How Machines Work: Zoo Break!, by David Macaulay | Book Review
The Children’s Book Review | June 18, 2016
Written and Illustrated by David Macaulay
Age Range: 7-11
Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: DK Children (2015)
What to expect: Simple Machines, Science, Engineering, STEM, Zoo animals, Pop-Up, Lift-the-Flap, Interactive Book
How Machines Work: Zoo Break! takes the potentially dry topic of simple machines and transforms it into an interactive adventure.
Two animals (a sloth named Sloth and a sengi, also known as an elephant shrew, named – wait for it – Sengi) feel confined and bored in their enclosure and decide to leave the zoo. Their escape is made possible by simple machines. Sloth and Sengi, though different in size and energy level, work well together to find and cleverly use a number of simple machines to facilitate their getaway. Unfortunately, their persistence is not rewarded with success; even when they eventually free themselves from their habitat, they are quickly discovered by the zookeeper and returned to their original home, which “seems so much smaller to them now.” However, the author creates a modern happy ending for Sloth and Sengi, one that allows them to see the world as celebrities.
David Macaulay achieves the near-impossible in How Machines Work: Zoo Break!. His presentation of simple machines is not only fun and creative but also organized and logical, a rare feat in an introductory science book. The first twelve chapters of the book introduce the reader to the six simple machines: inclined planes, wedges, levers, wheels and axles, pulleys, and screws. Each of these two-page chapters offers substantial information about the given simple machine without overwhelming the reader. Sloth and Sengi’s amusing escape attempts and mishaps teach children about engineering in an approachable, easily understandable way. That Sloth and Sengi experience multiple failures and yet never give up is another reason for parents and children alike to love this story. Every page of How Machines Work: Zoo Break! is beautifully illustrated with vibrant colors and appropriate detail. Nearly every chapter has a flap to lift or a pop-up element. One chapter in particular (“Getting Leverage”) has a very interactive “catapult”, sure to please any curious child. The book ends with a helpful glossary (parents will especially appreciate the answer key for the components of Sengi’s complex machine) and a joyful final chapter.
In today’s STEM-centric world, it can be difficult to sift through all the available STEM books and find the perfect introductory text for children. Parents want a book that strikes the right balance between fact and fun for new science learners. How Machines Work: Zoo Break! does just that. Highly recommended.
About David Macaulay
Caldecott Medal award winner and MacArthur fellow David Macaulay has illustrated and written over 25 books for children. His most famous work includes The Way Things Work and Cathedral. His illustrations have been featured in popular, nonfiction books combining text and illustrations explaining architecture, design, and engineering.
How Machines Work: Zoo Break!, by David Macaulay, was reviewed by Kelley Smith. Discover more books like How Machines Work: Zoo Break! by following along with our reviews and articles tagged with David Macaulay, DK Children, Engineering Books, Lift-the-Flap Books, Pop Up Books, Science, STEM, and Zoo Animals.
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