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Customer Review

on December 7, 2009
John Fleck may have written _The Tree Rings' Tale_ for young readers, but this grown-up found it a highly readable, engaging book. Fleck builds his narrative around the science of tree rings and the scientists who research the rings and other clues to figure out climate variability in the arid West. The book is an excellent primer on climate and its most important impact on humans: water supply. It's also a page-turning reader - not a common attribute, unfortunately, of most kids' science books.

The publisher suggests ages 13 and up, but I read it to my science-and-invention-loving 8-year-old and he was rapt. (He was hooked in the first paragraph, thanks to Fleck's harrowing opening scene from John Wesley Powell's 1869 Colorado River expedition.) In addition to tree ring science, Fleck explains complexities such as forecasting, drought, weather and climate change in an easy-to-understand style that still respects kids' intelligence.

Part of what makes _The Tree Rings' Tale_ so readable is Fleck's use of actual scientists to weave his tales, which range from ancient climates to El Niño/La Niña. Much appreciated: About half of these scientists are women, a refreshing refute of the continuing gender disparity in so many science books, such as Richard Dawkins' new _Oxford Book of Modern Science Writing_, with only 3 women scientists' work featured out of 83 texts.

Fleck has an eye for the detail that will grab a young person's attention. My son was interested to learn that scientists in these different fields get to shoot down rapids, launch giant weather balloons and climb rocks. He also loved Fleck's details about some of the makeshift tools scientists use to do their work. After all, using a Pringles can to store paper straws that in turn store super-skinny tree-bore samples is just the sort of thing kid-scientists do.

I highly recommend _The Tree Rings' Tale_ to parents and science-minded readers 8 to elder, and to middle- and high school science teachers. I'm convinced that America's water-supply problems are linked in part to a lack of scientific understanding about water that begins in childhood. _The Tree Rings' Tale_ would be a strong textbook to help fill this gap, not only in the West where the book takes place, but in any state in the nation.
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