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How Machines Work: Zoo Break! Review by Brittney Rutherford

David Macaulay
Dorling Kindersley Limited
345 Hudson St., 4th Floor
New York, NY 10014

In the homeschooling world, there are many ways to present a lesson, but two of my favorite ways to teach a topic are living books and hands-on activities. It’s important to make learning both interesting and engaging. How Machines Work: Zoo Break! by David Macaulay brings the best of those two methods together in a unique book about simple machines. Macaulay has a background in architecture, and is well known for his books on architecture and design.

The premise of How Machines Work: Zoo Break! is that Sloth and Sengi want to break out of their enclosure and escape the zoo.  The book takes us on their journey as they use levers, pulleys, screws, inclined planes, wedges and wheels to attempt their mastermind escape. The storyline is mixed with factual information about simple machines and how they work. The illustrations are interesting, but the book goes one step further and includes a variety of interactive elements to demonstrate the technology of simple machines.

These interactive elements includes mini-books, pop-ups, pull-outs, wheels and a neat variety of other activities to bring the words on the page to life. Kinesthetic learners will be especially attracted to this book. Through these hands-on activities, the reader is encouraged to be an active participant in their learning. Readers also learn how the things we see and use regularly like hair clippers, zippers, or seesaws, are really just simple machines. They are also taught how complex machines, like a bicycle, can be made of several simple machines. Everything is really brought to life in this book.

This book is aimed at ages 7-10 years old. My boys are six and nine, and their reaction to it makes me think that age recommendation is right on target. They were eager to read the book together, they were both intrigued by the hands-on aspect, they were attentive to the story and they were asking questions along the way. How Machines Work: Zoo Break! is visually appealing, educational, and an all-around engaging book. I highly recommend it for kids interested in how things work, but it would also be appropriate to use to encourage an interest in STEM subjects. It is ideal for homeschoolers, libraries and classrooms, as it should appeal to a wide range of children.

-Product review by Brittney Rutherford, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, March, 2016