Continuing to branch out into science concepts (Things That Float and Things That Don’t, 2013), the math and biography whiz tackles the elementary topic of simple machines.
Using sumi ink washes that have been digitally colored and arranged, Raff’s illustrations loosely follow three characters as they use simple machines: a Caucasian lumberjack dad (in faded red flannel), his blond son, and his playmate, an African-American boy with curly hair. Moving from wedge to inclined plane to lever to wheel and axle and finally to pulley, Adler presents the simple machines one by one, describing their parts and how they make work easier. He takes care to provide many examples that are sure to be familiar to readers: teeth (natural wedges!), playground equipment, a Ferris wheel, a screw, a flagpole. In addition to the machines, Adler explains friction. Terms in boldface stand out from the rest of the text, but there is no glossary or any backmatter at all to summarize or review the information presented; the absence is felt, especially since the book seems to just stop—there’s no closure.
Still, this is as solid a look at simple machines as any that exists outside of dry textbooks, and at least readers can imagine a narrative for the two young boys. (Informational picture book. 4-8)