Usually our book talks pair two titles that have some commonalities between them. But then again, I don’t n-o-r-m-a-l-l-y take pictures while I’m reviewing a book, either!
Naked Eggs and Flying Potatoes: Unforgettable Experiments that Make Science Fun (Steve Spangler Science)
by Steve Spangler
Greenleaf Book Group, 2010
Naked Eggs and Flying Potatoes: Unforgettable Experiments That Make Science Fun (Steve Spangler Science) is one of those books you are meant to play with. It is also one of those books you want to peruse before you share with the kids because you will here “let’s do this one” with every flip of the page. The good news is that most of the ingredients – like eggs, potatoes , vinegar, and ziptop bags – you have around the house. The bad news is that preteens may just start raiding the kitchen!
Moms, dads, and teachers will like that there are safety instructions on the first page of each experiment. I will warn you though, my young scientist – who is probably not atypical of other kids – didn’t want to “waste time” reading those! So we did two experiments that had minimal safety issues: the Bubbling Lava Bottle and Soap Souffle, both from the Kitchen Chemistry section.
For the bubbling lava experiment, you need vegetable oil, a seltzer tablet, water, and food coloring. The book says “the cheaper the better” for the vegetable oil, and thankfully I had a bottle of nearly-rancid vegetable oil! The experiment has six steps, all just one sentence each.
1. Fill the bottle 3/4 with vegetable oil. 2. Fill the rest with water. 3. Add about ten drops of food coloring. 4. Divide the Seltzer tablet into four pieces. 5. Add each seltzer piece and watch what happens. 6. After the bubbling has stopped, screw on the bottle cap, tip the bottle and watch the wave.
The rest of three-page spread offers photos of each of the steps and the science behind what we saw. That experiment went so quickly Catherine was ready to do another one right away. I had been dying to make the Soap Souffle from the minute I saw it in the book. Like some of the other experiments in the book this one warns kids that adult supervision is required for using the microwave.
Even though you’ve used a microwave oven to heat a leftover burrito a thousand times, the lawyers make us include this warning – adult supervision is required.
Even though this is a legal statement, it gives you a flavor of the author’s approach. He is serious about his science but this isn’t your mother’s textbook! Catherine spent a week flipping through the pages looking at the various experiments. The photography is as eye-catching as the experiments are fun! Okay on to the soap souffle.
This experiment calls for various brands of soap, including a bar of Ivory. The experiment won’t work without it. Like the Bubbling Lava Bottle, this has six, straight-forward steps. Essentially, you place each of the different bars of soap in a bowl of water to see that only Ivory floats. Then you cut the bar of Ivory to disprove the hypothesis that it is hollow, and then place the pieces onto a dinner plate. Microwave it on high for one minute and voila … souffle.
The author suggests doing this with some of the other bars of soap, but after the kitchen smelled of cooked Ivory, we weren’t inclined to try any other brands. As the soap cooked, I read about the science behind the experiment (Charles’s Law), in an attempt to keep my scientist listening. If you’ve got a reluctant bather in your house, you might try this experiment … puffed soap is a great incentive to play in the shower!
This is a fun, fun book! The experiments are great and the author does an incredible job explaining the science and making it relevant to everyday life. I learned lots … even for the experiments we haven’t done yet. The School Library Journal rated this as a book for kids in fourth through ninth grade. If an adult conducts the experiment, second and third graders will also enjoy the science, too.
Regardless of the audience, Naked Eggs and Flying Potatoes could easily become a recipe for disaster without adult supervision nearby. The pages are dense with text, so that will “turn off” some kids, but middle schoolers will jump at the chance to do some of these experiments … especially the ones that create explosions and goo.
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