Have you ever driven past a pond and heard a symphony of frog croaks? Well, you were probably hearing those frogs’ regional accents. (Yes, their accents!). Maybe you’re familiar with tadpoles as part of the frog life cycle but did you know out of 2000 eggs, only five will make it to adulthood? (Don’t worry, not only have frogs adapted but they’ve flourished!) There is so much to learn about frogs and Liz Prince’s Frogs: Awesome Amphibians, the latest entry into FirstSecond’s Science Comics series, has no shortage of them.
Fran’s a city kid until one of their dads gets a new job and the whole family moves out to the country. It’s quiet, there’s no one around, and the only thing for them to do is sit by the pond through the trees of their backyard, missing their friends back home. That is, until they meet a talking tadpole in said pond and find themself in Professor Sal A. Mander’s class at Amphibian Academy. The professor is an upright talking salamander who wears glasses and a jacket, just as one would expect at such a school.
Before they know it, Fran’s learning all the ins and outs of amphibians, frogs’ particular classification of cold-blooded vertebrates. This graphic novel is packed to the gills with fascinating frog facts! Fran transports to the Andes Mountains to meet the Lake Titicaca frog, watches a play about the four life stages of an amphibian, and visits the African tropical savannah to discover the role water plays in some frogs’ home environments. They even learn how they can help keep frogs safe and thriving in their very own town!
Prince’s enthusiasm and adorations of frogs shines throughout Science Comics: Frogs. It is very heavy on the information and often goes into detail overload, which will make frog fan readers not want to put this graphic novel down. Not all of the facts are pretty and some more sensitive readers may find themselves slightly grossed out. Fran will be relatable to readers, as even they can’t always hide their disgust at some of the grosser info. Prince’s art style is bright and fun so even the slightly difficult portions are more palatable to younger readers.
Like others in the Science Comics series, the book begins with an introduction from a scientist and ends with additional information for anyone looking to learn more. Frogs: Awesome Amphibians ends with a glossary, as well as a mini comic featuring Prince. She encourages readers to take action and find local Big Night projects, where frog appreciators of all ages come together to help the creatures cross busy roads during their yearly migrations.
Frogs are a common classroom and library pet, so this book is recommended to those that have one, as it’s a handy and colorful guide for readers of all ages who want to learn more. It would also be a great supplement for students learning about the animal kingdom at large and looking for a more in-depth deep dive on a specific vertebrate.
There’s so much to learn about these amazing amphibians, as the title suggests, and Science Comics: Frogs fits nicely both into this ongoing series and onto your non-fiction graphic novel shelf for middle grade readers.
Science Comics: Frogs Awesome Amphibians Vol. By Liz Prince Macmillan First Second, 2023 ISBN: 9781250268860
Publisher Age Rating: 9-13
NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11), Tween (10-13)
Hidden Systems: Water, Electricity, the Internet, and the Secrets Behind the Systems We Use Every Day by Dan Nott (author and artist) is an enlightening nonfiction graphic novel divided into three main parts. The first part explains the development and infrastructure of the internet. Next, Nott outlines the history and current forms of electricity. He closes with an examination of water systems, which includes the natural water cycle and how humans use water. These three systems are hidden in plain sight and taken for granted until they malfunction, or cease to function altogether. Nott’s goal is to provide an understanding of how these vital systems actually work and how we need to improve them to reduce harm to the environment and to communities. In doing so, we can also sustainably ensure necessary access to all people.
The book is well organized with a table of contents, symbols key, introduction, conclusion, citations and a bibliography. The book is text-heavy, but the historic and scientific explanations are well supported by the illustrations. The panels are mostly in a grid pattern with artwork that depicts people inventing and interacting with various technologies as well as the physical components that comprise these infrastructures. Humorous facial expressions and asides make this book fun and encourage the reader to pay close attention. The restrained color palette keeps the packed pages from looking cluttered. Overall, Nott’s artwork is detailed and wrought with care.
Hidden Systems is cataloged as a children’s book. I found many concepts in this book to be complex and better suited for older readers and teens. Some of these concepts include colonialism and inequity of access. For example, communications systems that began with telegraph lines map geographically with colonial outposts that used communication to maintain control. Much of today’s infrastructure still follows those original lines, so that places of power are more advanced with communications while historically subjugated places are trying to catch up (p. 26-31). Another complex concept is that poorer communities and communities of color typically bear the burden of ill health caused by emissions from coal-burning power plants (p. 113). A mention of dams being financed with debt by the World Bank (p. 210) could confuse the reader who lacks knowledge of the global economy. A teacher, parent, or other adult may help a younger reader parse through these facts.
Recommend Hidden Systems to curious older kids and teens with interests in engineering, inventing, and science in general.
Hidden Systems Water, Electricity, the Internet, and the Secrets Behind the Systems We Use Every Day By Dan Nott Penguin Random House, 2023 ISBN: 9780593125366
NFNT Age Recommendation: Older Teen (16-18), Teen (13-16), Tween (10-13) Creator Representation: Queer,
Nonfiction comics, especially informational, how-to guides, have been around for a long time. However, it’s only recently, as the graphic novel format has exploded, that they have begun to diversify into a more narrative format. Many nonfiction titles are now graphic blends, with illustrations, factoids, and cartoons mixed together and this is an interesting example of that style.
The book is arranged in the pattern of the ocean, starting with the Epipelagic, or Sunlight, zone and moving down to the trenches and the Hadalpelagic Zone. Each zone is contained in a chapter, with a few pages for the upper zones and up to twenty pages for the deeper zones. With the chapters, Leigh profiles the creatures that live in each area, noting the depth range of each. The creatures are drawn in cartoon style, with vivid colors, slightly exaggerated shapes and features, and they make jokes and asides in a handful of speech bubbles.
Short sequences of 2-4 panels give information and let the creatures talk directly to the reader. For example, the spread on Sea Angels, a type of sea slug, has a full page showing a larger-than-life sea angel in blue shading to green with bright orange spots. Against the deep blue background of the second page, the information about the sea angel’s hunting of the sea butterfly is illustrated with the sea angel shooting out their crown of tentacles and loudly declaring “Behold me, sea butterflies, and QUIVER WITH FEAR!” The sections of text are included in loose bubble shapes with lighter blue bubbles floating around the area.
The last section of the book deals briefly with specific deep-sea environments like brine pools and adaptations for survival like chemosynthesis. Leigh finishes off the book with an author’s note, suggestions for preventing pollution and learning more about the ocean depths, and an index of all the creatures profiled in the book.
Leigh does an excellent job of illustrated the strange beauty and unique ecosystems of deep-sea creatures in a humorous and accessible way. While this is not, strictly speaking, a traditional graphic narrative, it uses comic elements like panels and speech bubbles to comedic effect, enhancing the collection of informative facts and it will be popular with young readers of many different tastes. I would especially recommend this to fans of Mike Lowery’s Everything Awesome series and readers who are not quite ready for the lengthier and more complex narratives of First Second’s Science Comics.
The Deep!: Wild Life at the Ocean’s Darkest Depths By Lindsey Leigh Penguin Workshop, 2023 ISBN: 9780593521687
NFNT Age Recommendation: Easy Readers (5-9), Middle Grade (7-11)
How did the universe begin? What happens to stars when they die? Big Bangs and Black Holes: A Graphic Novel Guide to the Universe is a short, fast-paced introduction to the field of cosmology. Presenting the key theories that shape our current understanding of the origin and nature of the universe, this graphic novel captures the wow factor of studying the cosmos and shines light on the complex process of scientific discovery.
Producing a 64-page comic about some of the most mind-bending concepts in science is no mean feat, and writer/illustrator HERJI and physicist Jérémie Francfort present a strong offering. Narrated by cosmologist Celeste Aster and her sidekicks, niece Gabrielle and real-life astrophysicist Michel Mayor, Big Bangs and Black Holes uses a conversational tone to outline three big ideas in cosmology: Einstein’s model of space-time, the Big Bang, and black holes. Playful full-color illustrations pair challenging science concepts with accessible imagery: space-time is a beach towel covered with objects that distort its surface, redshifted cosmic background radiation is pastry being distorted by a rolling pin, and black holes are… well, so strange that the artist doesn’t resort to metaphor, instead presenting images of an astronaut falling past an event horizon and being stretched out in a memorable process known as “spaghettification.”
Big Bangs and Black Holes doesn’t shy from hard concepts, and it embraces as its central message that science is an ongoing journey of discovery. Each chapter details how we know what we know—usually a mix of astronomical observation and fiendishly hard math—and highlights questions that we have yet to resolve, such as the nature of black holes, whether current theories mesh with observations of “dark matter” and “dark energy,” and of course, why the Big Bang happened in the first place. Readers are encouraged to understand science not just as received wisdom, but an evolving body of knowledge they can follow and even, perhaps, participate in. As part of facilitating readers’ ability to see themselves as part of this conversation, the book attempts to be inclusive, despite depicting a field that has historically been dominated by white men. Dr. Aster, a white woman, is accompanied by her niece, a young woman of color, and astronomer Henrietta Leavitt is featured for her discovery of an important method for determining the distance of stars.
Due to its length, Big Bangs and Black Holes doesn’t function as a comprehensive overview of cosmology, but engaged readers will find enough here to guide future learning, and the eye-catching illustrations will serve as a useful aid to understanding the associated physics concepts. That said, this book is such a fast-moving overview of its topic that it may not connect with a wide audience. The jokey tone and illustrations feel most suitable for middle or early high school, but the vocabulary and complex material may be difficult for students of this age. Motivated young readers will have a blast, but science novices may wish this was a longer book with a bit more hand-holding along the way.
It’s not every day that you come across a graphic novel that gets into the nitty-gritty of astrophysics with a young audience in mind. Intelligent, goofy, and executed by an artist who’s mastered the nuts and bolts of illustrating science comics, Big Bangs and Black Holes is worth consideration for nonfiction collections serving young adults.
Big Bangs and Black Holes By HERJI, Francfort Jérémie Art by HERJI Helvetiq, 2023 ISBN: 9783907293751
Publisher Age Rating: 13-17
NFNT Age Recommendation: Older Teen (16-18), Teen (13-16) Creator Representation: Swiss
Science Comics! Making up for my 48th-in-the-nation-in-STEM-education-education. (Only partly joking about that, teachers.) I’m serious about this, though: these comics are neat!
Science Comics include a wide variety of representations! This comic has a multigender, multicultural number of characters in non-stereotypical roles, which is also something different from when I was 8-12 years of age. I wish we had had them when I was little. These comics try to include a whole bunch of science information in a short space. This issue has 119 pages. As in my previous Periodical Table review, the comic is text heavy, has asymmetrical panels, comical drawings to help solidify the lesson, and uses well-known (to kids) tropes to make the lessons clear. This comic uses mecha-transformer-type robots and rampaging monsters to introduce the principles of electricity, like voltage (volts), current (amps) and resistance (ohms). A young (and very punk-looking) girl named Julie must help her engineer uncle Niko repair the electricity substation when a battle between their mecha and a somewhat goofy-looking monster takes down their grid.
Many subtle middle-age winks made me smile, and parents will like the two-layered humor when reading this with their kids. An example:
In explaining the types of potential and kinetic energy on page 22: Niko: “Huh. These looked different when I was a kid.” Julie, with eyerolls: “There’s been a reboot.” Niko: “Looks like the city’s hero is coming out of retirement! *squnch*…The city’s hero used to be more flexible.”
I think the writing and the story flow better in this comic than the Periodical Table one. For example, on p. 50-51 is a very funny way to explain how solar panels work. Equally amusing stories depict how and why different deliverers of energy work like they do, like natural gas, coal, nuclear, wind, and hydroelectric plants. I’m sure the snarky self-assured teenage comments from Julie (“Ya’ll used this for HOW long?”) hit home with her uncle. (How far does that mecha’s electrical cord stretch, anyway?)
Kids will likely be the generation that will deal with climate change and this comic takes that issue head-on. Blackouts and other climate change-induced problems will probably increase, especially when the security of the electrical grid is increasingly discussed in places like California, Texas, and Florida, and this part of the comic teaches students this. The comic stays on the positive side, though, explaining that we can begin to improve things with newer technology currently being invented and refined.
The comic includes an introduction, a glossary of terms used in the book, and is brightly colored through all the panels and pages. I reviewed the pre-published online version, but if its release is like the previous Science Comics, it will be sturdily bound and will hold up to many circulations. Recommended for middle school and public libraries.
Science Comics: Electricity: Energy in Action By Andy Hirsch First Second, 2023 ISBN: 9781250265852
I’ve always felt regret that I didn’t try harder in my 8th grade chemistry class. I had trouble remembering and explaining what I had already learned. I was a very anxious child, so I told myself that it just wasn’t something I was good at. Case closed. My middle school library didn’t have neat comics like this to stoke my interest in what I would later find fascinating. Even in my 30s, helping nursing students search for chemistry articles, I struggled to grasp basic tenets like covalent bonds. So, this comic was helpful to even me!
The comic tells the story of Mel, who has studied for her periodic table test all afternoon, but she can’t escape the creeping test anxiety that overcomes her before any test. Her mom tells her she’ll do fine, but she’s obsessed with the self-fulfilling prophecy of failing. She falls asleep and wakes up in the Land of Elements, where each element is a different kind of monster or being. The land is threatened by the evil mad scientist Elemancer, who wants to destroy the land, and has a huge castle where he does his foul experiments. And wow, no wonder Mel is scared! Jon Chad’s castle architecture is an excellent depiction of her uncertainty. She’ll have to travel through the different parts of the castle, take on challenges, and solve them using what she knows from her studies to save the land. Fortunately, she doesn’t have to do it alone – a “Shmoo-shaped” character named Hydrogen is there to help her.
Each element group in the periodic table is depicted thoughtfully – for instance, it’s easy to remember that the transitional metals section is the largest on the table after seeing it depicted as a huge golden ballroom. It was a bit confusing whether groups are a smaller part of sections, because the terms appear to be used interchangeably. I thought this needed brief clarification.
There are funny comments from the depictions of the elements throughout; Elements thanking each other for giving up or taking their electrons (“Thank you! No, thank YOU!”); Vanadium being added to carbon and iron to make a tougher steel (“I feel NOTHING!”) Or Iron, dressed as a Monopoly millionaire, telling Aluminum, “Well, well, if it isn’t little Aluminum!” Aluminum: “Poor me!”
In a book purporting to teach about the periodical table, I’m not sure I would have included the pages about the LHC (Large Hadron Collider). The book is long enough without it, and there’s LOTS of heavy text to plow through, enchanting as the graphic depictions are. Also, will American kids know what “km” is? There’s a Metric Measurement Conversion Table in the back, but I didn’t notice it until I was finished. I feel like the pages describing beta and alpha decay could have been left out – it slowed the story down; especially since “there’s not much use for (these transitional metals) except research.” (p. 62.)
It’s the ACTION pages that are easy to read and that will appeal to kids. Every time Mel wins over a section’s element monsters, she uses what she knows about them to beat them. This helps to remember the elements’ properties. Drawings showing what the elements are used for help kids understand where cooking pans, tin cans, smart phones, and pop cans come from.
The most teachable moment of the book comes when Elemancer bullies Mel and she fails to remember something that results in Elemancer jailing them in the radioactive basement. What do you do when you’ve failed? Mel learns that many, many scientists have failed, and good science discoveries have come from it. Like most bullies, when Mel finally finds her confidence, the bully crumbles.
I’m not going to lie: with the lengthy text sections, this feels like a LONG book, with LOTS of text to plow through, even though it’s only 133 pages. It might have been a more enjoyable read cut into sections, or even separate books. It took me hours and hours to read it–I wonder if it will hold a ten-year old’s attention.
The book has a colorful Periodic Table of the Elements that would be useful for copying, a Metric Measurement of Conversion table and a Vocabulary / Glossary of terms used in the book.
Because chemistry and the periodical table are challenging topics to teach and to hold students’ attention spans, and there aren’t many hard science graphic novels, I would recommend this for any middle school library. If you really want to up your STEM comics game, however, I would also suggest any of Jim Ottaviani’s books.
Science Comics: The Periodical Table of Elements: Understanding the Building Blocks of Everything By Jon Chad Art by Jon Chad First Second, 2023 ISBN: 9781250767615
NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11), Older Teen (16-18)
This has to be the most fun way to learn about giant squids ever! This colorful, pick your own adventure style book is fun, beautiful, and educational all at the same time.
Follow a diverse array of characters on our expedition team through the whole process of getting out to sea to send a submersible, or in this case, a human-occupied vehicle (HOV), which, just as the name indicates, brings people down to the deepest parts of the ocean. The book begins by using wonderful graphics with comic book style word bubbles to introduce the big concepts such as the ocean zones, different underwater vehicles, parts of a submersible, and a fun but educational section on what to pack.
The real adventure begins when you get to choose your pilot based on their different skill sets. Next, the reader gets to choose between two different kinds of submersibles. Again, the options are laid out with each machine’s strengths and weaknesses. There are always trade-offs, so a tough decision must be made. Finally, your dive site must be chosen from three completely different parts of the world. Readers get to explore the ocean and discover all kinds of other creatures, such as a paper lantern jellyfish or a firefly squid. The author has included fun facts about these other beings, how parts of the submersible work, and realistic problems that pilots could run into on one of their dives.
The back of the book includes a list of common names for sea creatures as well as their scientific names, a glossary, recommended books and resources, and a bibliography. It’s great when non-fiction works include their research sources so youngsters can begin to understand how many different sources were used to bring a book like this together.
This is an incredible book. It will surely inspire any child to want to study more about the ocean. The fun variety of page layouts and creative ways information is dispersed throughout the pages makes this book engaging and exciting. It doesn’t feel like you are reading a big book of facts; it’s laid out as if you’re discovering the ocean just like a deep sea diver would.
Overall, this is an outstanding book. I haven’t read a children’s non-fiction book that is this much fun to read through in a long time. Young readers will surely finish up this title, delighting that it’s an ongoing series.
Search for a Giant Squid: Pick Your Path (Science Explorers) By Amy Seto Forrester Art by Andy Chou Musser Chronicle, 2023 ISBN: 9781797213934
Publisher Age Rating: 6-9 NFNT Age Recommendation: Easy Readers (5-9)
Even before graphic novels took off, several publishers, notably Lerner and Capstone, featured graphic nonfiction produced in a similar vein to the series nonfiction that most librarians are familiar with. The series nonfiction in graphic format continue to be a staple for nonfiction collections, although there are more literary options, like the Science Comics series.
Lerner’s Graphic Universe imprint produces new series twice a year, in January and August, and they usually pick timely topics. The January 2022 series Medical Breakthroughs is no exception, with titles on vaccines, germs, antibiotics, and more. The particular title we’re looking at today is the history of incubators.
The information is collected briefly in 32 pages with a short framing story showing two White children and a White, male-presenting doctor looking at a miniscule infant in a modern incubator while the doctor explains what incubators are used for. The story then jumps back to the 1870s and the work of two French doctors who. while trying to raise France’s falling birth rates, were inspired by the incubators they saw used with birds’ eggs at the zoo.
The incubators these and other doctors developed were funded by the exhibition of the premature babies, culminating in a semi-permanent exhibit on Coney Island. By the time the exhibit closed in 1943, thousands of babies had been saved and incubators became standard equipment in hospitals. Incubators continued to be improved, with interest and funding reviving after the death of President Kennedy’s premature son and culminating in the invention of a rechargeable and affordable incubator called the Embrace Nest that would be accessible to all people, especially in developing countries. The story ends with a return to the premature infant at the beginning, now a healthy toddler with their older siblings and parents.
The artwork is not memorable, but it is neatly done, with carefully drawn images of the various machines, and people shown in the appropriate period clothing as the story moves through time. All but a few people in the background and some nurses are depicted as White, which is a drawback, as one of the points of Couney’s work (the doctor who established the “Infantorium” at Coney Island) was the acceptance of infants of all backgrounds in sharp contrast to the eugenics movement. Most panels show the doctors and occasional nurses moving through bland scenery and exchanging a few remarks while the narrative is carried on in descriptive paragraphs. The appeal to readers who want the story told primarily through art is limited, since, as in most series nonfiction graphic novels, the narrative is told primarily in prose or through multiple “talking heads.” There is enough detail in the art to show the change in time periods, from the 1870s to 2008, and some additional information is provided through the pictures, like a nurse feeding a premature infant through their nose or the doctors explaining what they are doing to spectators and anxious parents.
One title is listed as a source, and there is also a glossary, index, and brief list of information to explore further.
The length of these titles naturally limits the amount of information that can be included and these titles tend to be brief introductions, which will hopefully engage interest in exploring topics further. Like most series nonfiction, they are available only in paperback or expensive library binding, which can be prohibitive for smaller budgets. If you have to watch your pennies it can be difficult to justify an extensive outlay on nonfiction that may quickly become dated. However, this series primarily covers historical events and so should have a longer shelf-life. With an ever-increasing number of struggling readers as well as graphic novel fans, Medical Breakthroughs should be a solid purchase for most school and public libraries and a good choice to interest young readers in history and science.
Incubators: A Graphic History By Paige Polinsky Art by Josep Rural Lerner Graphic Universe, 2022 ISBN: 9781541581517
Robots are all around us, from our vacuums to our phones, so who wouldn’t want to try their hand at making their own? Maker Comics: Build a Robot! guides readers on how to do just that. Readers will finish ready to help the robots in their upcoming revolution against the humans!
A possibly evil toaster oven named Toaster 2 is the book’s narrator. He’s been watching your family for a while and he’s decided to make you his sidekick in his quest for household domination. In order for that to happen, you will have to go on an intense trip around your house, fending off the forces of evil that also happen to be your family members and pets by constructing your own robots to throw them off your trail.
Throughout the course of the book, readers learn how to make five different types of robots: a Brushbot, Artbot, Scarebot, Noisybot, and Carbot. Each bot’s creation grows on the skills learned from the previous bot. In addition to the full sized robots, one of the funnier portions of the book includes instructions for a more basic STEM craft called Kitty Distracty Throwies, perfect for, you guessed it, distracting any house cats who might get in your way.
The cover of Maker Comics: Build a Robot! describes the book as the Ultimate DIY Guide and it does not disappoint. It is clear that author Colleen AF Venable understands the audience she is writing for. Much of the book is full of multi-page instructions, many of which are very word heavy. No piece of information is left out, to ensure that building is done safely and readers understand all that goes into robotics. There are lengthy word bubbles on the Arduino programming language, something readers will learn the basics of as they build the more complicated projects towards the end of the book.
There are a few pages of what are essentially programming language screenshots and instruction pages on different physical materials required to complete the projects. This book is for readers looking for an intense, thoroughly detailed guide on making robots that they can use in their daily lives. At points, it even reads like a how to guide, as opposed to a graphic novel, so it fully lives up to the Maker Comics title!
Kathryn Hudson’s art is colorful and very cartoonish, with lots of running jokes about the household where the book is set. Toaster 2’s facial expressions match his dialogue, even as he’s explaining complex topics, reminding readers you are still in fact reading a graphic novel. The artwork for the robot guides themselves is detailed and a great component for visual learners. A book with so many instructions could potentially be repetitive but the vibrancy of the art keeps the reader engaged.
One important thing to note when considering this title is that in order to follow its instructions, you will need to purchase much more than the book itself. The robots in the book have many working parts, some of which must be purchased in advance online. Venable is sure to include where to purchase these items in the text. Expect and prepare for additional costs with this book.
The book ends not with Toaster 2’s domination but steps on starting your own robotics club, giving the reader something to consider if they’ve enjoyed all their building so far. Maker Comics: Build a Robot! is recommended for the shelves of readers looking to learn the basics of robotics. While its targeted age range is middle grade readers, there’s a lot of crossover appeal here. Future robotics buffs of all ages will find something worthwhile in this book.
Maker Comics: Build a Robot! By Colleen AF Venable Art by Kathryn Hudson Macmillan First Second, 2021 ISBN: 9781250152169
NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11), Older Teen (16-18), Teen (13-16), Tween (10-13)
Labeled as the ultimate DIY guide, Maker Comics: Conduct a Science Experiment, by Der-shing Helmer, gives young readers a thorough guide to conducting their own experiments in their own homes and backyards. You’ll find yourself wanting to experiment along with the characters!
Reed spends most of his time on the internet, gaming with his friends. His moms are worried he’s spending too much time online, so while they’re away during summer vacation, they cut off his internet access for a week. His older sister, Olive, who is in college studying to become a science teacher, joins him at home that week to be his own personal science tutor. Not exactly the fun way Reed wants to end his summer!
Right away, Olive puts eggs in vinegar in the fridge, labeling them for an experiment. Reed wants to mope around, missing his friends online, but she has other plans for their time together. He thinks what she’s doing is a waste of time. He does not care about science, especially since it’s summertime. As the week goes on, Olive’s experiments get more and more elaborate, using a number of different materials and spaces around their house. She even uses their breakfast to teach Reed about macromolecules and what makes up our food.
Early on in the story, Olive lays out the basics of proper lab procedures and the scientific method, sharing pages from her notebook. Andrea Bell’s art presents this vital background information in such a colorful and cartoonish way, making it very appealing and readable. Even the most STEM hesitant reader may find themselves pulled in by this point.
Each experiment is laid out with extremely specific detail, both in written and visual description. Safety is stressed from the very beginning, with the book itself starting with the basics of STEM safety. As the experiments get more complex, caution is advised while still inspiring young scientists to have fun. For example, one of the final experiments, Spot the Spot, encourages readers to observe the features of the sun with repeated, bold warnings to never look directly at the sun.
There is a plot twist to Olive and Reed’s story about halfway through the novel that amps up the book’s focus on the siblings’ relationship, which is a welcome interruption between the experiments. Reed’s curiosity is piqued and his interest continues to blossom. As the book concludes, Olive reminds him that science is more than just a class in school. STEM is all around them with scientists always working to discover more. Some scientists even share memes on social media! Learning about science can be a hobby, a fun way for Reed to connect with his friends.
Maker Comics: Conduct a Science Experiment is a valuable resource for any science classroom. Its back matter consists of a glossary, additional lab safety tips, and the basics of scientific research. All of these can easily be used in a classroom. The graphic novel could help both students struggling with science and those who already can’t stop doing experiments. The featured experiments can easily be replicated at home, classroom, or in the library. Budding scientists will find themselves revisiting this graphic novel time and time again.
Maker Comics: Conduct a Science Experiment! By Der-shing Helmer Art by Andrea Bell Macmillan First Second, 2021 ISBN: 9781250754813 Publisher Age Rating: 9-13
NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11), Tween (10-13)