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Sunday, October 07, 2012


Wonderful Life with the Elements by Bunpei Yorifuji - Book review

Wonderful Life with the Elements

The Periodic Table Personified

By: Bunpei Yorifuji

Published: September 14, 2012
Format: Hardcover, 208 pages
ISBN-10: 1593274238
ISBN-13: 978-1593274238
Publisher: No Starch Press

"We're usually not aware of the elements in our daily lives", writes brilliant and creative Japanese artist, Bunpei Yorifuji in his highly innovative and very engaging book Wonderful Life with the Elements: The Periodic Table Personified. The author describes the lives of the 118 basic elements in terms of them as literal cartoon families, with histories and occupations, and many characteristics in common.

Bunpei Yorifuji recognizes that the study and understanding of the many chemical elements is often both time consuming and very confusing. The author also takes into consideration that the standard Periodic Table of the Elements, while brilliant and the result of many great minds creating an essential component for understanding chemistry, is also challenging for many students and adults. To counter this lack of instant intuitive understanding, Bunpei Yorifuji takes the radical and insightful approach of drawing each of the elements as a member of an actual family; each with its own unique familial hairstyle. Tracing the family history of the elements, their various properties and uses, and their interconnectedness becomes more transparent as a result.

Bunpei Yorifuji (photo left) understands that providing each element, and the other members of their families with friendly faces and unique clothing and hairstyles, gives each of them a personality. When the elements are no longer simply an often confusing and out of context collection of seemingly random numbers and letters, they become both readily identifiable and memorable for readers. By transforming the study of chemistry and the elements from a form of work to a more playful event, the reader is swept along with the sheer pleasure and joy of the book.

Bunpei Yurifuji divides his cartoon based guide to the element families into a series of entertaining, but information filled chapters. Each chapter examines a different property of the elements, and of its relatives. The chapters are as follows:

* Elements in the living room
* The super Periodic Table of the Elements
* Element cartoon characters
* How to eat the elements
* The elements crisis

For me, the power of the book is how Bunpei Yorifuji combines important information about the elements and the Periodic Table, with a playful and lighthearted approach to depicting the 118 elements. The author provides a consistent approach to the cartoon characterizations of the elements that integrates them into both immediate families, but into related uses, properties, and timelines. Indeed, every part of the element's cartoon appearance is significant, and conveys important information to the reader.

The cartoons are drawn to tell at a glance the atomic weights, elemental states, and uses. Along with a comprehensive examination of each element, the author also provides a bonus version of his own large, fold out Periodic Table of the Elements. It is like no other version of the Periodic Table, and very much more playful and fun.

I highly recommend the imaginative and readily understood book Wonderful Life with the Elements: The Periodic Table Personified by Bunpei Yorifuji, to any students, educators, business people working with any of the elements, and to any interested individuals seeking an enjoyable way to learn and comprehend the chemical elements and the Periodic Table. High school Chemistry would be more fun with this book as one of the textbooks.


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