My oldest son is something of a magpie, attracted by sparkle. When we visit the Natural History Museum, we don’t head directly towards the dinosaur gallery with everybody else. No. We trade the queues, squeals, and roar of the T-Rex for the calm, quiet, not terribly exciting rock and gem collection.
Not terribly exciting maybe, but beautiful to behold and packed full of science and chemistry. Now the beauty, luster, and science of gemstones is encapsulated in the beautiful The Rock & Gem Book from Dorling Kindersley.
This 192 page book has the subtitle “and Other Treasures of the Natural World,” and is grouped into sections on Rocks, Minerals and Gems, Fossils, and Shells. As we’ve come to expect from DK, the layout is great and the pictures gorgeous. It’s a book that demands to be read.
The text is aimed at older children and the casual enthusiast. All the rocks are given their scientific names. The images include minerals as they are found in nature and also after they have been used by humans, e.g., in Egyptian busts, Khmer temples, and royal crowns. As well as standard minerals, there’s are a page that details meteorites, and another filled with fluorescent rocks.
Most pages have an infographic on them, detailing some interesting facts about the particular rocks that page is devoted to. These include “Violent Volcanoes,” “Producers of Copper,” and a Topaz “Mega Crystal.” I’m a sucker for an infographic, and these add a quick layer of information, which means you’re learning something even whilst gawping at the shinies.
Unlike the gem and rock collection at the Natural History Museum, the book has pages devoted to fossils and dinosaurs, including my favorite, the Archaeopteryx. The section on shells is a nice addition, as it’s an area often forgotten. There’s a particularly wonderful photo of a water snail, and a beautiful picture of a nautilus.
The main sections of the book are prefaced by a brief introduction to the composition of the Earth, and an outline of the rock cycle, which turned out not to be about how popular music imitates old ideas. There is comprehensive glossary at the end of the book and a mineral identification chart.
DK’s Rock and Gem book is a great primer for budding geologists. Informative and engaging, and great to browse. The publisher has stuck to its strengths and produced a book that is an absolute… No, I can’t bring myself to say it.
Dislosure: I received a copy of this book for review.