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Explorations in Nature for Curious Readers


A pair of deadly tornadoes roared through the heartland earlier this month, killing more than 40 people and causing hundreds of millions of dollars in damage before disappearing into thin air. But where did these violent storms come from and where did they go?

Morrow Junior Books and author Seymour Simon attempt to answer these and other questions posed by the forces of nature in the most recent addition to a six-book science series for young and middle-grade students. In "Tornadoes" (30 pages, $16), Simon uses clear, concise writing and powerful full-color photos to explore how tornadoes form, how they are classified and what they are capable of doing. Other books in the series include "Storms," "Earthquakes," "Volcanoes," "Lightning" and "Wildfires."

The forces of nature are different on the moon, which has one-sixth the gravity and none of the oxygen we have on Earth. In "The Best Book of the Moon" (Kingfisher, 32 pages, $10.95), author Ian Graham uses short text blocks and colorful drawings to look at our closest celestial neighbor, its changing appearance, geography, effects on sea tides on Earth and the centuries of folklore the moon has inspired. The book, which is most appropriate for young readers, ends with a one-page glossary and one-page index.

Although the moon is more than 220,000 miles from Earth, some of us know more about it than we do about the wonders that exist right under our feet. Peter Kent helps us understand those in "Hidden Under the Ground: The World Beneath Your Feet" (Dutton Children's Books, 34 page, $16.99), a delightful collection of facts, fables and fun that will interest curious readers of all ages.

Using detailed two-page drawings and short bursts of copy, Kent looks into caves and caverns, the animal underworld, the subterranean areas under an average city and the hows and whys of traveling underground. Among the most interesting topics the book explores is the story of hell, which dates to ancient times, and the dreary life of prisoners in medieval dungeons.

Something else that exists underground is water, which can seep miles below the Earth's surface to form underground streams, lakes and aquifers. Author Meredith Hooper and artist Chris Coady team up to address this topic in "The Drop in My Drink: The Story of Water on Our Planet" (Viking, 28 pages, $16.99). It's an ambitious endeavor because water is a difficult subject to get a hold of--literally. Water played a critical role in the creation of the planet, is essential to plants and animals, and helped carve out the geography of Earth. But even with all that ground to cover, Hooper may have been guilty of overwriting for she is unable to boil water down to the most significant points. As a result, the text may lose some readers among its intended audience of middle-graders. And the artwork, while vibrant, also struggles to explain the essence of water.

Explaining reality has never been a problem for artist-author David Kirk, who has simply chosen to ignore it and create his own parallel universes. Kirk's four Miss Spider picture books were bestsellers, but even they pale in comparison to his newest creation, "Nova's Ark" (Scholastic Press/Callaway, 44 pages, $17.95), in which a futuristic robot sets off to discover the ultimate source of power in the universe.

But the clever plot can't compete with Kirk's stunning artwork, the result of a groundbreaking digital process that combines his drawings with 3-D computer imaging. The future has never looked so good.

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