“ Genre: Junior Books / Author: Jacqui Bailey / Illustrator: Matthew Lillie / Publication Date: 2007 / Publisher: A & C Black Publishers Ltd „
My youngest is almost 4 now, and like most children, full of questions. He often listens as I read books of a far a higher age level to his brother - and with his love of airplanes and flight - he has also taken an interest in gravity. He wants to know everything about it - how it works and how birds, airplanes and other flying machines manage to defy it. It is times like this that I feel a bit thick myself. Gravity is one of those things I have always taken for granted. We all know it is there - but how does it work? As usual when faced with a question I just don't know how to answer - I turned to my two favourite sources Google and Amazon. Google did turn up a few sites, but none are really meant for a child so young, and we chose this book from Amazon.
This book is entitled 'Down to Earth', but most of the story takes place above the earth. This is story, not just a science book. It centers on a new Astronaut named Zac. He starts his day with shower, and then catches a ball thrown by some children on his way to work. Simple everyday activities, but both of these demonstrate the effects of gravity, and a brief explanation is given. Then the story returns to Zac as he arrives at the launch site for his first trip on the shuttle. We learn how he has trained and follow him into space. While this is first and foremost a story, the effects of gravity are explained as we observe life on the shuttle.
This was bought for my youngest son, but my oldest has used it as well. Both boys like the part where poor Zac has changed from a light coffee colour to distinctively green, with cheeks bulging and looking very much as if he is about spew - while the speach bubble reads "I THINK I'M GOING TO BE SICK". His colleague meanwhile comments "isn't this great?" - but my sons offer other dialogue for her - such as " Don't you dare - it will fly everywhere". This has led to several lively discussions as to exactly what the effect of puking into the space shuttle's cabin would be - and how you would clean it.
They also find the toilet interesting, and my youngest is happy to volunteer hoover sounds along with the flush. The bed also fascinated them and they both think this would be great fun, and they really enjoy the section on how plants grow in space as well. When Zac returns to earth, the book continues with a few more pages on gravity, and a small experiment as well.
I am rating this book at 5 stars. My sons both enjoyed it, and learned from it, and my youngest has chosen this book many times as a bedtime story, so it has definitely held his interest. I do think this helped him understand gravity a bit, but it wasn't exactly what we were looking for. He still wants to know how flight can defy gravity. I can't rate the book down for failing this - it never claimed it would answer this question, I was just hoping it might. We've tried everything and I just can't find a book or a web site to demonstrate this. I finally gave up and resorted to using a thread. by tying the string to a door handle a ring I explained that the string will hold us near the door, just as gravity holds on the earth. But if something has enough force it can snap the string and break away - likewise if something has enough energy it can break free of gravity. I still feel this explanation is lacking - and I'm still looking for another book - so if anyone can recommend one - please email me.
In spite of the fact that this book didn't answer all of our questions though, I do still feel it is very good. It presents quite a lot of scientific information in a fun easy to read to format. The price was very reasonable at £2.81 used, but is slightly higher now, with used books costing £3.99 and new £5.99 new. I would certainly recommend this for a primary school class room or a home educator, but I would also very strongly recommend this for any child with an interest in the space shuttle or astronauts. It is also likely to be enjoyed by children who find bodily fluids amusing - as most young boys do. I would not have bought this book for a 3 year old if my son had not expressed a specific interest in gravity, but he really does enjoy it - so I will recommend this for ages 3 - 8.