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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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Eclectic & Electric: Founding Father, Benjamin Franklin

Read what guest reviewer Debbie Glade thinks of a new biography for kids on Benjamin Franklin.

bfcover-221x161I had been thinking about reading a biography of Ben Franklin, when the opportunity came up for me to review Benjamin Franklin, American Genius: His Life and Ideas with 21 Activities. (Chicago Review Press, $16.95, ages 9 – 12). Naturally I jumped at the chance. Ever since I started to read the book, I have noticed just how often Franklin’s name has come up on television, in movies, in newspaper and magazine articles, in other books and in every day conversations. As a nation, we owe a great deal to Franklin, and award-winning writer, Brandon Marie Miller explains why in this book.

No one could dispute the fact that Benjamin Franklin was one of the most ingenious Americans of all time. A lover of books and learning, Franklin educated himself and was in so many ways, ahead of his time. He was a printer, a publisher, a writer, a scientist, a businessman, a politician, an educator and so much more. His combination of intelligence, freethinking and persistence changed our nation and the world.

Franklin and Adams reviewing Jefferson’s draft of the Declaration of Independence (pg. 80), courtesy of Library of Congress
Franklin and Adams reviewing Jefferson’s draft of the Declaration of Independence (pg. 80), courtesy of Library of Congress

Readers will learn about Franklin from birth to death. They will get a glimpse into his writings and printing expertise. They will discover in detail the extensive electrical science experiments Franklin completed and how Franklin continued to pursue scientific truths in spite of being criticized by other scientists for his findings. (Check out page 43 for an excellent, simple explanation of the Basics of Electricity.) They will learn how he founded the first library and what is now the University of Pennsylvania. Readers will also come to know how Franklin got involved in politics, signed the Declaration of Independence and negotiated treaties with France and Great Britain.

Benjamin Franklin, American Genius was written for 9-12 year old readers. I like the fact that it is quite a meaty and comprehensive book (122 pages), as most books for readers of this age are not as thorough. It is obvious that Brandon Marie Miller spent a great deal of time researching Franklin to write this factual account. The book is ideal for use in the classroom, and there are 21 fascinating activities for students scattered throughout the book. From dipping candles to making a walking stick, there are a lot of fun and interesting projects that will teach students about American life in the 1700s.

Franklin, in fashionable wig, pointing to a stroke of lightning, courtesy of Library of Congress
Franklin, in fashionable wig, pointing to a stroke of lightning, courtesy of Library of Congress

In addition to the activities, the book includes many drawings and photographs plus a resource guide with vocabulary words, Ben Franklin-related places to visit and further reading suggestions. This is the kind of book that is not just for the classroom. The entire family will enjoy reading Benjamin Franklin, American Genius and delving into the captivating life of one of our greatest citizens. Available at bookstores everywhere and through Independent Publishers Group at www.ipgbook.com

Note: This book mentions that Franklin “hung out with low women” despite his engagement to a Deborah Read and also indicates that Franklin fathered a child with a woman he never married. That child was born after his marriage, and his wife raised the child, even though she was not the biological mother. These facts are worded gently, however given the young age of the targeted readers (9-12), this may generate some questions.

dsc_0024-300x217Debbie Glade is the author, illustrator and voice talent of the award-winning children’s picture book The Travel Adventures of Lilly P Badilly: Costa Rica, published by Smart Poodle Publishing. She visits South Florida schools with her reading, writing and geography programs. For years, Debbie was a travel writer for luxury cruise lines. She writes parenting articles for various websites and is the Geography Awareness Editor for WanderingEducators.com. She blogs daily at smartpoodlepublishing.com.

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