THE ACADIA FILES:  BOOK ONE, SUMMER SCIENCE

Ten-year-old Acadia is a smart, considerate and inquisitive little girl. She wants to know the how and why of phenomenon in the natural world, so it’s a good thing her parents are both science teachers.

“The Acadia Files” is an excellent science book for boys and girls ages 9-12, by Maine author Katie Coppens and Canadian illustrator Holly Hatan. This is the first book in a planned four-volume science series, with seasons autumn, winter and spring to follow.

In the summer, Acadia tackles questions about birds and blueberries, how genes affect humans, what makes sand, the summer’s early sunrise and ocean tides. In each chapter her parents teach her the fundamentals of “the scientific method,” so Acadia identifies a question or problem, learns to form a hypothesis, gather evidence, create experiments, note results and reach a conclusion.

This may sound complicated, but Coppens and Hatan use easy, fun narrative and illustrations to make science simple. Acadia wonders who eats all her ripe blueberries (it isn’t the annoying little boy next door), so she conducts an experiment and is surprised at the result. Later, she and her friend Isabel learn how a person’s genes determine human traits like height and eye color.

Her mother teaches Acadia how sand is created, why sand can be different colors and textures and why some minerals can be hard or soft. Her father teaches her why a summer sunrise is connected to the Earth’s rotation and tilt, and how the moon and gravity make the Earth’s tides. All the experiments are easy and fun activities.

Acadia also wonders if there is a cure for her father’s corny puns, but as humorist Robert Byrne wisely concludes: “Science has not yet found a cure for the pun.”

 

SWAN ISLAND IN THE KENNEBEC: JOURNEY TO SOWANGEN — ISLAND OF EAGLES

The first 150 years of Maine’s colonial settlement were tumultuous, filled with high adventure, exploration of an unknown wilderness, clashing cultures of Indians and whites, tense imperial European competition, and families struggling to survive in an often harsh and unforgiving environment.

“Swan Island in the Kennebec: Journey to Sowangen”  is the first volume in a planned trilogy of historical novels by Richmond author T. Blen Parker. This is her debut novel — an ambitious, complex story of Abenakis and Englishmen living in midcoast Maine, especially Swan Island (Sowangen) and the Kennebec River region from Augusta (Cushnoc) to Popham.

Parker blends historical figures with numerous fictional characters covering generations from 1593 to 1750, from early European exploration to the final decline of Abenaki power and influence in the face of English encroachment. Although marked as a historical novel, this reads more like a detailed history and less like fiction, hampered by too many characters, an unclear plot and uneven sequencing. This is not a polished product; it’s a book in search of an editor.

Still, Parker does an excellent job with colorful and accurate descriptions of Abenaki life and customs, and how the “People of the Dawnland” tried to understand and deal with the ever-increasing numbers of white traders and settlers. She also deftly handles the challenges faced by early settlers determined to learn to fish, hunt, plant, trade and build in an unfamiliar land.

Parker smartly explains the tense and sometimes deadly relationships between the Abenakis and the whites over land and resources, as well as the little-known disputes among the English over who owned what — the restrictive Plymouth Patent versus the upstart Kennebec Patent in 1661.

There are a few heroes and villains here, but mostly it’s a chronicle of ordinary men and women surviving in the New World.

 

Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.

 


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