CM . . .
. Volume XVII Number 6. . . .October 8, 2010
Evil Inventions. (Horrible Science).
Nick Arnold. Illustrated by Tony De Saulles.
Toronto, ON: Scholastic, 2010.
144 pp., pbk., $6.99.
Grades 3-6 / Ages 8-11.
Review by Jonine Bergen.
One Victorian inventor devised a powerful spring-powered mousetrap that splattered the mouse on the ceiling. And I bet that wasn't a mice way to goo.
Evil Inventions has all the trademark Nick Arnold ingredients that makes the rest of the "Horrible Science" series so popular with elementary students; two parts puns and bad jokes, two parts references to bodily functions (especially poo), a sprinkle of all things gross and a handful of science.
Arnold's writing is chatty and reads like Bill Nye describing science topics with the vocabulary of an excited 10-year-old. Frankly, it is hard reading for a former English teacher. I react to the "Horrible Science" series as I do to Sponge-Bob books; the desire to correct, restructure, and edit is particularly strong. However, underneath this boy-next-door "look at my goofy gerbil fun shirt" veneer, there is an effective structure anddare I say—real science.
Following the same format of the other titles in the "Horrible Science" series, Evil Inventions has a functional table of contents and index which references people, specific inventions, scientific topics and important terms. Further, the chapters are subdivided into sections throughout which Arnold and De Saulles make excellent use of sidebars and illustrations to effectively explain complex ideas. In the chapter entitled "Barmy bikes and cruel contraptions," for example, while reading about the boneshaker and a tricycle lawnmower for children, readers also learn the science behind the lever, wheel, gears, springs and screws.
As with the other books in this series, Arnold is joined by his cartoon-drawing sidekick, Tony De Saulles, who continues to illustrate the science behind the inventions with clear, concise black and white drawings—and a side of drool or bulging eyeballs.
I predict Scholastic will be very successful with their Canadian publication of this previously released "Horrible Science" book. It is worth noting that Nick Arnold recently won the Thomson Reuters Record Award for Communicating Science in England for another of his "Horrible Science" books, Wasted World. Although teachers and librarians may wince, Evil Inventions will be enjoyed by younger students and reluctant readers who may learn some science while regaling their classmates with crazy facts, including that, in 2005, a German inventor "mixed a fuel made of 20 run-over dead cats and rotting rubbish." Gross—but, really? Pass the book, bud.
Jonine Bergen is a librarian in Winnipeg, MB.
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