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As the British school system has phased out history, many of the schools have included units on inventors and inventions. While we have kept history as a part of our curriculum, I do like to try to study as many of the same subjects as the schools do as possible, and the history of inventions does tie into several other subjects as well. This book was just perfect for us because it combines a school subject - which could easily end being a bit a dry and boring, with superheroes, and even better Green Lantern, who happens to be a favourite with my sons.
This book is presented in typical DK style which means it has a lot of high quality photographs, and a clear easy to understand text. This is part of their DK Readers series ( level 4), which is intended for children to read themselves, so it is easier to read than most of their series, even the Eyewonder series, which is aimed at very young children. This is intended for ages 8+, but my 7 year old does read this pretty easily.
The book begins with Green Lantern telling children about the power of invention. This makes inventions almost like superpowers, but in a way they are. Without inventions how could we fly through the air, travel to the moon or watch a television programme? All of these might have seemed pretty miraculous to people a few centuries ago. But this book goes way back with inventions, to one of mankind's earliest inventions - the torch. This isn't referring to battery powered torches, but a simple stick dipped into a flame. This early invention gave mankind light, and many other inventions focused on the same thing - lighting the darkness. Lighthouses and electric light bulbs are mentioned here, but we tried to think of all the earlier inventions people made to provide light. These included candles, oil lamps, and even fireplaces. After this we move on to more modern inventions and there are sections on lasers, cameras, recording sound, and of course computers. There is also a section on flight and flying machines that fit in nicely with out aviation studies, and sections on where power comes from, discussing coal, wind power, hydro electric and nuclear energy.
I found this book absolutely brilliant from a home education perspective, and I think it would be a wonderful asset in a primary classroom as well. But no matter how educational this book, unless it is fun, the average child isn't going to make much use of it at home. This is where the superheroes come in. This book does focus primarily on Hal Jordan and the other Green Lanterns, but there are a few other characters as well, such as the Martian Manhunter and Aquaman. This is not a story - it is non fiction, and the main focus of the book is learning about inventions, but the facts about the Superheroes keep the book lively and entertaining and they do tie in with the topic being discussed. For instance the battery that powers the Green Lanterns rings is mentioned on the pages about electricity. An evil villain, Clock King is mentioned on the page that tells us about time keeping devices, from sun dials to atomic clocks.
I do have a number of books on invention/ inventors and the growth of technology. I have recently had a good sort out and binned a few. I can't see using books that discuss the cassette tape or 3.5" floppy as cutting edge technology anymore , and I'm afraid many of the resources which are readily available have become dated very quickly as technology has changed. Although this book is a few years old (C. 2005), it is not at all dated. It doesn't show specific computers, and just the basics are mentioned, but the main technology - digital pictures, cd-roms or dvds, and modems are all still very much in use. I found this book completely relevant to my son and technology today.
When we first get one of these books, my son always flips through reading only the superhero sections. He does go back and read the whole book though, and even my three year old insists on hearing these as he sees his favourite superheroes. I do skim over a few parts of this for him though as I feel some parts are just too technical for a child his age to understand. As we are using this for school, I expect my son to be able to answer questions about what he has read. I also will bring up topics and use this as a starting point for more research and learning. I do think he has learned quite a bit from this book. He does enjoy them ( although not as much as comics) and I feel these make an excellent addition to our home library.
I would certainly recommend this book either as a cheap resource for a child studying inventions in school or as a fun mostly non fiction book for any young superhero fan. Because so many adults do collect superhero themed books, some adult collectors are buying these as well. The amount of Superhero content is limited, and I personally can not see buying this just for few facts on science and superheroes - but at roughly £2.49 delivered, it won't break the bank either and could make a unique addition to an extensive collection of superhero memorabilia. In fact, I can't help hoping as I attempt to collect the whole series that it might be worth something someday down the line after the children have outgrown it. This is a science book - not a comic - but it does have enough trivia to make reading at least once enjoyable for an adult comic book fan, and enough of the superheroes to keeps a child's interest. I also think when we relate a child's studies to their own areas of interest, they remember what they learn far more than when the subject bores them.
Finally - after reading this we had a lot of fun imagining what super powers we wish we had - and then discussing ways inventors might be able to make these powers possible. For instance I'm sure we all wish we could fly - how could science change this? An anti gravity machine? A safer more efficient jet pack? This is a book that makes children think - perhaps it will encourage some inventor of the future.