Kirkus Reviews QR Code
EXPLORING THE ELEMENTS by Isabel Thomas Kirkus Star


A Complete Guide to the Periodic Table

by Isabel Thomas ; illustrated by Sara Gillingham

Pub Date: Nov. 18th, 2020
ISBN: 978-1-83866-231-8
Publisher: Phaidon

An illustrated guide to the periodic table and all 118 discovered elements.

Chic, minimalist illustrations and clear, engaging text combine in a striking and attractive design. An introduction describes elements (“the building blocks of everything”), chemistry (“the scientific study of all the different substances we find around us”), and the periodic table (“an important map, telling chemists and other scientists where to look when they are trying to answer a question, invent a new material, or solve a problem”). In the chapters that follow, based on categories that group similar elements together, each element gets a two-page spread of its own. One page shows the element’s atomic diagram, key properties, and main sources together with several paragraphs about its history and characteristics. The second page shows illustrations of the element’s significant forms, like “gemstones” for aluminum (rubies and sapphires are aluminum oxide crystals), and uses, such as “violet fireworks” for rubidium. Some less-common elements have shorter sections. Clean lines, scrupulous organization, and a palette based in primary colors present this complex information in a simple and pleasing way. Included with depictions of several White European scientists is an illustration of African American chemist James Andrew Harris. Written with infectious enthusiasm for science, the text also acknowledges the hard truth about technology: “Many of the elements used to make smartphones and other devices are quickly running out. Mining and using what is left is putting tremendous pressure on our planet.”

Could make a chemist out of anyone.

(tables of elemental properties, recommended sources, glossary, index) (Nonfiction. 8-14)