One thing I’ve learned as a science communicator and enthusiast is that everyone has a different perception of what science actually is. For the most part, there’s typically a general, albeit vague, understanding that it’s integral and intertwined with our daily lives. Scientific terminology and concepts can sometimes seem overwhelming and a bit tough to grasp, especially for kids.
On the other hand, super heroes are fascinating, colorful and exciting. Adults and kids alike find themselves wondering if super heroes could fit into our world. They have amazing abilities, incredible tools, or awesome attributes that make us all wonder, “How did they do that?”
Jennifer Hackett’s book DC Super Hero Science combines the two in order to make scientific concepts easier to understand. It’s recommended for readers over the age of six, but don’t be fooled, this book isn’t just for kids. It’s written simply and is visually and artistically copacetic.
Hackett starts the book off with a colorful introduction to science, and explains the scientific method. The rest of the book is broken down into seven sections: Physics, Animals, Waves, Powerful Bodies, Incredible Eyes, Engineering and Danger in Nature.
Within each section are topic related questions. For example, under the “Animals” section, there are four questions.
- How do birds fly?
- How do fish breathe underwater?
- Can you communicate with sea creatures?
- Can dogs talk?
The answers to these questions lead to scientific discussions of concepts. To help get points across, Hackett explores one or two super heroes whose powers are based on the underlying science. It’s not only a clever way to grab the reader’s attention, it provides context to aid in visualization.
When talking about how birds fly, the conversation is centered around Hawkman and Hawkgirl. Their wing shapes are discussed and compared to that of real-life hawks, with a visual depiction. One could almost imagine the super heroes pop from the page and fly around, creating the opportunity to really envision the concept in action.
It’s a pretty helpful feature, especially in other areas that deal with things we can’t literally see, like x-rays. The power of pairing it with Superman’s x-ray vision allows the reader to picture it from a different perspective that can’t actually exist in our world.
Each section has at least one activity where readers can put their new knowledge to use in real time. There are nine activities in total, which vary in complexity. The instructions are well-written and there are visual guides to assist, but they may still be difficult for younger readers. Some will definitely require adult supervision or assistance to complete the projects and use them properly.
One thing about DC Super Hero Science that felt somewhat odd was the inclusion of three “Scientist Spotlight” pages. They’re basically quick blurbs about scientists within the DC Universe, and how they work in a scientific field that exists in the real world. It features The Atom as a physicist, Bumblebee as an engineer, and Poison Ivy as a botanist.
While it is good to see comic characters acting as scientists, it would have been better to have some real world scientists featured. The book could explain what they actually do, and then relate the comic character to their field. This could have helped provide the human connection between the DCU and our reality, and given readers a chance to possibly see themselves as a scientist.
On a side note, while it would have also been cool to see more than the three of them, DC is somewhat limited on characters that are considered scientists who would have simultaneously fallen into the categories Hackett spelled out in the book. Perhaps a DC Super Hero Science part two is in order?
Is it good?
While it’s truly impressive just how well each super hero fits within the scientific concept being explored, most impressive is the way Hackett writes her explanatory text. She simplifies things in a way that makes terms easy to comprehend and relate to, while not letting the overall concept suffer.
DC Super Hero Science is refreshing and greatly exceeded my expectations. Hackett’s superpower must be to pull basic concepts and terms from physics, biology, geology, oceanography and more, and make them easy and fun to digest! The breadth of information (factually correct information, at that!) between the covers is absolutely astonishing, and it flows smoothly.
If you read through the book first without doing the activities, it’s an extremely quick read. There are 111 pages, but it took my 10-year-old less than two hours to get through it, and I finished in less than one.
The visuals really helped bring the book to life and drive the concepts home. Both my son and I had a lot of fun together, as well as learning along with the likes of Batman and Black Canary. This book is a must-have for anyone who wants to learn basic science, and will make a fantastic addition to anyone’s library.