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Here at Growing with Science I usually concentrate on great nonfiction, but I came across a fiction series that some of you might be interested in. Books in the Doyle and Fossey, Science Detectives series by Michele Torrey and illustrated by Barbara Johansen Newman each contain four science mysteries, plus in the back are instructions for seven activities and experiments related to the stories that you can try yourself.

Although the covers and titles may look a bit scary, the mysteries themselves are pretty straightforward.

In The Case of the Barfy Birthday, the detectives Doyle and Fossey investigate whether their client accidentally poisoned her sister, help save some birds, do a bit of ghost busting, and figure out how to get a pig out of a pit. Note to the squeamish: The first case does involve vomit.
The Case of the Gasping Garbage sends the detectives to the laboratory to find out why the garbage can is making odd noises, has them figuring out a way to help frogs, investigating the case of a stuck truck, and using chromatography to identify who wrote a love letter.
Will The Case of the Mossy Lake Monster be their last? After taming the monster, Doyle and Fossey discover why a cat won't eat, find a way to help penguins covered with oil (a story straight out of the news), and reveal a political prankster.
The Case of the Crooked Carnival actually starts with the detectives looking into a report of ghosts in an old house. After they stop an alein invasion (of plants), Doyle and Fossey solve the mystery of a carnival game, and discover a problem with the town bridge.
In The Case of the Graveyard Ghost, Doyle and Fossey have to get their client out of a laundry chute, solve the mystery of some wrecked roses, reveal yet another ghost, and investigate a case of a rare bird.

The mysteries in these books are fast-paced and interesting. Doyle and Fossey are a bit over the top, but definitely likable characters. The activities and experiments are kid friendly. (You know how much I love when books provide hands-on activities to reinforce learning.)

I did find a few minor flaws in some of the books. For example, although billed as a microbiologist, the author states that yeasts are plants in The Case of the Gasping Garbage. Modern classification schemes group yeasts with the fungi.

I also wondered why in The Case of the Crooked Carnival, the alien plants are called "purple loosegoose." In the back the author identifies a true weed, purple loosestrife. I guess the funny name injects a bit of levity?

In any case, if your children are interested in fiction and mysteries, these books might just entice them to try a bit of science as well.

The books were provided for review.


In case you haven't "heard," National Geographic Channel has a seven-part series coming in November called Great Migrations (links are no longer available). Affiliated with the television event are a number of educational opportunities you might want to investigate.

Accompanying the series is a children's book, Great Migrations:  Whales, Wildebeests, Butterflies, Elephants, and Other Amazing Animals on the Move by Elizabeth Carney.

Great Migrations contains the dramatic, stunning photographs you have come to expect from National Geographic. Each animal is given a four page spread. The first two pages are amazing scenes in vibrant color. The second two pages are facts about the migrations those animals take that includes a map of the region where the animals occur (geography lesson).

I do have one caveat. The font on these informational pages jumps around drastically in color and size, even within a paragraph. While this is eye-catching from a design point of view, on the other hand it is a real challenge for beginning and struggling readers to follow.

If you are going to watch the series and want to have a reference on hand to emphasize points or delve a bit further into details, then this book could be a useful tool. It will be sure to get children interested in learning more.

There is also an adult book, Great Migrations by K. M. Kostyal, which I haven't seen yet.

This trailer to give you an idea what the series is like (may not be suitable for sensitive children):

Isn't that stunning?

Note:  I'm sure there will be some scenes of predators capturing prey in the actual show, so it may not be suitable for young or highly-sensitive children.

More information:

Great Migrations: Whales, Wildebeests, Butterflies, Elephants, and Other Amazing Animals on the Move

Reading level: Ages 9-12
Hardcover: 48 pages
Publisher: National Geographic Children's Books (October 12, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1426307004
ISBN-13: 978-1426307003


Great Migrations by K. M. Kostyal


Our Weekend Science Fun is inspired by the book Inside Hurricanes by Mary Kay Carson. The book is reviewed is at Wrapped in Foil.

We were excited by the story of a unique dome-shaped beach home that survived when Hurricane Ivan hit Pensacola Beach, Florida in 2004. The owner had designed it so that winds blew around it and that storm surges could pass under. It turned out that the home with an interesting design passed the hurricane test. We decided to try out some of these ideas on our own.

Activity:  Does building shape influence level of damage by hurricane-force winds?


  • computer paper
  • access to a computer and printer
  • tape or glue
  • scissors
  • hairdryer, to supply "hurricane winds"

First we will make structures of three different shapes:  rectangular, circular and a pyramid. (See photograph below.)


Go to and print out the Great Pyramid pattern. Cut it out and assemble. Tape or glue tab.

Paper House - Rectangular

Start with a piece of computer paper.

(If you have difficulty seeing these instructions, let me know.)


Cut another sheet of computer paper roughly in half lengthwise. Lay both layers on top of one another (we're trying to keep the weight of each house roughly the same). Bring the ends together to form a cylinder and tape or glue to hold.

Predict which of these shapes can withstand wind the best.

Find a flat surface that is near an electrical outlet, so you can plug in the hairdryer. Now place a penny or other marker on the flat surface. Rest one of the buildings on it. Plug in the hairdryer. If possible record how fast and/or how far the building travels when you blow the hairdryer on it. Try to stand a consistent distance from the building with the hairdryer. Repeat with the other buildings, making sure to place them on the same mark each time.

If you aren't seeing any differences between the buildings, try lowering the setting on the hairdryer and/or standing farther away.

Extensions:  Try modifying the shape of the building, changing the weight of the paper you use to construct the buildings, or changing the speed of the hairdryer.

Photograph from NASA Images

Isn't it fun when reading a book makes you want to try out something yourself?

More about Inside Hurricanes:

It is part of the Inside Series
Publisher: Sterling
Published: October 2010
Age range: from 8 to 12
48 pages (has 10 fold-out pages)
ISBN: 1-4027-7780-9
ISBN13: 9781402777806

This book was provided for review.