Monday, May 13, 2013

Nonfiction Monday: Seymour Simon's Extreme Earth Records

Seymour Simon's Extreme Earth Records
written by Seymour Simon
2012 (Chronicle Books)
Source: Mebane Public Library

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Vostok Research Station - Antarctica (coldest place on Earth)

During this time you suffer from pounding headaches, painful earaches, and constant nosebleeds. Your eyes twitch and you vomit-a lot. You find yourself short of breath and feel as if you're suffocating due to the lack of oxygen. You can't sleep because of all your discomforts. 

This is the opening to Seymour Simon's description of life at the coldest place on Earth. It is indeed extreme living and Simon breaks it down so we can understand why scientists are there in the first place. Therein lies why you need to find this book. First, humans are interested in extremes. For the most part, we live a life of normal and deal with the mostly mundane. Jeff Barger Is Making His Lunch for the 160th Time This Year is not a book any of us want to read. We like to read about lives that are different and places that are different. Second, the king of children's science books (the flap says dean, but I think he is royalty) tells you why these places are important and cool. He makes it understandable, but also doesn't talk down to readers. His writing is conversational and you are on equal terms with him in the conversation. One of the messages I get when I read this book is that no matter the extreme, it isn't enough for humans not to be curious about it and want to explore. Why do people live on Tristan da Cunha, an island so remote that you may have to wait a year to receive the package that you ordered? What kind of life can thrive in a place that gets less than 10 inches of rain a year? These are curiosities that drive our thinking. Another great focus of this book is the connection between some of these extreme places and worlds beyond our planet. For example, studying the Atacama Desert in Chile may yield answers to some of our questions about life on Mars. Also included are sections on the most extreme earthquake, tsunami, and volcanic eruptions in history.

Extreme Earth Records could be used as an example of informational text writing. You could take one piece and read through it to compare to a fictional narrative. If your science class is studying biomes, this would be an excellent resource to share. I also think it would be interesting to ask a student or small group to take one section and ask them to make a chart listing what could live in this area and what could not. They would have to explain why each living thing was on the chart. Learners are interested in extremes, and this book will take them to places they might not have imagined existed.

Other reviews:
The Nonfiction Detectives

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