THE WAY THINGS WORK

An astonishing tour-de-force, three years in the making, by the architect-turned-author who has given us Cathedral and City. Here, he turns his talents to describing how things as diverse as parking meters, nail clippers, computers, lightning rods, helicopters, staplers, zippers, etcare constructed, with the principles underlying their operation. Large, clear, complete drawings for each contain unexpected little details, providing hours of enlightenment and discovery. There are four sections—movement, the elements, waves, electricity—with the items in each following the author's own idiosyncratic logic. Virtually nowhere do explanations lapse into vague generalities—indeed, some are specific enough to tax the experts. The sections are introduced by a series of goofy misadventures involving woolly mammoths, which will amuse some and irritate others; but the whole spirit of the book is so lively that most readers will be charmed. The technical text, credited to Nell Ardley, is careful, pedantic, and occasionally awkward; it sometimes lapses into British usage—electrical "earth" for "ground," "silencer" for "muffler." But these are minor flaws in an otherwise grand book. A brief history of technology is included.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1988

ISBN: 1405302380

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1988

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Necessary for every library, personal or otherwise.

THE WAY THINGS WORK NOW

As fresh and funny as ever, a classic compendium of physics in action gets a light but needed makeover.

Most of the “Things” here are still working the way they did back in 1988, 1998, and 2004, when the original and the revised editions dropped—but along with sporting new and spruced-up colors, some of the content, notably the section dubbed “The Digital Domain,” has been brought into the 21st century. Thus, the space shuttle and the VCR are no more, the workings of the telephone have been replaced by those of smartphones and telephone networks, and the jump jet has given way to the quadcopter and other types of drones. But the details that made the earlier editions delightful as well as edifying remain. In the illustrations, flights of tiny angels move the “first whoopee cushion” into place, discombobulated woolly mammoths get caught up in silly side business while helping to demonstrate scientific principles, and best of all, Macaulay’s brilliantly designed, engagingly informal diagrams and cutaways bring within the grasp of even casual viewers a greater understanding of the technological wonders of both past and present.

Necessary for every library, personal or otherwise. (index) (Reference. 11-15)

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-544-82438-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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From its enticing, dramatic cover to its brown endpapers to a comical Grant Wood–esque final image, this is a worthy...

THE GREAT AMERICAN DUST BOWL

A graphic-novel account of the science and history that first created and then, theoretically, destroyed the terrifying Dust Bowl storms that raged in the United States during the “dirty thirties.”

“A speck of dust is a tiny thing. Five of them could fit on the period at the end of this sentence.” This white-lettered opening is set against a roiling mass of dark clouds that spills from verso to recto as a cartoon farmer and scores of wildlife flee for their lives. The dialogue balloon for the farmer—“Oh my God! Here it comes!”—is the first of many quotations (most of them more informative) from transcripts of eyewitnesses. These factual accounts are interspersed with eloquently simple explanations of the geology of the Great Plains, the mistake of replacing bison with cattle and other lead-ups to the devastations of the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression. The comic-book–style characters create relief from the relentlessly grim stories of hardship and loss, set in frames appropriately backgrounded in grays and browns. Although readers learn of how the U.S. government finally intervened to help out, the text does not spare them from accounts of crippling droughts even in the current decade.

From its enticing, dramatic cover to its brown endpapers to a comical Grant Wood–esque final image, this is a worthy contribution to the nonfiction shelves. (bibliography, source notes, photographs) (Graphic nonfiction. 10 & up)

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-547-81550-3

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2013

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