Children's Literature - Amy S. HansenThis set offers an encyclopedia-like approach to many of the world's inventions, divided into six volumes. While not exhaustive, the books do cover everything from the phonograph to the microwave to tea bags to sliced bread. Each invention is covered in an attractive two-page spread with a clearly-organized format. The first page holds the name of the inventor and the story behind the invention. The second has a description of how the invention works and what changes have been made over time. Some pages have an added "Did You Know?" section that gives a piece of trivia or a point of reference for a younger reader. In the spread discussing tea bags, the authors ask "Did You Know? Some people put cold tea bags on their eyes as a beauty treatment to prevent puffy eyes and wrinkles." The technical descriptions of how an invention works are clearly written, if not always complete. For example, when explaining the microwave, which they've described as an electronic device earlier, the authors say: "The main part of a microwave oven is the magnetron. It makes microwaves. The microwaves travel along a pipe and hit a rotating paddle." All of this is accurate, but doesn't actually say what a microwave is. Is it a form of gas? Is it a mist that comes out of the pipe? In fact, a microwave is a cousin to a light or sound wave, and all of them are forms of electromagnetic energy. Giving those particulars would have been helpful. The book is illustrated with drawings and photos of the inventions and inventors that serve to break up the text. Some of the photos show people using the inventions (e.g., a baby in a car seat, a person blowing a bubble with bubblegum, someone using sunscreen).Unfortunately, few of the photos show people of color and only one shows a woman inventor, although several inventions are credited to women inventors. Another complaint, though a relatively minor one, is that the series was originally published in Australia and retains the standard Australian spellings. Thus, the first invention listed is "airconditioner" rather than "air conditioner." That said, this series is still likely to be a welcome read for information seekers.
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