Review of A Ray of Light: A Book of Science and Wonder

A Ray of Light: A Book of Science and Wonder
by Walter Wick; photos by the author
Intermediate    Scholastic    40 pp.    g
2/19    978-0-439-16587-7    $17.99

Wick explores the concepts of light and color in a sophisticated yet comprehensible format. As in his masterful A Drop of Water (rev. 3/97; winner of the 1997 Boston Globe–Horn Book Award for Nonfiction), the gorgeous images of phenomena, in carefully staged everyday contexts, amaze us even as they prompt reflections on the underlying science. Rays of light beam across the pages, clearly bending as they travel through a lens, or fanning out in all the visible colors when split apart by a prism. At other times, the photographs are of objects that display color, such as pigments, soap bubbles, and insects, or of the objects, such as telescopes, that allow us to see far-away light. These images illustrate concepts that span degrees of difficulty, from the easy-to-observe refraction, dispersion, and iridescence to the more difficult concepts of color, light waves, and atomic spectra. Light is harder to describe than matter (i.e., water), and at times the ideas get abstract (there are no diagrams or sketches of the atomic-level interactions that produce light and color) or involve terminology that may be complicated for younger readers. But even if the explanations are challenging, the interplay between them and the images encourages readers to wonder and learn. Appended with a double-page spread of back matter that provides further information about the concepts covered in the book.

From the March/April 2019 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.
Danielle J. Ford
Danielle J. Ford
Danielle J. Ford is a Horn Book reviewer and an associate professor of Science Education at the University of Delaware.

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