CM . . .
. Volume XXIII Number 39. . . .June 16, 2017
Fault Lines: Understanding the Power of Earthquakes.
Victoria, BC: Orca, October, 2017.
96 pp., hardcover, pdf & epub, $24.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-4598-1243-7 (hc.), ISBN 978-1-4598-1244-4 (pdf), ISBN 978-1-4598-1245-1 (epub).
Grades 4 and up / Ages 9 and up.
Review by Joanie Proske.
Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.
Fault Lines: Understanding the Power of Earthquakes tackles not only the science behind earthquakes, but it incorporates witness accounts to build a greater understanding about the destructive force of earthquakes and how to prepare for them.
What causes earthquakes to occur? Why is a catastrophic earthquake predicted to hit the Pacific Northwest coast? What kinds of damage can earthquakes inflict? How has new technology contributed to our knowledge about this force of nature? How can people worldwide be better prepared for earthquake-related disasters? These questions and much more are answered for young readers in this 96-page nonfiction book. The information is broken into easily understandable sections, and illustrative examples are used to explain more challenging concepts, beginning with the basics of plate tectonics and how earthquakes are triggered:
Two plates sliding past each other create a transform boundary. As sections of these kinds of faults try to slide past each other, they get stuck, causing earthquakes. No land is being created or destroyed in this case, but over several million years, huge areas of land that were once side by side can end up hundreds of kilometers (miles) away from each other. It’s sort of like a two-lane highway where each lane is actually moving in the opposite direction.
Throughout this informational book, first-time author Johanna Wagstaffe relies heavily upon narratives drawn from her life and professional role as a meteorologist, seismologist, and science reporter for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) in Vancouver, BC. Recognizing that one of the most effective ways to engage an audience is through the power of stories, Wagstaffe has enhanced the factual text by including accounts from child witnesses who relate their particular experiences with earthquakes around the world. These testimonies serve as a way to bring earthquakes to a more relevant level for young readers. The result is a wonderful narrative blend that keeps the pages turning and makes for an informative, yet interesting, read.
Fault Lines is organized into five main chapters, each further broken down into a number of subheadings. Chapters include: A Planet in Motion, Magnitudes and Epicenters, More Than Just Shaking, On the Ground and in the Sky, and Ready? A table of contents, a list of internet-related resources for follow-up research, a glossary, and an index are included. New vocabulary is colour-highlighted in the text, and a corresponding glossary entry is provided. The book is greatly enriched by the use of captioned colour illustrations, photographs, and diagrams. Several photographs show the author at work, underscoring her credibility and knowledge of the topic. Others illustrate the destructive nature of earthquakes as demonstrated through fault lines, the aftermath of tsunamis, and scenes of cities with buildings reduced to rubble. Maps, graphs, and well-designed graphics offer support of the scientific terms and concepts introduced in the text.
Three different types of sidebars are used to further develop the reader’s knowledge about earthquakes. Half-page Q and A sections are showcased as a way to extend student thinking and to develop a deeper understanding of the topic. Some examples of the Q and A’s are: Do other planets have quakes? Can one earthquake trigger another? Can animals sense earthquakes before they happen?
Another sidebar style offers an historical perspective on different worldwide earthquakes, such as the 1906 San Francisco and the December 26, 2004, Indonesia quake, which triggered a massive tsunami across the Indian Ocean. Each of these examples gives the magnitude of the quake along with a small map pinpointing the epicenter. The historical account provides a brief history to demonstrate the particular significance of each earthquake. In the case of the Indonesia 9.1 megathrust earthquake, the absence of an early warning system meant “that many tourists were on beaches, enjoying their Christmas holidays, and didn’t even know an earthquake had happened until the tsunami arrived. In total, 230,000 people across fourteen countries were killed in one of the deadliest natural disasters in recorded history.”
Lastly, a short series of sidebars entitled “Quake Facts” or “Quake Tips” further extends knowledge related to earthquakes. Examples include: “seismology has played a key role in monitoring for nuclear tests by countries like North Korea” or “when aftershocks stop completely and a fault line goes silent, it’s time to worry again… a sign that part of the fault line has become stuck again.” Any of these star facts could easily spark discussions or inquiry research investigations.
One aspect not explored in this book is the acknowledgement of the aboriginal perspective about earthquakes, especially when the significance of oral stories was otherwise showcased. Other than a brief mention in the sidebar on page 19 (First Nations folklore suggests the tsunami destroyed entire villages on Vancouver Island), the author does not credit the contributions of First Nations ways of knowing. In fact, the use of the word “folklore” erroneously suggests a fictional account. Perhaps a different wording, backed up by references, could read: "First Nation historical accounts indicate the tsunami destroyed entire villages...”
In 2016, CBC Radio published a series of five original podcasts also entitled “Fault Lines”, which were narrated by Johanna Wagstaffe. These podcasts provide a great follow-up to this book and descriptions may be found on the CBC website at http://www.cbc.ca/radio/podcasts/fault-lines/. In these podcasts, a number of experts were interviewed, but, in her book, Wagstaffe does not mention any colleagues. Although her credentials are impeccable (Wagstaffe holds an honours graduate degree in geophysics from University of Western Ontario), it would have greatly enhanced this book to have included contributions from other experts in this field and credited the academic sources used in her research.
Loaded with earthquake facts, stories, and well-selected visuals, Fault Lines: Understanding the Power of Earthquakes will certainly appeal to budding seismologists. Orca Publishers recommends Fault Lines for ages 9-12. However, the book could easily prove a valuable nonfiction resource for middle and secondary school library collections and support curricular studies of plate tectonics (as outlined in the newly revised BC Science 8 curriculum outcomes). It’s even quite likely that an increased understanding of, and appreciation for, the power of earthquakes will also inspire readers to get busy and finish organizing their own earthquake preparedness kit!
Joanie Proske is teacher-librarian in the Langley School District, Langley, BC.
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