Find the answer

9th May 2008 at 01:00
Whether it's a question about a natural disaster or a problem with spelling, you'll spot the solution in these books
Whether it's a question about a natural disaster or a problem with spelling, you'll spot the solution in these books

DK Eyewitness Guides: Natural Disasters

Claire Watts

Dorling Kindersley

pound;12.99

This is a colourful and attractive publication, like all the Eyewitness Guides. It is user-friendly, covering the subject in a logical, easy-to-understand way, and is excellent value.

Tsunamis are covered well, with some dramatic and thought-provoking images. However, volcanoes and earthquakes only receive four pages each, compared to 12 pages on tsunamis. The geographical explanation of how earthquakes are caused is hardly touched on and the full extent of the damage of such events is not, in my opinion, given sufficient coverage.

The next 22 pages look at natural disasters caused by weather. The explanations here are good: detailed and thorough. Dramatic photographs, complemented by explanatory text, make this part of the book a stimulating read.

Unfortunately, the next couple of chapters feel slightly out of place. The first covers man-made disasters; clearly two pages do not do such meaty subject matter justice.

The second is a nice, although rather unexpected, chapter that covers infectious diseases, which is followed by a chapter that attempts to predict future disasters.

The final few chapters are excellent, consisting of a "did you know?" section and an informative glossary and timeline, useful website recommendations and places to visit in Britain.

This book is a must for primary and secondary school libraries, where it will be useful for pupils' individual research.

David Elstone is headteacher of Hymers College in Hull.

Primary Spelling Dictionary

Christine Maxwell and Julia Rowlandson

Barrington Stoke

pound;11.99

Did you ever go to the zoo and see a giraffe? Did you have to write about it afterwards? Were some of the spellings tricky? If you look up "zoo" as it sounds ("zu") in the Primary Spelling Dictionary it gives you the correct spelling. Likewise giraffe, unless you hail from north of Watford and spell it "jiraff", in which case the book won't be so helpful. Similarly, "chocerlet" gets a mention, but not "choklit", despite the latter being the preferred spelling of my Year 5 class.

But, in a book aimed at struggling spellers, it would be counter-productive to include every variation of misspelling. Further, regional pronunciations are not totally ignored; castle, for instance, features as "casel" and "carsel".

Although designed for primary use, the dictionary would not be out of place for some early secondary groups.

The introduction includes some excellent tips for speller and teacher alike on learning spellings, because in the end that's what we all have to do.

The layout is clear: correct spellings are in black, with incorrect ones in red. For some children, spelling is a minefield and it will take several strategies to navigate it: the Primary Spelling Dictionary could well be one of them.

Kevin Harcombe is head of Redlands Primary School in Fareham, Hampshire.

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