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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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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THE GREAT MOON HOAX

Krensky spins a wisp of history into a diaphanous tale that's accompanied by arty illustrations that fail to add substance or even a sense of period. Thanks to the popularity of an actual series of reported sightings of “man-bats,” intelligent beavers and other strange life forms on the Moon that ran in the tabloid New York Sun in 1833, fictional newsboys Jake and Charlie enjoy temporary prosperity—meaning they can buy meals, and sleep in a bed rather than an alley at night. Jake’s imagination is fired with the idea that words, “even if they’re not quite true, ... can make us see amazing things,” but the hope that the paper will continue to offer such sensationalistic “news” for them to peddle each day is plainly the sharper concern. Krensky concentrates on conveying the newsboys’ hand-to-mouth existence; the stories themselves and the unsurprising later revelation that they were a hoax draw only brief references and quotes in the narrative. These are supplemented by clipped fragments of illegible printing held by the crudely drawn, sometimes anachronistically dressed figures in Bisaillon’s scraped, mud-colored collages. Don Brown’s Kid Blink Beats the World (2004) brings the life of 19th-century newsboys into sharper focus, and when it comes to examining popular hoaxes, Meghan McCarthy’s Aliens Are Coming! (2006) sets the bar. (afterword) (Picture book. 8-10)

Pub Date: April 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-7613-5110-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Carolrhoda

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2011

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