Let Cartoons Be Your Guide To Chemistry

My nephew's birthday is coming up, which means I have to find him a gift that is both fun and functional. Well, it doesn't have to be functional, but I prefer it that way. He is going to get his fair share of Scooby-Do gear, toy rockets and pirate paraphernalia. I want to give him gifts that make him think about the world around him.

During my search, I stumbled upon "The Cartoon Guide to Chemistry," (2005, Collins Reference) by Larry Gonick and Craig Criddle. According to Amazon.com, "If you have ever suspected that "heavy water" is the title of a bootleg Pink Floyd album, believed that surface tension is an anxiety disorder, or imagined that a noble gas is the result of a heavy meal at Buckingham Palace, then you need The Cartoon Guide to Chemistry to set you on the road to chemical literacy."

Gonick is not new to this type of work. He has been creating comics that explain history, science, and other big subjects for more than 30 years, ever since "Blood from a Stone: A Cartoon Guide to Tax Reform" appeared in 1977. He has been a Knight Science Journalism Fellow at MIT and is staff cartoonist for Muse magazine.

The book promises to explain the history and basics of chemistry, atomic theory, combustion, solubility, reaction stoichiometry, the mole, entropy. . . just about the first two years of college chemistry – except the material is accompanied by fun cartoons.

I suspect my soon to be 6-year-old nephew is a wee-bit young for this book. According to one reviewer: "Don't let he word "cartoon" in Larry Gonick`s books fool you into thinking that these are easy fluff surveys of the subjects involved. He makes each subject accessible while being entertaining, but each book stands on its own as a complete basic survey course of the subject." But rest assured I will order this book and keep it on hand for him until he's ready for it. Now, let me get back to finding the perfect gift. Suggestions are welcome!

Traci Purdum
Senior Digital Editor