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Shakira reached forward quickly, grabbing a copy of The Hobbit off of the school library shelf before anyone else could. She had been on the waiting list for weeks, and it was finally her turn. Naturally, she had read the book before; in fact, she had read the complete series from start to finish three times, but she never got tired of the popular fantasy. Although she appreciated the films and had watched them each one several times, they could not possibly compare to the original novels.

"Not J.R.R. Tolkien again?" whispered Jonathan peeking over his friend's shoulder. As passionate as Shakira was about Tolkien, Jonathan thought the Lord of the Rings books did not begin to compare to J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series. The two friends often held friendly debates over the merits of each author's hefty volumes, taking turns spouting facts to challenge the other one. It quickly became apparent that today was another chance for the traditional dispute to continue.

"Fastest selling children's book ever, with 450 million books in print and eight blockbuster movies," said Jonathan, teasing his friend with statistics they already both knew.

Shakira countered those numbers immediately saying, "Tolkien wrote fewer books, so there are fewer movies, but they have all been huge hits. Tolkien doesn't write for children; he writes for adults, plus, you have to admit Frodo Baggins is far cleverer than Harry, because he accomplishes everything without any special powers or a magic wand."

"Dumbledore is an incredible wizard," retorted Jonathan.

"Gandalf is just as astounding," replied Shakira



The two friends burst out laughing and realized that, as usual, they had hit a familiar stalemate in their chronic debate. "Let's just go to my house, and read all afternoon," suggested Shakira, checking out the library book and tucking it into her backpack. At last the two companions had found something on which they both could completely agree.
Which factor do Tolkien's and Rowling's books share?
  1. They both feature a character named Dobby.
  2. They are both written as multi-volume series.
  3. They center their stories on a hobbit with powers.
  4. They were turned into a trilogy of movies.
The major difference between the two authors is that Tolkien's books...
  1. are written for adults, not children.
  2. have sold more copies internationally.
  3. have been turned into popular movies.
  4. feature a wizard as one of the main characters.
Which statement would both characters likely agree with?
  1. Wizards are always the best villains in fantasy novels.
  2. Having characters with magical powers is the key to a bestseller.
  3. Hobbits are the key to books that sell millions of copies worldwide.
  4. Reading books about other worlds and magical creatures is enjoyable.
Thanks to a continuing onslaught of science fiction films from "Star Wars" to "Star Trek," the drive to explore outer space is constantly kept at the forefront of the public's attention. People dream of becoming astronauts. Authors write fantasy series about finding life on other planets. Experts develop increasingly high-tech probes to launch out into the blackness surrounding the Earth to take pictures and get scientific information.

While the lure of outer space is a powerful one, there are a number of scientists and other experts who feel the money, effort, skill, and time spent on exploring what is waiting in the universe should be spent on exploring the planet's oceans instead. Billions of dollars in government money is devoted to space exploration. Only a small fraction of that amount is spent on finding out more about the alien environment beneath the ocean surfaces.

Why is so much more attention paid to exploring the universe than exploring the seas? Part of it can be blamed on the media. A simple tally of the number of space movies compared to the number of ocean movies - especially if you take out the ones with sharks - tells the story. The sky is easy for everyone to see and to look up and appreciate glittering stars or a cratered moon. Oceans, on the other hand, often just look like miles and miles of nothing but water. The truth is, however, that ocean exploration offers far more benefits to humans than space does. Oceans are a rich source of everything from rare earth metals to millions of yet undiscovered species. Exploring the blackness fathoms deep instead of light years away may not seem as exciting, but it may be the wisest scientific choice in the long run.
Which statement about ocean research is the most accurate?
  1. It will end up costing as much as space exploration does.
  2. It may reveal information about countless new species.
  3. It will distract scientists from doing additional space research.
  4. It may end the world's search for rare-earth minerals.
What is the primary reason experts believe it is better to explore the world's oceans rather than space?
  1. The ocean offers more potential advantages to people.
  2. It costs almost nothing to explore the planet's waters.
  3. The world wants to know more about ocean sharks.
  4. It will inspire more books and films about deep sea life.
What two things is this passage comparing?
  1. The popularity of "Star Wars" to "Star Trek" books and movies.
  2. The relevance of measuring in light years to ocean fathoms.
  3. The importance of learning about space exploration versus the ocean.
  4. The amount of time spent exploring versus government funding for exploration.

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