"Disasters: Natural and Man-Made Catastrophes Through the Centuries" by Brenda Z. Guiberson; Henry Holt, 240 pages ($18.99).

Brenda Guiberson offers a fascinating exploration of 10 famous disasters: smallpox epidemics in North America, the Great Chicago Fire, the Johnstown Flood, the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York, the sinking of the Titanic, the 1918 flu pandemic, the Dust Bowl, the 2004 tsunami and Hurricane Katrina.

She offers eyewitness accounts and lively anecdotes: a survivor clinging to a barn roof as floodwaters full of debris wiped out Johnstown, Pa., or a man saving his children from the Chicago fire by burying them in beach sand.

Equally fascinating is her exploration of the causes of each disaster. For example, Chicago was built on swampland and elevated on a framework of wooden sidewalks and bridges. Those, along with oxygen in underground tunnels, helped fuel the inferno. And how interesting that library philanthropist Andrew Carnegie was a member of the private fishing club whose faulty dam was to blame for the Johnstown flood.

-- Jean Westmoore



Have lunch with Santa from 11 a.m. to noon Saturday at the Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum, 180 Thompson St., North Tonawanda. Mrs. Clause will tell stories at 1 p.m. Cost is $8. Call 693-1885 for information.



Heating a sponge in a microwave for two minutes can kill the bacteria that can settle on the sponge.

-- From "TIME for Kids Big Book of Why"