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First Grader's Celestial Savvy Enlightens Editors

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A 6-year-old's knowledge that Venus is hotter than Mercury may have made a few science editors at McGraw-Hill Book Co. red in the face. James E. Brown 3rd, a 1st grader at Eisenhower Elementary School in Clearwater, Fla., wrote the publishing company earlier this year after he found a technical error in one of its science textbooks.

"When I read in your book that Mercury is the hottest planet, I said, 'This is mixed up!'," Jim wrote the publisher, referring to its Reading About Science, Skills and Concepts Level C, published in 1981.

Jim's favorite subject is science, especially space and dinosaurs, according to his teacher, Deborah Austin. The straight-A student started reading the McGraw-Hill textbook as a supplement earlier this year after finishing the class's regular science book.

After spotting the error, Jim looked up the information on a "space calendar" he had at home to verify that Venus is the hotter planet. ''I would like to hear back from you regarding this matter," he wrote in his letter to the publisher.

Ms. Austin also wrote a letter to the publisher, explaining that her student "was troubled by the contradiction of information."

Three weeks later, John F. Mongillo, editor-in-chief of the Webster Science division at McGraw-Hill, responded, praising Jim for his careful research and thanking him for bringing the error to his attention.

"It's our responsibility to answer letters as they come in and to acknowledge a youngster [who] took the time to do that work," Mr. Mongillo said.

The student's information will be put in a correction file and incorporated into the book's next edition, he said.

Jim's discovery has thrown him into the national spotlight. Last month, he and his mother and Ms. Austin were on Good Morning America. And they are scheduled to appear on The Tonight Show on June 10.

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