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Pop-up packs a punch

To quote the blurb, "when nature's fury shapes events, The Earth Pack shows you why". This three-dimensional interactive book is "so dynamic you won't believe it doesn't require batteries".

It features seven ingenious pop-up sculptures, including earth structure, earthquake, volcano and avalanche. A stereoscopic viewer enables a diagram to convey evolving earth processes, such as glacial erosion. Tabs, flaps and discs can be manipulated to identify cloud types, find a skier lost in an avalanche, and so on. Pulling a string enables you to "grow" a tornado; moving a tab creates continental collisions and divergencies.

Like Dickens's Fat Boy, the authors Ron van der Meer and Ron Fisher "want to make your flesh creep" and a tape of eye-witness accounts of natural catastrophes is augmented by ominous music and terrifying sound effects. In another pocket nestles a booklet defining about 170 earth science terms.

The Earth Pack, published by the National Geographic Society, price Pounds 29.95, has the strengths associated with such initiatives: ingenuity, a zestful if somewhat breathless prose, and physical durability.

The pack is made in much tougher, heavier material than most interactive books. The style is that distinctive blend of the reverential and the whimsical - "Mother nature packs a wallop", separating Africa and South America "cozy neighbours 200 million years ago".

The information could be obtained from more orthodox and cheaper publications, but the array of novel devices here might just deliver a motivational boost.

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