September 28, 2012 at 2:46 pm
by Christina Tynan-Wood
My daughter recently switched schools. Her new school takes science seriously. She was completely on board for this change until she found herself in a class where everyone else seemed to know the Periodic Table of the Elements. She had never been asked to study it before and was angry at all her previous teachers. (Me too.) But, I happened to have a copy of Wonderful Life with the Elements by Japanese artist Bunpei Yorifuji ($17.95) on my desk. His publisher (also my publisher) had sent me a copy. I didn’t think it would solve her problem. But, being her mother, I had to do something. So I handed it to her.
She went away with it. And she said nothing more about feeling lost in her science class. But I noticed she always has this book with her. And she pinned the included poster of the elements to her wall. Yorifuji, who is known for his humorous ads for the Tokyo metro, “Do It At Home,” which show riders doing inappropriate activities on the subway, transforms each element into a person, with personality traits and habits that match the element. It’s an entertaining and charming read that turns studying the periodic table into an experience more like reading cartoons than hitting the science books.
These cartoon characters have enemies: Silver’s enemy is sulfur, for example. When they meet, silver loses its shine and turns black. And they have back stories: Copper is the element in the oldest man-made metal object. But most of all, each element looks like someone, has a stories that’s easy to remember, is amusing, and has human faults and qualities. I don’t know if there is any correlation but my daughter is getting an A in this science class, despite that initial moment of intimidation. I wish someone had made the periodic table this much fun to study when I was in school.