Forensic Scientist
by Judith Williams

Price at time of review: $31.93
128 pp.
Enslow Publishers, Inc.
Berkeley Heights, NJ
ISBN: 0766030512

Grade Level: 5-8

Reviewed by Jacqueline Pfeiffer
3rd Grade Teacher

This book explores different careers in forensic science using examples of real scientists in the field. From the first chapter, “Calling Card Murder," which introduces readers to the challenges of being a forensic scientist, I couldn't put it down. I predict your students will be equally fascinated.

Each chapter examines a specific aspect of forensic science, and the scholastic requirements for being that scientist are included. As readers follow each scientist, they will find interesting facts sprinkled throughout (such as tidbits about their methods and procedures). Contrary to what is presented on television, these descriptions are realistic and accurate. For example, DNA analysis actually takes about six weeks, all casework in a lab is reviewed by at least one other criminalist, and 60% of all autopsies find the death to be from natural causes. Some of the descriptions are graphic, but students will find them fascinating. For instance, a forensic entomologist might study insects on bodies that have been dead for more than 72 hours. (Blowflies are the most common insects found on corpses, because they have an amazing sense of smell that allows them to travel several kilometers to find fresh blood upon which to feed.)

The examples from the field go beyond local crime scene investigations. A forensic scientist can even go back in time, perhaps millions of years, to solve a case. The Venus Project Underwater Sea Lab uses pigs to replicate human decomposition in order to study human bodies decaying in sea water. A physical anthropologist is an evolutionary detective, studying how life in a society affects the human body. (When bunions were found on the feet of some dinosaurs, they were compared to the bunions on the feet of an old woman.) Paleopathologists also study the diseases and types of healing that happened in extinct animals.

The book also includes an extensive glossary, chapter notes, a further reading section, Internet addresses, and an index. There are too few pictures, but those that are included are clear and valuable. I highly recommend this book for students who are mature enough to handle the subject matter and want to explore scientific fields as well as increase their knowledge of forensic science. Throughout the book, death is handled very delicately and respectfully. Autopsies of and the care shown dead bodies is a common theme. The publishers suggest the book is for grade five and up or ages 10 and up. Because of the necessary inclusion of death and the accompanying issues, this book would not be recommended for children below fifth grade.

Review posted on 6/8/2009

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