________________ CM . . . . Volume XIX Number 29. . . .March 29, 2013


Astonishing Bodies. (Mystery Files series).

Charlie Samuels.
St. Catharines, ON: Crabtree, 2013.
32 pp., pbk. & hc., $10.95 (pbk.), $21.56 (RLB.).
ISBN 978-0-7787-8011-3 (pbk.), ISBN 978-0-7787-8006-9 (RLB.).

Subject Headings:
Human body-Juvenile literature.
Human physiology-Juvenile literature.

Grades 3-4 / Ages 8-9.

Review by Michelle Brown.

*** /4



The human body is remarkable. Every day it does many amazing things without you even knowing. It turns food and air into energy. It pumps blood into your limbs. It moves around without falling over. Most peoples’ bodies cannot function beyond these limits…..But that is not always the case. Some people claim to have achieved feats that seem impossible, such as surviving for weeks in freezing temperatures. Is what they are saying even possible?


Astonishing Bodies is part of a new series from Crabtree Publishing Company. Long a favourite of teachers and school librarians, Crabtree is well known as a publisher of quality nonfiction educational materials for the early and middle years.

     The series ‘Mystery Files’ attempts to unlock some of the most compelling secrets in history – from lost ancient cities to unbelievable scientific mysteries. This particular title, Astonishing Bodies, turns readers’ attention to the many enigmas of the human body.

     Part of the charm of this title is its universal appeal. After all, everyone has a body! Since most of us know our own physical limits, students will undoubtedly be curious to find out what makes these super bodies so different from their own. Amazing humans have enjoyed recent popularity in reality TV shows and movies (e.g. endurance artist David Blaine). Young readers are, therefore, likely to be familiar with most of the mysteries presented in the book, mysteries such as ESP, super strength, or elastic bodies.

     Most chapters attempt to uncover the science behind the secret. What seems unbelievable on the surface can usually be explained by some scientific rigour. This gives a good example for readers to do a bit of critical thinking when presented with a situation rather than accepting it on its face value. A few chapters also focus on the cultural connections to these mysteries and highlight how they exist in the form of myths and legends. This is a nice addition which helps readers to understand why these stories have prevailed for so long.

     The overall layout of Astonishing Bodies is very appealing. There is a good use of white space with none of the pages looking busy or text heavy. Each page is designed to resemble a secret file folder with a paper clip on top attaching the chapter title. Full colour photographs complete the visual effect and really help to illustrate the amazing physical feats.

     The chapters are short and easily digestible. The content is quite interesting and informative and should not present a challenge for most young readers. According to its back cover, Astonishing Bodies corresponds to the Fountas and Pinnell levelled reading level Q which is equivalent to grade 4.

     Other nice features include a table of contents, an index, and a glossary. Glossary vocabulary is easily identified as bolded words in the body of the main text. The book ends with a list of websites and books for suggested further reading. This feature is useful should readers wish to expand their knowledge of the subject.

     The one drawback of the book is that it ends rather abruptly with no real conclusion. This takes away from the “flow” of an otherwise wonderful book.


Michelle Brown is a librarian at the Faculty of Education at the University of Ottawa in Ottawa, ON.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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