CM . . . . Volume XXII Number 33 . . . . April 29, 2016
According to a blurb on the Crabtree website, the Crabtree Chrome series "is designed for reluctant, under confident readers who read several levels below their actual grade. The series helps struggling readers build background knowledge, vocabulary and experience reading success through highly engaging and timely topics." The site also indicates that the books are written at a grade 2 readability level.
As books in a series, Tanks at War and Space Exploration share some commonalities in their organization and structure. Their cover art is quite enticing and clearly identifies the books' subject matter. Each of 21 pairs of facing pages constitutes a "chapter", and the books' pages are most generously illustrated with captioned, full-colour photos or other art work. Black and white photos generally appear only when the specific subject matter predates the use of colour photography. The books' main text consists of a brief paragraph per page, and that is supplemented by the aforementioned captions plus brief text boxes that add additional information, For example, in the section "Tanks in World War I" in Tanks at War, a text box reads:
Closing matter consists of a page titled "Learning More" that lists three books and three or four websites. The books also contain a one-page "Glossary" that is totally redundant. Each of the 21 "chapters" includes a single highlighted word that is then defined at the bottom of that page. In the excerpt from Space Exploration (see above), the highlighted term was defined as follows:
Repeating these definitions in a glossary is simply a waste of space which, in these brief books, could have been used for a more substantive purpose.
The books' final page is an index in which "Entries in bold refer to pictures".
The text of Tanks at War is divided into four major sections. "Beasts of the Battlefield" begins with the part played by tanks in 1991's Operation Desert Storm before turning to types of armoured vehicles and the weapons that can be used to destroy tanks. This section closes by identifying the members of a tank's crew and their specific jobs. The next two sections, "Tanks in World War I" and "Tanks in World War II", highlight the roles tanks undertook in these two conflicts while focusing on the battles in which tanks played a major part. "Tanks in Modern Conflict" looks briefly at the contribution made by tanks in the Vietnam War, the Yom Kippur War, the Gulf War, Operation Desert Storm, the Second Gulf War, and the much lesser-known South Ossetia War, The final section, "The Future of Tanks" considers how the changing face of conflicts will impact the types of armoured vehicles that will be needed in the future.
The subtitle of Space Exploration indicates the scope of this title - Triumphs and Tragedies. This book's contents are divided into five major sections. "Early Exploration" begins with an almost-disaster, Apollo 13, before looking at the contributions of early astronomers. "The Space Race" section provides an overview of the post-World War II race between the United States and Russia to be the first country to send a human into space, as well as the successes and failures that resulted from that challenge. "Project Apollo" section traces America's efforts to be the first nation to put humans on the Moon. "What's Next" considers current projects which look at examining the solar system and beyond, including probes [i.e. small, unmanned spacecraft], space planes, including shuttles (the Challenger and Columbia disasters) and space stations like the International Space Station (ISS). The final section, "Mars and Beyond", considers possible targets for future manned or unmanned space exploration.
Most hi-lo series consist solely of fiction titles, but reading interest studies have revealed that adolescent males prefer to read nonfiction. Consequently, these nonfiction "Crabtree Chrome" titles are a welcome addition to the hi-lo genre. Unfortunately, their price, certainly in a hardcover format, could be a challenge for libraries with limited financial resources. For that reason alone, Tanks at War and Space Exploration are:
Recommended with Reservations.
Dave Jenkinson, CM's editor, lives in Winnipeg, MB.
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