Through a glass sharply;Reviews;Cross-phase;Books

1st January 1999 at 00:00
THE USBORNE COMPLETE BOOK OF THE MICROSCOPE. By Kirsteen Rogers. Usborne pound;9.99.

What a beautiful book! Physicists dabbling in the outer limits of the universe are sometimes moved to believe in God; studying the minuscule must surely have the same effect on microbiologists.

This book is full of wonderful pictures - the taste buds of the human tongue mounted on a structure like a strawberry; the menacing head and needle-like jointed mouth parts of the bed bug; the swirling spirals of the DNA molecule. In sections covering the human body, plants and fungi, the insect world and the range from rocks to robots, this book encompasses the wonders that we can see with magnification, from hand lens to electron microscope.

Many of the pictures are colour enhanced, and the exquisite photographs are captioned so that children will not get the idea that cheek cells really are purple, or that blood cells are exactly like pink scatter cushions.

There are also practical activities, and although it would be realistic to assume that few readers will be moved to cut, stain and mount their own sections, for example, the book wisely gives warnings about activities that could be risky. For example, it explains how to make a form of agar plate without suggesting that children try growing culture from their fingertips or coughed germs, but rather from safe foods like flour.

The book goes well beyond the usual expectations of primary science education, andis none the worse for that. Teaching about micro-organisms to juniors is always difficult for practical reasons. The Complete Book of the Microscope will help you through that; and it will do more. Put it in the hands of young children and they could be captivated by the magic of scientific discovery.

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