Power Plays
by Nikole Brooks Bethea

Price at time of review: $22.99
32 pp.
Capstone Press
Manheto, MN
ISBN: 9781491482674

Grade Level: 3-4

Reviewed by Steve Canipe
Director, Science, Mathematics & Instructional Design Technology

Using the graphic novel to illustrate key scientific concepts is a great idea. Not only is it possible to write the material at a level of understanding that would normally be beneath the regular reading level, it is possible to have high interest. This is what this series of books called Our World: The Next 100 Years does. Titles in the series are: Power Plays: The Next 100 Years of Energy; Medical Marvels: The Next 100 Years of Medicine; High–Tech Highways and Super Skyways: The next 100 Years of Transportation; and Sailing the Solar System: The Next 100 Years of Space Exploration. The publisher, Capstone, rates the reading level of the series at grades 3–4 but the interest level at grades 3–9.This enables scientific concepts to be presented at an interest level including the first year of high school but with a reading level being lower if reading presents a problem.

Using the graphic novel concept, the series does not demean or talk down to lower reading level individuals. Each book in the series has not only high interest and accurate information, each also has a respectable glossary, links to internet sites, resources for reading more, a good index, and a more about section where facts and figures are presented. Each book in the series is well illustrated and draws the reader into the story. Power Plays begins with a visit to an aunt who just happens to be a futurist. The brother and sister happen to arrive just after a power outage and this leads to all sorts of questions and complaints about being unable to charge a cellphone. Being a knowledgeable aunt, Luna Li describes current sources of electricity production and looks at the pros and cons of each of them. The kids’ questioning leads Aunt Luna to put on her futurist hat and invoke her special FSG (Future Scenario Generator) device. In so doing, they virtually travel through time using a holographic projector to look at future sources of energy and learn more about the use of current technologies. Information on things like solar panels being made into roadway surfaces, waveworms that capture the motion of the ocean, and other areas being researched like fusion and hydrogen fuels are presented. The book is not a wishful thinking book but one that talks about the pros and cons of various energy sources. The idea of trade–offs is presented and none of the sources is presented as 100% safe without some side effects.

The series is well written and illustrated and uses a graphic novel format to draw in both the non–interested reader as well as the lower reading level reader. For these reasons alone, the series would be worthwhile resources for a teacher to have. But beyond this, the science is good and the ideas are valuable for all students, regardless of reading level. Definitely a win–win–win for the teacher, the science, and the student!! Every middle school to early high school teacher of science needs to have access to this set of books. In the classroom is great but in the school library also works. A definite thumbs up for this series as a whole but also each book individually.

Review posted on 9/28/2016

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