Read: 8 April, 2009
Icarus is the classic story of the boy who flew too high for his own good. The twist here is that the titular hero lives in the future, grew up on a space ship, and flies into a black hole rather than the sun. Icarus is also a rather large board book, illustrated with beautiful images taken by the Hubble space telescope.
POSITIVE: Icarus offers an interesting blend of classical mythology and modern science. It’s a great introduction to black holes and the relativity of time. Finally, the stunning images can only feed a young mind’s interest in science.
NEGATIVE: I don’t know what Icarus was trying to be. Board books are normally associated with younger children, but the diction seems too advanced. I’m all for books that challenge kids, but I think that this would only serve to frustrate. The book is also far too large to be comfortably read to a young audience that wants to see the pictures too. If, on the other hand, Icarus was intended for a slightly older set, I think that kids would find the story too simplistic.
Another major flaw was the choice in representation of the black hole. This is shown as a black dot (literally a ‘black hole’ in the middle of the page) that progressively takes over the entire page and then shrinks back down. I can understand an appreciate that this is supposed to allow the reader to “approach” the black hole as Icarus does, but it’s just plain black and it obscures the beautiful background images (almost completely for several of the middle pages). It’s both distracting and frustrating.
The greatest flaw this book has is its apparent lack of direction. Perhaps the author wanted it to be too many things at once. Who can blame him? The niche for storybooks that also teach science is severely under-filled – but one book alone cannot hope to fill all of it. The result is literary schizophrenia.
This, coupled with the unfortunate design choice, makes this book somewhat of a disappointment. It’s still worth getting, though, if only because of how sparse the genre is.
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