The Bookworm Sez 8-23-10 |

The Bookworm Sez 8-23-10

Ever since you’ve been old enough to walk, you’ve known not to touch things that are hot. You might have even learned your lesson the hard way. Ouch!

But now that you’re a big kid, you’re smarter about things like that. You know you should never play with matches, that it’s a good idea to have an adult around when you make a campfire, and that fire is very cool, but very dangerous.

So why not mess with fire in a safe way? Ask for the book “50 Burning Questions: A Sizzling History of Fire” by Tanya Lloyd Kyi, illustrated by Ross Kinnaird and kindle a little fun.

While nobody knows for sure which caveman discovered that fire was a tool, scientists know that humans have been using it for about 1.5 million years.

Surely, you’ve seen those old movies where somebody makes a campfire by rubbing two sticks together, right? Well, at some point in time, our ancestors discovered that it was faster to make fire than to gather coals and hope to keep them lit. Faster still is to use a match and believe this: There’s no way you would’ve wanted to sell matches back when they were first invented.

Throughout the centuries, fire has been used for religious practices. Hindu people believe that Agni, the fire god, is a protector with a temper. Eastern Europeans once thought that if you spit into a fire, the god Svarozhich would bring you bad luck. And you always wanted to be respectful of Japan’s Ho-Masubi. If you weren’t, he could destroy your entire village!

And speaking of destroying, the first firefighters were hired to walk the streets of Rome 2,000 years ago. If they saw a flame, they quickly gathered volunteers to fill buckets with water and dump them on blazing buildings. Fire has also been used to destroy confidence, libraries, draft cards and enemies. Double ouch!

But fire isn’t always a bad thing. Back before cell phones, smoke signals worked well for long-distance communication. Lighthouses and lightships kept boats safe before there were GPS units. And if we didn’t have fire, we wouldn’t have a sun, certain plants, heat, food, or light bulbs.

And that’s not so hot.

Is your child burning with curiosity about the things around him? If so, then this quirky little book will only fan the flames.

Author Tanya Lloyd Kyi is matchless when it comes to teaching kids about fire, its uses and its abuses. Through seven chapters, 50 questions and numerous sidebars, Kyi and illustrator Ross Kinnaird teach kids about science, some history, cultural studies, and lots of fun-to-know trivia. I like the way that they seem to assume kids aren’t going to do anything dumb, and I was very relieved to see that Kyi urges children to have an adult handy when doing any of the activities in this book.

For 9- to-13-year-olds who want something different to read this school year, this book is sure to spark a little interest. For them, “50 Burning Questions” is smokin’.

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