Amazing voyages into science

22nd October 2004 at 01:00
Our Bodies series

Survivor's Science series

By Peter D Riley

both series Hodder Wayland pound;11.99 per title

Secret World of... series


pound;10.99 per title, or pound;41.76 per pack of four

Internet-linked: Complete Book of the Human Body

Anna Claybourne

Usborne pound;12.99

The Our Bodies series by Steve Parker comprises: The Brain and Nervous System; Digestion; The Heart, Lungs and Blood; Reproduction; The Senses; The Skeleton and Muscles. All these titles are fascinating, insightful and informative. The series is an excellent resource for more able key stage 2 scientists, though intended for KS3. Each title develops its subject matter through straightforward text and clearly detailed illustrations and photographs. Together with a comprehensive contents, index and well chosen web links, this allows readers to engage with the text independently. It includes "Did you know?" format panels that challenge the reader to investigate further or encourage the sharing of unusual information.

Raintree's Secret World of... series explores the lives of ants, bats, butterflies, spiders, snakes, whales, bears and crabs. Each book delves into the hidden world of the creature, examining its life cycle, feeding habits, behaviour and the impact of human activity on its habitat. Stunning visual images, and precise and rich vocabulary-based text characterise each appealing title, with concise summaries of each chapter. Readers of all ages and abilities within KS2, not to mention interested adults, will glean new knowledge.

It is always desirable to put scientific learning into a real, relevant, and hopefully enjoyable, context. This is the success of the "Survivor's Science" series by Peter D Riley (Survival Science: at Sea; on an Island; in the Desert; in the Rainforest; in the Forest; in the Polar Regions), which explores the science of each habitat and the application of scientific thinking in order to tackle its specific survival problems.

The series is novel and very well thought-out. Formation and dynamics of each habitat are clearly explained, with perceptive use of illustrations and supporting photographs. A key feature is the use of activities that openly model the scientific enquiry process of observation, hypothesis formation, testing and evaluation of findings on the original hypothesis.

These activities provide real challenge and insight, rather than merely fobbing the reader off with something to do, and vividly demonstrate that science can be applied to all situations and scenarios around us. Many books now include website links for further reading, research and activities.

Usborne's Internet-linked: Complete Book of the Human Body, as its title suggests, makes these links explicitly clear. However, such a title and intention should not dissuade a potential reader without internet access.

This book is exceptionally visual throughout with lavish photographs and superbly detailed cut-away diagrams, and uses questioning sub-headings to provide concise, enlightening information about the human body; therefore, it performs as a superb stand-alone resource. For those who wish to explore the internet links, a central Usborne site acts as host and ensures that all links are appropriate and current.

This exceptional resource is part of a series, with companion titles covering astronomy and "mysteries and marvels of nature", which would be an excellent library buy.

Andrew Peck is science co-ordinator at George Spicer School, in Enfield, north London

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