This is a brilliant collection of DIY experiments for young scientists – but I had a real mental battle reviewing it. There is one thing about it I absolutely hate, for which I would give it just one star if the website’s reviewing system allowed me – but the fact is, horrible though this aspect is, it’s an excellent book and it deserves those four stars, but with a real boo hiss for the dubious behaviour of Robert Winston and the publisher as described later.
Let’s do the good part first, though. The book itself. Unlike most Dorling Kindersley publications many of the highly illustrated colourful pages are single page articles, though some stretch to a double spread. We get the whole gamut of DIY home experiments here. Some are fairly straightforward and predictable, like making water vapour or growing crystals, but others have a touch of brilliance about them in clever things I’ve never seen before. How about using a bike wheel as a centrifuge by attaching a container to the spokes? Genius!
The book is aimed at a relatively young audience, so it doesn’t have the more dramatic, exciting (and frankly dangerous) types of experiment described in The Ultimate Book of Saturday Science, but there is plenty in here to keep the most enthusiastic young scientist busy. We have chemistry, biology and physics, balloon hovercrafts and electroplating, solar ovens and metal detectors. Each of the experiments is very clearly described with the brilliant level of illustration you expect from DK. All in all an excellent essential for the young home experimenter.
So why did I get so worked up? Look at the cover. This is a book by Robert Winston. It even has his picture on the cover. Yet as I read through those experiments I thought ‘Robert Winston would not have spent his time doing this. Someone else wrote it.’ And sure enough, in small print in the acknowledgements, we see that it was actually written by Ian Graham. All Robert Winston did was write a couple of introductory paragraphs. This is absolutely shameful.
However, for Ian Graham’s sake, don’t let it put you off the book. Buy it despite Robert Winston. Because it is excellent.
Review by Jo Reed