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Book Review: Wonderful Life with the Elements: The Periodic Table Personified by Bunpeo Yorifuji

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I can remember sitting in chemistry class in high school, totally confused about much of the periodic table. Don’t get me wrong—I absolutely loved the class, and have always been fascinated with science. But I had a really hard time mentally cataloging the various elements according to their properties.

That’s what makes Yorifuji’s book so valuable. Rather than having to memorize a list of facts about each element, now you can just look at the picture. Each element is represented by a character, with different facial, clothing, and hair features that indicate different things about that element. See a picture of an element with an impressive afro? That’s a noble gas. The nitrogen family sports mohawks, while the actinides have a hairstyle that reminds me of Bozo the Clown. Every detail of each element’s drawing means something; visual learners will love this book.

Students in general will love this book, though; it’s easy to read, and full of fascinating facts about the elements. The elements are even given relevance to the students’ daily lives, with sections on “Elements in the Living Room” and “How to Eat The Elements.” You can even find out how much a human being is worth—or at least the average cost of the elements in the average human being.

This book is a bit smaller than I thought it would be—5″ x 6″, and only about an inch or so thick. The print was often too small for my ancient eyes, but my sixth grader had no trouble reading and enjoying the book. She has inherited my love of all things sciency, and this book has opened her eyes to a wealth of possibilities.

Most science-minded adults will already know much of what is in this book, having had to memorize them years ago in chemistry class. But those same science-minded adults will certainly be giving this book to their science-minded offspring, who will learn and enjoy.

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About Warren Kelly