This Week’s Word Is “Ninjas”
Science Ninjas: Big Trouble with Simple Machines is a graphic novel that teaches its readers about simple mechanics. I guess the clue was in the title! Written and illustrated by Nathan Schreiber, the book is a perfect introduction to the principles of engineering.
What Is Science Ninjas?
“Science Ninjas” is the series title, though as things stand there is only one book available – Big Trouble with Simple Mechanics. There are several Science Ninjas webcomics available and you should definitely check those out because they’re great. The Science Ninjas also front Schreiber’s game Valence, which I haven’t yet played. Something I want to remedy very soon as it looks awesome and involves the Periodic Table.
This book is not about chemistry, however. It’s all about simple mechanics. I must confess, physical mechanics rather passed me by during my early education. I remember encountering some of these concepts late on during my school years and being completely baffled. If only I’d had books like this to read.
This is a quest story. Characters Mei Wu, Dr. Eureka Fermi, and Carlos Einstein search for a missing-prototype MacGuffin. It opens with a brief preamble about force and introduces the concept of Science Ninjas and the book’s characters before moving onto the story. This is broken down into 6 Chapters, each explaining a mechanical concept.
- Inclined Plane.
- Wheel and Axle.
The book finishes with a glossary and a “Mind Challenge” (a puzzle, woo!), and some simple experiments that can be carried out at home to further investigate concepts outlined in the book. Finally, there’s a neat epilogue that pays homage to the power of the inclined plane.
Why Read Science Ninjas?
Being a bit of a Luddite at heart, I hope that more books featuring the Science Ninjas appear soon. The webcomics are great, but the finished book is a thing of beauty; a tactile experience that will help teach your child the fundamentals of mechanics. There is a wealth of material available for future installments (the whole of science!) and Nathan Schrieber has a great knack for making his subject clear and engaging. I would definitely read more Science Ninja books.
Big Trouble with Simple Mechanics is well-laid out. The physics used in the book follows a logical progression of ideas, with each chapter building on the previous one. The adventure story is perhaps a little thin, but it’s definitely entertaining, especially to its target audience which is around 9+. Whilst its content is definitely educational, it doesn’t ever feel like that. The mechanics explained reads like any plan of action from a comic book caper. Schreiber has made physics exciting by letting his characters use it to escape from situations whenever they find themselves in (mild) peril.
If you have a budding engineer in your house Big Trouble with Small Mechanics will definitely be of interest to them. Even reading it myself, I remembered a lot of forgotten mechanics. There are certainly times, growing up, I would have loved a book like this to help me understand my school physics and math problems. Now as an adult, where I (very occasionally) encounter mechanical problems in the name of DIY, this book has helped me remember why some things work as they do, and, why an inclined plane might just be the greatest thing ever discovered.
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in order to write this review. All Amazon links are my own affiliate links.