Friday, July 20, 2018

Book cover and alarming endpapers: "All About the Atom"

  • Title: All About the Atom
  • Series: AllAbout Books #10
  • Author: Ira M. Freeman, then a professor of physics at Rutgers University
  • Illustrator: George Wilde
  • Publisher: Random House
  • Year: 1955
  • Original price: Unknown
  • Pages: 146
  • Format: Hardcover
  • First sentence: If Abraham Lincoln could listen in on our conversations today, he would hear much that would puzzle him.
  • Final sentences: Man first learned to use fire, then the power of steam, and later electricity. Today he stands at the door of a new age — the Age of the Atom. The things to come he can only imagine.
  • Random sentence from middle: For the first time in history, scientists had started a nuclear chain reaction that could keep itself going.
  • Modern praise for AllAbout Books: On her website,, homeschooler Valerie Jacobsen writes this of the AllAbout science books:
    "Wouldn't you suspect that the technology books might be dated and useless? I did! But we have found them to be especially interesting and helpful. They present interesting histories of the people who discovered scientific principles, their trials and errors, and the first inventions that brought the wealth of kings and queens into our ordinary homes. I would not withhold them from a student with an interest in engineering and invention! ... Modern science books present a profusion of bright pictures with bare facts pressed in all around. They follow the "access brain --> pour in facts" method of teaching. But the AllAbout books treat children as able and effective thinkers who can follow clear sentences through well-constructed paragraphs to comprehend and appreciate complex ideas. Newer science books primarily name things — noun, noun, noun — whereas older science books like these tended to use all the parts of speech all the time. (Eureka!)"

Meanwhile, here's what you see upon opening All About the Atom...


My childhood spanned the late 1970s through the early 1980s — the latter half of the Cold War — but I personally didn't grow up, perhaps unlike the generation 10-to-15 years earlier, with any dread or terror of nuclear annihilation. It was just a fact of life that I lived in a world in which the USA and USSR each had nuclear stockpiles that could destroy the world twice over. My childhood worries were much more ordinary — storms, fires, bullies, haunted places and horseshoe crabs.

As I kid, my introduction to the horrors of the atom centered around movies such as The Amazing Colossal Man, which was not scientific on any level, but made it abundantly clear that one should not stand in front of an atomic-bomb test.

In the 1980s, The Day After was supposed to give the nation nightmares, but the only thing I remember is being sad about the vaporized horse. And possibly that Steve Guttenberg was involved. (For what it's worth Special Bulletin was better produced and more terrifying than The Day After. And it still holds plenty of relevance today.)

So what's my point? You would think I'd have one, right? I guess it's just this: Maybe an educational children's book featuring a mighty mushroom cloud on the first page isn't so alarming, after all. But won't someone think of the horses??

Related posts

No comments:

Post a Comment