CM December 22, 
1995. Vol. II, Number 10-11

image It's Elementary!
Investigating the Chemical World

Douglas Hayward and Gordon S. Bates. Illustrated by Nyla Sunga.
Vancouver: Pacific Educational Press, 1994. 91pp, paper, $10.95.
ISBN 0-88865-088-4.

Subject Heading:
Chemistry-Juvenile literature.

Grades 4 - 8 / Ages 9 - 13.
Review by Harriet Zaidman.


Over 200 years ago, a French chemist named Antoine Lavoisier was the first to measure the percentage of oxygen in air. You can repeat his experiment using simple materials from the kitchen.
Use a knife and a fork to pack a pad of steel wool into the bottom of a clear jar or glass. Avoid touching the sharp steel wool with your bare fingers. Rinse the steel wool thoroughly with tap water and then invert the jar in a pan or bowl full of water. If the jar will not stand up or starts to float, remove some of the water.

 It's Elementary! is the kind of book teachers, parents and kids love. It is educational, well written, and interestingly illustrated. It introduces young enquiring minds to basic scientific principles through a large number of experiments. The experiments are conducted with materials that really are available in most homes, or are easily attainable. The instructions are clear and stress safety, although none of the included experiments really have potential for accidents.

The text explains difficult scientific principles in a reader-friendly way. It is clear and concise and relates the principle to real life. The history of the scientific discovery of the elements and their use is also included. By conducting these experiments children should come to realize that chemistry is part of daily life and that science is something everyone can discover

It's Elementary! is divided into eight chapters. They include information about stars, elements, water, bubbles and soap, chemical changes, plants and people, food chemistry, and body basics. Within each chapter are separate pages on different aspects of the chapter's topic. Each page has an appropriate humorous black and white cartoon drawing (a girl mining rock candy; an egg sobbing on a beach). The appendices at the back are very valuable, and will be useful to any child long after they have outgrown the experiments (but because the experiments are so much fun, kids may not outgrow them). They include a blank Periodic Table, a list of the discovery of the elements, a list of the Nobel Prizes for Chemistry, and an extensive index.

This book will appeal to parents who want to teach their kids about science without spending a lot of money on equipment and materials. It will appeal to teachers who want kids to discover that the world around them is full of wonder, history, and scientific discovery. It will provide lots of ideas for classes that participate in science fairs. And it will appeal to kids because the experiments demonstrate scientific truths quickly, in an interesting, humorous, and readable way. The beauty of the text is that it appeals to a wide range of ages while not talking down to anyone; it is conversational in tone. The text requires careful reading when it discusses scientific principles, but will be comprehensible to the conscientious reader.

The cover of It's Elementary! has a sleuth with a magnifying glass investigating the periodic table. Reading this book makes one confident that a students will uncover a lot of truths over and over again in their lives, which will make the knowledge stick.


Harriet Zaidman is a Winnipeg teacher/librarian.

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Copyright © 1995 the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364

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