Children's Literature - Mary Ashcliffe
One comes to expect excellence in the nonfiction sets from Marshall Cavendish. This set, while well-researched and well-written, caused me to wonder what the criteria for inclusion was. There were inventions cited that were profound and inventions that were, well, cute. That poses the first problem: what is the intent of this set? The next problem to be aware of is the book design. The narrative, stochastic approach was used rather than an historical, conceptual, or interconnectednessala James Burke and Connectionsapproach. This format is especially suited for people like Galileo or Archimedes who had an unusually interesting life or multiple inventions that impacted history. That said, there are good articles on commonly unknown inventors who are less than household names. Mary Anderson, a person who was ahead of her time, was the original inventor of the windshield wiper. It was of noted that J. R. Oishei independently created the same thing. A third problem is with some of the entriesLevi Strauss was not the inventor of blue jeans, his partner was. More importantly, a significant part of the article is a cultural retrospective about blue jeans. The product here is more important than the process of invention. The fourth problem is one of in consistency; occasionally, there are simple, mini "how-things-work" explanations. This would be appropriate throughout the set. These explanations provide a depth to the discussions where this is used; unfortunately, it makes the lack of these explanations all the more noticeable where they are absent. How things work is, after all, a significant part of an invention. A major plus in this reviewer's mind is the section on"Accidents and Mistakes." In our world of forsaking what does not immediately gratify, the value of awareness, the unexpected, and paying attention to what has happened, even if it is not the desired outcome, is an important message. An excellent aspect of this set is the examination of controversy and contention surrounding some inventions. This is discussed in detail where it is appropriatee.g. Alexander Graham Bell claiming and getting credit for the invention of the telephone, despite the work of Antonio Muecci that predated Bell's. Throughout the set there is clear description and well-rounded background, and while the target audience is almost 100% computer savvy, there are bits of information that will amaze and amusethe article on Tim Berners-Lee might give these students surprising information about their favorite "power" tool. Use of colored pages and bolding in the table of contents serve to designate and highlight the overview articles in ways they deserve and ways that were lacking in previous Marshall Cavendish sets this reviewer has seen. There is a wonderful subtext in this set: by showing all sorts of inventors, unknown and well-known, young and old, ancient and modern, the reader gains an understanding that an inventor can be anyone, from any walk of life, with any education. The message is that it is ideas and persistence that pay off with a well-crafted invention. This is especially valuable to those youngsters who are not the brightest scholar but may be intuitive "grease-monkeys" or tinkerers who see a need and a way to fill that need. How valuable is this set to a library or classroom? It depends on what other resources are available to the teacher/librarian and how much the teacher is willing to work with this set in lesson preparation. The presentation these isolated inventions by other than the name of the invention and the inventor's name (alphabetically) means that the teacher must take considerable time before presenting this to the classroom as a project dealing with, for example, an era or a kind of invention (e.g. communications hardware; computer software). As many good features as it has, this set does not, however, merit a cookie. To be cookie-worthy, in addition to more fully addressing the problems previously cited, greater use of illustration is needed to help the student to more fully understanding each invention. Even more importantly, discussion about the historic significance and consequences of each invention is needed. Otherwise this is a nice book of biographies of inventors with some extra discussion, and as such, it should be named Inventors. After all, it is the effect these creations had on humanity that moved them from someone's dream to a common reality. Reviewer: Mary Ashcliffe
Who invented air conditioners? What about Coca-Cola and eBay? This set goes beyond the basic answers to such questions. Each of its 172 articles starts with a paragraph on the significance of the invention in question and includes brief biographical information and discussion of the inventor's research process as well as the impact of the invention. Insets may include time lines or information on such topics as how the invention works, related inventions, and statistics. Each article also includes See alsoreferences and a "Further Reading" section covering print and online sources. Twenty-one topical articles are scattered throughout the set, including "Accidents and Mistakes," "Contests," "Corporate Invention," "Invention and Innovation," "Patents," and "Young Inventors." Volume 1 has a thematic outline of contents, organizing the inventors in 14 broad categories; Volumes 1 through 4 include volume indexes; and Volume 5 includes a glossary, resources for further study organized by category, a name index, an inventions index, and a comprehensive index. The entire set is illustrated with colorful and well-chosen graphics.
Rosanne M. Cordell
School Library Journal
Gr 5 Up -Arranged alphabetically by inventor, the 172 entries in this set include information on Mary Andersona€™s windshield wipers, George Eastmana€™s handheld camera, King C. Gillettea€™s safety razor, and Frank Whittlea€™s jet engine. Articles are usually 10 to 12 pages in length and contain brief biographical information. Each one describes the inventora€™s work as well as the efforts of any predecessors or competitors integral to developing and refining it. Entries are accompanied by well-captioned vintage and color photographs, charts, drawings, and diagrams; a time line is included in each chapter. Lengthy essays interspersed throughout the set cover subjects such as a€œAccidents and Mistakes,a€ a€œEnergy and Power,a€ and a€œOptics and Vision.a€ A simulated parchment page in many articles offers related information, for example, a€œThe History of Packaged Frozen Food,a€ in the a€œClarence Birdseyea€ entry. Sources for further information, including Web sites, conclude each entry, and are repeated in a comprehensive listing in volume five. The last volume boasts name, invention, and comprehensive indexes. Some accounts of these inventions can be found in other sources, but none are as inclusive and thorough as this one.-Eldon Younce, Harper Elementary School, KS