The cartoon guide to chemistry by Larry Gonick, & Craig Criddle by wppalmer []
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The cartoon guide to chemistry

by Larry Gonick; Craig Criddle

  Print book  |  1st ed

1 of 1 people found this review helpful.
The cartoon guide to chemistry by Larry Gonick, & Craig Criddle   (2014-05-02)


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by wppalmer

CITATION: Gonick, L. & Criddle, C. (2005). The cartoon guide to chemistry. New York: HarperCollins.

Reviewer: Dr W. P. Palmer

Can students learn chemistry through cartoons? The answer may well be ‘only with extreme difficulty’. Nonetheless, this cartoon guide could be extremely helpful promoting student learning in some areas of chemistry. The way in which students learn chemistry is very much dependent on the student’s learning style and some students will reject the concept of a cartoon guide to chemistry out of hand. However, this book could prove to be a valuable resource for most Year 11/12 students studying chemistry, though there are difficulties.

Interestingly it starts with some of chemistry’s history where there are some minor errors by the authors. It was Cavendish, rather than Priestley (p. 9), who first prepared and named hydrogen and also Cavendish who discovered that hydrogen burnt to form water. Robert Boyle had prepared hydrogen much earlier, but had not identified its properties. Reflecting on the early part of the text, it is easy to see how the cartoonist’s desire to use humour to help students remember and understand chemistry could equally be responsible for student chemical misconceptions. ‘Chemical bonding’ is likened to human love and affection, for example, ‘No wonder the subject is so sexy! (p. 46). This anthropomorphism can prove to be a source of further student misconceptions. There are a variety of less well known chemical reactions chosen by the authors as examples such as living on a desert island using its natural resources in a self-sufficient manner; this was extremely innovative and showed possible practical applications of chemistry. In the areas of physical and general chemistry, the authors do a good job of providing examples of typical calculations with which students need to be familiar.

Areas of descriptive chemistry in inorganic and organic chemistry are difficult as students may often be required recall the practical details of experiments that they have carried out, whereas cartoon guides need to cut descriptions to a minimum number of words. Similarly industrial chemistry may prove difficult if details of industrial processes are required. Overall, The cartoon guide to chemistry covers more than most Year 12 curricula and could find a place in some university courses. There will be teachers who dislike the approaches to some topics or find definitions incomplete, but the appeal that a cartoon approach makes to some students should override these concerns. This book really covers much general and physical chemistry well, so can be recommended as an alternative approach.


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