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New Versions of an Old Idea

9781613741009_p0_v1_s260x420Reviewer Debbie Glade, who has always been fascinated by wind power, jumped at the chance to read and review this educational non-fiction book.

Adult Americans are all aware of the concerns associated with our energy consumption and dependency on fossil fuels – oil, coal and natural gas. The Wind at Work: An Activity Guide to Windmills  ($16.95, Chicago Review Press, Ages 9 and up) by Gretchen Woelfle is a fabulous fact-filled book that educates young readers on the past, present and future of windmills as an efficient form of renewable energy. This is the Second Edition of the book, as it has been revised and expanded to include the technological advances of windmill energy that have taken place since the first edition in 1997.

The author begins this thorough, 145-page book with an introduction to the history of wind power in Europe and just how wind is naturally created (by the warmth of the sun). Did you know that windmills have been around for more than 1,000 years? There are many different types and purposes of windmills, too. And in this book the author describes modern windmills as “new versions of an old idea.” Fortunately more and more of these power sources can be found throughout the USA and the rest of the world.

I was fascinated to learn about the life of windmillers and the many challenges and hazards they faced associated with running and caring for mills. Equally interesting is how these energy sources have been used on American farms. Did you know that windmills used to be sold in mail order catalogs likes Sears Roebuck? There is a lot of information about inventors and how windmills have changed over the years. From milling grain to pumping water generating electricity and other forms of energy, the windmill has been an invaluable resource throughout its history.

The book includes a nice collection of black and white photographs, many of which are historic. There are also 24 excellent activities associated with the topic of windmills. Some of the highlights include: Spend a Day Without Electricity, Make a Wind Sock and Wind Vane, Create a Windmill Paper Collage. In the back of the book are valuable resources including a list of windmills in the USA.

Understanding how wind technology has changed in just the past 40 years gives us insight into how it can help shape our future. Who knew there was so much to learn about windmills? Despite being a reliable source of energy, wind power can never be our only source of energy, mostly due to wind speeds varying greatly. But after reading The Wind at Work young readers will truly understand that we are making progress challenging our dependency on fossil fuels as renewable, efficient solutions like windmill power already exist.

As with all Chicago Review Press Kid Series books, parents and teachers can enjoy and learn from them as much as children do. These books make us all smarter, and I for one am super glad they exist.

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