________________ CM . . . . Volume VII Number 7 . . . . December 1, 2000

cover Extreme Science.

Larry Verstraete. Illustrations by Paul McCusker.
Markham, ON: Scholastic Canada, 2000.
152 pp., pbk., $6.99.
ISBN 0-590-24845-6.

Subject Headings:
Science-Miscellanea-Juvenile literature.
Discoveries in science-Juvenile literature.

Grades 4 - 8 / Ages 9 - 13.

Review by Liz Greenaway.

**** /4


In 1942 a three-man suicide squad sat atop a pile of radioactive uranium, ready to take drastic measures in case the experiment - the world's fist nuclear chain reaction - went horribly wrong. The three physicists were ready to put their lives on the line to advance the frontiers of science.

Almost four hundred years earlier, Italian astronomer Giordano Bruno had faced another kind of ordeal. Bruno lived just before the turn of the seventeenth century, a dangerous time for anyone with new ideas. Those who held different views were often branded as heretics, teachers of falsehood. The punishment for being a heretic was severe: sometimes imprisonment, often death. So when Bruno wrote a book that suggested life might exist on other planets besides earth - a shocking concept to many - he was taking an enormous risk. He was arrested, tried and found guilt of heresy. Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake on February 17, 1600.

Larry Verstraete begins with this gripping introduction and never lets up as he introduces readers to the courageous men and women who, through their efforts and tenacity, have helped to add to the knowledge of our world or to the creature comforts that we take for granted. The writing is taut, and the breadth of Verstraete's research staggering as he recounts these "scientific heroes" from the medieval times up to the present. Many familiar names crop up: Benjamin Franklin, the Wright brothers, Madame Curie. But so, too, do many new ones: Russian astronauts making courageous first voyages, ocean explorers coming across volcanic eruptions hours after they had occurred, the inventor of Vaseline who, to test the salve's curative qualities, cut himself and applied it all over his body. Explorers, soldiers, inventors and scientists of a more conventional nature are all fit subjects. Reading it, I was reminded of the "Ripley Believe It or Not" series I devoured as a kid. Verstraete's stories are all the more amazing for being absolutely true. Did you know, for example, that even today the note pages of Marie and Pierre Curie give off powerful doses of radiation?
    The chapters are short enough to be accessible to young readers, with more "extreme facts" listed afterwards, many which will inspire further research. An index is included to facilitate research projects while an impressive list of Web sites of interest adds to the book's topicality.
    An excellent book for any school or home library.

Highly Recommended.

Alberta's Liz Greenaway is a former bookseller who has never risked her life in the name of science.

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

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The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364