Return of the 'wow' factor

10th January 2003 at 00:00
What does the hairiest family in the world look like? Ever been eye-to-eye with a human head louse or wondered what the fastest and most poisonous animals are? Did you know that the parrotfish has the slimiest home in the animal kingdom, and that it eats the mucus each morning before starting the day?

The Record Breakers series from Belitha Press will put the "wow" factor back into lessons for teachers and provide an endless stream of amazing facts for children. Excellent colour photographs with clear captions aid well-chosen text in this very readable series, with titles such as Animal Kingdom, Human Body and Megastructures (all by David Jefferis) and there is a section at the end of each book which suggests projects you can do on your own.

Space Busters, another series from Belitha Press (pound;10.99 each), shares the same quality of concise, attractively presented material for children at key stage 2. These books also provide an excellent resource for teachers. Aliens, unexplained mysteries of space and the space race are among topics that should grip young imaginations. Prepare to be taken on a journey past solar flares with the power of millions of nuclear explosions and comets smashing into planets.

Totally gripping from the moment you pick them up, this series will show you how to travel though space. There are pictures of what aliens might look like, but if you aren't satisfied with the ideas offered, you can design your own. These books could lead to some interesting debates or serve as reference material for art or design and technology, as well as providing ideas for science science projects.

A superb series by Hodder Wayland tells us about the lives of Scientists WhoMade History (pound;11.99 each), featuring such luminaries as Rosalind Franklin, John Logie Baird, Einstein and Newton. You can dip into the timeline at the back of each book to get a quick overview of the scientists' lives, or dig deeper into the text, which is user-friendly, with clear titles on each page. Glossaries at the back of each book enable children to read the text by themselves as well as with an adult. These books would be excellent both for a library and for children and teachers to read as part of a science course. Contemporary writing about the scientists during their own lives is balanced with assessment of how their ideas related to future discoveries.

Rosalind Franklin's struggles as a woman scientist should arouse interest; John Logie Baird is vividly brought to life in the explanation of how, in his quest to invent television, he caused explosions and power cuts on a grand scale, and how he himself suffered a massive electric shock.

Can Science Solve is a series with 13 titles by Heinemann (available in packs of five at pound;49.87 per pack), investigating whether science can solve mysteries such as the death of the dinosaurs, UFOs and the Loch Ness monster. Each book describes a famous mystery and puts the case for and against a rational scientific explanation. Questions are tackled in a way that will provoke discussion among children at the top of KS2 and help children make sense of and investigate for themselves words, phrases and ideas they have heard adults discussing, but want to know more about. Up-to-date information, alongside eye-witness accounts, allows children to reach their own conclusions.

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