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The class book review: Secret Science by Dara Ó Briain

Dara Ó Briain brings science into the everyday – and, with bubble writing and funny pictures, our pupils loved the book

The Class Book Review: Secret Science by Dara Ó Briain

Dara Ó Briain brings science into the everyday – and, with bubble writing and funny pictures, our pupils loved the book

Secret Science  

Author: Dara Ó Briain
Details: 298pp, £12.99
ISBN: 9781407188140

I assume that the non-fiction sections of many school libraries look the same as the one in my school’s library looked a few years ago – with a science section populated by a handful of Eye Witness books, some slightly out of date A-level textbooks and a handful of dusty reference books.  

The non-fiction section is sadly oft-overlooked in school libraries and the signposting (both physical and metaphorical) of kids to non-fiction reading for pleasure, rather than reference, is minimal. At my school, I have been gradually donating some modern, narrative non-fiction books that I have enjoyed, which I pick up cheap in charity shops, and our school library now has a burgeoning science section. However, whilst these books are well liked by the growing band of older, eager readers in the school who already have an interest in science, their pages of pictureless text aren’t so appealing to younger readers.

This is an obvious gap in the market that Dara Ó Briain and his publishers are seeking to fill with this book and it’s predecessor, Beyond The Sky. In this new book, Ó Briain leads his young readers through the science of everyday life using his scientific expertise and sharp sense of humour, alongside some great illustrations by Dan Bramall.  

When I took the book home, the first thing that my adult eye noticed was the ever-changing type font within the book, which I found quite annoying, despite how much I enjoyed reading it. However, this is not a book written for crusty old science teachers, it’s written for kids.

After asking members of my science club to review it, I decided to widen the audience a bit, and also asked a couple of my Year 7 tutor group and self-confessed reading-phobics if they’d take the book home and try it out for me. Whilst they didn’t finish it, they both returned it the next day with glowing praise – one of them asked if they could take it home to finish it.

And there it is – the highest possible praise from a reluctant reader. So, go stock your primary and secondary libraries with this fantastic book. It’s funny, engaging and interesting and for younger readers, and it may just be exactly what your library is currently missing. I know our library was.

Dr Bill Wilkinson is a science teacher in an all-boys school in Bath where he is a passionate advocate for science, reading for pleasure and playing football

Pupil reviews: ‘Funny jokes, cool pictures and bubble writing’

This is a very immersive and kid-friendly book. It has a very good balance; some parts are very childish (in a good way) and some are very scientific. It does a really good job to make sure you keep reading. With funny jokes, cool pictures and bubble writing, this book is very amusing. I did, however, skip the pages about food, but I think this was just personal preference. The book does have a few errors (such as the conversion of height on the page about aeroplanes) but this doesn't spoil the read though. I think Dara Ó Briain is still a great author and scientist. The ending is really amusing, with the sandcastle, and I like how the book includes a section for "scientific" notes. This gives an extra fun purpose to the book other than reading it.”

Toby, aged 11

It is really good; the front cover is really exciting and will appeal to younger readers. I liked the “everyday” structure of the book and it is about things that are in kids' everyday lives that we can relate to. It made me think about that stuff when I saw it in real life.

Sam, aged 14

It’s likely to be picked up in a shop or the library. I like that it doesn't really have obvious chapters. It meant I kept going with reading it, like a story.

Elliot, aged 13

I love the jokey illustrations and cartoons, they really add to the enjoyment of the book. But you could still jump from section to section or skip some bits. The author actually says its OK to read it like that.

Thomas, ages 12

I really like the bubble writing – it makes me feel that this is a book written for me rather than for adults. It was so good. I read it in one day. It was stuffing my head full of information but didn’t feel like it.

James, aged 11

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