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Friday, September 20, 2013

What Floats in a Moat? Written by Lynne Berry and illustrated by Matthew Cordell. Simon & Schuster, 2013. $19.99 ages 5 and up

"The hen and the goat,
alongside the moat,
hammered and nailed,
clanged and banged.
They wired and tied,
and built the SS Buttermilk.
Archie the Goat climbed
aboard. "Ready for launch?"
he called."

This might take you back to the first time you read Mr. Archimedes' Bath (Puffin, 1994). I love books that help to explain scientific principles in such endearing ways. Archie and Skinny are here to help cement the concept of water displacement. Hurrah!

Archie is a goat, and Skinny is a chicken. Three barrels of buttermilk are destined for delivery to the queen. There is only one goal in mind...they want to get to the castle. When they arrive, they take note that it is surrounded by a moat. What to do, what to do?

Archie has a plan:

"He measured and mapped.
He doodled and drew.
He sketched and scribbled
and scrawled.

"Aha! To cross the moat,"
pronounced the goat,
"we build a contraption to float!"

Skinny has another idea, but it is ignored. The goat asserts the time has come to use science! Much thought and hard work go into attempts to make the boat float. The first one is too heavy and it sinks. The next try comes with a ton of trouble for Skinny, who is not the scientist, but is skinny. The task is to empty the barrel of its buttermilk:

"She sipped and slurped and guzzled...
and sipped and slurped and gulped...
and sipped and slurped and guzzled...
to the bottom of the barrel of buttermilk."

Poor Skinny! Still, the attempt is a failure.There is only thing left to try...and it breeds success. Ah, the mysteries of science! Could Archie be named for Archimedes? Wonder no more...

This book is such fun to read aloud...and Matt Cordell's artwork only ups the enjoyment. Done in pen and ink with watercolor, he creates personable, expressive characters, and places them in humorous settings to make the story even more entertaining. He 'klunks' and  'splashes' the boat into the water,
'glubs' it to the bottom of the moat, and 'bangs' and 'clangs' the next barrel into shape for sailing. He totally matches the fun inherent in the tale, and encourages much discussion about the science behind the story.

An author's note explains Archimedes' principle in a way that is accessible to even the youngest readers.

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