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Monday, May 26, 2014

Dirty Science, written by Shar Levine and Leslie Johnstone and illustrated by Lorenzo Del Bianco. Scholastic, 2013. $7.99 ages 7 and up

"Believe it or not, in some cultures around the world people actually eat clay. This practice is called geophagy. Researchers now think that some specific types of soil are eaten to help protect people from toxins or parasites in their food."

This is the fourth book in Scholastic's winning 25 Experiments series. Earlier publications centered on hockey, snow and scary stuff. Once again, the authors have designed a host of investigations that will keep budding scientists occupied and learning about all things soil!

There is a lot here to discover. Again, I really like the design and the ease with which readers will be able to find and follow the directions for exploring soil in its various forms. The table of contents includes an introduction, the 25 experiments, and a glossary (which includes all those words bolded throughout the text); this makes it easy for them to return to their favorites.

From the introduction:

"Soil is an ecosystem - the soil beneath our feet contains not only rocks and minerals, but also worms, insects, bacteria, fungi and plants, as well as the water, air and rotting plant and animal matter needed to keep them alive. Soil that has only inorganic material is called dirt."

Reading on, we begin the two page lessons prepared for young scientists to follow in order to make some amazing discoveries. The title is given, followed by a carefully constructed list of materials needed (including an adult helper at times). The method is described in a step-by-step set of procedures, and finally there is an detailed explanation for what happened. A Did You Know? information box completes some of the pages.

I am fascinated by much of what I learned reading this book, and can easily see how children will find it engaging. An edible soil profile is sure to attract interest, and foodies. I couldn't believe it when I was asked if I thought a plant might actually change the color of its flowers. If you can find both blue and pink hydrangeas at this time of year, and if you are a patient scientist, you might want to check out #7 Colour Change. Oh, and you will need coffee grounds and dolomite lime. But, I think it's worth's like real magic!

The range of experiments ensures that the audience will be varied...some of the science is quite complicated and requires more careful thought and knowledge of plant science. That certainly ups its usefulness in science classrooms.

The cartoon-like artwork adds appeal, and helps with the completion of the given tasks. The characters remain the same throughout: an adult, two young scientists and a yellow dog who provides aid when needed and some comic relief as well.

The more we know about life on Earth, and how we can help sustain it, the better for each one of us and certainly for future generations.

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