Rockliff and Bruno’s playful approach buoys solid science and history.

MESMERIZED

HOW BEN FRANKLIN SOLVED A MYSTERY THAT BAFFLED ALL OF FRANCE

Ben Franklin’s several years in France during the American Revolution included an occasion on which he consulted on a scientific matter for the French king.

Louis XVI commissioned a study when he became concerned about the number of complaints he was hearing from French doctors about a German—Dr. Franz Mesmer—who seemed to wield a powerful, mysterious method of healing. Among the scientists and doctors asked to report was the American emissary Benjamin Franklin. In Rockliff’s account, Franklin observes Mesmer’s colleague, Charles D’Eslon, at work, then tinkers with Mesmer’s “animal magnetism” technique by blindfolding and misdirecting D’Eslon’s subjects. Franklin’s hypothesis—that results were accounted for by the subject’s imagination and not an external force—is quickly proved. Text displayed in ribbons, a couple of late-18th-century typefaces and other flourishes create a sense of time and place. The endpapers are brightly hypnotic. Bruno’s digitally colored pencil art lightly evokes period caricature and gently pokes fun at the ornate clothing and hair of French nobility. The tale is nicely pitched to emphasize the importance of a hypothesis, testing and verification, and several inset text boxes are used to explain these scientific tools. Rockliff points out that Franklin’s blind-test technique is in use today for medical treatments, and both the placebo effect and hypnosis are studied today.

Rockliff and Bruno’s playful approach buoys solid science and history. (author’s note, sources) (Nonfiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: Feb. 24, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-7636-6351-3

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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A classic story of outsiders making friends—with a little something more.

LONG DISTANCE

After moving to a new city, a girl attends a wilderness camp to help her make new friends.

When astronomy-obsessed 9-year-old Vega’s dad Wes gets a new job, the family moves from Portland to Seattle. Vega is not happy about this change and doesn’t want to leave her best friend behind, worrying they will grow apart. Vega’s dad Javi thinks making new friends will help her adjust, so he signs her up for Camp Very Best Friend, which is designed to help introverted local children build new friendships. Vega is not exactly eager to go but makes a deal with Wes, agreeing to try out camp as long as he tries to make a new friend too. It quickly becomes clear that this is no ordinary outdoor adventure, and Vega and her fellow campers try to figure out what is really going on. The story smoothly incorporates STEM facts with insets on the page to define and highlight terms or tools. An unexpected twist toward the end of this fast-paced adventure that reveals the truth behind the camp will surprise readers. The clean, bright artwork is enhanced by panels of varying shapes and clear, easy-to-follow speech bubbles. Race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation are not explicitly addressed; characters’ names and physical appearances indicate a broadly diverse cast starting with brown-skinned Vega and her two dads.

A classic story of outsiders making friends—with a little something more. (Graphic fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: June 29, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5344-5566-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: April 30, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

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Adequate from an informational standpoint: for hands-on engineering, a disappointing demonstration that less is less.

FLYING MACHINES

A brief but lucid introduction to aerodynamics, kitted up with materials for five ultralightweight flying models.

Supported by clearly labeled diagrams and cartoon portraits of typical and historical aircraft, the explanations of thrust, lift, roll, yaw, pitch and other considerations that must be taken into account when designing even the simplest fliers and gliders will give young aeronauts a good grounding in the basics. Step-by-step directions for assembling the provided models—two hand-launched gliders and three craft driven by rubber-band–powered propellers—are incorporated. Arnold goes on to a discussion of indoor vs. outdoor flights that includes a safety checklist and also suggests some experimental modifications to try out. The booklet closes with a blank “logbook” for recording the results of said experiments, followed by a pair of patterned sheets to cut out and fold into paper planes. This is all bound up with a deceptively large box in which punch-out forms on insubstantial sheets of neoprene and balsa, plus two plastic propellers and some wire, rattle around. Not only is five a paltry number next to, say, the 35 fliers for which Bobby Mercer supplies instructions (if not materials) in his Flying Machine Book (2012), but the paucity of propellers means that the models cannot all be assembled at the same time. Moreover, the balsa is unpainted, and the other pieces are colored on only one side for that extra-cheap look.

Adequate from an informational standpoint: for hands-on engineering, a disappointing demonstration that less is less. (Informational novelty/kit. 8-10)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7636-7107-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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