Children’s Book Reviews

Children's Book Review: If: A Mind-Bending New Way of Looking at Big Ideas and Numbers

Publish September 16, 2014

Visualizing huge distances and sizes and numbers is difficult. In If: A Mind-Bending New Way of Looking at Big Ideas and Numbers, David J. Smith takes a variety of concepts and–by scaling them down and using analogies–makes them understandable to young readers and adults alike. The infographic presentation is masterfully interpreted by illustrator, Steve Adams.

From the geography of the universe to the history of life on earth to contemporary economics, Smith reduces huge sizes and numbers to items children can envisage, such as imagining the earth as a baseball. He also provides an afterword, offering interesting activities on scaling for the classroom or home.

Infographics are not easy to do well. The technique requires a balance of strong visual images and accessible organization of text. Some pages are more successful than others – a noteworthy one is the beautiful and striking double-page spread looking at the surface of the earth and the ratios of ocean and the various continents that cover it.

Adams, an award-winning Quebec illustrator, has a style that is both dramatic and dreamy, factual and fanciful. It works well with the remarkable amount of information that Smith has organized to enlighten and intrigue young readers. If_2277_HC.inddIf: A Mind-Bending New Way of Looking at Big Ideas and Numbers Written by David J. Smith Illustrated by Steve Adams Kids Can Press 40 pp August 2014 Ages 8 and up           Gillian O'Rielly Gillian O’Reilly is the editor of Canadian Children’s Book News and co-author (with Cora Lee) of The Great Number Rumble: A Story of Math in Surprising Places.     Logo-NoType The National Reading Campaign publishes children’s book reviews  under a Creative Commons License. This review is entirely free to reproduce and republish online and in print. Credit must be given to the reviewer and the National Reading Campaign. Reviews can be edited for brevity only. Contact Us for more information.