The widespread fascination with tornadoes, particularly in North America, results in a high proportion of weather-topic books written on the subject for both children and adults. Few of those really grab my attention as many are simply vehicles to publish dramatic tornado photographs and say little new about tornadoes.
Two superb exceptions have been published this year: The Tornado by Tom Grazulis (reviewed earlier) and Tornadoes by H. Michael Mogil. Mogil's book, in contrast to that by Grazulis, is written for a younger audience -- Grade 6 and above -- as part of Voyageur Press' WorldLife Library Series. In my opinion, the two books make a great complementary pair for many levels of education, even for an adult audience.
Tornadoes is very well illustrated with a large number of full-page-sized tornado photographs, but even more appealing to me are the several top quality explanatory drawings. These are very attractive and yet convey much to-the-point information. The book's striking illustrations are balanced by Mogil's well crafted text. His writing is strongly scientific yet clear enough to convey the complexities of the formation and life cycle of tornadoes and the thunderstorms which spawn them.
Mogil begins the book with a strong introduction to thunderstorms as a background for tornadic storms. In fact, the book could easily have been titled: Thunderstorms and Tornadoes to draw a wider audience. The author then segues into the title topic through a discussion of the US National Weather Service Program for severe storm watches and warnings.
The remainder of the book looks into tornado formation, their structure and forms (including comments on similar weather phenomena often confused with tornadoes, such as dust devils and microbursts), tornado climatology, and their damage patterns. It ends with a brief look at tornado occurrences outside the United States. (Many people do not realize severe and deadly tornadoes strike outside North America.)
Tornadoes is such a well-produced book that the only critical comments I could muster are grammatical (cumulus is singular, and the word data is plural) and a small frustration that the example illustration of the rope tornado comes 20 pages after its text description with no mention of the photograph's existence or location.
H. Michael Mogil's Tornadoes will be the benchmark to which I will compare future "children's books" on tornadoes and similar phenomena. It should be a part of every school or home weather library. I also take the "and up" part of the recommended audience seriously. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to older audiences looking for a quick introduction to thunderstorms and tornadoes.
With the holiday season approaching, I recommend this book for the gift list of anyone interested in these violent, yet awesome, storms. A five-star choice!
Keith C. Heidorn, PhD
THE WEATHER DOCTOR
November 5, 2001
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