Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Book Reviews: Years of Dust and Science Alliance

As you can see my reading has been all over the place this month.
I'm not a big graphic novel fan but I liked this new one by Eleanor Davis, "The Secret Science Alliance and the Copycat Crook" Science whiz Julian Calendar is determined to be popular at his new school, so he hides the fact that he is smart and interested in inventing gadgets. His secret is discovered by two unlikely classmates, "the bad girl" and "the jock". The three join together to form the Secret Science Alliance. In their secret lab they invent glue bombs, a stinkometer and even a helicopter. The Alliance's invention notebook is stolen by an evil scientist who claims their inventions for his own. Can the trio reclaim their notebook and prevent the scientist from stealing a valuable artifact from the museum?
The adventure is fun and fast paced. I love the fact the author bursts some stereotypes and allows a jock and a girl to be gadget geeks. The artwork is incredibly detailed. I looked at the drawings several times and I'm sure I still missed something. There are even plans for enterprising kids who want to make their own inventions.
I thought I'd studied enough American History to be pretty knowledgable about the Dust Bowl, but I learned alot from Albert Marrin's "Years of Dust: the Story of the Dust Bowl". He begins by describing the ecology of the area and shows the impact man has had--killing the buffalo and plowing up the plains. And then shows how the environmental factors-drought, intense heat and billions of locusts, along with the Depression contributed to the suffering of the Dust Bowl.
The first person accounts are incredible. I can't imagine sitting in a sealed house while the wind blew non-stop for hours breathing dust. Children suffocated, people had dust pneumonia and animals went blind and starved to death. The photographs show the suffering and devestation caused by the dust storms.
I also associated the Dust Bowl with Oklahoma, not realizing that it also affected Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado and other states. At the end of the book Marrin discusses trouble spots in the world today China, South America and Africa, where another dust bowl could happen.