A new collection from an old hand at designing intriguing STEM activities that will entertain as well as enlighten.



From the Irresponsible Science series

Memorable disasters inspire modern experiments.

The author of The Book of Wildly Spectacular Sports Science (2016) offers this lively presentation of descriptions, explanations, and simple experiments that demonstrate the problems that caused 20 engineering disasters. Organized chronologically from the collapse of the Colossus of Rhodes in 226 BCE to London’s “Fryscraper” built in 2013, this is an irreverent history of human hubris. Besides a wide range of spectacular collapses, his examples include a molasses flood, an oil spill, a lake accidentally drained, a plane too heavy to fly, a car too underpowered to scale hills, and, of course, the leaning tower in Pisa, the “unsinkable” Titanic, and the dancing Tacoma Narrows Bridge. Each failure is presented with a quick, single-page account, an exploration of “what went wrong,” and a feature called “turn back the clock” describing what people knew at the time and relevant engineering principles. Each is accompanied by an experiment or two illustrating the problem or principles. These are clearly laid out with materials, step-by-step methods, and a follow-up explanation. They use commonly available materials and for the most part could be done without adult supervision, though they often require a friend or a small group. Photos and cartoonlike illustrations complete the appealing package.

A new collection from an old hand at designing intriguing STEM activities that will entertain as well as enlighten. (Nonfiction. 9-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7611-8394-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Workman

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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Contentwise, an arbitrary assortment…but sure to draw fans of comics, of science, or of both.


Flash, Batman, and other characters from the DC Comics universe tackle supervillains and STEM-related topics and sometimes, both.

Credited to 20 writers and illustrators in various combinations, the 10 episodes invite readers to tag along as Mera and Aquaman visit oceanic zones from epipelagic to hadalpelagic; Supergirl helps a young scholar pick a science-project topic by taking her on a tour of the solar system; and Swamp Thing lends Poison Ivy a hand to describe how DNA works (later joining Swamp Kid to scuttle a climate-altering scheme by Arcane). In other episodes, various costumed creations explain the ins and outs of diverse large- and small-scale phenomena, including electricity, atomic structure, forensic techniques, 3-D printing, and the lactate threshold. Presumably on the supposition that the characters will be more familiar to readers than the science, the minilectures tend to start from simple basics, but the figures are mostly both redrawn to look more childlike than in the comics and identified only in passing. Drawing styles and page designs differ from chapter to chapter but not enough to interrupt overall visual unity and flow—and the cast is sufficiently diverse to include roles for superheroes (and villains) of color like Cyborg, Kid Flash, and the Latina Green Lantern, Jessica Cruz. Appended lists of websites and science-based YouTube channels, plus instructions for homespun activities related to each episode, point inspired STEM-winders toward further discoveries.

Contentwise, an arbitrary assortment…but sure to draw fans of comics, of science, or of both. (Graphic nonfiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-77950-382-4

Page Count: 160

Publisher: DC

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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A splendid volume for young adventurers.



Based on her work with middle-school students, Long offers lessons on how to stay healthy and out of trouble while awaiting rescue, the same lessons taught to adults in her survival classes.

Her matter-of-fact, no-nonsense tone will play well with young readers, and the clear writing style is appropriate to the content. The engaging guide covers everything from building shelters to avoiding pigs and javelinas. With subjects like kissing bugs, scorpions, snow blindness and “How going to the bathroom can attract bears and mountain lions,” the volume invites browsing as much as studying. The information offered is sometimes obvious: “If you find yourself facing an alligator, get away from it”; sometime humorous: Raccoons will “fight with your dog, steal all your food, then climb up a tree and call you bad names in raccoon language”; and sometimes not comforting: “When alligators attack on land, they usually make one grab at you; if they miss, you are usually safe.” But when survival is at stake, the more information the better, especially when leavened with some wit. An excellent bibliography will lead young readers to a host of fascinating websites, and 150 clipart-style line drawings complement the text.

A splendid volume for young adventurers. (index not seen) (Nonfiction. 9-14)

Pub Date: May 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-56976-708-5

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Chicago Review Press

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2011

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