________________ CM . . . . Volume XVI Number 11. . . .November 13, 2009


Kaboom! Explosions of All Kinds.

Gillian Richardson.
Toronto, ON: Annick Press, 2009.
83 pp., pbk. & hc., $12.95 (pbk.), $22.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-55451-203-4 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-55451-204-1 (hc.).

Subject Heading:
Explosions-Juvenile literature.

Grades 5-7 / Ages 10-12.

Review by Gail Hamilton.

***½ /4



How does a star become a supernova? Stars continue to grow as their gravity attracts material from space. Trapped at the core of the star, the material heats up under pressure. A cooking process called "nuclear fusion" is taking place. Once the mass of material reaches a size that is at least eight times larger than our sun, and the hydrogen needed for fusion is all used up, the end is near. The star burns up the other heavy elements until all that is left is iron, which doesn't burn. A tug of war takes place- with gravity pulling in and energy from fusion pushing out. At first, gravity wins and the star collapses inward. But the extra heat and closely packed material soon need to escape; the star explodes violently, scattering bits into space. The death of the biggest stars—more than 15 times the size of our sun—leaves behind what's known as a "black hole."


Explosions occur when energy is released rapidly and pushes against a barrier of some sort or when highly flammable material suddenly ignites, producing heat, light and gases. Natural or man-made, large or small, explosions can be destructive or constructive or a little of both. One example is a volcanic eruption. It can destroy homes and habitats, but it can also form new areas of land by means of cooled lava. KABOOM! looks at the scientific principles behind a variety of explosions and presents them in an engaging way. The book is divided into two main sections, each having three chapters. Section one covers natural explosions occurring on Earth (volcanoes, geysers, and coal mine methane), in outer space (supernovas, gamma ray bursts and solar flares) and in the plant and animal world. In this last chapter of the section, readers will learn about exploding seed pods, some of which can scatter seeds up to 40 metres away, and others whose bursts have been clocked at 100 kilometres per hour. The second section discusses explosions created by humans. Topics covered include destructive explosions, such as those caused by gunpowder, dynamite and bombs, and constructive explosions, such as building demolitions via implosion, the building of the Panama Canal, and the creation of monuments such as Mount Rushmore. The final chapter, entitled "Just for Fun," features fireworks and recent developments which make fireworks hotter, faster, and more colorful, and special effects in movies. These include fake blood capsules and squibs, small explosive devices which make noise, smoke and sparks. Following all but one of the chapters is an account of an explosive event which made headlines, two examples being the Halifax Explosion of 1917, and the Hindenburg tragedy of 1937. Fun fact sections, providing additional information, appear throughout the book.

      Richardson's writing style will appeal to readers. For the most part, she explains scientific concepts in a fairly simple fashion, although there are portions of the chapter on outer space that could be distilled even further. As well, the book ends somewhat abruptly. Perhaps a conclusion would have wrapped it up more effectively.

      A lively, attractive layout and plenty of colour photos, black and white archival photos, diagrams, drawings and paintings enhance the text. A particularly excellent photo of workers shaping the face of George Washington on Mount Rushmore serves to demonstrate scale and proportion.

      Also included are a table of contents, an index and a list of books and web sites for further study.

      Educational and appealing.

Highly Recommended.

Gail Hamilton is a recently retired teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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