Hacks and Snacks

Edible Inventions: Cooking Hacks and Yummy Recipes You Can Build, Mix, Bake, and Grow by Kathy Ceceri. Maker Media, 2016. 9781680452051.

Like I said last time, maker books cover a lot of territory, from the sort of safe educational activities you used to learn about on PBS science shows to building a robot that spits fire. Edible Inventions spans a fun segment of the usual danger and futuristic-ness spectrums. You can build a hydraulic Lego 3D printer (a sort of food-based pen-plotter that can draw on a graham cracker with frosting), do your own molecular gastronomy by making gelatin dots and agar noodles, freeze a sorbet with dry ice, and make fancy fermented ketchup from scratch. There are also the projects I remember fondly from my own youth: solar ovens, homemade granola, home-fermented yogurt, and a tin-can cooker. Which is not to say that these golden oldies haven’t been updated! The section on that old standard, growing a tree from an avocado pit, also has instructions for growing new plants from the root ends of leeks, garlic, and romaine lettuce. There’s enough here to not only appeal to kids but to challenge them as well, plus chapter bibliographies in case they want to go further.

The Big Book of Surgery

The Sacred Heart: An Atlas of the Body Seen Through Invasive Surgery by Max Aguilera-Hellweg. Bulfinch Press, 1997. 9780821223772. 128pp.

Gene: This is a Wow, but it’s also potentially an Ick. What I love about sharing books with you is that I’m digging into books that I’ve kept for a long time and asking myself why I’ve kept them, and if they’re worth hanging on to. This book freaks me out.
Sarah: Ugh!
G: It’s photographs of surgery. I’ve looked at it so many times, but so quickly, that I didn’t realize before the other day that a lot of the pictures are of the same surgery. I never read the essay before (I did a little this time) because the photos take over my brain and then I have to stop looking at it. Continue reading “The Big Book of Surgery”

First Ones to Go Viral

Virus by Marilyn J. Roossinck. Princeton University Press, 2016. 9780691166964.

virusThe cover says “an illustrated guide to 101 incredible microbes,” which is why I picked it up. Each two-page profile of a virus includes: 1) a large colorized photograph of the virus, 2) a diagram of its anatomy, 3) a thumbnail guide to how it’s classified and what it does, and 4) a paragraph on its discovery and significance. There are also sections on virus basics like reproduction and immunity.

Each page I flipped to was fascinating and strange and beautiful. I liked it even though some of the science was beyond me. You can learn a lot about viruses or just ogle the crazy pictures: either way, this book is cool.

More Informative Than Another Ark Story

Grandmother Fish: A Child’s First Book of Evolution by Jonathan Tweet, illustrated by Karen Lewis. Feiwel and Friends, 2015. 9781250113238.

grandmotherfishWhat appears at first to be a sweet picture book about creatures in humans’ evolutionary tree, complete with actions and noises for a children to imitate (chomp like grandmother fish, squeak like grandmother mammal), is actually an incredibly well-made and researched introduction to evolution for kids. (The chomping represents the development of hinged jaws, the squeaking is making vocalizations with the throat.  These and other ideas are explained in more detail at the back of the book.)

This was the result of 15 years of work and a Kickstarter campaign inspired by the author’s need for a book to explain evolution to his daughter. His care and effort shows.

Insert Jaquard Loom Pun Here

Ada Lovelace, Poet of Science: The First Computer Programmer by Diane Stanley, illustrated by Jessie Hartland. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2016. 9781481452496.

adalovelaceAda thought it might be cool to fly from house to house and deliver the mail. (This was long before airplanes.) So she went about her project in a scientific way: she studied bird flight and anatomy, and designed really big wings out of wire frames covered with oiled silk to be connected to a harness for her back. She decided to write a book about her project called Flyology, then work on her steam-powered flying horse idea.

This whole thing worried her mother. Would she turn out to be a hopeless dreamer like her dad, Lord Byron, who had long since abandoned his family and died young? To calm her daughter down, she set her to studying math and science like she had. This did not work in the slightest.

At this point in the story, I was already thinking this is the coolest kid ever and I want to hang out with her. AND WE HAVEN’T EVEN GOTTEN TO THE COMPUTER STUFF YET!

The illustrations are simple, energetic, almost sloppy-looking paintings that really convey the excitement of Ada’s ideas and how happy she was when she got to figure things out. The explanation of the ideas leading up to the Difference Engine and the Analytical Engine, and why Ada’s writing on them was truly revolutionary (even if it was overlooked for years), was very well done. This a great biography for readers of any age.