I repeat myself, but Downtown Bookworks is the single best publisher of super hero-based kids books in the market, and it isn’t even close. Their ever-expanding library serves a wide range of ages and topics, but the common threads are always there: they treat kids with respect, and they show great veneration for pre-modern DC Comics artwork. Downtown recently sent Batman News a copy of their latest, Super Hero Science, and it is every bit as informative, entertaining, and chock-full-of classic DC artwork as prior entries.
Kids are young humans—not hairless dogs
Lots of books try to teach young kids scientific concepts, but I haven’t encountered many that give kids credit for their capacity to know and understand those concepts. This is one of the things I love about Downtown’s books: they use words and ideas that your kids probably don’t know; they use complete, sometimes multi-clause sentences. They do this, presumably, because they understand that children will ask questions about what they don’t know, and that asking questions is good. So when your little Dick or Babs reads that Kryptonite was formed by the radiation of Superman’s home planet, they may ask you what radiation is. And when you tell them, it will stick, in a way that it wouldn’t have had the book defined the word inline after its use. They see something they don’t understand, and their lack of understanding makes them curious. Treasure at the end of a chase is not soon forgotten!
But they still want to have fun
Life is about more than the pursuit of knowledge, but that doesn’t mean you can’t pursue knowledge while living it up and having fun. Super Hero Science interrupts its pages of fact/question/answer with actual experiments and projects, like building a spectroscope so kids can spot the lime on their friend Snapper, just like Hal! I’m a little disappointed that there are no Jason Todd/crowbar/impact-related experiments, but I suppose some concepts still require the cynicism of age to comprehend.
A worthy use of iconic characters
My favorite thing about Downtown is their evident love for DC’s Golden, Silver, and Bronze Age artwork. Every book is filled with lots of it, and Super Hero Science is no different. But here, things are taken a step further, with characters’ powers and actions being related back to real scientific concepts. This isn’t just Barry Allen being both a super hero and a scientist. It isn’t telling you that science is cool because Ray Palmer is a scientist, and he’s cool, therefore science is cool. It’s showing your kids that science is cool because it can explain and—in some cases, reproduce—aspects of their favorite characters. It takes abstract science and fictional heroes, mixes them together, and shows your kid cool things in reality that they never knew about. And I think that’s pretty dang sweet.
Super Hero Science gets everything right. Like all of Downtown’s books, it treats kids with respect while giving them plenty of classic DC artwork to ogle. But it also expands on that tried and true formula to teach kids that understanding the world around them needn’t be a dry, wholly academic pursuit—that what they like to read in comics or watch on TV is not as far removed from what they hear in school as they may think. That’s a lesson worth learning.
DISCLAIMER: Batman News received an advance copy of this book for the purpose of review.
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