CM . . . .
Volume VI Number 21 . . . . June 23, 2000
Cynthia Pratt Nicolson. Illustrated by Bill Slavin.
Grades 2-6 / Ages 7-11.
What is a comet? A comet is a ball of ice, gas and rocky dirt. It circles the Sun in a long, nearly oval path called an orbit. When a comet passes near the Sun, it develops a large, glowing head and a long tail. Bright comets can be seen easily from Earth. (Comets, Asteroids and Meteorites, p. 5)These three titles are the latest in the "Starting With Space" series. Each book is information packed and clearly focused, delivering its content in a question-answer format that would be particularly appealing to beginning science students. Nicolson successfully combines scientific fact with general commentary about topics such as the origin of the planets' names, the beliefs of early peoples about the solar system, and the discovery of these celestial bodies. From the acknowledgments, the validity of the scientific information contained in each text is well established.
Bill Slavin's illustrations enhance the text. The numerous diagrams clearly explain challenging concepts. Comic characters (a star, a rocket ship, a comet) alert readers to additional interesting facts and to the glossary. Young readers will enjoy the illustrations and will be amazed at the photographs.
Each book has a table of contents, glossary and index. The table of contents is particularly noteworthy as it not only includes chapter titles but also all the question covered in each chapter. Several "Try it" pages interspersed in the text expand upon the ideas explored in the chapters. These suggestions (e.g. a test for finding life, making a constellation viewfinder) will help make the subjects more accessible for young minds.
This trio of books is highly recommended for any collection. While teachers will find them a comprehensive source for exploring the solar system with their students, the books will also be readily enjoyed at home by both adult and child.
Gillian Martin Noonan is a teacher living in Old Perlican, Newfoundland.
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