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Skyscrapers: The Heights of Engineering

First Second. (Science Comics). Nov. 2019. 128p. pap. $12.99. ISBN 9781626727946.
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Gr 4-6–In a visual history of the innovations that have made it possible to design and construct tall buildings, a nerdy superhero flies his sidekick Quiz Kid on a worldwide tour, from Egypt’s ancient Great Pyramid of Giza to Dubai’s Burj Khalifa skyscraper, with stops to pay homage to notable achievements in engineering, such as Chicago’s Home Insurance Building and New York’s Flatiron Building. From there, the duo check out the structural features of modern skyscrapers, watch a building go up, and learn about the nitty-gritty of foundations, concrete, trusses, the role of mass dampers in reducing vortex shedding, elevators, and the evolution of greener structures. Though the dialogue bubbles sometimes swell to the bursting point with information, our tour guide’s explanations are as clear as the cleanly drawn cartoon cutaways and construction sites. Quiz Kid’s exclamations (“Kewl!”, “Wowza!”) lighten the text, as do his flashbacks about rescuing his inept mentor from supervillains. The content consistently rises above the cutesy expressions: “But up, up, and away you go! Conquering obstacle after obstacle with science!”
VERDICT An engaging and welcome update to Lynn Curlee’s Skyscraper or Chris Oxlade’s Skyscrapers.

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