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Strange Mysteries from Around the World

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Simon, Seymour.  1997.  Strange mysteries from around the world.  New York:  Morrow Junior Books.  ISBN:  0688146368.

This collection of accounts of odd phenomena grabs the reader from the first page and never lets go!  Why can people walk across blazing hot coals and not get burned?  How was a crystal skull created in ancient times and does it have magic powers?  What happened aboard the Mary Celeste that could cause her to be sailing along the high seas ably -- but without her crew?  Seymour Simon examines these and other mysteries.

In a conversational style, Simon begins each account with a history of the strange occurence.  His research is evident in citations of newspaper and journal articles on the topic and also eyewitness testimony when available.  For example, in Chapter Seven Strange Booms, "In 1846, the magazine Scientific American printed an article about strange sounds heard in the down of Deerfield, New Hampshire..." (p.40) and from Chapter One It's Raining Frogs and Fish "Here is part of his eyewitness report of what happened in Marksville, Louisiana:  'In the morning of October 23, 1947, between seven and eight o'clock, fish ranging from two inches to nine inches in length fell on the streets and in the yards...'" (p.4)  He also gives the reader access to scientific research done about subjects, such as in Chapter Eight Photographing the Invisible, "For example, a study by scientists at Drexel University and Villanova University was published in the magazine Science.  The scientists wrote..." (p.47)

One feature of Simon's writing style is the interaction he offers his readers.  Questions posed such as "But why abandon an undamaged ship?" (p.29) and "Why else would anyone dig so far down and set up the wooden platforms?" (p.21) offer readers a chance to pause and reflect and also the opportunity for personal engagement with the writer.  Although Simon doesn't pretend to be able to solve these mysteries, being able to read through his thought processes in examing possible explanations gives young readers a look into the workings of the scientific method.

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Holly S.
Graduate Student at Texas Woman's University