In the last few posts, I had posted reviews of books which I had read for pleasure. Now I am back at my desk reviewing books in my specialisation — science and art. I start with the first out of the three books directed at young audience which I have received for review. All three books have the potential to enchant the young mind with their amalgamation of science and art, both in highest degree. I would give the details of the other two books in later posts, and restrict myself here only on the synopsis and criticism of the book How Science Saved The Eiffel Tower by Emma Bland Smith and illustrated by Lia Visirin.
In fact, you do not need me to tell you about the contents of the book as the title of the book is self-descriptive enough. You know for sure that it is about EIffel Tower, that its existence was in jeopardy, and it was rescued, and that too by science. Throughout its length, the narrative does not deviate from the scope stated in the title. Not only that, the title in turn raises several questions in your mind — ‘Why’ (was it in danger), ‘Who’ (rescued it)’ and ‘How’ (did science achieve this rescue). Even before you have grasped the title in full, you find yourself pulled into the book and unable to resist the temptation to turn the pages one after another. And this holds true not just for children and young adults, but also for grown ups. There is no sentimentality or poetic flavour to the narrative, which is written in a matter-of-fact manner with paragraphs of moderate sizes.
The story tells how Gustave Eiffel planned and erected the tower which now bears his name, how the artists, writers and general population reacted negatively, how the authorities decided to bring it down after a certain period of time, and how Eiffel made repeated attempts to thwart and spoil their plans by one idea after another, each time failing to convince them. His ideas included conducting meteorological observations from the summit of the tower and comparing them to those made at the base, conducting tests and simulations for the ongoing flight experiments, providing military base to experiment with wireless technology. Behind all these ideas, the primary motivation was to prove the merit of the tower and to show the various ways in which it could be useful for scientific research. Note that, nowhere did he attempt at raising nationalist fervour or pride through his creation, instead restricted and resorted to scientific research as the primary motivation. This needs extra emphasis, being unlike our country where step wells like that at Adalaj, observatories like Jantar Mantar and monuments like the Bada Imambara are presented more as a symbol of cultural heritage, art and history, rather than marvels of scientific and engineering achievements of the nation. That is also fine, but one should not forget the primary reason behind the construction of a monument.
The illustrations are wonderful, accurate and detailed, while the colours used are sober. Illustrations are detailed to such an extent that the various labels for shop names and road signs are written in French script to give authenticity. The accompanying text is also scattered with French phrases to give it appropriate flavour. Except a few pages, the illustrations do not interfere with the text, which makes reading a pleasant experience. A tiny glossary of French terms used in the book, a list of additional facts about the Eiffel Tower and a timeline of Eiffel’s life complement the text.
There are a few typographical errors such as ‘practiced’ on page 25. Also, on the last page under the title ‘Timeline’, there is an entry “1909: Eiffel built a wind tunnel at the foot of the tunnel.” I am not sure how the book would look like in its final paper format, but going by the version I received for review, the font size appeared too small. Just a font size higher would not only add charm and appeal to the appearance but also make it more comfortable to the eyes.
Considering all aspects and features, this book is a composition which encompasses art, history, storytelling, science and engineering as well as learning a few French phrases. This book would not lose its value and charm and can be read all over again from a different perspective. Also, even in the very first reading itself, the parent can give more importance to a particular perspective depending on personal preference. Personally, I would have preferred to go through it slowly, very slowly, page by page, informing and explaining to my child all the details from the aforementioned perspectives. Not only that, even after having finished the book, the child can practise art using the illustrations as reference. Of course, most of the children would do that even without being told.
Title: How Science Saved the Eiffel Tower
Author: Emma Bland Smith, Illus. By Lia Visirin
Publisher: Capstone Editions
Publication Date: 1 August, 2022
Print Length: 32 pages
Price (Kindle): $10.46
Price (Hardcover): $17.99
What Does It Mean?