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Children's LiteratureIn four well-defined chapters, author Underwood describes the Northern Lights, what causes them, legends and myths that surround them, and what they can tell us. The Northern Lights sometimes called Aurora Borealis—which means "dawn of the north"—appear in the far north in Alaska, northern Canada, Iceland, Finland, and Siberia. Their shooting colors of greens, reds, purples, blues and yellows are spectacular. Sometimes, hissing or crackling sounds accompany them, but researchers are not sure why this happens. However, they do know that for the northern lights to shine, three things are needed: moving charged particles, a magnetic field, and an atmosphere. Due to the beauty and mysterious appearance of the Northern Lights, many legends and myths have been associated with them. Some people who lived in the northern lands thought they were evil spirits. Others thought they were dancing spirits or ghosts. Some native people called them the spirits of deer, fish, and whales. Others thought the heavens were on fire. Researchers sought scientific answers to explain the colorful lights that danced in the skies. Benjamin Franklin was right when he believed the northern lights were electrical in nature. Electrical currents cause changes in the earth's magnetic field and can sometimes cause problems, disrupting radio broadcasts and telephone communications. They can also cause blackouts. Scientists continue to study the Northern Lights, but there are still many questions that need answers. In the meantime, their beautiful light shows will attract many eyes to the skies. Good color photographs, maps and charts are included in the book, as well as a glossary, further reading, and websites.Northern Lights is a title in the series "Wonders of the World." 2004, Kidhaven Press, Ages 9 up.
—Della A. Yannuzzi