A highlights reel of the periodic table of elements, with 24 experiments and demonstrations.
Connolly (The Book of Potentially Catastrophic Science, 2010, etc.) focuses on 20 of the table’s common “key players,” providing for each accounts of its historic discovery, how it bonds or otherwise behaves with other substances, common uses, quick snapshots of neighboring elements, and one or two experiments. These last are the weakest link, as, for instance, the author simply instructs budding chemists to buy trick birthday candles rather than try to make them, pulls a bait and switch with a project for neon that uses a fluorescent bulb (“Sure, it’s filled with a different gas…but the experiment gets the same result”), and, thanks to garbled instructions, leaves the circuit unclosed in a supposed demonstration of graphite’s electrical conductivity. In her very simple cartoon illustrations Bean doesn’t always pick up the slack (placing the wire and nail in a potato “battery” close together rather than, as the instructions specify, as far apart as possible) but does at least portray a diverse cast of young makers along with decorative historical and fanciful images. Otherwise, the author further punches up a set of colorfully delivered tales of discovery with plenty of side notes on hazardous products and isotopes, capped by a closing rogues’ gallery of particularly dangerous elements, and also offers lucid pictures of chemical processes and how the periodic table is organized.
Fresh and informal but stronger on background than hands-on experiences. (glossary) (Nonfiction. 10-13)