Kids and rocks are made for each other. I think most of us were at least temporarily fascinated by some little pebble we picked up. I've never yet met a kid I couldn't get thoroughly smitten with rocks within about thirty seconds after saying hello. Kids like rocks. It's just that too often, grownups forget to nurture that passion, and we lose budding geologists to other sciences instead.
So I'm always on the lookout for kids' books that will help me ignite a lifelong adoration for the good science of rock-breaking. I've already found the absolute most perfect book for getting kids started: Everybody Needs a Rock. But that one's not about the science of rocks, per se, so I'm on the hunt for a companion volume.
A strong contender is Rocks: Hard, Soft, Smooth, and Rough by Natalie M. Rosinsky. It's full of vibrant colors and bold illustrations, which catch kids' attention. It picks up from where Everybody Needs a Rock leaves off: it encourages kids to pick up their rock and really give it a good look. I love how the beginning effortlessly shows kids how to think like geologists.
And of course, as a person who likes to listen to the stories rocks tell, I love that Rosinsky emphasizes repeatedly that every rock has a story. Fantastic. That's what we want kids to know.
The bedrock concepts of geology are swiftly and simply presented. Kids will learn that rocks can go through many changes (including fracturing and melting). They'll discover that some rocks are 4 billion years old. They're told what a mineral is, and shown that minerals can also be gemstones. Then the three main rock types are presented: igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic. My two main quibbles with this section are that the stories of igneous and metamorphic rocks aren't explored as deeply as the stories sedimentary rocks can tell, and that Rosinsky only mentions one method by which sedimentary rocks become solid—she doesn't explain that they can be formed by chemical processes as well as mechanical, which is a puzzling omission in light of one of the activities at the back. But this is merely an introduction for very young kids, so no worries.
A fun rock chart gets the basic characteristics of various types of rocks across in a simple and easily-referenced way. I like that the chart not only includes what colors each kind of rock might be and a few of the things they can be used for, but what they feel like. Knowing how rocks are supposed to feel—gritty or smooth or what have you—is an important means for identifying rocks. Also, kids are pretty tactile, so it's great that they're being taught that their natural inclination to feel things out is a valid way to do science.
The book includes some activities. Kids are encouraged to create their own rock collection and ponder different ways of classifying it, which is a lot more cool than "Hey, go collect these types of rocks. Now label them. Okay, all done!" There's also instructions for making your own sandstone. This is a great time to introduce kids to the fact that sedimentary rocks can be cemented by different minerals and suchlike, because you're making sandstone with glue.
Another activity is included with the Moh's hardness scale. Make sure you've got rocks and chalk for kids to scratch, and some pennies and such around for them to scratch with.
I love that none of the experiments in this book cost much, if anything, putting them within reach of kids whose families have to pinch all the pennies. And the book itself isn't very expensive, either. Win!
The Fact Hound website at the end of the book unfortunately doesn't direct kids to many external websites, and there aren't many book recommendations. It also claims to be divided by age, but both age groups returned the same results when I tried it. I'm hoping that it's a work in progress, and we'll see better results soon.
So Rocks: Hard, Soft, Smooth, and Rough is not a perfect book, but it's a perfectly serviceable book, and definitely one I'd recommend as a companion volume to Everybody Needs a Rock. You can get them both at Amazon. And if you buy through my links, you'll be helping me buy more books I can review for you before passing them on to my honorary nieces and nephews.