There is also an index and a three page glossary. Even better, each book comes with a poster of the various characters that acts as reference for study at a glance.

If you are looking for an educational reference about punctuation that’s packed with kid appeal, then this is a book to consider.

Reading level: Ages 9-12
Paperback: 64 pages
Publisher: Kingfisher; Pap/Pstr edition (July 6, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0753464209
ISBN-13: 978-0753464205

(Affiliate link to Amazon)

This video shows some of the other books available. You might be able to spot the author’s British roots.

This book was a review copy.

The Tree Book for Kids and Their Grown-ups

Our theme this month is going to be books about trees as I prepare to host the Festival of the Trees carnival at Growing with Science blog . tree-book

Starting out July with a bang is The Tree Book for Kids and Their Grown-ups by Gina Ingoglia.

You learn to expect high quality books from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, and this wonderful book is no exception. First of all, the information is top notch. Gina Ingoglia is associated with the garden, and she knows her trees. She also knows children, as she has written numerous children’s books. Her experience shows as she strikes just the right note to enlighten the reader.

The watercolor illustrations are deceptively simple, almost childlike, but also charming. If you look closely, however, you will see all the important details used for identification are accurately depicted, for example the page showing all the different patterns found in the bark of trees. It turns out that Ingoglia has studied the fine art of botanical illustration.

Put all these ingredients together and you get a book that will likely be passed down from generation to generation. The Tree Book for Kids and Their Grown-ups is a must for any child (or adult!) interested in trees, plants and/or nature.

Reading level: Ages 9-12
Hardcover: 96 pages
Publisher: Brooklyn Botanic Garden (October 7, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1889538434
ISBN-13: 978-1889538433

For more information:

A thematic list of trees at The Miss Rumphius Effect

Tree Science Activities at Growing With Science


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 5 Great Books.