|Grades:||5 - 7|
|Guided Reading Level:||S|
3/1/04 Science Books & Films
These four books, three by one author and the fourth by another, are mutually consistent throughout. The first 40 to 50 pages of each book present factual information in well-crafted, though often complex, sentences. The subject matter, indicated in the titles, portrays interesting plants that have unique structures, functions, and relationships by which each fits into its ecosystem. Destructive results following the introduction of foreign species are discussed. Numerous illustrations and color photographs enhance the text. The last 10 or so pages of each book provide a wide list of resources found in libraries and on the Internet, a glossary for students, a good index, and a description of where and how the author gathered her material.
Because I am a former science teacher, my first reaction to these four books was to want them on my personal reference shelf. Able junior and senior high school students could use both the presentations and the resource lists as stepping-stones in writing reports or doing projects. Young students who have had less than first-year biology may feel deterred by the compact presentation of facts. For example, in Plant Tricksters, the author describes the anatomy and function of a flower in just two concise paragraphs (p. 9). The description is a helpful review for an older student, but would leave a student who is new to botany in a quagmire of unfamiliar terminology with no lines pointing to parts mentioned. A questionable detail is the infrequent use of anthropomorphic or "catchy" words; for instance, in Wacky Trees, the author (probably in an effort to reach younger children) speaks of the "magical" way that trees function (p. 8) and the way the trees' growing roots "dodge" around rocks (p. 10). Small children enjoy hearing and using such animated language in talking to, or about, their toys and pets, but anthropomorphic terms are not appropriate in serious science writing-especially in a book, the rest of which is written in clear, professional English that is suitable for older students. A few captions are not as intelligible as they could be. All in all, however, these minor details by no means cancel the rich resource value of these beautifully written and informative books.