Literature and Thematic Connections to
Chemical Reactions

Teacher's Guides > Chemical Reactions

Most of the books involve the use of chemistry and chemical reactions as a tool to solving a mystery or problem in a fictional situation. Occasionally the chemistry gets people in trouble, but, just as in real life, it’s usually the injudicious use of chemistry that creates the problem! For the most part, these books are appropriate for students at the younger end of the age range for this guide.

Though chemistry is not the focus of any of these books, certain key concepts such as combining reactants to form new products, the need to record data, the idea that more is not always better, and that some things are irreversible appear throughout the stories. Also, fun kid-use of chemical names and formulas can make this sometimes intimidating aspect of chemistry friendlier.

Everything Happens to Stuey
Gorky Rises
June 29, 1999
The Lady Who Put Salt in Her Coffee
The Monster Garden
Susannah and the Poison Green Halloween


Everything Happens to Stuey
by Lilian Moore; illustrated by Mary Stevens
Random House, New York. 1960
Out of print
Grades: 4–7
After smelling up the refrigerator with his secret formula, turning his sister’s doll green with a magic cleaner, and having his invisible ink homework go awry, budding chemist Stuey is in trouble. In the end, he uses his knowledge to rescue his sister by fabricating a homemade flashlight. The illustrations, depiction of family life, and sex roles are dated, but the spirit of adventure is timeless.
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Gorky Rises
by William Steig
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, New York. 1980
Grades: 2–5
When Gorky’s parents leave the house, he sets up a laboratory at the kitchen sink and mixes up a liquid mixture with a few secret ingredients—his mother’s perfume and his father’s cognac! The liquid proves to have magical properties which allow him to fly over the world. Students in Session 1 mix chemicals to make something new just as Gorky does. Although it is a picture-book format, the content makes it usable for older students.
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June 29, 1999
by David Wiesner
Clarion Books, Houghton Mifflin, New York. 1992
Grades: 3–6
The science project of Holly Evans takes an extraordinary turn—or does it? This highly imaginative and humorous book has a central experimental component, and conveys the sense of unexpected results—one of the lessons of the reaction in Session 1..
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The Lady Who Put Salt in Her Coffee
by Lucretia Hale
Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, San Diego. 1989
Grades: K–6
When Mrs. Peterkin accidentally puts salt in her coffee, the entire family embarks on an elaborate quest to find someone to make it drinkable again. Visits to a chemist, an herbalist, and a wise woman result in a solution, but not without having tried some wild experiments first.
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The Monster Garden
by Vivien Alcock
Delacorte Press, New York. 1988
Grades: 5–8
Frankie Stein creates her own special monster from a “bit of goo” her brother steals from the lab. Scientific information is sprinkled throughout the book and Chapter II includes Frankie’s experiment log. The book is a combination of fantasy, science fiction, and young adult novel with a strong main character, an arrogant older brother, and a “friend” who spills the secret. It stimulates thinking about the complex issues surrounding biotechnology and genetic engineering. Students who read this book after doing the GEMS Chemical Reactions activities could be asked to write or diagram a short and imaginative explanation for the chemical reactions that might have taken place as Frankie’s monster was formed.
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Susannah and the Poison Green Halloween
by Patricia Elmore; illustrated by Joel Schick
E.P. Dutton, New York. 1982
Grades: 5–7
Susannah and her friends try to figure out who put the poison in their Halloween candy. Tricky clues, changing main suspects, and some medical chemistry make this an excellent choice, with lots of inference and mystery.
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