Literature Connections to
Discovering Density

Teacher's Guides > Discovering Density

A number of the books listed pertain to relative density in gases, with most of these touching on hot air ballooning in some way. These range from historical accounts of balloon excursions to exciting fictional adventures. The technical and conceptual considerations involved in hot air ballooning are often discussed in these books.

Two books are mysteries in which a knowledge of the density in gases allows the reader to solve the mystery. In an ecological mystery, a knowledge of the difference in density between fresh and salt water is important. One fascinating adventure book deals with gold panning and relative density in solids. Another book touches on sink/float situations. There is also a nonfiction picture book that does a wonderful job of conveying the concept of volume.

Archimedes and His Wonderful Discoveries
Balloon Ride
The Big Balloon Race
By the Great Horn Spoon!
Einstein Anderson Tells a Comet’s Tale
Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Secret Pitch
Hot-Air Henry
The Missing ‘Gator of Gumbo Limbo: An Ecological Mystery
Spaces, Shapes and Sizes
Splash! All About Baths
Supersuits
The Twenty-One Balloons


Archimedes and His Wonderful Discoveries
by Arthur Jonas; illustrated by Aliki
Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. 1963
Out of print
Grades: 3–6
The focus of the book, after a brief biographical chapter, is on the problems Archimedes solved and how his discoveries and theories are still used today. Chapter 2 tells how Archimedes tested the king’s crown to see if it was really made of gold by comparing the amount of water displaced by the crown and by a lump of real gold. Chapter 3 describes Archimedes’ research on the density of liquids. Other chapters illustrate his discovery of levers and some tools we use today which act as levers, his experiments relating to measurement in astronomy and mathematics, and how his science was used to formulate war machines.
Return to title list.

Balloon Ride
by Evelyn C. Mott
Walker & Co., New York. 1991
Grades: K–4
Young Megan and Joy, the pilot, describe the preparation of a hot air balloon trip by the all-woman crew. The course of the journey is illustrated with color photographs. Words such as “gondola” and “altimeter” are introduced. Descriptions of shadows, weather, and how a balloon flies are included.
Return to title list.

The Big Balloon Race
by Eleanor Coerr; illustrated by Carolyn Croll
Harper & Row, New York. 1981
Grades: 1–3
A young girl’s mother enters a hot-air balloon race in 1882. The young girl falls asleep in the balloon basket, accidentally ending up on the flight. During the exciting flight, they evade a number of hazards and young Ariel saves the day. Basic facts about balloon dynamics are described: the use of hydrogen in some balloons, the effect of cold air outside on the temperature of the gas, and the altitude of the balloon.
Return to title list.

By the Great Horn Spoon!
by Sid Fleischman; illustrated by Eric von Schmidt
Atlantic Monthly Press/Little, Brown and Co., Boston. 1963
Grades: 5–8
In this adventure novel about sailing around Cape Horn to the California gold rush, several passages exemplify the way density figures into the gold panning process. On page 97, Quartz Jackson teaches the boy Jack about panning for gold, explaining “Gold’s heavy ... even the yellow dust sinks to the bottom if you keep workin’ the pan.” Pages 123–127 provide some good technical detail on the panning process, “grain for grain, gold is eight times heavier than sand.” An ingenious way to use an umbrella as a filter for gold is also described.
Return to title list.

Einstein Anderson Tells a Comet’s Tale
by Seymour Simon; illustrated by Fred Winkowski
Viking Press, New York. 1981
Grades: 4–7
Chapter 3 has a mystery that can deepen your students’ understanding of density. The mystery can be solved if they realize that adding helium to a balloon makes it heavier; and even though the balloon may rise quickly in the air, it won’t go all the way to the moon!
Return to title list.

Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Secret Pitch
by Donald J. Sobol; illustrated by Leonard Shortall
LodeStar Books/E.P. Dutton, New York. 1965
Bantam Books, New York. 1978
Grades: 3–5
In the “Case of the Balloon Man,” the evidence in a kidnapping investigation hinges on how high a balloon filled with air (and not helium) could rise.
Return to title list.

Hot-Air Henry
by Mary Calhoun; illustrated by Erick Ingraham
William Morrow, New York. 1981
Grades: K–3
Henry, a spunky Siamese cat, stows away on a hot air balloon and accidentally gets a solo flight. He learns there is more to ballooning than just watching as he deals with air currents, power lines, and manipulating the gas burner. Though the format and style of the book is aimed at the primary grades, the information on ballooning and the concept that hot air is less dense than cool air is presented. Good extension to the activity in which students learn what density is in liquids.
Return to title list.

The Missing ‘Gator of Gumbo Limbo: An Ecological Mystery
by Jean C. George
HarperCollins, New York. 1992
Grades: 4–7
Sixth-grader Liza K and her mother live in a tent in the Florida Everglades. She becomes a nature detective while searching for Dajun, a giant alligator who plays a part in maintaining a waterhole’s quality, and is marked for extinction by local officials. She and James James, a neighbor and amateur naturalist, observe and note many changes in the local ecology including the presence of salt in the town and condominium wells. “James James wants to close the canals … The fresh water will back up, sink into the ground where it ought to be, and push down the salt water.” By layering liquids in the GEMS Discovering Density activities, students discover that fresh water floats on salt water.
Return to title list.

Spaces, Shapes and Sizes
by Jane J. Srivastava; illustrated by Loretta Lustig
Thomas Y. Crowell, New York. 1980
Grades: 1–6
An inviting and well-presented nonfiction book about volume. It shows the changing form a constant amount of sand can take, and includes estimation activities, an investigation of the volumes of boxes using popcorn, and a displacement activity. Your students will want to try the listed activities, and the book is likely to inspire further investigations.
Return to title list.

Splash! All About Baths
by Susan K. Buxbaum and Rita G. Gelman; illustrated by Maryann Cocca-Leffler
Little, Brown and Co., Boston. 1987
Grades: K–6
Penguin answers his animal friends’ questions about baths such as, “What shape is water?” “Why do soap and water make you clean?” “What is a bubble?” “Why does the water go up when you get in?” “Why do some things float and others sink?” and other questions. Answers to questions are both clear and simple. American Institute of Physics Science Writing Award winner.
Return to title list.

Supersuits
by Vicki Cobb; illustrated by Peter Lippman
J.B. Lippincott, Philadelphia. 1975
Grades: 4–7
The severe environmental conditions that require special clothing for survival such as freezing cold, fire, underwater work, and thin or nonexistent air are described. In “Going Under the Sea,” the mechanics of diving bells and suits to deal with air pressure are explained and one of the supersuits pictured is “really a submarine shaped like a person.” The section on ballooning, page 70, gives an exciting account of an almost fatal incident of oxygen starvation in an early balloon venture in 1862.
Return to title list.

The Twenty-One Balloons
by William Pene duBois
Viking Press, New York. 1947
Grades: 5–12
Professor Sherman leaves San Francisco in 1883 to cross the Pacific by balloon. Three weeks later he is picked up in the Atlantic clinging to the wreckage of a platform flown through the air by 2l balloons, after having passed through Krakatoa just before the historic volcanic eruption. In Chapter 2, balloon happenings include two brothers (weighing 75 and 58 pounds) who tie themselves to a balloon with a lifting pull of 60 pounds, and the flight of a 400-pound cupola which had been tied to balloons with a total of 900 pounds lifting pull. This section does include a few pages of negatively stereotypical Native American dialogue, although the conclusion drawn is that the Indians would not have done such a stupid thing as the “dumb white man.” Chapter 3 is all about the design and outfitting of the balloon and the mechanics of ballast. In Krakatoa, the professor describes a Balloon Merry-Go-Round and a Balloon Life Raft designed to carry 80 people. The Krakatoa section is the most dated. However, the nuggets of balloon dynamics and detailed quasi-technical illustrations remain fascinating. Newbery award winner.
Return to title list.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Observation is a passive science,
experimentation an active science.


— Claude Bernard
Introduction a l’Etude
de la Medecine Experimentale


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

top

Lawrence Hall of Science    © 2018 UC Regents. All rights reserved.    Contact GEMS    Updated February 06, 2015