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Project X: Extreme Exploring Machines - Alison Blank

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Genre: Junior Books

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      23.10.2011 19:52
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      Brings out the explorer in children.

      I tend to value fiction over non fiction where children are concerned. I know all the expert advice recommends a good mix between the two - but I have always felt stories were more fun. Because we home educate though, I felt a good number of non fiction books were necessary from an educational standpoint. However, I have discovered my son loves the non fiction, often choosing these over fiction titles. I recently asked him to choose a new book and his response has formed the title for this review.

      This is one of my sons favourite non fiction books. It is part of the series we have been using for him to learn to read from, Project X. These books are written especially with boys in mind, choosing topics the publishers feel will appeal to boys, and then writing carefully graded books to match each child's reading level. This book is book band white, level 10 and corresponds to the Oxford Reading Tree books of the same level. I have noted in earlier reviews that the non fiction books do tend to be more challenging than the fiction books of the same level, and this does present a couple of challenging words. These include 'submersible', 'geothermal' and the hardest for my son 'Chikyu Hakken', the name of a Japanese boat. In all honesty, I don't know if I am pronouncing it correctly, but I have told him with difficult unfamiliar words like this to just read the word however he thinks it sounds - so we give this a phonetic English pronunciation. He found 'Nankai Tough difficult as well.

      'Extreme Exploring Machines' is part of project X's inventors and inventions cluster, a theme which I understand is used in most primary schools as well. It will also fit in well with our own exploration unit which we will be starting soon. The book focuses on inventions that help people explore inhospitable locations. Some of these are unmanned or robotic vehicles. Alvin, a deep submersible, can accommodate 3 people for each dive. This vehicle plunges to depths of almost 4.5 kilometres beneath the ocean's surface. Chikyu Hakken, the Japanese boat mentioned earlier is of course manned, but it's drill plummets down 2 kilometres to record data from a serious fault line - hoped to provide early warning against earthquakes.

      The next three vehicles, or explorers are robotic. These include the famous Mars Rover, an arachnoid like robot called Dante II ( We don't find out what happened to Dante I) that explorers and gathers information on volcanoes. This odd looking contraption gathers rock and gas samples. There is a brief mention of auto subs, and an unnamed cryobot developed by NASA. This robot is was designed to explore Antarctic lakes but NASA hopes to use similar models someday to explore Jupiter's frozen moon, Europa. The cryobot is designed to melt through ice and sterilise itself with hydrogen peroxide when it nears fluid water to prevent the risk of introducing microbes to this untouched ecosystem.

      I think this book fits in wonderfully with a cross curricular approach to learning as it covers language and reading, science, social studies and even ethics to some degree, as it does mention ethical concerns of human exploration. Although this book is expensive, at £5.40 new, I do feel it was money well spent.

      My son, at age 6 loves this book. He is quite interested in unmanned robotic vehicles, and as most boys seem to like any type of vehicle and like robots, the two do seem to be a subject with a wide range of appeal. My son really loves the Project X adventure stories, but he has also taken a very serious interest in the non fiction titles. He says he just likes learning new things. As a parent I am delighted to find a series that so completely inspires my son to learn as much as he can. This a series that makes my son more interested in education than in video games and that does make it worth a higher than average price in my opinion.

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