Tuesday, November 12, 2013

DIY--Science! How to Make a Universe with 92 Ingredients by Adrian Dingle


This book is about elements. There aren't many of them, but they make up everything you see. They make up the world. In fact, they make up the whole universe. Oh... and they make up YOU, too!

It's all made of the same stuff--the stars, the seas, the sandy shore, and our torsos, too. The elements of matter do matter, and that is the premise of Adrian Dingle's just published How to Make a Universe with 92 Ingredients: An Electrifying Guide to the Elements (OwlKids, 2013).

Author Dingle begins with the elements of chemistry, the famous and sometimes feared PERIODIC TABLE, managing to explain it so that you can really understand it, at least for the moment.  In a double-page spread, with labels, a color-coded key, a text box which explains the groupings (alkali metals, halogens, noble gases)  in the periodic table, and a diagram of hydrogen with its color code, atomic number, mass number, symbol, and full name,  Dingle's book covers the basics of the layout credited to Dmitri Mendeleev (1834-1907). Two following sections explain basic terminology and concepts such as atoms, molecules, and compounds or solid, liquid, gas, compounds and ions.

Of course, kids who groove on systems and schema will find this spread absorbing, and those who don't will quickly turn the pages dealing with the periodic table to get to the following kid-pleasing two-page spreads, each of which deals with one of those hot topics of science--I'm Gonna Make You A STAR! (sun and stars), Let's Rock! (rocks and minerals), and Don't Blow Your Top! (volcanoes).  Mixed with catchy-titled fact boxes, fun facts, and the occasional corny joke (adult supervision needed to build your own nuclear reactor), these pages are divided loosely into four sections: Space, Earth, and Nature, Daily Life, Materials, and Cool Machines.

Author Dingle does his due diligence in relating these hot topics to the elemental chemistry involved, while providing do-able science experiments--how to make movie-stunt-type sugar glass, the old standby electromagnet, ice cream in three zip-lock plastic bags, and a spool racing car--and furnishing fascinating facts, but most of the double-page spreads focus on the use of those elements introduced in the periodic table in the making of familiar products--soap, cell phones, fizzy soft drinks, and matches, for example--and the interaction of the elements in our external and internal worlds.

Aimed at the middle reader, the aim of How to Make a Universe with 92 Ingredients: An Electrifying Guide to the Elements is clearly intended to catch the attention of this still open-minded group and to portray the science of chemistry as an intriguing body of knowledge in which the sky is not even the limit, all with those 92  elements. The virtue and vice of this approach is that it builds wide interest without going into any great depth--a limitation that all such browsing books share. Given that most 'tweener readers are not going to lose themselves in a book on, say, everything you ever wanted to know about the noble gases without some sort of literary hook and preparation, books like this fill the gap before high school study. But with the opening section on the periodic table and the appended glossary (Cool Words), a bibliography of books and websites, and an easily-used index, this one is a good choice for creating enthusiasm and a bit of understanding for the sometimes daunting field of chemistry itself. School Library Journal says, "Overall, this is a title sure to find an audience, one that will gain a newfound respect for the elements."

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