Nonfiction – Extreme Scientists

The Scientists in the Field series of nonfiction books profiles actual scientists doing hands-on work, with explanations of the science as well as biographies on how the individual scientist came to his or her career. This particular volume focuses on scientists whose work brings them to “perilous places” – namely the eye of a hurricane, the depths of a cave, and the top of a redwood tree.

The photography in the book is excellently done, and displayed to best effect. Despite the large number of pictures, the book is intended for older elementary or middle school readers, with a lot of in-depth text with tons of information about the topic at hand. A separate “Quick Questions” section at the end of each profile gives concise answers to the sorts of questions kids might ask, such as “have you ever been seriously injured?” or “what do you eat?”

There is a glossary of terms at the end of the book, divided into three sections based on the three scientific fields covered in the book. Sources are cited, based mostly on personal interviews with the book’s subjects. A list of recommended books to read for further information is also included.

A sure-to-be-intriguing mix of scientific facts ladled out with an edge of danger, the book puts equal weight on the science as well as on the adventure. While the exotic factor of scaling enormous trees or flying into gale force winds is used as a draw, the authors also emphasize the fact that the profiled individuals are doing it all in the name of science, and the more mundane scientific actions, such as growing microbes in a petri dish or tallying up statistics are also presented as a fun part of the job.

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