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Friday, August 20, 2010

Kaboom! written by Gillian Richardson. Annick Press, 2009, $12.95 ages 10 and up

"An explosion happens when there is a rapid release of energy, usually because gases that are under extreme pressure need more space. They push with great force against whatever is holding them back. When the explosion finally happens, and the container bursts, there's usually a loud bang."

There are moments of horror and moments of hilarity as you read this most enjoyable book about explosions and how they occur. The photographs are amazing, full of beauty and detail. Gillian Richardson chose a subject that will entice and entertain, while also informing her readers with facts, artwork, archival material and kabooms, past and present. The cover invites us in, the writing keeps us reading. She has chosen to talk about two different types of explosion: natural and man made. There is much to learn.

In the explosions in nature section, she talks about volcanoes, beginning with Krakatoa in 1883, then moving on to Mount St. Helens and finally, returning to Krakatoa, rather the small island that is taking its place and is called 'child of Krakatoa'. On to geysers, coal mines and methane, outer space, and plants and animals, offering this 'fun fact':

"The seeds of the jack pine, a tree found in eastern North America, are only released after a forest fire. The fire's extreme heat expands air inside the cones and forces them open. The jack pine is one of the first trees to take root in the burnt ground."

Some of the horrifying bits come while she is describing animal explosions including flatulence and a real exploding whale and thousands of toads. EWWWW!

The 'explosions we create' part of the book helps us learn about both destructive and constructive ones. Destructive explosions include gunpowder, dynamite, bombs and includes a two page spread chronicling the explosion in Halifax in 1917. When describing constructive explosions, the author talks about using almost thirteen hundred tonnes of explosives to dismantle Ripple Rock in 1958 and more than '30 million kilograms of dynamite, 84,000 people and 34 years' to build the Panama Canal. Wow! We have been witness to planned demolitions and their remarkable implosions. Don't forget fireworks...explosive brilliance and beauty to mark special occasions.

Back matter includes a selected bibliography, a table of contents, an index and a list of books and web sites for further study.

One of my favorite paragraphs was the one which described the explosive words that we use in everyday conversations:

"You might erupt with laughter at a hilarious scene in a movie. Does your friend have an explosive temper that is easily triggered if he doesn't get what he wants? Did your mom blow up when she saw the mess you left after making pizza? Did you eat so much that you thought you'd burst or explode? At the best parties, you might have a blast!"

Are there more?

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