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Book Review: The Manga Guides: Electricity by Kazuhiro Fujitaki/ Matsuda; Molecular Biology by Masaharu Takemura/ Sakura; Physics by Hideo Nitta/ Keita Takatsu

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The Manga Guides are a brilliant way of teaching the basic concepts of science in an entertaining and informative context. The term “manga” refers to Japanese comics, which are incredibly popular. By utilizing the format as a way to teach students about electricity, physics, and molecular biology, the people at Ohmsha Press have created some truly unique textbooks. These are ones that pupils may actually read and enjoy.

The Guides have proven to be so popular in Japan that US publishing house No Starch Press have translated them into English. I must say, the “dry as dust” study guides I had as a student never interested me like these do.

I started with The Manga Guide To Electricity. In it, we find a young girl from the planet Electopia who is failing her electricity class. Although gifted in other subjects, she is having a difficult time with the advanced electricity courses of Electopia. She needs a tutor, and is assigned one on the “slower” planet Earth.

She meets a professor in Tokyo, who offers her a cup of tea. While the tea is brewing he explains what the label on the back of the electric teapot actually means. Voltage, wattage, and amperes are neatly clarified using a basic comparison of water levels. By the time she finishes her cup, we have had our first lesson.

From there we move into explanations of electrical circuits, how electricity works, how electricity is created and more. Each chapter is followed by a straight text rendering of what we have just learned, to further enlighten us on the subject.

The Manga Guides To Molecular Biology and Physics follow a similar trajectory. Utilizing students who are not quite grasping the topics, the professors make their points with easily understood examples of abstract concepts. At the end of each chapter, the plain text explains everything just presented in a straight-forward and easy to read manner.

Considering the utterly ramshackle state of the public school system in the United States, The Manga Guides could prove to be a worthy upgrade to the boring texts our children are given. I find that highly unlikely however, in light of the de facto monopoly a few publishers have on the market.

For home schooling, The Manga Guides would be perfect. Parents might also consider them as an addendum to whatever 40-year old Scholastic textbook your young one is forced to study out of.

Besides the three Manga Guides I have mentioned No Starch Press offers a number of others as well. One of the most basic keys to learning is being open to the information being presented. The Manga Guides are an innovative way to make that happen for the student.

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