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Superman's Guide to the Universe - Jackie Gaff

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Genre: Junior Book / Author: Jackie Gaff / Paperback / Publication Date: 2003 / Publisher: Dorling Kindersley

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      10.06.2012 18:29
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      Makes school work fun :)

      --- he doesn't. Apparently he can hold his breathe for quite some time, but he has a special breathing device for longer flights. This book has all sorts of wee snippets of information about Superman and the Justice League - and as such has found it's way into the hands of many adult collectors. But the superhero information is really just extras, and while this does have some information on the Universe as a whole, the main theme of this book is really our Solar System. The main text is presented with beautiful full colour photographs ( which one would expect from DK). On the side of each page is a narrow strip with some fact about Superman other Justice League members or facts about one of the photos used - such as a paragraph on shooting stars. The super hero facts tie in quite well with the main idea of each page. For instance the effect of the sun's energy on Superman's powers is placed on the page about the sun, and naturally, the Martian Manhunter appears on the Mars page.

      It could be said that the inclusion of Superheroes is just a gimmick to sell books or encourage children to learn about space. Well if it is gimmick that makes children take a real interest in Science, then I am all for it. Anything that makes children really enjoy reading about science, and relate to it in meaningful way is wonderful in my opinion. If they associate certain facts with a superhero - at least they are more likely to remember them. I think this an absolutely brilliant idea to introduce children to science, and I'm disappointed that the series was limited to 6 titles. I am slowly but surely collecting them all, with only 2 left to go as I get more dooyoo vouchers.

      Both of my sons, ages 3 and 7 really enjoyed this, although I do think a lot of the science will be lost on the three year old. I don't really expect him to remember all of the details at his age, but he especially liked the part about Superman could breathe. He still insists he would burn up passing through the earths atmosphere though, and even if the suit protects him - his face and hands would burn off. He also liked the part about gravity, and after spending weeks searching the Internet for good books on gravity for him - as he has been full of questions on this subject - I was delighted to find a good 2 page section with a fair description of gravity as well a chart with relative surface gravity of the different planets in our solar system. Strangely enough - my son had insisted that Superman could fly because he could use less gravity. I always said it was just a super power and nothing to do with gravity. Turns out - I was wrong, the weaker effects of the earths gravity are credited with Superman's ability to fly here.

      My seven year old read through just the Superhero sections of this first, before going back and reading the whole book. As this was used as part of our home education curriculum, he did have some sheets of questions to answer after reading this, all which he answered with ease . This shows me that this book was not only easy enough for him to read, but also to understand and process the facts. When I asked his opinion of this book, he said it was good, but that he would rather have a comic or graphic novel. That's fair enough, I appreciate that comic books are more fun, but as he is taught at home, we do need some more educational material as well. He said he would have liked the book to have had more about the superheroes, but I do feel this was a fair balance. Still if you are buying this book primarily for the superheroes, you may be disappointed.

      I was a bit concerned buying this, as I was afraid it might simply be a basic DK space book revamped a bit by throwing in a few bits about Superheroes. Not that there is anything wrong with a basic DK space book. I have always found DK to be an excellent source of educational material, and their books make up quite a bit of our curriculum. The problem would be if it were too much like any of the books we already own. My worries were groundless, where there are some obvious similarities, ( No matter which space book you choose - you get the same planets + or - Pluto, the same basic facts about the moon etc...) this is an original work, not just a revamped version of an older ones. This book is really an excellent resource to teach science, and I feel it is far superior to many of the texts used in schools. If only science had been like this when I was in youngl!

      This book is part of the DK Readers series, so in addition to teaching science, this book is also meant to help a child progress in reading. This book is level 4, which is meant to be ages 8+, but every child will reach reading proficiency in their own time - some earlier and some later. At age 7 my son finds this relatively easy reading. This book has primarily large clear black text on a white background. There will be a few sections with much smaller text, just over a picture, but these are very short. The text has a fairly large space in between lines, making this easier for new readers, but the vocabulary will require a certain amount of proficiency. I do think this book is far easier for a child to read than either the Eyewonder or the Eyewitness series. I would recommend this book for ages 7 + for independent reading, and perhaps 5 + if the parent will be reading it out loud. I would however stretch the age limit back quite a bit if the child has a strong interest in Space and or superheroes. Even with a child as young as three, the pictures are lovely and some of the Superhero parts quite fun. I would suggest paraphrasing a bit and making the text a bit more simple for very young children.

      Although no longer in print, there are always plenty of copies of this book available used through Amazon. Prices start as low as £2.49 including postage, which makes this an easy addition to any family library, and if you happen to have a child who enjoys superheroes - one you really can not miss. Even if your child has no interest in Superman, this remains a very useful, easy to understand resource for studying Space, and I do think most children go through a stage of being full of questions about the earth, the moon, the sun, and things like gravity.

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