Tuesday 10 October 2023

Review: The Science Spell Book by Dr. Cara Florance

I might be a witch but I also love science so I was delighted to review The Science Spell Book by Dr Cara Florance. It's a children's book designed to inspire kids to experiment with all sorts of things that seem magical but are firmly scientific. It's activity-based with oodles of exciting things to try, inspired by potions, sorcery, alchemy and transformations. 

Here's the description from publisher Sourcebooks:

"Have you ever wanted to brew a potion, conjure a spell, or cast a hex? The Science Spell Book is your guide to everything magical – using science! Written by biochemist Dr. Cara Florance, this enchanting Halloween activity book is perfect for witches of all ages, making it a great way for adults to share science and magic with their children. Each experiment includes simple instructions, diagrams, and an explanation of the science behind each magical experiment."

Reading it took me back to my school days - in a good way. The first "spell", for example, is a herbal elixir that changes colour when you add lemon juice. I can imagine children being enchanted to watch this happen and have a lovely butterfly pea tea to drink. It works because the flowers act as a pH indicator, so change from blue to pink when the acidic lemon is added to the brew. I remember being fascinated by litmus paper tests in classes, but this experiment is an even more fun way to learn about an basic aspect of chemistry. 

Moving on from this, a further seemingly magical experiment, where a liquid changes colour just by breathing on it, shows how the water in our rivers and oceans can become acidic due to excess CO2 in the atmosphere. This is an important lesson in how humans are damaging the environment and how essential it is to reduce emissions. 

Further chapters cover: 

  • Electricity, including making a wand that glows at the tip
  • Magnetism, including making an oracle a bit like the old Magic Robot game (if you are old enough to recall that!)
  • Alchemy, including making paints and pigments from natural materials
  • Mimicry, including growing crystals. This conjured another nostalgic memory of doing this in school!

Although The Science Spell Book is for kids, I love it. I believe it would inspire youngsters to see the wonder of nature and learn science can be fun. Dressing the projects up in the form of spells gives them extra appeal. 

My only criticism is that author Dr Cara Florance hasn't researched pagan traditions as much as science. The two times she mentions specific pagan practices, she's a bit off-mark. She writes that runes are used by Wiccans. They're really more generally associated with Heathenry. She also describes Druids as dancing around megalithic stones, when they would more likely be in a grove of trees. That criticism is a very minor one though. Overall, this book is brilliant.

You can view The Science Spell Book at Amazon.

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