Review: Thing Explainer

Thing ExplainerThing Explainer by Randall Munroe. 9780544668256. Nov. 2015. Gr. 7-Adult.

I am a “science guy”. I am definitely not at the level of Bill Nye THE Science Guy, but I have a natural curiosity for and interest in science. But I often find it hard to understand very complex scientific topics, and find it even harder to put them into words.

Enter Randall Munroe. He is the author of the informative and very fun title, What If…, where he answers “Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions”. In Thing Explainer, he focuses on complex objects, but here’s where things get interesting. Knowing that people like me may have trouble with scientific jargon, he limits his writing to only the 1000 most common words to explain some very complex things.

So, using that method, a helicopter becomes a “sky boat with turning wings”, a camera becomes a “picture taker”, a washer/dryer becomes “boxes that make clothes smell better”, etc. Keep in mind that the very detailed explanations of how these things work are also given using only the same 1000 words, along with blueprint-style line drawings.

Munroe explains the methodology behind choosing the 1000 words he uses, and also includes a link to a word-processing program that only allows you to use the same 1000 words he uses in Thing Explainer:

I will close with a paragraph written using that website (give it a try…it is harder than you would think!):

If you like, please touch the blue words above to learn more about this book. It is a very fun way to learn about things with hard to understand ideas. You will have fun while making your brain better!


Blogger: Ryan H.