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From The Observatory Magazine, December 2003.

www.ulo.ucl.ac.uk/obsmag/

“I have not read a clearer, easier-to-digest introduction to astronomy and this book can be heartily recommended to anybody from ten to a hundred”

Star Talks to Boy Scouts, by G. Forbes

(The Observatory Press, 151 Rushmore Road, London, ES oHA), 2003. Pp. 26, 2IXI4.S cm. Price £4.50 (incl. p&p.) (paperback; ISBN 0 9S4 44360 8).

The re-publication of Star Talks to Boy Scouts comes at the very time that the Scout Association has dropped the Astronomer's Badge; however, this has been met with disapproval from a generation that still values the usefulness of a knowledge of the night sky and the ability to navigate by the stars. The expected return of the Astronomer's Badge will lead to a need for a book that is both simple enough for a young scout to understand and comprehensive enough to teach them all they need to know and still challenge them to learn more. This book does all that.

Although written for a different age when 'Boy Scouts' were able, and were often expected, to spend summer nights outside surviving for themselves, this book has just as much for the boys and girls of modern scouting who can indulge in the sense of adventure that has fascinated us for years.

It is not just scouts who will learn from this book, though; I have not read a clearer, easier-to-digest introduction to astronomy and this book can be heartily recommended to anybody from ten to a hundred. George Forbes had an easy writing style that gives you a feeling of being taught by somebody who under- stands his subject but still remembers what it was like to learn it for the first time. Within the first few pages he has you wanting to run outside and put your new found knowledge into practice, by finding the dozen or so constellations that he helps you identify, and work out for yourself where you expect to see them. This sort of practical teaching is worth ten times anything you could get from just reading a book.

Moving on from identifying constellations to explaining the motion of stars, again in a practical way, as Forbes says himself “You learn much more by seeing things than by reading about them”, this is then developed into telling the time by the stars and ultimately into using the stars or the Sun to find directions, with practical tasks to do at every stage.

This book is a valuable resource for anybody who wants to teach the basics of astronomy, or wants to learn themselves, and it has inspired me to develop a series of sessions on astronomy for my scouts; and as the text is available so cheaply in printed form and free of charge from the web I will be promoting its use across scouting.

Andy Batey

 


Tim Dawson tim@timdawsn.demon.co.uk
Telephone: 07984 165251

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