On the Trail of the Komodo Dragon: and other Explorations of Science in Action

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
This volume, one of a series by the senior science editor of Highlights, collects eleven of his articles about animal discoveries that originally appeared in the magazine. Each chapter is based on a book or report published in a scientific journal by researchers in the field. The author distills complex information well for middle grade readers. Animals discussed in this volume include horses, cats, fireflies, chimps, snakes, komodo dragons, hummingbirds, antelopes, cheetahs, giraffes and turtles. Because the series brings together and updates so many excellent original pieces from Highlights, it might have been more useful for student researchers if the book contained a more thematic collection of animals, or else a thematic exploration the way of animal research is conducted. Sometimes chapters do segue well from one to the next: for example, a chapter about chimpanzee communication with humans follows one about firefly flash code communication; a chapter about the running prowess of the pronghorn antelope is paired with a chapter about cheetahs. Although there is no single theme to the book, aside from the amazing diversity of the animal world and the remarkable research going on about animals, the diversity of species represented here is stimulating and sure to inspire young readers. 2004 (orig. 1999), Boyds Mills Press, Ages 8 to 12.
—J. H. Diehl
Children's Literature - Kathleen Kelly
Did you know that horses only sleep about three hours per night? If you have ever wondered how scientists find out about such oddities, then this book is just the thing. In this compilation of updated and revised columns from Highlights for Children, Myers explains how scientists went about solving eleven mysteries of nature. The topics are of interest of children, from the title column, which centers on the 200 pound lizards from the island of Komodo, to subjects such as why snakes flick their tongues and how chimpanzees can be taught to communicate. Myers relies on scientific and technical reports for his information (all listed in the bibliography), but explains the concepts on a child's level, sounding only the occasional patronizing note. While more diagrams explaining the concepts would probably be useful, this look at the process of scientific research will surely fascinate young readers.
School Library Journal
Gr 4-6-These 11 chapters about animals originally appeared in Highlights for Children. According to an author's note, they have been updated as needed. Myers delves into various mysteries-from how fireflies flash to why snakes flick their tongues to "How to fuel a hummingbird." Students will already be aware of some of these facts-cheetahs are fast, cats can land on all fours, people can communicate with chimps. However, some of these tidbits may be new-e.g., the pronghorn antelope is the fastest long-distance runner. In each chapter, the author focuses on how scientists research animals, referring frequently to experiments and studies. The tone tends toward chatty, and first-person narration is used throughout. New terms are italicized, but there is no glossary or pronunciation guide. Words like "luciferase" and "vomeronasal" are thrown out at readers without explanation, and many of the illustrations feature anthropomorphic animals. For example, a bespectacled Komodo dragon reads a book and a pronghorn wearing a tracksuit runs on hind legs. Rita Mullin's Animalogy (Crown, 1998) and Joanne Settel's Why Do Cats' Eyes Glow in the Dark? (Atheneum, 1988; o.p.) offer information on some of the same animals. Though not an essential selection, the value in Komodo Dragon is that it provides a look at how scientists do research.-Anne Chapman Callaghan, Racine Public Library, WI
Kirkus Reviews
Eleven animal mysteries that were the subjects of magazine pieces in "Highlights for Children" have been gathered and updated in this volume. Among the topics are how horses sleep, how cats survive high falls, how snakes use their tongues to smell, and how the giraffe gets blood to the brain. Myers provides background information, states the science question, and describes the ingenious ways scientists work. In some cases, the findings on one animal are generalized, e.g., by studying how the enormous, cold blooded leatherback turtle maintains body heat, scientists speculate on how the dinosaurs-also thought to be cold-blooded-grew. Some readers may feel uneasy about hummingbirds kept in restraints while their heartbeats are measured, antelopes forced to run on treadmills while wearing gas masks, and fireflies chopped up for the study of luciferin-practices that the author describes without endorsing. The text is challenging; Myers bases his writings on resources rarely available to young readers, all listed in the bibliography. For motivated science enthusiasts, much of the information will be fascinating. (index) (Nonfiction. 10-14) .
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781590782798
  • Publisher: Boyds Mills Press
  • Publication date: 4/28/2004
  • Pages: 63
  • Age range: 9 - 12 Years
  • Product dimensions: 6.80 (w) x 9.80 (h) x 0.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Jack Myers, Ph.D., (1913-2006) was the senior science editor of Highlights for Children, the nation's largest-circulation magazine for young readers. He was recruited for the job in the late 1950s by his parents, Highlights Founders Dr. Gary Cleveland Myers and Caroline Clark Myers. For more than forty years, he delighted curious kids with his answers to their science questions and with his many articles about true science discoveries. In addition to his role at Highlights, Jack Myers was a scientist at the University of Texas at Austin, where at the time of his death, he was professor emeritus of zoology. He was a member of the National Academy of Sciences.

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