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Monday, November 17, 2014

Brilliant! Shining a Light on Sustainable Energy, by Michelle Mulder. Orca Book Publishers, 2013. $19.95 ages 9 and up

"About 2,700 years ago, people in Persia developed sails that they attached to buildings. The wind turned the sails of the windmill, which then turned the grindstones to grind grain. Over a thousand years later, in the fourteenth century, people of the Netherlands used windmills to pump water out of flooded land..."

I know that I have mentioned it before...these are books that should be in classrooms everywhere. They are brilliantly designed and truly informative for children wanting to know more about the footprints we leave in our world. In the Orca Footprints series, Brilliant! follows Down to Earth (2013), Pedal It! (2013), Every Last Drop (2014) and precedes Take Shelter (2014) which I will tell you about in an upcoming post.

Brilliant! is meant to inform concerning our need to think hard and creatively about how we are using energy at home and in the greater world. Unless we begin to do that, the Earth of the future will be very different than it is today. Fossil fuels are disappearing and our environment is crumbling around us. If we, as adults, do not express concern and act to make things different, our children will have no one showing them how to do it.

In her new book, Michelle Mulder makes reasonable and thoughtful suggestions for changing the way we treat our homes and communities. She begins at the beginning:

"No one knows for sure when our ancestors discovered how to control fire for their own use. Some say it was at least 400,000 years ago. A family would bring fire into a cave and keep it alive for months, or sometimes even years."

She explains that energy is all around us, and takes us on a trip backwards in time to how we first used fire, wind, animal power and water. Then, coal and gasoline. In succeeding chapters, she explains fossil fuels, and alternate fuels developed to make our lives easier and more productive. I was fascinated to learn about the many scientists who work to create new sources of fuel for our use:

"The Indian state railway planted millions of jatropha plants along the rails and uses the oil from its seeds to help fuel each train trip. Jatropha can grow in dry places with poor soil, where other plants would never survive, and the seeds are not edible, so it's not like using food for fuel."

She goes on to explain the many other ingenious ways that alternative fuel sources are being developed. . Kids will love learning about the soccer ball that 'has a machine inside that captures the movement energy of a rolling ball.' A battery inside is charged and then used to power a lamp! So many inventions on the horizon. For now, we need to be acutely aware of those things we can do to use less fuel. It's up to us!

As has been the case with the previous books in this series, the illustrations and clear photographs give essential meaning to the text. The 'Power Lines' and 'Energy Facts' boxes add personal observations and humor, as well as much needed information. Get it for your classroom, your library, or your home to provide food for thought and action! Put on your own thinking cap, and try to visualize new ways to improve life on our planet.  

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