We are back into the rhythm of our school year and I love posting about books that we are using for school. For the past while we have been reading Inventors, Bright Minds and other Science Heroes of South Africa. This book is published by Penguin Random House South Africa, written by Engela Duvenage and illustrated by Tumi K. Steyn. I cannot praise this book enough, it is fantastic… and definitely gets book of the year status on our blog.
This book has everything… everything!!! History, science, innovation, technology, exploration, biology, medicine… there is so much in this book. It is a fantastic read, on the market as a children’s book, but to be quite honest I am enjoying reading it just as much as my kids are. This is an arm chair scientist’s dream, a fact checkers resource and an all round fascination for curious kids of every age. We are winding our way through it, reading about a different scientist every day. The book is divided into logical sections… medical scientists, animal scientists, environmental scientists… computer scientists. It is astonishing just how inventive South African scientists are, to be honest who knew?
Apart from that, I love the feel of this book, it is large format paperback, extremely comfortable for reading… it feels like you are reading an in depth encyclopaedia, only it is full of extremely readable and fascinating stories… definitely nothing overwhelming for your middle grade reader and upwards. Each scientists has their own illustration and a little clue in the illustration to the type of scientist that they are.
Each of the one hundred and twelve scientists is given a three page spread… a biography, an interesting introduction to the science that they do and then boxes of quick facts about where and when they were born and pertinent definitions and explanations to help the reader to remember the story. The stories are written in a way that is easily understood, great care has been taken to make sure that more complicated science is explained carefully and understandably. I love that the stories include several facts, often quirky facts, about the scientists… it makes them much more relatable.
There are several well know scientists in this book, for example Christiaan Barnard, the medical doctor that pioneered the heart transplant, and other lesser known scientists like Dr Heather Zar, who invented a spacer from recycling, to help children with asthma to use their inhalers. There are animal experts from massive beasts, to tiny insects, not to mention ancient fish and botanists with intriguing plant stories to tell. There are computer innovators and star gazers, this book is a treasure trove for all science lovers.
I love that the book has loads of men and women scientists, it isn’t a case of one or the other. It also features scientists from several different cultural backgrounds. There are young and old scientists, even a grandmother who invented a contraption to fix wind pumps. There are scientists that grew up with every possible opportunity and others that were raised in rural regions with very few scientific resources.
This is an empowering book, full of South African heroes, there is a whole section on Nobel Prize winners. Representation is key, kids need to see and hear about people from their own cultures that do great things and certainly a science reference book like this is something that school libraries all over South Africa has been missing, even if they didn’t realise it.
I loved reading more about scientists that we hear about in the news, as well as reading about familiar faces from my own student days… In fact one of my favourite lecturers of all time features in the book. Professor, Daya Reddy, from the University of Cape Town, who is now a leader of world scientists and the president of the International Science Council.
Another scientist that I have written about on our blog before is Dr Anusuya Chinsamy-Turan, who was one of the founding members of SA-WISE (South African Women in Science and Engineering) with me, many many years ago, before I began my parenting journey. She wrote the book, Dinosaurs of Africa that I reviewed on our blog last year.
If I was going to add anything to this book it would be a complete list of all the scientists, there is a list at the start of each section, but a complete list of scientists would be great. And, of course, a map of South Africa with place names so that we could see where the scientists all come from… there are scientists from the Cederberg to Howick, Cape Town to Pretoria, young readers like to know where the places are that they read about. Also, the illustrations of each scientist are so fabulous… I would go so far as to say, create a colouring book, or a series of colouring books to accompany this book… yes, it is that good and yes, something for restless students to do, while they are being read too.
Honestly, this book is a treasure and should be accessible to South African children everywhere… as a reference book in public libraries and definitely in all school libraries. This is a homeschoolers dream. Perfectly readable, incredibly inspiring… not a book to read in one sitting, but story by story. Definitley our Science book of the year.
Amazon Affiliate Link to Inventors, Bright Minds and other Science Heroes of South Africa.
This book was given to us for review purposes by Penguin Random House South Africa. This is not a sponsored post and opinions expressed are entirely our own.