The Big Book of How - Facts and Experiments for Summer Vacation


[This review is the first post co-written with my six (almost seven) year-old daughter. This summer we're doing all sorts of new things, not the least of which is helping Dad with some blogging...]

The Big Book of HOW from Time Magazine's series "Time for Kids" is not only about how things work, but also about how to do things yourself. Imagine a book full of questions that a young adult might ask, like "How were the pyramids built?" or "How do you prepare for an earthquake?" Except in addition to the answers, there are experiments (or "crafts" as my daughter called them) to illustrate how the things work in real-life. Here's what she had to say:

This book would be good for kids six to twelve years old. Adults can read the book with them also, and they can do experiments with their children. The book is very colorful, with all different kinds of pictures. It is also big with 181 pages and lots of facts. My favorite part of the book is all the crafts and experiments that look like fun. One of the things I learned from the book is to make sure you have plenty of food and water when a hurricane is about to strike. I do not live near the ocean, so I don't have to worry about hurricanes!

I have to say, I don't have anything bad to say about this book. I think this book would be fun in school and on summer vacation because it has lots of fun things to do. If you're curious about how things work in the world, you might like to buy this book. It might not be a good library book however, because once you start reading it you might not want to give it back.

Time for Kids Big Book of HOW, $12.21 from

iPad App of the Week: Phaidon Design Classics


Phaidon Design Classics is a book (or really, a three volume set) for design nerds like me. In it they curate and chronicle 999 objects that they deem are noteworthy for their innovation, influence and are "perfect in their design." The objects are numbered and ordered chronologically, starting with Chinese household scissors from 1663 and ending with the most modern products of today.

Though you could buy the three volume set at Amazon for $110.25, for $19.99 you can get all of that content and more on your iPad - plus an extra product (product 1,000 - the suitably chosen iPhone). It's an awesome collection of things both historical and current, allowing you to browse through not only the history of object design but human history as well.

The interface is fairly easy to understand, and while the clicking sounds it makes when you transition to a new object are kind of hokey, they do help you navigate through the enormous collection. You can also narrow down the number of objects shown by choosing categories or by running keyword searches on the titles and descriptions.

Running a search on "children" yields 49 results, among which there are some of the things you might expect, like the Mammut Chid Chair sold by Ikea, the Tripp Trapp Child's Chair from Stokke or the Eames Hang-It-All. There are also many objects that are taken for granted but are nevertheless incredibly innovative, like Crayola Crayons, Pez candy dispensers, the very first Jigsaw Puzzle (made in 1776), or the very first Teddy Bear (made in 1902). I must admit that I never really gave much thought to the Classic Red Wagon from Radio Flyer (pictured), but two paragraphs later not only do I know the history behind how it was designed and developed, but I appreciate it all the more.

Phaidon Design Classics for iPad by Phaidon Press, $19.99 from the iTunes App Store.

Dumbo Jumbo?


My wife was reading a small book based on the Disney movie Dumbo to our two-year-old this evening, and she brought up a good point. If Dumbo's mother's name is "Mrs. Jumbo," then Dumbo's full name is Dumbo Jumbo.

At first I suggested that maybe she never took Dumbo's dad's name, or maybe they were never married. Forgetting the fact that this scenario would be pretty progressive for the story of a Disney movie from 1941, were any of that actually true she'd be "Ms. Jumbo." Nope. His full name is definitely Dumbo Jumbo.

Which leads me to wonder what kind of a mother would name her kid "Dumbo Jumbo?" It has to be at the top of the list of all time worst names. Don't you think a mother who loves her child as much as Mrs. Jumbo obviously does in the movie would have thought it through a little better?

Which further leads me to wonder if the actual writers of this whole Dumbo story even realized that they were naming their lead character "Dumbo Jumbo." I can only imagine they probably liked the name "Dumbo" and then wanted to name the mom something else kind of like it and came up "Mrs. Jumbo." But when you think it through, it's really a terrible choice.

I think I should probably stop thinking it through now.

Of course, if you're interested in watching the movie yourself, you can get Dumbo (Big Top Edition) for $16.49 from But be forewarned. When Mrs. Jumbo tries to help her son and the animal trainers keep her caged up and tied down, it will probably get to you too.