From School Library Journal
Gr 5-10–Perhaps picking up on a trend started by Conn and Hal Iggulden's The Dangerous Book for Boys (Collins, 2007), this volume features a sensational title and lurid, retro cover art that might suggest a shallow and gimmicky package, once cracked. It's not. Instead, the content is solid and compelling. The premise is that all of humankind's greatest milestones in science and engineering have entailed risks and courage on the part of the innovators. Starting with Stone Age tools and ending with a Hadron Collider, each chapter details a historic leap forward in scientific understanding and explains what the potential downsides of those discoveries were. Potential catastrophic consequences include persecution for heresy, the very real risks of self-injury or death in the process of discovery, and the reality that almost every beneficial scientific discovery can also be tapped to create efficient means for humans to kill one another. As such, it's an illuminating survey. Unfortunately, kids who see the cover urging them to "try these experiments at home" and listing them as "smashing atoms, making gunpowder, firing rockets, and raising the dead," might be a little disappointed when the actual "experiments" turn out to be tamer–and sometimes lamer–analogous demonstrations of the concepts put forth in each chapter.Jeffrey Hastings, Highlander Way Middle School, Howell, MI
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From the author of The Book of Totally Irresponsible Science (2008), this volume approaches science historically, spotlighting certain periods, processes, individuals, discoveries, and inventions. Each of the 34 chapters includes a discussion and one or two related activities, such as making a Stone Age tool, creating an earthquake in Jell-O, building a parachute for an egg drop, and extracting a banana's DNA. Safety concerns are addressed for each project, and adult help will be necessary to complete some of the experiments successfully. Though the photos and cartoon-style drawings work well, several elements of the book's design are off-putting: the use of pistachio-green and purplish-gray background colors on the pages, the occasional graph-paper-like squares underlying the text, and the small black squares running up the pages' outer margins. While there is no back matter, not even an index, Connolly's writing is engaging, and the historical approach works well, offering kids a quick introduction to science history and the opportunity to explore certain ideas along the way. Grades 5-8. --Carolyn Phelan