A Quest for Purple Crystals is a nice children's book written with a bent toward the presentation of fundamental information about minerals, mineral collecting, and geology. The author is a professional geologist and the wife of Miami University of Ohio geology professor and Rocks & Minerals executive editor John Rakovan. The little book, which is clearly designed as a learning experience, emphasizes the use of proper terms, definitions, and especially safety. It even has a glossary of those technical terms that are introduced within the text such as erosion, map, mine, mineral, and so on.
The quest begins after Johnny and his dog, Max, discover interesting rocks and minerals at their home one day after school. This newly kindled interest leads them to Little Rhody Rock Shop and its owner, Sal. In actuality, this is the late Sal Avella of Apple Valley Minerals in Smithfield, Rhode Island, to whom the book is dedicated. Here the learning curve steepens as Sal explains exactly what rocks and minerals are. One day a nearby resident calls Sal to report that her chickens are digging up shiny rocks. Sal, Johnny, and Max investigate only to find that the chickens are scratching up pieces of amethyst—good specimens, the kind that require heavy equipment to properly excavate. A backhoe is called in, and a number of important safety issues are introduced, appropriately including the instability of steep-sided excavations and the wearing of hard hats and safety glasses. Veins are discovered and a map is drawn, but the occurrence is backfilled and left for additional collecting at some later time. End the quest (for now).
The book is an appropriate introduction to mineral collecting. It is well illustrated with simple though effective drawings, done by the author, that complement and expand the text. Some longish words are used that may challenge the most youthful reader, but for the most part the book will be at the level where a natural interest in rocks and minerals may develop. A Quest for Shiny Purple Crystals is a good gift for young readers with a budding enthusiasm for science and for museum gift shops where newly kindled interests can be perpetuated with an inexpensive remembrance of a child's first serious trip into the world of natural history. It joins the ranks of other similar books, such as that by Gail Kowalski (Julie the Rockhound, reviewed in the September/October 2008 issue), that are slowly emerging as guides to what hopefully for some will be a lifelong interest and appreciation of the geological sciences.