Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Book Review - Who Likes the Sun?

The titles in the series Exploring the Elements are fold out question and answer books that address children's questions about natural phenomena. The latest edition in this series, Who Likes the Sun? focuses on the science of sunshine.

The book opens with a child asking who likes the sun? Many children answer, "I do." These children then proceed to share what they like about the sun, and then ask questions related to what they love.

Questions in this volume include:
  • I wonder how the sun warms me when it's so far away.
  • I wonder how icicles are made.
  • I wonder how sunglasses work.
  • I wonder where water goes.
  • I wonder where dew comes from.
  • I wonder why I have a shadow.
  • I wonder how grapes turn into raisins.
  • I wonder why some flowers have a smell and others don't.
  • I wonder why the water sparkles.
  • I wonder how the sun makes rainbows.
  • I wonder why the sky sometimes turns red.
  • I wonder where the sun goes at night.
Based on the title, I was expecting the book to address topics like the formation of shadows, night and day, weather-related phenomena and seasons. I certainly didn't expect the questions related to light, though they do make sense in this context. However, the questions about flowers and raisins just didn't "fit" for me. I found myself wishing that the questions were linked or organized in some way so that the ideas in the text flowed a bit more smoothly. For example, though the bit about grapes didn't work for me, the process described is evaporation. Why not put this question with the one about where water goes, where readers learn about the formation of water vapor? While I'm on this, let me add that while I found the science to be very kid-friendly, I felt it could have been more specific, and should have introduced more of the scientific terminology that elementary school kids learn about. For example, here's an excerpt from the grape page.
Grapes are picked when they are juicy and sweet.

Then they are put on trays to dry in the sun. The heat of the sun makes the water in the grapes go out into the air.
This would have been the perfect place to introduce the term evaporation. The same could be said for the page on where water goes. Here's that excerpt.
When the sun comes out, it heats the water on the grass.

The heated water turns into very tiny drops of water called vapor.

The water vapor becomes part of the air.
I also wish this page had made explicit that the water droplets actually change state from liquid to gas.

The illustrations and diagrams in this book do a nice job of supporting the text. They also show kids engaged in a variety of activities and include a range of diversity not seen in many books today. Some of the answers to questions are extremely well-done and address relatively sophisticated topics, while others lack the same quality.

I wanted to like this book, but just couldn't get past the disjointedness of the questions and the unevenness of the answers. I do like the idea behind the series, so I'm not ready to give up on it entirely. I will be sure to take a look at Who Likes the Wind? and Who Likes the Snow? to see if the concepts are more coherently connected, and the science more consistent.

Book: Who Likes the Sun?
Author: Etta Kaner
Publisher: Kids Can Press
Publication Date: March 10, 2007
Pages: 32
Grades: K-2
ISBN-10: 1553378407
ISBN-13: 978-1553378402
Source of Book: Copy received from Raab Associates, Inc.

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