Geology (Let’s Explore Science): Now We’re Getting Somewhere

Cover of Geology (Let's Explore Science) by Tim Clifford
Geology (Let’s Explore Science) by Tim Clifford

If you’re looking for a simple, inexpensive book to introduce geology to young readers, Geology (Let’s Explore Science) by Tim Clifford is a quite decent choice. It was like the freshest summer breeze after the two duds I’d read before it, for sure.

It packs a lot of information into its short length! Readers are introduced to geology, the earth’s layers, and soil, which is a subject I haven’t seen covered in other earth science books for kids. Soil scientists will love that! Then the book explores plate tectonics, rock types, how land forms, the rock cycle, fossils, and the age of the earth. (No worries on that last bit: there’s not a young earth creationist in sight.)

The photos are absolutely breathtaking and do a great job showing what the author is describing. There’s an especially good one that shows a selection of sedimentary layers that includes a mouthwatering bed of river cobbles. That photo alone justifies the purchase price! It’s suitable for framing.

Like with any children’s book, topics are simplified, sometimes to the point of inaccuracy (the rock cycle description implies metamorphic rocks melt to become igneous rocks only, rather than sometimes being uplifted and eroded to form sedimentary rock). But overall, the information is accurate and well-presented in a way that won’t leave kids confused.

The most glaring flaw is when the author claims coal is a mineral. This is the only time a mistake was that groan-worthy, though, and it’s less egregious than saying pumice forms in water, so I’ll forgive it.

You’ll want to have some tape handy, as the binding won’t hold up to rough treatment. It’s worth the extra effort, since it’s much better written and more factual than other books in its category. This is one you can feel good about giving to the young proto-geologist in your life.

Geology (Let’s Explore Science): Now We’re Getting Somewhere

Geology Genius: Igneous Rocks is Terribly Misnamed

Cover of Geology Genius: Igneous Rocks, showing a rough basalt flow
A very inaptly named book

You know what? Don’t bother.

This is a tiny, 24 page book. Now, some books pack a lot of information in 24 pages! But not this book. Chapter 1 has 153 words in it – if you count words like the and and. There’s an average of 25.5 words per page. They’re not inspiring words. They’re dryly informative. They’re too complex for little kids, and there are too few of them for not-so-little kids.

But I wouldn’t have minded so much, cuz at least the pictures are nice. Then I came across their explanation of pumice:

Why does pumice have holes in it? Lava comes into contact with cold water. Rapid cooling creates gas bubbles. The holes are left behind.

Look. I did not pay $6.99 for a book to be that spectacularly wrong! Pumice floats in water, but it sure as heck doesn’t form in it! Rapid cooling doesn’t form the vesicles! Criminy. Listen: We’re talking about a rock that forms from very gassy magma. The gasses are there to begin with; they don’t come from the outside. While basalt magmas can sometimes trap enough gas to erupt as pumice, it’s much more usual for thick, sticky magmas like dacite or rhyolite:

This rock is a trap to volcanic gases that tried to escape from magma but were unable to do it because they simply could not break out and formed many gas-filled vesicules instead. Trapped gases occupy much larger volume than they did when dissolved in magma. Hence, it is perhaps needless to say that it forms as a result of explosive volcanic eruptions.

Nota bene: this is not bloody happening because magma is being erupted into cold water! There are other forms of lava rock that result from that, such as pillows and hyaloclastites.

There’s a grand total of maybe 41 facts in this book. You’d think the editors could have managed not to miss one, but here we are today. Faboo.

If you want to pay $6.99 for a handful of correct but rather blandly-presented facts and about 20 Shutterstock photos, this is the book for you. Otherwise, skip it. Kids deserve better, and so does your wallet.

Geology Genius: Igneous Rocks is Terribly Misnamed