Lines, Bars and Circles: How William Playfair Invented Graphs

illus. by Marie-Ève Tremblay. 36p. Kids Can. Apr. 2017. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781771385701.
Gr 1–4—A picture book biography of the inventor of the three most frequently used infographics: the line graph, the bar graph, and the pie chart. William Playfair (1759–1823) grew up in Scotland, was educated by his mathematician and scientist brother, and later worked for inventors Andrew Meikle and James Watt. So why don't more students know his name? The author suggests that even though Playfair was a creative thinker, he was not taken seriously during his lifetime because he was also a scoundrel and a schemer. Another reason is that scientists preferred numbers to Playfair's colorful visuals, which they saw as imaginative rather than scientific. It took more than 100 years for Playfair's ideas to become a popular way of displaying data. A mix of informative and witty illustrations add to the value of this educational, well-written work. (Drawings of Playfair's graphs enhance the narrative and also teach kids how to interpret said graphs.) Back matter further explains Playfair's life and his innovative methods of presenting material.
VERDICT The author's evidence-based speculation about why Playfair's charts didn't initially catch on and the smart and playful art combine to produce a welcome option for STEM and biography collections.

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