Mammoth Science: The Big Ideas That Explain Our World

DK. Aug. 2020. 160p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781465491466.
Gr 3-6–Caldecott winner and prolific author Macaulay offers capsule outlines of an astonishing range of scientific topics. A table of contents divides the text into broad sections, including “Energy,” “Forces,” and “Earth and Space.” Subtopics in each section explore concepts such as density in the “Matter” section or evolution and natural selection in the “Life” section. There is no formula for the layout, but, as in many DK titles, each chapter addresses one topic. Big ideas are typically conveyed using a central illustration with a few expository paragraphs and one or more inset or subsidiary illustrations, annotated with brief explanations. For example, the page on plants shows how nutrients and energy are transferred, with a shrew using a mammoth snout to water the plant. A sidebar describes the process of photosynthesis in a chloroplast. All of the illustrations involve woolly mammoths and elephant shrews. The quirky illustrations are engaging (a page on materials depicts shrews constructing a mammoth-shaped home on wheels) and are also remarkably cogent and apt. The discussion of climate change is limited to a small inset on the page about the greenhouse effect. Source notes or suggestions for further reading are missing, but the text does include a glossary and an index.
VERDICT As a ready source for reference, topic review, or for independent reading, this comprehensive title is visually enchanting and accessible. The obvious audience is elementary and middle grade readers, but there is much here to delight high schoolers and adults.

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