|'DNA is Here
Written by Dr Fran Balkwill
Illustrated by Mic Rolph
Published by Harper Collins ISBN 0 00 196457 7 (1992)
Reviewed by Alan Daniell
by Sharon Beder
Reviewed by Viola Palmer
|Every now and then
one comes across a book that blows out a few confused cobwebs and suddenly
a new world of understanding opens up.
This 30 page book is a cracker !
Why? Because it takes a whole body of tediously complex information - the double helix of deoxyribonucleic acid - the stuff that's inside every cell in our bodies - and reduces it all to a level that nearly everyone can understand.
"DNA Is Here To Stay" is written for 9-year-old school-kids.
Furthermore, it provides a brilliant function
Think about it.
That statement is the equivalent of "the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog." - but infinitely more important.
Why? Because while one uses every letter in the
English alphabet, the other offers a unique overview of the genetic alphabet
of every living thing around us - so much so that it's worth repeating again
The illustrations in this little book are so superbly drawn, and the text that goes with it so compellingly clear, that a 9 year old can quickly understand how the twirling ladder of the DNA code is glued together to make the 50,000 or so protein recipes contained in our "genes." Genes are the cookbooks upon which our biological existence is based.
There are proteins for carrying oxygen around the body - haemoglobin; proteins for tooth enamel - collagen; proteins for skin colour - melanin; proteins for hair - keratin; proteins for stomach cells - enzymes. Its all in the gene recipes contained in the rungs on the DNA ladder.
They fit together like a crossword puzzle - and just to ensure that 9 year olds can understand it, a genetic crossword puzzle is provided to get the message across.....and kids just itch to fill it in.
My apologies to Isaac Asimov, John Gribbon, Linus Pauling, and several other heavyweight science writers; but, simply put, "DNA Is Here To Stay" is the very, very best science book I have ever read.
If you want to begin to understand the way in which genetically modified food might alter the human body's capability of digesting fibre that is completely new to us,
or ; the way the insidious nature of ionising electromagnetic radiation breaks DNA strands that do not repair properly and later become the seat of cancer,
or ; determine whether a chunk of rock found in Antarctica can indicate the existence, or otherwise, of life on Mars.
then ; this book, "DNA Is Here To Stay" is the very, very best place to start.
In the late part of the 1980's, U.S Vice President, Al Gore, wrote a wonderful intellectually challenging book " Earth In Balance". I have no hesitation in personally recommending to Al Gore that he pick up a copy of "DNA Is Here To Stay", take the required 20 minutes to thoroughly read it, and considerably enhance his already remarkable education.
I recommend this book to every appropriate classroom throughout the New Zealand schooling system.
"Fran Balkwill and Mic Rolph - I salute you."
The rise of the corporations in the last two decades has heightened the tension between them and those who see the need for environmental preservation. The consumer / exploiter ethic of the market place is on a collision course with the ability of the planet to sustain it.