In 2019 I reviewed the Science Ninjas’ first outing, Big Trouble with Simple Mechanics. It was a great fun and accessible way of explaining simple physics. Being a chemist by training, I was even more excited to discover that author Nathan Schrieber’s follow-up, Valence, brings the Science Ninjas to the subject of chemistry. Note he also has a board game of the same name!
What Is Valence?
It’s the first book in a chemistry trilogy, featuring the Science Ninjas; a graphic novel that aims to explain fundamental chemistry concepts in an accessible manner. This volume is subtitled, “Raw Materials.” It uses the story of a pair of Ninjas trying to infiltrate the academy of the Science Ninjas via a tournament to test chemistry knowledge.
It aims to explain Atoms, Mass, Volume, Density, Extensive Properties, Intensive Properties, and Conservation of Mass. It does this via the various challenges in the tournament. Valence will appeal to any child with a passing interest in science, aged 8 upwards. It’s a great way of stealthily teaching some chemistry.
At the end of the book, there are a few fun and easy-to-do experiments that examine some of the concepts involved in the story.
Why Read Valence?
The Science Ninjas series are fun books that achieve exactly what they set out to achieve. I must confess, the story is perhaps a little tenuous, but that might be because I’m reading it as a 49-year-old man and not a 9-year-old boy. Each of the story’s set pieces is fun and explains one of the concepts outlined above.
The characters in the book are entertaining (though the young science ninja in the book can be annoying), in particular the two young “genmods,” who want to prove they can be science ninjas too. They provide much of the book’s humor. There are a number of other characters all competing who all add to the manga feel of the comic book.
Being the first volume of a proposed trilogy, the book inevitably feels unfinished. There are quite a lot of threads to the story, mainly “who are all these people and what are they after?” Apart from the chemistry-based ones, this book certainly provokes more questions than it answers. Book 2 promises to shed more light on the various forces at play, as well as an atomic quiz and a dangerous dungeon built around elements of the Periodic Table. Sign me up!
If you’re looking for a fun colorful way to introduce some basic chemistry concepts to your children, then Valence will definitely do that. Valence is produced by a small publisher, who I’m sure would love to bring some geeky families along for the ride. If you’d like to support some great comic book artwork alongside the teaching of science, check out the Science Ninjas today!
Disclosure: I was sent a copy of this book in order to write this review.