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Stronger Than Steel: Spider Silk DNA and the Quest for Better Bulletproof Vests, Sutures, and Parachute Rope

(Scientists in the Field)

3.71  ·  Rating details ·  150 ratings  ·  52 reviews
In The Spider Silk Scientists, readers enterRandy Lewis' labwhere theycomeface to face with golden orb weaver spiders, as their silk is combined with goat's milk toweave anearly indestructiblefiber.
Learn how thisamazingmaterial can be used to repairor replace human ligaments andbones, improvebody armor, strenghtenparachute rope, and eventether an airplane to an aircraft
Hardcover, Scientists in the Field, 80 pages
Published February 26th 2013 by HMH Books for Young Readers
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Average rating 3.71  · 
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 ·  150 ratings  ·  52 reviews

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Start your review of Stronger Than Steel: Spider Silk DNA and the Quest for Better Bulletproof Vests, Sutures, and Parachute Rope
Jim Erekson
Oct 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
Another title in the HMH series, Scientists in the Field, this one has the hallmark features: A lot of carefully written text, and a photographer taking original photos for the project.

One of the surprising features of this series is the text density, and the no-holds-barred use of the science vocabulary--it's really thick. I wonder if the editors went this direction because of how CCSS encourages the reading of 'complex text'? At any rate, I find it refreshing that the series assumes children
Aug 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
I'd rate this 4.5 since it is certainly a well-written and well-photographed entry in the Scientists in the Field series. Although much of the book follows scientist Randy Lewis and his work with spider silk DNA and goats, there are also intriguing sections about alfalfa, silkworms, and goats. The book contains excellent explanations of the process of implanting goats with the DNA to possibly produce milk that contains proteins that can be spun into spider silk. The process of harvesting silk is ...more
Oct 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: jnf-500
This interesting book gets pretty technical, so it would be best for middle school and high school science enthusiasts. The book is not so much about spiders as it is about whether scientists can make more spider silk by injecting those spider silk DNA parts into other species, such as goats, alfalfa, silkworms. The author goes into detail about all these processes. The author also talks about the various applications the artificially produced spider silk could make, such as medical sutures, ...more
Jun 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
More from my favorite Scientists in the Field series - I thought this one was going to be about spiders, and it was, BUT it's about making silk from spiders (and alfalfa and goats!!) Fascinating new science explained in a way that kids will really understand - might be a bit long-winded at times but this is serious science! P.S. There's lots of amazing photo's included so be warned arachnophobes...
Feb 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
I received an electronic ARC through NetGalley.

I was facinated by the book Stronger Than Steel by Bridget Heos (a part of the Scientists in the Field series). This book discusses that spider silk is actually stronger than steel and that it potentially could be used for artificial ligaments, bulletproof vests, sutures and fly fishing tippets. It gives a brief lesson on DNA, tells why we just can't raise spiders like we do silkworms, and then discusses the scientists' work with goats, alfalfa and
Aug 27, 2013 rated it it was ok
Ack, I didn't care for this book.

I found it kind of hard to follow. The nonfiction narrative read unfocused and confusing for me. I couldn't figure out the focus of the book at first. (Maybe I just need bullet points when talking about science!)

It was VERY obviously proGMO, and didn't even use the acronym GMO, but used transgenic instead. While she touched on ethics, it was a very one-sided discussion. She mentioned that some people were against GMOs but they were very valuable to society so
Jan 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
I received and ARC copy of this book from Netgalley.

When I saw this book's cover, I knew I had to read it. I'm not much of a spider person, but the idea that these creatures are able to produce something stronger than steel was a very interesting concept I wanted to share with my children.

This book was surprising in the regard that it had so much information and substance, and yet wasn't boring to read. The author uses a tone that children and young adults will no doubt like. This reads more
Apr 16, 2019 rated it it was ok
Wonderful pictures and lots of information about the unique way spider silk is designed, but this text is HIGHLY subjective. Pro-GMOs and pushing "gene tinkering" in order to make cool things from spider silk. In other words, this book could have quoted Walt Disney by saying, "there's a great big beautiful tomorrow shining at the end of every day". Science without ethics is very dangerous. Ask Holocaust survivors about that.

The scientist in the book says transgenics will not lead to "designer
Sabrina Gale
Apr 16, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: el-ed-340
INFORMATIONAL: This book wasn't what I expected it to be. I thought it would be more about spiders and their silk and what that can do as well as how, but it was more about harvesting and finding ways to produce spider silk. Not bad, but not as interesting as I was hoping it would be. Definitely informative though.
Galion Public Library Teens
Jul 01, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2013
Review by M.M.: "I liked how it showed how spiders' silk is stronger than steel. I dislike how the spiders look." 2.5 stars
Sep 14, 2013 added it
Heos, B. (2013). Stronger than steel: Spider silk, DNA, and the quest for better bulletproof vests, sutures, and parachute rope. (Photos by Andy Comins). Boston: Houghton Mifflin. 80 pp. ISBN: 978-0-547-68126-9. (Hardcover); $18.99.

As the world population increases and we continue to struggle with ways to feed and support ourselves expect to see an increased use of the phrase, transgenic organism. What do goats, alfalfa, and silkworms have in common? Spiders! Spider silk is universally
Roberta Gibson
Mar 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
Stronger Than Steel: Spider Silk DNA and the Quest for Better Bulletproof Vests, Sutures, and Parachute Rope by Bridget Heos and illustrated by Andy Comins is the newest addition to the venerable Scientists in the Field Series. It highlights scientist Randy Lewis’ quest to find a better way to obtain large quantities of spider silk for innovative new products.

Packed with so much information on different topics, it is hard to know where to start with this book. The first chapter introduces us to
Tori Crumrine
The images in the book are photographs.

This book explains and teaches about many aspects of spiders, especially their silk. It goes into how strong spider silk is, and how hard it could be to recreate.

There was a ton of information about spiders, silk and even DNA. It even followed the real research that was going on to artificially create spider silk
Becky B
Aug 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Goats who produce spider silk? Sounds like something out of a sci-fi book, but Bridget Heos takes reader to meet real live goats with spider silk proteins in their milk and the scientists behind this genetic research. Along the way, readers get to learn about DNA, genetic engineering, spiders, the ways spider silk could benefit society at large, debates about genetically modified organisms, and some other real, live sci-fi-ish creatures.

Where was this book when I was teaching Biology? It does
Nov 12, 2013 rated it liked it
Stronger than Steel: Silk Spiders and the Quest for Better Bulletproof Vests, Sutures, and Parachute Rope by Bridget Heos
Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2013
Nonfiction Informational
Recommended for grades 4+

Stronger than Steel is part of the Scientists in the Field series, which features two other books that have made the Maine Student Book Award list in recent years: Saving the Ghost of the Mountain and The Mighty Mars Rover (on this year's list).
Filled with excellent photographs, this book
Liz B
Dec 06, 2013 rated it liked it
While this was interesting, it wasn't great. The organization was weird--I felt like it would've made a lot more sense to start off by explaining more clearly why spider silk is so great, before explaining some of the ways scientists are using goats to create it. And the last section felt misplaced, too--it felt like the author had drawn the book to a close, but no! Here's something else sort of related. (It's not a necessary problem of nonfiction, either. In other sections of the book, this was ...more
Mar 17, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2014, ya-nonfiction
This book was fascinating and on its way to a solid four star rating until I hit the middle of the book. In the middle section, Heos introduces bio-engineered food with a very brief mention of Monsanto. The explanation for why people are opposed to Monsanto are only briefly addressed and presented in a dismissive manner. The same occurs a few pages later with the topic of animal testing. The view presented is clearly bias toward Monsanto and animal testing, which I would be ok with as long as ...more
Nov 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: older children and parents reading with them
This is a long, but fascinating look at how scientists are looking to natural materials to create new and better things and how they are experimenting with genetics to manufacture the needed material faster and in greater quantities.

It concerns me a bit to see that they are creating 'spider goats,' but on the whole, it appears to be a worthwhile project. The narrative is a bit dense, but we read just a little at a time so we didn't burn out. Our girls really liked the experiment to extract the
May 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
I am fascinated by silk. I have raised silkworms a couple of times and wondered how did people gather spider silk? There is a picture of a shawl made by spider silk in this book. It took over 70 people four years to gather the silk to make the shawl. People would like to speed up the process, but spiders cannot be domesticated like silkworms. Spiders will eat each other in close confines. So people are trying different methods of trying to mass produce spider silk. This book talks about the way ...more
Holly Mueller
What do goats and spiders have in common? Don't let the golden orb weaver on the front cover (or crawling up a five-year-old's face) creep you out. This Scientists in the Field book is about more than just spiders. It's about DNA, transgenic organisms like goats and alfalfa, potential spider silk products, diabetes, bacteria, the ethics of animal testing, and spider astronauts. The animal testing section would make a great launch pad for argument writing! The work scientists do is fascinating, ...more
Sep 24, 2014 rated it liked it
Having heard of spider goats before, this was somewhat informative, especially as an introduction to the subject; however, if you want more detail on the subject matter and less human interest probably have to search elsewhere. Also, having a considerable aversion to spiders, the multiple pages of large pictures of spiders was not pleasant and even the vast amounts of interesting things that spider silk could do did not rid me of this phobia.

I will give them bonus points for presenting hard

Paula Mcclung
Aug 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
A topic I knew nothing about, but found fascinating! “Discover how goats are being genetically implanted with the golden orb weavers’ DNA to produce milk containing proteins that can be spun into nearly indestructible spider silk.” This research is being used to “develop materials that are stronger and more flexible than Kevlar, the material used in bulletproof vests.” Spider silk is extremely strong, and I love this fact from the book in referring to Spider Man movies, that one "could stop a ...more
Debbie Armbruster
Apr 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
This was a fantastic book!

I have been reading nonfiction texts for inclusion in school libraries, and Stronger Than Steel has everything that I was looking for: researched information, student-friendly but also discipline-specific vocabulary and writing style, engaging subject matter, a glossary and index, and excellent pictures. This was a treat, and a book that I would heartily select for inclusion! Excellent for complex text standards as outlined by the CCSS.
Feb 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
Reviewed for Shelf Awareness.

Another terrific addition to the Scientists in the Field series. It's incredible the work being done in genetics these days, and this is an entertaining and informative look for middle school readers.

On a side note, the adorable goat photos made up for the horror of the spider photos. (I know it's a cliche, but I really hate spiders. Did the photos really have to be quite so large and bright and colorful??)

Jul 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Spider silk DNA is being used to create tansgenic goats, alfalfa and even silk worms in order to produce more spider silk which has multiple uses due to its strength and elasticity.

Although a bit technical at times, this book includes a great section that would great for classroom debate on whether or not animals should be used for testing. Points for both sides of the issue are presented.

Excellent book for those interested in science, future careers in science, animals, and spiders.
Aug 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
An interesting addition to the superb Scientists in the Field series. Includes detailed information about spiders, and explores scientists' work to replicate spider silk DNA for use in products like Kevlar and sutures. Describes the processes that create transgenic animals and plants, and explains the controversy surrounding such creations.
Dec 21, 2013 rated it it was ok
This was an OK book about how scientists are trying to grow spider silk from various sources in an attempt to advance various medical practices and other avenues of science. It had a lot of pictures, but they weren't super engaging, and the narrative was dry. I was expecting some really cool stuff, but it was pretty iffy in terms of the level of excitement. Oh well... Can't win 'em all.
Jan 10, 2014 rated it liked it
Interesting facts on how spider silk plays a part in many areas of life we don't normally consider. The section on transgenic goats and milk that can (eventually) be spun into spider silk is especially surprising. From cover to cover, a very thorough look into the world of the many uses of spider silk. Excellent photographs that students are sure to enjoy.
Learned some interesting things going on in the scientific world today -- goats with spider silk genes (silk extracted from milk, not spun), sending spiders and other insects into space to see how they function, etc. Lots of explanations for the younger audience (middle school and up) about DNA and similar concepts and processes.
Debbie Tanner
Jan 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
This was a very interesting book that I THOUGHT was mostly about spiders, but was really about DNA and altering DNA in animals. The book describes a group of scientists that are trying to use spider DNA to create a variety of outcomes, including stronger goats, better fibers, and more. It was also very fast paced and broken into small pieces so you could easily use it as a read aloud.
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