Friday, October 08, 2021

Hard Science! Rocks and Minerals by Seymour Simon

Breathes there a child with soul so dead who never to himself hath said, "Hey, look at this rock!"

Rocks can be mundane--as common as dirt (from which metamorphic rocks are made), or they can be as breathtaking as gemstones such as emeralds and rubies or the icicle-like stalactites and stalagmites of calcite in your local cave, and they are probably the most common collection items for most kids, common objects that generate those questions of what and why that are the basis of science learning.

Seymour Simon is practically the Dean of science books for school-age readers, and his latest geological non-fiction, Rocks and Minerals (Harper Books), is both solidly informational and beautiful to boot, chock full of eye-capturing illustrations and photographs of rocks and minerals in all their glory. In simple languange, Simon begins with the inner structure of our very rocky planet, defining the crust, mantle, and inner and outer cores, accompanied by a full-page cutaway illustration.

In the principal section of book, Simon follows up with the basic facts about the type of rocks--igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary--describing the history of how they come to be on our planet as well as their characteristics--the rock cycle that creates form, shape, color, density, and cleavage and fraction and their various uses by humans, from precious gemstones for jewelry to slate for blackboards and marble for monuments.

Simon devotes the second part of the book to describing how young proto-geologists--called "rock hounds"--can use the fascinating aspects of rocks and minerals for fun and education, explaning how incidental rock afficionados can develop their collections through a process of taking notes on where each is found, identification, classification, and labeling that may pay off in assignments and school science fair duty. As a solid science writer should, Seymour Simon appends an author's note, glossary, and index. AS he says, "Even a common rock that you find outside your door may have been formed millions of years ago. Every rock and mineral is a part of our planet's long history. You, as a rock hound, are not just a rock explorer, but also an historian."

Publishers Weekly gives this excellent sample of nonfiction science books a solid plug: "Simon includes a substantial amount of detail while still keeping his explanations accessible."



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