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Book of What If

This is an interesting book of scientific and philosophic trivia.  It poses 84 questions such as: What if we could be young forever?  What if nanobots joined in the fight against cancer? What if walls could talk? and What if there were no luck? Each question is followed by a discussion about that question, and an activity related to it.  A short biographical sketch about a person who is involved in some way with the topic under discussion is included.

The questions posed also have comments about them from various teenagers.  Some questions have a technical corner explaining or introducing something that already exists and is relevant to the question.

The author also included a very detailed end-note section.  Many of these references are on line and might lead the reader to do more exploration on their own.  They have also included other resources that will help the curious minded to go on further thinking explorations.

I realize the copy I was reading was a reader’s copy for critics, but I would hope that the editors could make the student comments more readable before it hits the market.  The typeface I was trying to read was grey-on-grey in that section and I found it very difficult to read those student comments.

I’m trying to pinpoint an audience for the book.  Students who love trivia or are just naturally curious about many things will enjoy it; other than that I believe the student audience is limited.  I truly liked the book, but its best audience might be for the teacher to use as class discussions or as writing assignments.  It is intended for the high school audience, but good readers in elementary school might enjoy it.

I was enjoying the mental gymnastics asked for by the book when I ran across the question: What is awesome didn’t exist? – not an unusual question for that book.  What blew my mind was that the example of “awesome” was Harvey Milk, and everything said about him related to the gay community and his actions for that group.  This chapter seemed to be out of place because this was about a person – not about an idea, and that really didn’t fit into the concept of the book as a whole.  It seemed to me that someone had told the authors they MUST have something in the book about the gay community, so this got stuck in to make some publisher happy.  It was totally unnecessary! I do not think it is necessary to stress the sexuality of Milk and to do so in context with the word “awesome.” This inclusion will also make some homeschooling parents and libraries think twice about purchasing it.