Monday, January 27, 2014

Nonfiction Monday: Hands-On Science Fun by Lori Shores

 As long as I'm writing critical reviews...

I have a sort of love/hate relationship with Pebble, an imprint of Capstone. On the one hand, paying $20 for a library bound book with approximately two sentences on each page, a generous helping of white space, and stock photography makes me want to throw things and go off into rants.

On the other hand, they do offer paperback editions and their books are often high-interest, easy to read, and can fill gaps in a collection. They also make ok storytime selections, if you get one with decent photographs, and are really desperate for nonfiction that you can read aloud.

So, I decided to look at a couple titles from their Hands-On Science Fun series, since we're really getting into science territory and I'm looking for ideas for Mad Scientists Club and Maker Kits. How to make a mystery smell balloon is an interesting idea, although I don't know how mysterious the smell really would be, depending on what you put in it. Basically you smush some garlic, put it into a balloon, and people have to guess the smell (or maybe the mystery happens when you sneak it into a room, as suggested by the book. The book then explains about how it works - the molecules pass through the balloon. Then there's a glossary, three additional sources, and the publisher's website. The stock photography in this one really screams STOCK at you, especially when they reuse the same photo.

Next, we have How to make slime. I feel this is pretty superfluous, since pretty much anyone knows how to do this; it's one of those things that seem to be passed down through the collective consciousness of daycare, preschool, and elementary teachers. But, I can see it being a Cool Thing for kids. There are a couple pages of explanations of how it works - the water and cornstarch don't mix completely, but I'm pretty meh about this one.

The last title I looked at, How to make a liquid rainbow, is simultaneously the most interesting and the most potentially disappointing. This is one of those experiments that layers different liquids on top of each other. You can kind of see the liquids in each successive picture (this being Pebble there is a full-page spread for each liquid you add). At the end, the photos look kind of murky - you can see the different liquids, but they're all dark and kind of mixed. Then you turn the page and voila! It's a rainbow!

I don't believe that. I can't actually physically test it (corn syrup isn't a thing you can find in my pantry, all my food coloring is at work, and my dish soap is yellow) but the descriptions say nothing about "now let it sit for five minutes and all the layers will miraculously separate into vibrant colors, totally unlike what your mixture looked like to start with."

Verdict: While I can't imagine any reason to shell out $25 apiece for these books, I can kind of see buying them in paperback. They are simple experiments that kids will probably enjoy trying out. But there is a definite "let's separate these into separate books so we can sell more books!" vibe to Pebble for me and these really push the boundaries. I mean, you're paying $1 a page practically! I might buy a few in paperback for our maker kits though.

How to make a liquid rainbow
ISBN: 9781429652940

How to make a mystery smell balloon
ISBN: 9781429644945

How to make slime
ISBN: 9781429644921

Published 2011 by Pebble Plus/Capstone; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

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