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Children's Books - age range 10-14 *

Review - Why is Snot Green - Glen Murphy 


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Collections of answers to tricky science questions have become very popular in the adult market, and it’s no surprise to see a similar volume for the younger reader. Glenn Murphy’s book is an enjoyable collection of mini-articles based on questions that range from the book’s title to “how big is the universe?”

I was a little worried to begin with that it was going to be too much of a Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy rip off for those too young to remember it, as Murphy begins by telling us how “massively, hugely, immensely enormous” the universe is, but this moment of Douglas Adams style madness settles down to a fun read at a rattling good pace. Each little section is broken up by an imagined dialogue with the reader, which occasionally sinks into “I’m an adult pretending to be a child” speak, but generally pitches the whole thing well.

As far as the science goes, there’s enough meat in each section to make it interesting and not patronising, but it's covered in such a way that it will rarely lose the reader (and where it’s likely to, the imaginary voice usually asks for help). While you might quibble about one or two of the answers, mostly they are solid. There are only two I would pick out as particularly dubious. The answer given to how you would die if you opened a space suit in space is that your blood would boil, because low pressure reduces the boiling point, then seconds later you would freeze solid. Neither of these would actually kill you (your body keeps the pressure up, and space doesn't transmit heat well) - NASA even has an accidental verification of this. The other entry that’s definitely adrift is the observation that there probably isn’t time travel because we haven’t seen time travellers. Most semi-feasible approaches to time travel would only work as far back as when the mechanism was first produced, so unless someone has already built a time machine, you won't see time travellers (and many time travel concepts only apply to information, rather than people), making this argument spurious.

As with the Horrible Science series, it was great to see a children’s science book that wasn’t a picture book – this is real popular science for the younger reader. There are enough surprises to keep the reader entertained and overall it’s much more substantial than many attempts at science for children.


Reviewed by Jo Reed

* Our age range recommendation is an estimated guide, but individual readers outside the range could still enjoy the book!


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Last update 05 June 2007