Amazing but it's all true

25th September 1998 at 01:00
SCIENCE MUSEUM BOOKS OF AMAZING FACTS. Discoveries. Transport. By Beverly Birch. Exploration. Energy. By Anthony Wilson. Constructions. By Chris Oxlade. Communications. By Sarah Angliss. Hodder. Pounds 3.99 each.

Each of these books is like a box of chocolates - full of a variety of rich and tasty nibbles. The main text consists of isolated paragraphs of fascinating fact, only occasionally followed by a related fact.

The index helps, but there is very little overall organisation. In Discoveries, for example, the sections are titled "Discoveries", "More discoveries", "Still more..." and so on.

The content has been well researched and selected to be relevant and interesting to junior and early secondary age children. Examples from Discoveries include the mythical (Kaldi, the Ethiopian goatherd, eating coffee berries), the unacknowledged (the Spanish child finding Altamira cave paintings) and the revolutionary (Galileo's telescopic views of the solar system).

Beverly Birch's approach in Transport is more systematic. There are sections on land, sea and air travel and the sequence is roughly chronological.

There is a quiz for each section, and the text is often written to prompt responses other than "Cool!" or "Weird!" In Exploration, for example, the reader is invited to imagine whether Marco Polo would be recognisable after travelling abroad for more than 20 years, and what to say if you met Livingstone in Africa.

The books are useful sweeteners for topic work but also provide reinforcement for scientific ideas. Anthony Wilson reminds us that you cannot boil an egg on Mount Everest, and in Energy he gives many practical examples of quantities and their conversions, using Mars Bars and petrol as examples.

Constructions and Communications contain much interesting technology, supported, as are all the books, with panels of more detailed explanation. Sarah Angliss's book is particularly useful as it is bang up to date on information technology.

Martin Hollins is a senior lecturer in science education at Roehampton Institute

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