These brave efforts to bring data to life are hobbled by unimaginative visuals.

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THE HUMAN BODY

From the World in Infographics series

Like its preceding titles (The Natural World, 2013, etc.), this attempt to illuminate factual information by presenting it in visual ways seldom exploits the graphic possibilities.

In single-topic spreads, Richards surveys the human body’s insides and outsides, senses, bacterial fellow travelers, reproduction, growth and organ transplants. Though not particularly systematic—mentioning, for instance, red, white and platelet blood cells but only explaining (some of) the actual functions of whites—he does drop many impressively big numbers and also describes major parts and processes clearly. Printed in intense colors against monochromatic backgrounds, Simkins’ images are eye-catching, but they only illustrate the arrays of quick facts and numbers rather than highlighting comparisons or contrasts. (There are occasional exceptions, like one chart showing changing body proportions and another comparing the hearing acuity of various animals.) The visuals are sometimes misleading to boot, as when the relative amounts of nitrogen and of trace elements shown in a silhouette depicting body components contradict the printed percentages, and cardiac chambers don’t change shape or size in the portrayal of a heartbeat. Similar issues dog the co-published The Human World, in which medallions enclosing the rising number of international travelers over time are the same size, as are all but one of the balloons around population figures for the five largest cities.

These brave efforts to bring data to life are hobbled by unimaginative visuals. (index, websites) (Nonfiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-926973-93-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Owlkids Books

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2013

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Adequate from an informational standpoint: for hands-on engineering, a disappointing demonstration that less is less.

FLYING MACHINES

A brief but lucid introduction to aerodynamics, kitted up with materials for five ultralightweight flying models.

Supported by clearly labeled diagrams and cartoon portraits of typical and historical aircraft, the explanations of thrust, lift, roll, yaw, pitch and other considerations that must be taken into account when designing even the simplest fliers and gliders will give young aeronauts a good grounding in the basics. Step-by-step directions for assembling the provided models—two hand-launched gliders and three craft driven by rubber-band–powered propellers—are incorporated. Arnold goes on to a discussion of indoor vs. outdoor flights that includes a safety checklist and also suggests some experimental modifications to try out. The booklet closes with a blank “logbook” for recording the results of said experiments, followed by a pair of patterned sheets to cut out and fold into paper planes. This is all bound up with a deceptively large box in which punch-out forms on insubstantial sheets of neoprene and balsa, plus two plastic propellers and some wire, rattle around. Not only is five a paltry number next to, say, the 35 fliers for which Bobby Mercer supplies instructions (if not materials) in his Flying Machine Book (2012), but the paucity of propellers means that the models cannot all be assembled at the same time. Moreover, the balsa is unpainted, and the other pieces are colored on only one side for that extra-cheap look.

Adequate from an informational standpoint: for hands-on engineering, a disappointing demonstration that less is less. (Informational novelty/kit. 8-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7636-7107-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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Rockliff and Bruno’s playful approach buoys solid science and history.

MESMERIZED

HOW BEN FRANKLIN SOLVED A MYSTERY THAT BAFFLED ALL OF FRANCE

Ben Franklin’s several years in France during the American Revolution included an occasion on which he consulted on a scientific matter for the French king.

Louis XVI commissioned a study when he became concerned about the number of complaints he was hearing from French doctors about a German—Dr. Franz Mesmer—who seemed to wield a powerful, mysterious method of healing. Among the scientists and doctors asked to report was the American emissary Benjamin Franklin. In Rockliff’s account, Franklin observes Mesmer’s colleague, Charles D’Eslon, at work, then tinkers with Mesmer’s “animal magnetism” technique by blindfolding and misdirecting D’Eslon’s subjects. Franklin’s hypothesis—that results were accounted for by the subject’s imagination and not an external force—is quickly proved. Text displayed in ribbons, a couple of late-18th-century typefaces and other flourishes create a sense of time and place. The endpapers are brightly hypnotic. Bruno’s digitally colored pencil art lightly evokes period caricature and gently pokes fun at the ornate clothing and hair of French nobility. The tale is nicely pitched to emphasize the importance of a hypothesis, testing and verification, and several inset text boxes are used to explain these scientific tools. Rockliff points out that Franklin’s blind-test technique is in use today for medical treatments, and both the placebo effect and hypnosis are studied today.

Rockliff and Bruno’s playful approach buoys solid science and history. (author’s note, sources) (Nonfiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: Feb. 24, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-7636-6351-3

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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