Experiment and see

4th August 1995 at 01:00
SCIENCE WORKS! series. By Steve Parker. ENERGY. 0 7500 1666 3. LIGHT. 0 7500 1593 4. Macdonald Pounds 8.99 each. Age range 8 - 13.

The Science Works series takes youngsters through the principles and applications of physical science. The books are designed for children as young as eight, but the inclusion of concepts and activities associated with key stage 3 means that the books will be suitable for children up to 12 or 13 years old.

Introductory science books must establish a distinctive and appealing style to succeed in a competitive area. Science Works develops its themes through a continuing narrative combined with inset packages. "DIY science" boxes contain experiments using simple equipment and household items. There are more experiments and science tricks in "Special FX", while "Fascinating Facts" gives information highlights. The remaining inset, "Famous Firsts", credits inventors and discoverers. Pleasant artwork and occasional photographs illustrate both text and insets to complete an overall impression of energy and activity.

In Light Steve Parker traces the history of artificial lighting before looking at light detectors, reflection, refraction and colours. He is not afraid to introduce complex truths, so a Fascinating Facts box reveals that light does not always travel in straight lines - it can be bent by gravity. Steve Parker also credits unsung heroes in Famous Firsts, where Englishman Joseph Swan appears alongside Thomas Edison as co-inventor of the light bulb.

Some experiments are associated with secondary science so are probably more appropriate for older children, but there is a range of activities suitable for younger readers.

Energy follows a similar pattern in covering forms of energy, movement, machines and engines. Again Steve Parker carefully balances breadth of knowledge against depth and narrative pace against opportunity to pause. His background on James Joule gives personality to the experimental and investigative science unit, and Joule's work is thoughtfully followed up by practical investigation. There is imagination too in a cake recipe which draws children into a consideration of energy efficiency - before they eat the result of the experiment. Complex ideas here include a description of the four fundamental forces in the universe then a spectacular experiment converts a lemonade bottle into a rocket.

Both books present science in the twin contexts of historical development and contemporary, everyday experience while activities help develop practical skills. Most impressively, Steve Parker has produced books which will engage children's interest, encourage understanding and give insight into the fascinating complexities of science.

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