Monday, November 7, 2011

Nonfiction Monday: Stuff That Scares Your Pants Off! by Glenn Murphy

Stuff That Scares Your Pants Off! The Science Scoop on more than 30 Terrifying Phenomena!
written by Glenn Murphy
Roaring Brook Press, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-59643-633-6
Grades 3 and up
Reviewed from purchased copy.

Beginning with a gripping description of the worst-case scenarios we've all heard on the news, expert explainer Glenn Murphy explains the science behind our terror and delivers a reassuring message that life is only as scary as we make it!
There were several things that I really liked about this book.  First, I appreciated the humor that Murphy included trying to lighten up a rather heavy topic (fear). Second, the title and cover of the book are an immediate draw, especially for reluctant readers. Third, the organization of the material is such that a student could flip to any section and read about the topics that interest him/her the most. Fourth, I liked how the author explained fear, both the physical reaction and the feelings associated with it.  He also goes on to explain how such fears can be overcome. For example,
For people who have full-on panic attacks at heights or in open spaces, acclimation therapy can  help them get their fears under control.  This could mean taking them to tame heights and spaces and progressing to bigger ones, or it could even using virtual reality (VR) programs to get them used to the sensations of being up high or outside before they try it for real. (pg. 145)
The author also shares some of his own experiences with different fears which personalizes the book, helps the reader feel like he/she is not abnormal for having one or more of these fears, which undoubtedly many of us do, including myself.  Murphy focuses on the science and the power of knowledge to help dispell some fears.

I did have some issues with some of the things that Murphy says in the book. For example, he says,
Doctors, meanwhile may use their fingers to prod at sore spots (to check for inflammation and internal damage), and may use instruments like a stethoscope (the cold, heart0listening thing), otoscope (the thing they peer into your ear with), or ophthalmoscope (the eye-examining gadget). But none of these instruments or tests really hurts. Afterward, you'll probably be given some medicine and sent home, but even if you are sent to the hospital for surgery, most operations don't hurt either.  The anesthesiologist will numb the body area or put you to sleep while the surgeon works, and you'll wake up the next day missing your tonsils (or appendix, or whatever), but otherwise feeling just a bit sore. (pg. 89)
 I have to wonder if the author has actually experienced an operation.  My experience tells me that tests CAN hurt, and that many operations leave you with much more than just a feeling of soreness.  But seeing as how the author's purpose is to convince the reader that most things are really not as bad as we make them out to be, I can live with these comments.

Later on in the book, Murphy addresses the issue of fears of things that science has yet to identify as real, things such as monsters, aliens, and ghosts. He makes it clear that while there is no scientific evidence to support the existence of such things, the lack of evidence doesn't necessarily rule out their existence.  He goes on to explain possible physiological and psychological reasons for the experiences that people sometimes claim to have had.  I appreciated that he pointed out the science does not support these stories but that science doesn't have all the answers either.

An interesting book for a reader who finds fear an interesting topic (this includes many children, I get asked for scary books, every week).  Being text heavy however, may limit the book to better readers.

Head on over to Charlotte's Library for more great nonfiction recommendations on Nonfiction Monday.

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