“These are my ‘recipes for wonder‘, filled with ideas and instructions to turn anyone into a wondersmith – a grown-up who can foster wonder in both senses of the word, by encouraging children to feel amazement and admiration for the natural world, as well as to ask questions to learn more about it.”
If the alluring cover of Mr Shaha’s Recipes for Wonder hadn’t already got me excited about what lay inside the pages of this book, the paragraph above from its introduction would have hooked me; there are few things I’d rather be than a wondersmith and if this book can help turn me into one, then I’m going to dive straight in!
A science experiment book with a real eye for beauty and a inviting approach that encourages open-ended exploration, Mr Shaha’s Recipes for Wonder by Alom Shaha (@alomshaha), illustrated by Emily Robertson (@emilyjayne_says) is a very special book.
Rainbow-hued watercolour illustrations throughout bring light and visual sparkle to 15 activities themed around 5 different areas of exploration including ‘Motion’, ‘Sound’ and ‘Living things’. Each ‘recipe’ or set of instructions is followed by a brief commentary to gently encourage further reflection and questioning. What I particularly love is the way cool, clear scientific method has been married with gorgeous art (featuring a diverse range of budding scientists), defying easy pigeonholing; this book could be found on the shelves for illustrated books as well as in any non-fiction section of a library or bookshop.
Another of the book’s real strengths is the attitude it encourages its readers to cultivate; one which welcomes questioning, and instead views not knowing the answers as exciting opportunities to embrace and explore, or as Alom Shaha puts it, turning the “I don’t know” into an empowering and curiosity-fuelling “How could we find out?”
Whilst cookery books, whether for food or experiments, often sell on the basis of their physical appeal (which this book has in bags), the real proof of the pudding, so to say, is in the success of their recipes. Are they easy to follow and do they actually work?
And the short (and very satisfying answer) when it comes to Mr Shaha’s Recipes for Wonder is a resounding YES!
First up we tried out the exploration of signing glasses, using a damp finger circling round the glass rim to produce clear notes.
The success of this recipe not only induced a sense of wonder but also great satisfaction, before prompting a whole stream of further questioning. What did the glasses sound like empty? Why is it that when you fill glasses with liquid the singing pitch drops, but when you fill bottles and blow across the mouths like panpipes the pitch RISES?
From there it was onto Youtube to find examples of rather more expert glass singers than us…
…before we wandered down another inviting path of discovery exploring the differences between glass harps (using glasses) and glass (h)armonicas such as this one:
One seemingly short and sweet recipe kept the whole family (Mum and Dad included) happy for 3 hours!
Fuelled by crisps we then went on to test recipes for the Crisp-Tin Catapult…
… simple motors…
— Zoe Toft (@playbythebook) February 22, 2018
…microscopic Movement, fizz rockets and even apparent telekinesis, all with a simple list of “ingredients”!
Wonder-full, Mr Shaha’s Recipes for Wonder is packed with exciting, clearly explained, rewarding experiments which give results that generate awe and delight. Now it’s not only Mr Shaha’s students (he’s a science teacher when not writing books) who get to benefit from his passion and ability to inspire and nurture curiosity. Please, Sir, can we have some more?