Word Wednesday: Science Ninjas

Reading Time: 2 minutes

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 Valencewhich 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.

A small section from a page about screws. Copyright: Nathan Schreiber.

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.

  1. Inclined Plane.
  2. Wedge.
  3. Lever.
  4. Screw.
  5. Wheel and Axle.
  6. Pulley.

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.

This 120+ page hardback is available from Amazon from $20 or direct from the Science Ninjas website.

Copyright: Nathan Schreiber

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.

Copyright: Nathan Schreiber.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in order to write this review. All Amazon links are my own affiliate links. 

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This post was last modified on August 6, 2019 7:22 pm

Robin Brooks: Dad of boys, player of games, and reader of books. GeekDad and one half of Agents of Sigmar. Prone to starting things I can't fin

View Comments (2)

  • As a learning game it's enormous. They put thinking into the technicalities of the game. Extremely speedy, easy, not to numerous choices to create. I buy this game for my 15 and 10 year old son. This game builds opening chemistry easier to recognize. I'm a MS Physical Science professor & got these to assist my students study about affecting valences to learn how to make compounds, which can be type of dry material to study.

  • Good review! In any training course, the study of physics begins with mechanics. Not with theoretical, not with applied and not computational, but with the good old classical mechanics. This mechanics is also called Newtonian mechanics. According to legend, the scientist walked around the garden, saw an apple fall, and it was this phenomenon that prompted him to discover the law of universal gravitation. Of course, the law always existed, and Newton only gave it a form that people understood, but its merit is priceless.