Elon Musk and the Quest for a Fantastic
Future: Young Readers’ Edition.
By Ashlee Vance.
Jan. 2017. 288p. illus. Harper, $16.99 (9780062463289).
338.7. Gr. 8–11.
“I would like to die thinking that humanity has a bright future.” Elon Musk’s view on
the world is unlike many others, and this version of the best-selling adult biography cites
influences in Musk’s life that led to his work-centered, risk-laden, yet unparalleled success
in the fields of space exploration, electric
cars, and clean energy. Influences range from
his mother’s father, an adventuresome pilot, to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
Musk’s childhood featured plenty of reading
and dreaming (and the occasional round of
Dungeons & Dragons), but also its share of
strife: his parents’ divorce; his father’s bullying, which often led to injuries and even
hospitalization; and a personality and intellectual gift few truly understood. Today,
Musk still deals with people’s skepticism, but
his success supersedes his aloof personality
and unprecedented ideas. As Vance reports,
“It’s Elon’s world, and the rest of us live in
it.” An informative and easy-to-follow biography of one of today’s top innovators for
young readers. —Meghan Oppelt
Game On! Video Game History from Pong
and Pac-Man to Mario, Minecraft, and
By Dustin Hansen.
2016. 480p. illus. Feiwel and Friends, $19.99
(9781250080950). 794.8. Gr. 6–9.
This lengthy love letter comes from a self-
Girl Code: Gaming, Going Viral, and
professed video game addict. Thirty-nine
breezy, irreverent chapters celebrate indi-
vidual games, starting back at the dawn of
gaming (the 1970s had Pong and Space In-
vaders) and then working chronologically
through all the greats: John Madden Football,
Super Mario, Mortal Combat, Tomb Raider,
Dance Dance Revolution, Guitar Hero, Angry
Birds, and onward. Readers are treated to
such diverse tidbits as step-by-step playing
descriptions (accompanied by cheeky, ongo-
ing commentary), trials and failures, public
reception and sales, cheat codes and Easter
eggs, and continuing cultural influences
(Pokemon’s Pikachu has his own balloon in
Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade). Articles
highlight creative innovations showing the
increasing sophistication of video games as
they’ve evolved, including predictions for
the future (virtual reality, educational ap-
plications, badges and points). Sidebars
and inserts offer top 10 lists and general
observations. Unabashedly enthusiastic, au-
thor Hansen also provides tips on how to
evaluate games for personal enjoyment. The
length and heft might deter some brows-
ers, but true gamers will be delighted.
Getting It Done.
By Andrea Gonzales and Sophie Houser.
Mar. 2017. 272p. illus. Harper, $17.99 (9780062472502).
794. Gr. 6–10.
Here’s a welcome addition to STEM
shelves. Teenagers Gonzales and Houser
met at a Girls Who Code computer camp
in 2014, and, for a final project, they created
the game Tampon Run, which aims to break
down menstruation taboos. To the girls’
surprise, the game took off, and soon they
were minicelebs in both pop culture and the
tech world, with lots of opportunities. Their
experiences are recounted in alternating
chapters. Sophie, the girl terrified of public speaking, finds her voice, while Andrea,
who comes from a strict Filipino household,
must deal with making her own choices.
(Though their story lines are distinct, the
girls tend to sound the same.) The paucity
of women in computer science is a thread,
but there are plenty of mentors here, women
and men, urging the duo on. Readers who
come to this knowing nothing about coding will get an introductory primer—and,
at the book’s conclusion, the opportunity
to try coding on their own. This shows both
the ups and downs of success and celebrity,
and the wisdom of keeping options open.
How LEDs Work.
By James Roland.
2016. 40p. illus. Lerner, lib. ed., $30.65
(9781512407808). 621.3815. Gr. 6–9.
From the Connect with Electricity series,
Isaac the Alchemist: Secrets of Isaac
this book introduces LED technology, its
history, and its many uses. One section dis-
cusses the problem (solved in the 1990s) of
creating an LED bulb that would produce a
white light similar to that of an incandescent
bulb. This leads into a discussion of how the
human eye perceives different wavelengths
of light, as well as a “Solve It!” section ask-
ing readers to figure out how one seaside
community used LED lighting to help save
hatchling sea turtles. Some parts of the
information-packed text may be challenging
for readers without much background in sci-
ence, but other sections are more accessible.
Showing up well on the glossy pages, the
well-captioned illustrations include many
solid stock photos and several helpful dia-
grams. While the frequent use of LED bulbs
in STEM and makerspace programming
may add to the subject’s appeal for middle-
grade kids, the use of many multisyllabic
words pushes the reading level into the high-
school range. A good choice for motivated,
capable readers. —Carolyn Phelan
By Mary Losure.
Feb. 2017. 176p. illus. Candlewick, $19.99
(9780763670634). 530. Gr. 6–9.
Isaac Newton is known as one of the most
brilliant scientific minds in human history,
so what was he doing studying alchemy?
Losure ( The Fairy Ring, 2012) paints a vivid
picture of the lonely, curious young Isaac,
who grew up with an insatiable appetite for
reading (particularly about alchemy), which
ultimately fueled his scholarly pursuits.
While teaching mathematics and formulating his famous theories, for instance, he
simultaneously pored over crucibles of mercury, hoping to transmute lead into gold.
Of course, we know now that alchemy is
nonsense, but in Isaac’s seventeenth-century
existence, it was a serious scientific study and
thought to be the key to unlocking the universe’s secrets. In Losure’s engaging narrative,
she compellingly ties Isaac’s desire to solve
the world’s mysteries through alchemy to
his groundbreaking theories, which actually
did lead to solving many of those mysteries.
Snippets of Isaac’s notebooks and period illustrations further enliven Losure’s already
fascinating, energetic writing. More than
just a picture of Isaac Newton’s life, this illuminates the historical context for his work
and the sea change his discoveries ushered in.
Medicine and Health Care.
By Michael Burgan.
2016. 64p. illus. Mason Crest, $23.95 (9781422235942).
616.07. Gr. 6–9.
This STEM in Current Events series entry
examines the implementation of STEM in
medicine and health care—for example, the
scientific research conducted into the cancer-resisting genes of elephants that might help
us understand cancer in humans, or the discovery of a way to alter the genes in adult
stem cells. Technological breakthroughs
examined here include the monitoring of
tumor shrinkage through small devices inserted into a person’s body, scanners that
detect beginning rheumatoid arthritis, and
a device that can diagnose sickle cell disease
and track its progress using a smartphone.
Other engineering advances include full-body PET scanners that can scan a person’s
entire body at once so that doctors can de-