The Smithsonian—it isn’t just rocket science.
This spiral-bound guide is a modestly hefty piece of work, but that is due to the fact that we often forget that the Smithsonian isn’t just where they store the Spirit of Saint Louis and the lunar module. It is also home of the national museums of natural history and American history, as well as the air and space museum. And the collections are, in a word, spectacular. Korrell has a good mix going, with plenty of archival and contemporary photographs and illustrations accompanied by punchy text. Both Korrell and museum professionals have contributed the latter, with only a little oversimplification—“Geology is about understanding what we see around us.” It is predominantly straightforward—a good combination of earnest and bouncy—with bracing touches of humor: “Robotic spacecraft aren’t as particular as human space explorers…they do what they are asked to do without grumbling.” Always, Korrell keeps readers engaged with some simple quizzes—you can write right in the “guide”—and hide-and-seek games that challenge readers to find various objects somewhere in the rooms, as well as other activities.
A serious introduction to the national museums that does not take itself too seriously. (Nonfiction. 8-12)