________________ CM . . . . Volume XX Number 1. . . .September 6, 2013


Brilliant! Shining a Light on Sustainable Energy. (Orca Footprints).

Michelle Mulder.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2013.
48 pp., hardcover & pdf, $19.95 (pbk.).
ISBN 978-1-4598-0221-6 (hc.), ISBN 978-1-4598-0222-3 (pdf).

Subject Heading:
Renewable energy sources-Juvenile literature.

Grades 3-8 / Ages 8-13.

Review by Sherry Faller.

**** /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.



Did you know that by avoiding fossil fuels and looking for energy in other places, people can drive cars and power houses without harming the environment at all? In Brazil, people fuel their cars with a liquid made from leftover parts of sugarcane plants. A village in Denmark harnesses the wind to make all its electricity. And many families in China power their stoves with gas from human and animal waste. (Yes, that’s right, poop!) Right now we’re at another one of those exciting turning points. The overuse of fossil fuels is damaging our environment. And it’s time to use different kinds of energy. Every day people are coming up with creative ways to both save energy and draw on what we’ve got to meet our needs: biofuel, solar power, geothermal, wind, waste energy, wave energy and human power. It’s all right here, waiting to be used.


We are now living in a crucial time on earth when humans need to be creative about their use of energy. We cannot continue to freely consume the fossil fuels that are quickly disappearing while also destroying our environment. This latest “Orca Footprints” book has many creative solutions to our growing dilemma.

     Targeting children from ages 8 to 13, when they begin to look at their world as a personal belonging that they need to care for, this book offers some realistic ways in which they can make a difference in their homes, communities and beyond. The book begins with the history of how man has harnessed and used energy throughout time. Starting with the use of fire, the author discusses the use of animal power to pull and plow, wind to sail ships, and water to move wheels. Next came the use of coal to fuel steam engines and heat homes, gasoline to fuel vehicles and electricity to light our lives after dark.

      Chapter two explains the origin and use of fossil fuels, and chapter three discusses the alternate fuels: corn, sugarcane, Jatropha seeds for running trains, pond algae and even used French fry cooking oil that is presently being thrown away. Readers will be amazed to learn that a fungus can actually change kitchen scraps into fuel! Both animal and human poop can also be used in some places, like Sweden, to supply electricity to homes.

      The last chapter is teeming with creative innovations from around the globe. Solar panels, geothermal power, wind turbines and Pelamis wave technology are included. Imagine playing soccer with a ball that has a battery inside that charges while the ball is moving. It gives the phrase “Go out and play” a whole new meaning!

internal art      The illustrations and colour photos enhance the text, and the ‘Energy Facts’ and ‘Power Lines’ sections fill the spaces and create more energy themselves! The author’s personal experiences and photos add a further dimension to this interesting and informative book. The author’s humorous style makes reading the facts even more enjoyable. “There’s something you have to know: our Earth’s got gas. (It’s nothing to be embarrassed about though.)” The research involved in the creation of this book must have taken much energy. The resource list is complete with books, movies and websites to explore.

      Brilliant! is an informative, entertaining and electrifying addition to the “Orca Footprints” series. This energetic book is a must-have for any school library.

Highly Recommended.

Sherry Faller is a retired teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.

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

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