It’s Elementary With ‘The Element in the Room’

Books Education Entertainment Reviews
Image: Laurence King

It’s never too early to introduce your kids (or your neighbor’s kids or your sister’s kids or your grandkids) to the elements that make up our world. A brand new book, The Element in the Room: Investigating the Atomic Ingredients that Make Up Your Home, will help you do just that in a fun, informative way.

Inside the book, you’ll join Sherlock Ohms, the famous scientific detective, on a series of cases to investigate the chemical makeup of the everyday items in your house. He and his fellow investigators have fun with chemistry throughout the book, from being carried off by a bunch of balloons to making a battery out of lemons to studying a reflection in a mirror.

Who Is This Book For?

Anyone in your family will learn something from reading through this book. Even chemistry majors may not already know that there is chromium in rubies. Or that niobium is sometimes found in nose rings. No, it’s not all about jewelry. There are plenty of mentions of bodily functions (did you know that farts contain hydrogen?), household appliances, food, and housewares. But the book contains enough basics for kids and enough odd facts for grownups.

How Is the Book Organized?

The book begins with an overview of atoms and elements, protons and electrons, and the Big Bang and the Periodic Table. It then describes how atoms bond together (like “gangs”) to make molecules. Next, the book jumps right into each of the elements, organized by their place in the Periodic Table of Elements, starting with hydrogen and continuing all the way to element 118, oganesson! Scattered throughout the book are 10 Atomic Comics which describe the journey that scientists have taken over the centuries to discovering these elements adding a History of Science element. Then, the back of the book has a helpful glossary and index.

What Information Is Included for Each Element?

Photo: Jenny Bristol, of the interior of the book

The section for each element includes its name, symbol, atomic number, traits of the element, and descriptions of how it’s isolated or extracted, where it’s found, and more. There are also notes for its appearance, any elements of danger (ha!), and what that element’s superpower might be (indicated with the star). There is a special “Find It In:” section for each element that describes where in your house you might find it. For instance, you’d find molybdenum in peas, lentils, and car parts. You’d find aluminum in drink cans, toothpaste, computers, DVDs, and the powder inside an Etch-a-Sketch. And, of course, you’d find oxygen in air, water, rust, and chocolate. (See? Chocolate is necessary for life.) Each element has plenty of descriptive text, and most of them have sidebars for related topics, such as PVC in the chlorine section and beach sand in the silicon section.

Why Should I Buy This Book?

If you or your kids love science, The Element in the Room is an amusing way to work more education into storytime or into free reading. It can be used as a reference book for younger kids, or it would be an ideal way to feed a special interest in chemistry. The book is quite big, measuring in at almost 9 1/2″ x 12″, which makes it easy for kids and families to gather ’round, looking at different parts of each page and enjoying the experience.

C’mon. Let’s do science!

Note: I received a copy of this book for review purposes.

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