Monday, December 26, 2011
Nonfiction Monday: Biomimicry by Dora Lee, illustrated by Margot Thompson
The book begins with a discussion of how humans are destroying the planet, but learning from nature a more sustainable way of life could help save it. We see inventions from the past that are based on principles found in nature; camouflage, Velcro, and even the motor.
The bulk of the book is divided into sections examined different sciences where inventions are being modeled on natural organisms - or could be. "Shaped for survival" - how about a house air-conditioned like a termite mound? "Smart Structures" - or did you know Olympic swimmers wear swimsuits inspired by sharkskin? "Magic materials" - will scientists one day be able to recreate the amazing substance of nacre, produced by shells?
These and many move inventions, past, present, future, and theoretical are presented as well as problem-solving - like observing a kingfisher to improve bullet trains or copying natural spirals to make energy-efficient, quiet fan blades.
This is a fascinating topic and I like the overall design of the book, each spread having an introduction to the particular scientific area and then a 3 or 4 paragraphs on different inventions or possible solutions. I did think the book emphasized the "we're destroying the earth" theme a little too much; it wasn't really necessary and could have been briefly mentioned in the introduction.
However, the one thing that takes this book down from "amazing" to "ok" is the illustrations. I really wanted to see side-by-side comparisons of the some of the different organisms and man-made materials and structures, but the pictures almost exclusively show the natural part of the equation. The cover was the best of the illustrations and I was disappointed that the interior pictures didn't match it. The art is textured and grainy, acrylics on canvas, and doesn't give the detail and depth I needed to better understand what was being explained. The illustrations aren't "bad" just not, in my opinion, suited to the book.
Verdict: This is a cool topic and one kids will be interested in, but the unappealing illustrations and lack of detail will make it hard to hold kids' attention. This is a nonfiction title that would have benefited from photographs. An additional purchase.
ISBN: 978-1554534678; Published August 2011 by Kids Can Press; Review copy provided by the publisher through Raab Associates