Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Discover Beneath the Surface: Underground Science Week

Note from Darcy:  Again, it is Johanna's turn to plan our summer reading activities and to write this week's post.  The idea of underground science shows up in many YA fiction titles, as Johanna points out. Remember that libraries house collections of intriguing nonfiction books as well. 
This week’s teen summer reading theme is Underground Sciences. Archaeology, paleontology, geology, and volcanology are just some of the sciences that explore and discover beneath the surface. The fiction books mentioned here take teens on journeys discovering ancient relics of human civilization, imagining the awesome power of the forces beneath the earth, and mixing magic with science in ways that captivate the mind. The following non-fiction books on this list represent only a portion of the library’s collection of fantastic young adult books discussing geology, archaeology, anthropology, and more.

TIM, Defender of the Earth by Sam Enthoven tells the tale of science gone awry. Two top secret government projects in London create havoc as they are released into the world. TIM (Tyrannosaur: Improved Model) is charged with saving Earth from a nanobot swarm, but he can’t do it alone. Chris, a boy struggling to win popularity, or at least not become an outcast, is the one chosen to channel the power of all living things and transfer the energy to TIM. Will Chris risk being “uncool” to help save the world? This short scifi novel contains great battle scenes including the destruction of several major London landmarks in a tale of magic versus science.

Darkhenge by Catherine Fisher tells a story of the power and rage that stems from sibling jealousy. Strange things keep happening to Rob, and he begins to feel that he’s losing touch with reality three months after his sister, Chloe, falls into a coma. Trying to escape the feeling that everyone around him is on hold just waiting for her to wake up, Rob takes a job drawing for an archaeological dig site. An upside down tree is unearthed, leading Rob to another world where Chloe waits. Chloe’s rage and jealousy of Rob’s artistic talent, which supersedes her writing talent, takes her on a strange journey through this alternate world where she has power. Aided by a mysterious poet/druid, Rob tries to convince Chloe to come home.

The Lost Stories by John Flanagan is a companion book to the Ranger’s Apprentice series. The book opens with archaeologists discovering old papers in what they believe to be Halt and Will’s old cabin! The scientists are very excited at finding something to prove the stories of the Rangers of old, which have become legend.  This book is not essential to the story of the Ranger’s Apprentice series, but contains ancillary tales which fill in some blanks from the saga as well as give you another look into the lives of the characters.

The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan is the first book of the Kane Chronicles. Carter Kane has grown up traveling the world with his Egyptologist father, never staying in the same place for very long. His younger sister, Sadie Kane, stays with their grandparents and they rarely see one another. When in London visiting for Sadie’s birthday celebration, their father unleashes Egyptian god, Set. Now Sadie and Carter must find a way to free their father and contain Set. Riordan’s story brings Egyptian mythology to life in a powerfully entertaining way.

Ashfall by Mike Mullin explores the beginning of the end. One Friday night when Alex is home alone for the weekend, Yellowstone erupts. The book details how society falls apart as the ash rains down in a town 900 miles away. Alex leaves to find his family and meets with terrible misfortunes, almost dying several times. Just when it seems Alex has met his final end, he meets the mechanically gifted Darla and they travel together through the remains of Iowa to Illinois. The Ashfall trilogy continues with Ashen Winter, already out, and Sunrise, due in 2014. The unique idea of a volcanic end of the world creates an interesting, very realistic dystopian story.

The Early Human World by Peter Robertshaw and Jill Rubalcaba is a non-fiction book detailing the fossil record of early hominids and the records scientists have found of our ancestors, as well as hominids on different branches of the evolutionary tree. This book includes photographs, maps, and theories on hominid movement, lifestyle changes for early humans, and the development of early human technology. Stories of the archaeologists who found the fossils are interspersed with the factual text, giving readers an idea of what it’s like to be an archaeologist in the field. This book offers a great overview of anthropological archaeology and some of the science involved in discovering what we know of our ancient past.

Rocks and Fossils by Chris and Helen Pellant is a Visual Factfinder book containing information about rocks, gems, crystals, fossils, formation and mineral resources. This very informative book is similar to an illustrated encyclopedia. The beautiful illustrations on every page sit alongside facts about various rocks and gems including the chemical composition, where they can be found, how they were formed, and what makes them important. The book is fascinating for those who are interested in basics of rock finding, gemology, or beginning paleontology. The illustrations alone make this book worth reading.

Grave Secrets of Dinosaurs by Phillip Manning illuminates paleontology: the processes, the current knowledge, and the science behind re-creating dinosaurs. Full of technical descriptions and informative text, this book tells the story of a young man, Tyler Lyson of North Dakota, finding the hardrosaur mummy dinosaur and the process that allows scientists to discover new things about Earth’s old inhabitants. This book gives a fantastic look into the life of a modern-day paleontologist including the newest technologies used in this scientific field.

Volcano and Earthquake is an Eyewitness Book which gives a brief, colorful overview of the cause, effects, and famous historical occurrences of volcanoes and earthquakes. Eyewitness Books are full of pictures with small snippets of information which appeal to younger readers. The section on volcanology shows some of the tools and clothing that come with the job, including asbestos gloves and a thermocouple to record the temperature of molten lava.
Super Volcano by Greg Breining discusses the super volcano beneath Yellowstone National Park. This gritty non-fiction book begins when the author takes a three day class at Yellowstone and learns from his teacher the immense size and scope of the volcano which lies beneath. Research, history, and interviews create the body of this text while graphs, charts, pictures, and maps help illustrate the immensity of the caldera and what an eventual eruption could mean. The reassuring last chapter shows what measures scientists are taking to ensure we won’t be caught unaware if Yellowstone erupts. This book will help young readers better understand the history of the park as well as appreciate the geological aspects of Yellowstone.

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