CM . . .
. Volume XII Number 19 . . . . May 26, 2006
Part of the 16-volume “Disaster Alert!” series, these titles, averaging 12 chapters each, present abundant, current information about a variety of disasters, some of them natural, and others caused by humans. The books include a table of contents, a glossary and an index. Although some of the concepts are quite complex, generally the authors use explanations that are fairly simple and easy to comprehend. Plenty of maps, diagrams, photographs and illustrations, all suitably labeled, enhance the text. Many of the photographs, showing the devastation caused by the disasters, pack a visual and emotional punch.
Space Disaster and Meteorite Alert! explains the difference between asteroids and comets, including a step-by-step diagram of an asteroid's journey, followed by information about the dangers in space missions, failed missions, and disasters such as Apollo I, Soyuz I and II and Columbia. Readers will also learn about research equipment such as the Hubble Space Telescope, and the Torino Scale, which rates the likelihood of a meteorite hitting the Earth, and a CCD, a type of camera that is part of an optical telescope. Of interest to readers will be an explanation of how scientists plan for the possibility of an NEO (Near Earth Object) hitting the Earth and methods to divert a meteorite's collision with Earth. There are instructions for an experiment demonstrating the impact of a meteor on Earth as well as information about “impact winter”- where dust and rock debris would block the sun after a meteor hit.
Rare and difficult to predict, tsunamis are the most destructive water waves on the planet. Tsunami Alert! focuses on the causes and development of tsunamis, the difference between regular ocean waves and tsunami waves, the destruction caused by tsunamis, cleanup efforts and some famous tsunamis, with a special double-page spread devoted to the December 26, 2004 tsunami triggered by an earthquake in the Indian Ocean. Other topics include tsunami warning centers and the scientific equipment used in detecting seismic activity and changes in water pressure on the ocean floor. Some of this equipment can even measure tsunami waves as small as one centimeter high. An experiment at the back of the book demonstrates water displacement and how large disturbances in oceans cause the most damage on shore.
Of the four titles reviewed, Terrorism Alert! is, perhaps, the most frightening because terrorism can happen anywhere in the world. Due to its subject matter and a few somewhat disturbing photographs and illustrations, it would be better suited to a slightly older audience (Grade 6 being the lower range). This title describes terrorism as an often violent, secretly planned, deliberate attack on innocent victims with its basis in political, religious or social beliefs. Terrorists can be male or female, and from any country or socioeconomic group. Terrorism is not new, as the book shows by highlighting terrorist activities from the time of the Assyrians in 1200 B.C. to the present day. A few examples are the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand which sparked World War I, the FLQ's campaign of terror in Quebec during the 1970s, and, by contrast, Mahatma Gandhi's non-violent way of fighting for an independent India. There is a section on the weapons of terror, ranging from old-fashioned daggers to the very sophisticated, high-tech weapons used today. A list of terms and definitions for various groups- extremists, guerrillas, insurgents and zealots, for instance- helps readers to identify groups by their goals or tactics. Finally, the book ends with the topic of fighting terrorism, some examples of which are stricter airline security measures, surveillance cameras and counter-terrorism rescue units. On the one hand, the book's inclusion of ancient terrorist activities is somewhat of a relief because it shows readers that the world has survived in spite of these violent acts, yet, on the other hand, the book can instill fear in younger readers.
With modern technology, such as radar, GPS and satellites, transportation is safer than ever, yet, sometimes, accidents do happen. Human error, equipment failure and severe weather are the causes of most transportation disasters. Transportation Disaster Alert! features disasters at sea (and below the sea), on land- rail and highway- and in the sky. In each case, there is an explanation about how the mode of transportation actually works (e.g. the physics of flotation or flight) as well as information about famous disasters such as the sinking of the Titanic in 1912, the Halifax Explosion of 1917 and the fire which destroyed the dirigible, Hindenberg, in 1937. Readers will also learn about the training undergone by airline pilots, rescue efforts, and how investigators piece together clues to determine the causes of transportation disasters, often leading to increased, stricter travel safeguards. From studying “black boxes” retrieved from commercial airplanes and passenger ships as well as data from past disasters, experts have greatly improved travel safety over the last 40 years. Some examples of these improvements include limiting the number of hours crews can work without sleep, safety devices aboard planes and teaching passengers what to do in case of emergency.
An excellent series both for school and public libraries.
Gail Hamilton is a teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.