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My Light: How Sunlight Becomes Electricity Hardcover – March 1, 2004
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From School Library Journal
Grade 1-5-Bang has chosen a huge topic, and in some ways, it overwhelms her. Writing in the voice of the sun, the first-person narrative investigates various forms of energy on Earth, all derived in one way or another from the light and heat of this solar system's major star. It's an enormous task-how to describe the weather cycle, dams, turbines, electricity and its generation, windmills, fossil fuels (she mentions coal but leaves out oil), and solar cells in an illustrated book for fairly young children-and Bang is only moderately successful. Indeed, in the introduction to four pages of much denser end matter, the author mentions that her notes started turning into an encyclopedia, but, mercifully, an editor "cut them WAY back. Now those notes are on my Web site at www.mollybang.com, and I hope interested readers will do further research on their own." Overall, the author makes a valiant stab, and for science-minded children who can absorb a large amount of information, this title could be an interesting selection. Her stunning and technically accomplished illustrations, as always, are radiant and worth a look. Despite its shortcomings, this ambitious book is an illuminating auxiliary purchase.-Dona Ratterree, New York City Public Schools
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
*Starred Review* Gr. 1-3. A typical science text for kids might define light as "shifting electromagnetic fields." In Bang's outstanding new picture-book exploration of light and energy, electromagnetism is mentioned only in the endnote, and the accessible text, narrated by the sun ("I am your sun, a golden star. You see my radiance as light"), will be far more meaningful for children than one with stock definitions. Bang focuses on four scenarios in which the generation of electricity can be traced back to the sun: a hydroelectric dam, wind turbines, a coal-burning plant, and solar cells. Making the connection between light, water, wind, and electricity requires a conceptual leap, but tiny yellow dots representing the sun's power as it streams from one form to another will help children grasp the principle of energy conservation. Bang's strong design sense comes through in compositions that gracefully incorporate diagrams and strike a balance between graphic forms and delicate, decorative patterns. Particularly notable is a jungle landscape reminiscent of Rousseau that will delight kids with its individually rendered, jewel-like foliage. Careful endnotes, not final in the version reviewed, touch on everything from dark matter to atoms to pollution. A lovely and illuminating book that presents sound science while expressing the wonder of flipping a switch and flooding a room with light. Jennifer Mattson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Says the Sun at the beginning of the book, "When you see the city lights at night, they look like stars have fallen down to earth". That, the sun points out, is a pretty smart assessment. After all, the Sun is a star and almost all the electric light in the world began with it. To explain how this works we are privy to various displays of energy, transferred to earth in multiple ways. One section discusses how the sun causes water to evaporate, rain, fall into rivers, and eventually operate the dams that create energy via generators. Too complex an idea? What about the fact that the sun causes warm air to rise so that cooler air operates the giant electric turbines of the world? And don't forget that coal was once living trees that needed the sun for their growth. Heck, solar power itself is explored in this book too, giving kids a clear vision of solar cells. Tying together the theme of continually shifting energy, the book ends by pointing out that all light, even electric ones, eventually fade back into space in some way. The back of the book contains additional information about the various topics touched on, giving more details on the various types of electricity available to us. It is here that Bang mentions that in her original conception of this book she had some many notes that they, "started turning into an encyclopedia". For kids doing science projects on electricity, Bang suggests that see these notes on her website at [...] Bang is to commended for these sections, if only because she offers ample explanations about which forms of energy are pollutants and which ones aren't.
Moreover, you cannot say that Bang hasn't covered her bases in this book. Her facts, as presented in the text, are clear and easy for kids to understand. The book is also the author's most beautiful to date. Much like fellow author/illustrator Peter Sis, Bang has adopted a style of art that works perfectly within the context of her tale. The sun emits thousands of tiny yellow dots, all representing the energy that floats across space and to the Earth itself. By watching these yellow dots of energy, kids have a clear image of how they are transferred from the sun, to the water, to the rain, to the river, and finally into electricity itself. Bang's generators glow with remarkable beauty all the while remaining scientifically accurate. Whether she's showing the intricate details in the cell structure of a plant leaf or displaying the methods by which coal-fired electricity "flows in copper wires", the book is immensely interesting.
Some of Bang's books in the past, while good, have a messy edge to them. Don't get me wrong... I'm a huge fan of her "Ten, Nine, Eight", as well as "When Sophie Gets Angry - Really, Really Angry..". But those picture books were always just flirting with Bang's slapdash painting style. Here, in "My Light", she's eschewed that school of art for a book that's very tightly reined in. The lines here are clear and straight. Her towns are realistically rendered and I've yet to see a book that displays a night-time cityscape from above any better than she does here. With the aid of unknown thousands of tiny dots, Bang has (in my mind anyway) graduated from merely okay picture books to spectacularly good ones. If you're looking for a book that is scientific but also deeply beautiful (and factual too, for what it counts) this is your best bet. I can't push it into your arms fast enough. Buy it now and enjoy it fully.