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.
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.
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