Plenty of punch

21st January 2005 at 00:00
Andrew Peck explores books that tap into key stage 2 students' enthusiasm for investigation and discovery

Adventures with Electricity: Benjamin Franklin's Story By Beverly Birch; Matthew Price pound;4.99

Forensic Files series

Investigating: Thefts and Heists; History Mysteries; Fakes and Hoaxes; UFOs; Murders; The Supernatural

Heinemann Library pound;11.50 each

Zoom! series

The Human Body Space; Dinosaurs; Life on Earth

By Nicholas Harris; Cherrytree Books pound;4.99 each

Beverley Birch's Adventures with Electricity: Benjamin Franklin's Story is one of a series of highly engaging books which also explores the discoveries and lives of Guglielmo Marconi, Marie Curie and Louis Pasteur.

Beverley Birch interweaves historical detail and scientific understanding to create lively narrative accounts of some of the greatest discoveries of modern science. The reader shares in the tension building up to the moment of discovery and gains insights into the everyday life and feelings that form the backdrop. As such, these stories are excellent resources in cross-curricular work on the lives of famous scientists, particularly as a guided reading activity and launching point for drama.

Many of the older children at my school are avid viewers of Channel 5's CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and similar programmes - so much so that occasions of "missing" pens or broken rulers regularly raise enquires as to whether we can "dust for prints" or conduct a DNA comparison analysis to track down the culprit - or "perp", as Year 6 call them. The children's enthusiasm for such school-based investigation is only slightly dampened by explanations about the constraints of a primary science budget.

To this end, the Forensic Files series is a superb class or library resource. Each volume investigates famous cases in its field, explaining to upper key stage 2 readers how the science of forensics has helped investigators explore and solve their cases. The understanding of forensic techniques and procedures is expanded with accessible explanations of the science involved. Classroom investigators will be engrossed.

It is easy to be wary of books using page cut-outs as a selling point, as often these seem to be gimmicks intended to distract from mediocre content.

The Zoom! series instantly dispels any such cynicism. Using cut-out pages and a telescopic style, the reader is drawn into ever-increasing and genuinely amazing detail. The effect is enhanced by stunning illustrations throughout each book and a supporting text that strikes a well-judged balance between accessibility for the curious and a sufficient level of scientific content to satisfy the more able. As such, the Zoom! series has a wide appeal across all abilities within KS2. At pound;4.99 each, these books represent considerable value and vast amounts of awe and wonder for your money. This is a real asset for any school or class library.

Andrew Peck is science co-ordinator at George Spicer Primary School, Enfield, North London

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