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Saturday, October 15, 2011

11 Experiments That Failed, written by Jenny Offill and illustrated by Nancy Carpenter. Schwartz $ Wade, Random House. 2011. $18.99 ages 4 and up


Question: Can a washing machine wash dishes?

Hypothesis: A washing machine can wash anything."

Some of my favorite books have me clamoring for anything that is new by that particular author. I feel that, if they could do it once and really intrigue me, they are likely to be able to do it again. So, I read this book with great anticipation because of my great  experiences reading 17 Things I'm Not Allowed to Do Anymore.

This new one is so much fun...I love it! Kids will be intrigued with the hypothesis of the front endpapers and that will keep them going - and laughing - all the way to the 'what happened' endpapers in the back. Oh, it is too funny! And there are eleven more....

There is always a question, and a hypothesis. They are followed by a 'what you need' list, 'what to do' and 'what happened'. So inventive and hilarious. I can't imagine what some of your own children and students might be able to conjure up for the next science fair. My personal favorite of the eleven staged experiments is this:

Can a kid make it through the winter eating only snow and ketchup?
Ketchup and snow are the only food groups a kid needs.
What You Need:
What to Do:
1. Make snowball
2. Dip in ketchup.
3. Eat.
4. Repeat three times a day until spring.
What Happened:
Brain freeze.
Love of ketchup wavering."

Every one of them is imaginative and wonderful. Then, there's the collage art that adds a whole other dimension to the fun inspired by the words. Jenny Offill uses that same matter-of-fact voice she used in the first book, giving character to the young girl who is at the center of the action.

Nancy Carpenter's pen-and-ink and digital media illustrations will keep readers poring over the pages as they return to the story again and again. The experimental ideas will have you responding uproariously, never mind the inspired collage art that accompanies them. Ms. Carpenter adds so many details, including captioned anatomy, a freezer filled with snowballs, children dressed in outdoor clothes as they share their meal, a huge background calendar to help them through the winter, and blue circles under the eyes and blue lips as the next meal is prepared. That is just one question answered!

Kids are going to love this one, and I can't wait to share it!

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