Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Rock Stars: Crystals and Gemstones by Chris and Helen Pellant

Kids are born rockhounds, but adult field guides can be a bit off-putting for the novice collector. Chris Pellant's Crystals and Gemstones (Rock Stars) (Gareth Stevens, 2009), part of this notable nonfiction publisher's Rock Stars series packs plenty of basic information into its 24 colorful, photo-filled pages. Author Pellant provides all the basics--facts about the big three, igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks, the mechanics of crystal formation, and the usefulness of crystals in daily life--from the diamonds in the British crown or in surgical blades to the crystals which compose our own bones.

Color photographs display the range of colors, forms and sizes which crystals and their refined relatives gemstones can take, and an intriguing graphic shows the range of hardness for crystals, from the durable diamond to the softness of talc, with practical advice on testing with fingernails (2 1/2 on the scale) to steel nails (5 1/2 on the scale). Organic gemstones (amber, coral, pearl) are also described with explanations of how they are formed and used.

A section titled "Crystal Collector" offers photos and descriptions of common collectible stones from augite to tourmaline, aquamarine to zircon. Directions for field collecting, storage, and display are clear and easy to read, and a glossary and index back up the textual information.

To spark interest, the author scatters star-shaped text boxes (IT'S A FACT!) with kid-catching tidbits of information to spark further investigation. One page features a display of popular birthstone gems, while another (RECORD BREAKERS) shows the biggest crystals (36 feet) and the oldest cut diamond (the 5000-year-old Koh-i-Noor), among others. Another engaging browsing page (DID YOU KNOW?) offers more fascinating facts (the Statue of Liberty looks green because of the atamite crystals caused by reaction with oxygen on the copper surface).

Good nonfiction books can expand on classroom knowledge or inspire a lifetime avocation among young readers. Crystals and Gemstones (Rock Stars) is a new entry on this popular subject which definitely makes the grade. See also Fossils (Rock Stars), another title in this solid series.

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