Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Elements: A Visual Exploration of Every Known Atom in the Universe by Theodore Gray, Photographs by Theodore Gray and Nick Mann

Plutonium is illegal to buy anywhere in the United States, but some Americans carry it inside their pacemaker batteries.  Bananas are radioactive, but only slightly more so that many other things we consume.  Gray mixes fascinating tidbits like these with narrative descriptions of each element’s properties and finds a way to inject the end of each page with a bit of suspense sprinkled with humor.   The two-page spreads dedicated to each element are preceded by Gray’s introduction to the periodic table.  Gray’s writing is remarkable science writing on its own, but the accompanying photographs illustrating both the element being described and some of its uses with captions is a winning formula for readers who may not think they like to read about chemistry.   Backmatter includes a narrative walk through the names of elements 101 to 118 on the table and is followed by an author’s note on the joys of element collecting, an image of the author,  a bibliography, acknowledgements, and an index.  All patrons may enjoy browsing and reading the images within; students reading at upper elementary/middle school levels and beyond may enjoy the text, and science teachers may reach for this in designing lessons to familiarize students with the variety of elements on Earth.  Highly recommended for every school library collection serving middle school and high school readers.—Jessica Fenster-Sparber

Gray, Theodore and Nick Mann.  The Elements: A Visual Exploration of Every Known Atom in the Universe.  New York: Black Dog & Leventhal, 2009.  Print.

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