David Macaulay is famous for his “how things work” books. How Machines Work: Zoo Break! is a new book that is really fun. So fun that it took me a long time to get it back from Amanda and Huxley so I could review it.
The concept is simple. A story, a simple story, is constructed, that has nothing to do with machines. Except it has everything to do with machines. Two critters, Sloth and Sengi, are in a zoo and trying to escape. Their various escapades lead to situations that allow the exploration of all those interesting mechanical concepts, such as inclined planes, levers and fulcrums and leverage, wheels, pulleys, zippers, and so on.
The book’s cover is a machine with gers, and you can turn one of the gears to watch the sloth go up and down. That is great fun for the littler kids. Every page has 3D pullouts and thingies that demonstrate the physical concepts explored by Macaulay. The book is just a lot of fun.
Sloth, the main character, is a sloth. Sengi, Sloth’s sidekick, is a Sengi. What is a Sengi? It is also known as an Elephant Shrew. What is an Elephant Shrew? It is a forest dwelling insect eating critter that looks vaguely like a rodent but with an elephant like trunk, sort of. In the old days (before the 1990s) we used to say that “An Elephant Shrew is neither an Elephant and a Shrew.” In the old old days, Sengi were classified as shrews. Then, they became reclassified as something other than shrews, but still, obviously, not closely related to elephants. The “elephant” in the name is just because of the elephant-trunk-like nose. But more recently, Sengi were reclassified again into a group that includes elephans (and aardvarks and some other stuff). And it is because Sengi are related to elephants (closely enough) that Macaulay used a sengi (played by Sengi the Sidekick) … he felt an elephant would be the perfect character but they were too small, thus the shrew. And, as you will see, in the end, tamed.
Other Macaulay books (small selection, there are several):