By various authors
National Geographic and Popular Prakashan,
Rs 55 each
Some books make you want to read the very books you had once decided were oh-so-boring. In this case, school text books. National Geographic, together with Popular Prakashan, has brought out 12 books, called Rocks & Minerals, Wonders of Water, Earth, Sun, Moon and Others, Stars and Galaxies, Bones and Muscles and some more, under the title Reading Expeditions. The books are meant to take young readers on a journey around the Earth, share its stories and also inspire them to care about our planet.
The books, which cover a range of topics like the animal kingdom, the ecosystem, the human body and space, follow an easy-read narrative format. It is evident that considerable effort has been made to give the information in a palatable way. The use of simple language, lots of examples and diagrams testify to that.
There are exercises which are meant to help the reader “think like a scientist”, and several do-it-yourself experiments — the kind that makes science seem less intimidating. The books also dispense with lengthy text and make clever use of photographs to illustrate various concepts like the life cycles of animals.
The problem, however, is that despite the tie-up with an Indian publishing house, the books contain little or no Indian examples. So examples like the Grand Canyon and the sundials in New Orleans abound. For someone reading the book at a home in Calcutta, it would be a little difficult to relate to a ‘gabbro’, a kind of rock formed from molten magma, in Stoney Creek, a nature park in the US.
There are also several did-you-know facts to keep you interested. Did you know, for example, that koala bears sleep 20 hours a day because they live on eucalyptus leaves which provide little nutrition? Or that a star’s burnt out core is called a white dwarf? Or did you know that over 500 species of bacteria live in a person’s mouth?
The photographs, some of which are sourced from NASA and observatories around the world, are a treat. There are also little notes on the origins of words like ‘constellation’ and ‘entomologist’ — helpful if you’re going to show off your knowledge in class the next day.
Overall, these books are a thoroughly informative — and an entertaining — read.