A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this captivating book brings kids right into the research lab. There are pictures of frogs being dissected, discussions of frogs intentionally being exposed to harmful chemicals and being killed for research, and explanations of the scientist’s theory on how a pesticide may be causing male frogs to develop female reproductive traits. This is all done in a straightforward manner, however, providing an illuminating and realistic portrayal of scientific research. The book blends plenty of science with an appealing, fully fleshed-out portrait of a talented scientist.
What's the story?
Amphibian scientist Tyrone Hayes is trying to understand why frog populations around the world are declining. He suspects a popular pesticide, atrazine, is causing feminization of male frogs -- causing them to grow eggs instead of sperm. This book explores Hayes’ research -- how he tests his hypothesis, the unique problems facing frogs, and the big-picture implications -- and describes his journey from a frog-crazy kid in the segregated South to a struggling student at Harvard and finally a respected leader in his field.
Is it any good?
This is no dry book on frog life cycles. Author Pamela S. Turner skillfully weaves together many threads into a smooth, cohesive, irresistible story. On one level, it’s a mystery about the decline in frog populations and researchers’ scramble to understand it. On another level, it’s a textbook on how to undertake scientific research to tackle real-world problems. And finally, it’s an engaging, nuanced biography portraying scientist Tyrone Hayes as a child, a student, a father, a mentor, and a scientist.
Turner touches on everything from segregation and racism to achieving consensus in the scientific community to nurturing a team. There’s the big picture (how to test a hypothesis, for example) and satisfying detail (how to prepare slides of frog tissue, and why Hayes celebrates the Fifth of July). The well-organized text is complemented by vibrant photographs and a wealth of supplemental material for further exploration.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the difficulty of testing a hypothesis. Hayes ends up with unexpected results and new questions. If you were in his shoes, how would you feel? What would you do next?
Hayes intentionally contaminates a pond with atrazine, and kills frogs so he can study them. Do you think those actions are justified? Why or why not?
Try conducting an experiment at home. Develop a hypothesis, identify manipulated and responding variables, and have a control group. Try changing variables and see what happens.
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