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Not an Exact Science

9781423624554_p0_v1_s260x420A Young Scientist’s Guide to Faulty Freaks of Nature ($14.99, Gibbs Smith Publishing, Ages 9 and up)) is not like most science books you’ve seen for kids. This particular book teaches children that scientists do make mistakes, that we can all learn from them, and  that in fact some are actually very interesting indeed!

The book starts with a little bit of cheeky humor, which just made me want to dive in and read more. There are four chapters including Fascinating and Fearful Discoveries, Catastrophic Chemicals, Agricultural Fiascoes and Man Versus Nature. Each of these chapters has pages with different topics, many with titles so catchy that you cannot wait to read them. Try these on for size: Neanderthal, Not a Dumb Brute After All, The Worst Scientist in the Word Ever, A Poop and a Pee Makes Nice Coffee and Attack of the Blob – Seriously Slimy Sea Snot.

Okay, I know you’re dying to know about the Poop and a Pee topic, so I’ll give you a hint: It’s all about animal poop and their “uses,” and yes, it’s a bit gross and a lot funny. There’s even a poop bomb in that explanation.

Throughout the book are directions to 20 fun science projects kids can do at home like Make Your Own Sea Snot and Make Disappearing Messages. These activities are each followed by Science Factoids that essentially explain why the experiments works. There are also some simple, fun illustrations by Andrew Brozyna and so much fascinating scientific information.

What I love most about this book is the writing style of author James Doyle. He has a clever way of writing with great humor while also truly educating readers about scientific facts they will not likely learn in school.  It’s wonderful that he touches upon the mistakes of past scientists, because mistakes are all a part of the learning process. It teaches young readers that it’s better to try and make an error than it is to do nothing. (Even Einstein made an error in one of his theories.) Another excellent aspect of this book is that basically every type of science is touched upon from chemistry and biology to physics and geology plus everything in between. Doyle is actually a geography teacher at a college in Belfast, Ireland and obviously is a very curious and knowledgeable nerd with a terrific sense of humor – and I mean that in the best possible way. I bet he’s an awesome teacher!

In the back of the book you’ll find websites and books for kids to check out to learn more. This will come in handy because after reading this fun science book, I’m sure your child will be even more curious about science and will want to read more. As I’ve said so many times before, we need more scientists in the world. Getting kids interested from a young age is the best way to ensure we’ll lure them in.

-Reviewed by Debbie Glade

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Gift it! Never Too Young to be a Scientist

You can probably tell by the title, 11 Experiments That Failed ($16.99, Schwartz and Wade Books, ages 4 and up) that this is a unique sort of science book. Author Jenny Offill put together 11 simple, fun and educational science experiments that are meant to go wrong. Each experiment includes a question, a hypothesis and a list of what you’ll need, of course.

Any budding scientist will get a kick out of learning what makes fungus grow, whether or not a gerbil prefers a bigger wheel or what happens when a live beaver is ordered through the mail. Each experiment is supported by fun illustrations by Nancy Carpenter, and the most likely results of each project are listed.

As a parent of a college science major (geology) I can personally relate to children’s science experiment books; my daughter could never get enough of these while growing up. We sure did have a lot of fun doing experiments together. The holidays are perfect time to receive science books as gifts, and this one in particular is a winner.

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