Science Comics: Rocks and Minerals
Geology from Caverns to the Cosmos
by Andy Hirsch
I wasn’t expecting the book to start with so much information about the Big Bang and meteorites and the makeup of the earth and volcanoes. It’s necessary for the topic, I suppose, but that’s not the book I was looking for. It lost my interest early on and never recaptured it.
Sedona is an overly dramatic rock hunter and Wally her wannabe assistant. Too much of the book is just Sedona lecturing Wally on terms and processes, and I’m not that interested in the topic to sit through that without my attention wandering. I found it hard to finish and thought the material required a strong prior interest in the subject to drive the reader through all the geology.
Science Comics: Cats
Nature and Nurture
by Andy Hirsch
This is more like it. There’s a much more compelling story from the beginning, as we meet a cute, hungry kitten named Bean. As she hunts, we learn about feline anatomy — emphasis on claws and teeth — and other members of the cat family and their behavior. There’s information on their whiskers and eyes and purrs and grooming.
Hirsch’s art style is well-suited to animals, giving them plenty of personality in a cartoony way. That makes the book incredibly readable with plenty of intriguing tidbits of information, including about breeding and domestication. Seeing all the different kinds of cats and why they look the way they do — Hirsch explains coat patterns and tail purpose, among other facts — is fascinating. I loved reading this, and it’s a great choice for anyone interested in cats.
Science Comics: Skyscrapers
The Heights of Engineering
by John Kerschbaum
This volume is the reason I’m behind on this series overall, as it was so boring and annoying that it put me off the whole thing. Perhaps children are more interested in the topic than I am. I know younger readers won’t be as frustrated by the “it’s not Superman because we don’t want to get sued but it looks like him” main character.
The introduction uses all of Superman’s catch phrases — “Look! Up in the sky!”, “It’s a bird! It’s a plane!”, “Faster than a speeding bullet!” — only for the populace to be bored by “just another superhero”. That contempt isn’t helped by the “comedy” of the unnamed red-and-blue hero running into a skyscraper under construction because he hadn’t realized how high it went.
Then the superhero starts explaining “the marvel of engineering” required to build one that can withstand gravity and winds and earthquakes to the wide-eyed, dark-skinned, buck-toothed Quiz Kid who exists just to ask questions. It would have been nice if he’d looked less like a stereotype.
There’s a lot less information in this book, because of the “banter” inserted between the two characters as they fly around through time to learn about how to build a really tall building by looking at the Great Pyramid and the Colosseum and the Empire State Building. This is another illustrated lecture, with large blocks of text explaining jargon. Thankfully, that made it a quick read, albeit a disappointing one.
Science Comics: The Digestive System
A Tour Through Your Guts
written by Jason Viola, art by Andy Ristaino
This one set itself apart by starting with the contents of the system instead of the organs or processes. We learn about nutrients, guided by a mouth bacterium, before moving into the structure and function of the mouth. The journey continues through the digestive tract.
I found it cute that the various guides to different parts of the process only know about their own sections, with everything else being unknown. It’s rather bureaucratic, even though they’re bacteria. And cute is needed, as the material is full of unfamiliar medical terms, but the smiling bacteria, and the humorous cartoon approach, help make it more entertaining. It’s a lot to take in all at once, though. (The publisher provided review copies of some of the above titles.)