This worthy sequel makes learning chemistry fun with a quartet of inventive board games.




A workbook teaches readers how to balance chemical equations.

This follow-up to Chemistry Games: Volume 1 (2011) gives readers an enjoyable way to study a complex subject. Providing four board games, the volume focuses on teaching students about stoichiometry and the law of conservation of mass. It also seeks to help them memorize the periodic table. Once again, each board is made up of colored squares on the “Outer Path,” which list the elements that each player needs to collect to balance a series of stipulated chemical reaction equations. Players move their pieces on the blank squares of the “Inner Path” by selecting Step Cards. The cards are marked with an element, such as carbon, along with its chemical symbol, atomic number, and the number of protons it has. These games also include Claim Cards, which provide the answers for how to balance the equations in the “Outer Path.” Each board comes with its own periodic table, broken into four sections by the “valence,” or combining power, of the elements. The games are specifically aimed at students who are taking chemistry either at the high school or college level, but they may also be valuable for readers who wish to brush up on the basic, foundational elements of the subject. To anyone else, the offerings will probably be incomprehensible. Gebhart’s (2 Lives in 3 Acts, 2017, etc.) determination to make chemistry accessible and interesting for students, especially by presenting them with a new challenge to explore, is admirable. Best of all, his games can all be reproduced and distributed by educators looking for an innovative way to keep their chemistry classes engaged with the topic. The imaginative work should be especially useful for students struggling with the material in their chemistry classes, who may not expect the curriculum to be amenable to games. The volume subverts the belief that learning the hard sciences has to be difficult or laborious.

This worthy sequel makes learning chemistry fun with a quartet of inventive board games.

Pub Date: Oct. 26, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4611-3894-5

Page Count: 54

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2017

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An authoritative, engaging study of plant life, accessible to younger readers as well as adults.


A neurobiologist reveals the interconnectedness of the natural world through stories of plant migration.

In this slim but well-packed book, Mancuso (Plant Science/Univ. of Florence; The Revolutionary Genius of Plants: A New Understanding of Plant Intelligence and Behavior, 2018, etc.) presents an illuminating and surprisingly lively study of plant life. He smoothly balances expansive historical exploration with recent scientific research through stories of how various plant species are capable of migrating to locations throughout the world by means of air, water, and even via animals. They often continue to thrive in spite of dire obstacles and environments. One example is the response of plants following the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Three decades later, the abandoned “Exclusion Zone” is now entirely covered by an enormous assortment of thriving plants. Mancuso also tracks the journeys of several species that might be regarded as invasive. “Why…do we insist on labeling as ‘invasive’ all those plants that, with great success, have managed to occupy new territories?” asks the author. “On a closer look, the invasive plants of today are the native flora of the future, just as the invasive species of the past are a fundamental part of our ecosystem today.” Throughout, Mancuso persuasively articulates why an understanding and appreciation of how nature is interconnected is vital to the future of our planet. “In nature everything is connected,” he writes. “This simple law that humans don’t seem to understand has a corollary: the extinction of a species, besides being a calamity in and of itself, has unforeseeable consequences for the system to which the species belongs.” The book is not without flaws. The loosely imagined watercolor renderings are vague and fail to effectively complement Mancuso’s richly descriptive prose or satisfy readers’ curiosity. Even without actual photos and maps, it would have been beneficial to readers to include more finely detailed plant and map renderings.

An authoritative, engaging study of plant life, accessible to younger readers as well as adults.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-63542-991-6

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Other Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science...


Bryson (I'm a Stranger Here Myself, 1999, etc.), a man who knows how to track down an explanation and make it confess, asks the hard questions of science—e.g., how did things get to be the way they are?—and, when possible, provides answers.

As he once went about making English intelligible, Bryson now attempts the same with the great moments of science, both the ideas themselves and their genesis, to resounding success. Piqued by his own ignorance on these matters, he’s egged on even more so by the people who’ve figured out—or think they’ve figured out—such things as what is in the center of the Earth. So he goes exploring, in the library and in company with scientists at work today, to get a grip on a range of topics from subatomic particles to cosmology. The aim is to deliver reports on these subjects in terms anyone can understand, and for the most part, it works. The most difficult is the nonintuitive material—time as part of space, say, or proteins inventing themselves spontaneously, without direction—and the quantum leaps unusual minds have made: as J.B.S. Haldane once put it, “The universe is not only queerer than we suppose; it is queerer than we can suppose.” Mostly, though, Bryson renders clear the evolution of continental drift, atomic structure, singularity, the extinction of the dinosaur, and a mighty host of other subjects in self-contained chapters that can be taken at a bite, rather than read wholesale. He delivers the human-interest angle on the scientists, and he keeps the reader laughing and willing to forge ahead, even over their heads: the human body, for instance, harboring enough energy “to explode with the force of thirty very large hydrogen bombs, assuming you knew how to liberate it and really wished to make a point.”

Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science into perspective.

Pub Date: May 6, 2003

ISBN: 0-7679-0817-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Broadway

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2003

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