Author: Roopa Pai
Publisher: Red Turtle
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Roopa Pai, author of the Taranauts series for 8-12 year olds, is back with a book containing fun and easy-to-understand answers to 25 exciting scientific mysteries.
What if the earth stopped spinning? What if robots took over the world? Are toilet seats the dirtiest spaces in your house … or is the innocent-looking kitchen sponge? Why is it coldest in January, when the earth is in fact closest to the sun?
This is just a sample of the questions that Roopa Pai answers. Some of the questions were ones I hadn’t even thought about (e.g. the one about January being coldest) and others I knew the answers to. But reading her explanations was delightful all the same.
For one thing, Ms.Pai does not talk down to her young readers. The tone of the book is laidback, conversational and full of childlike enthusiasm, but it does not shy away from using scientific terminology where required – to give you an instance, buoyancy, DNA and inertia are explained easily, as part of the answers to some of the questions. Secondly, the book constantly exhorts readers to ‘come up with a theory yourself because Science doen’t have the answer yet!’ or ‘look it up on the internet’; and this is mostly the intriguing stuff that a kid would be likely to explore further themselves.
Then there is the choice of questions. The first 10 are all ‘Doomsday scenarios’; dinosaurs coming back, supervolcanoes erupting, all the world’s nuclear weapons detonating at the same time. By coincidence, this week there was an article in the papers about how children get affected by the news of terrorism, rapes and other violence that is reported in the media. Any child who reads or hears these things is bound to fear the state of the world today. Ms.Pai doesn’t gloss over the ugly facts, but she relays them matter-of-factly and with a dash of Dahl-esque humor that her young readers are sure to appreciate.
Many readers will be tempted to read this book from cover to cover; it is that interesting. I wonder, however, what they will do when they come across answers that clash with the stuff they are taught in school (and expected to regurgitate unquestioningly onto exam papers). For example, the tongue does NOT have a taste map; this is one of the many science ‘facts’ that are, in fact, myths. Hmmmm. Teachers, expect some tough questions from your class!
As for me, I thought the book was wonderful, perfect for the science buff as well as the science phobe. Am planning to get my hands on the Taranaut series by the same author. Meanwhile, the publishers (Red Turtle) have come out with two other similar books; How Did The Harappans Say Hello? and Do Tigers Drink Blood? , which contain History and Natural History questions and answers respectively. This might just be the perfect way to get kids interested in the world around them; or, as an adult, to rekindle that curiosity within yourself.