Elem. – Franz’s Phantasmagorical Machine

Anderson, Beth. Franz’s Phantasmagorical Machine. Kids Can Press, 2022. 978-1-525-30325-8. 32 p. $18.99. Grades K-3. 

“Imagine. Discover. Create.” Throughout his childhood, these whispers call to Franz Gsellmann. The words run through his mind even as his parents rely on him to do the more practical work of helping out on the family farm. As Franz busies himself milking cows, gathering eggs, and picking apples, the whispers continue calling to him. One night, many years later, he wakes from a dream with an idea for a fantastical, magical, phantasmagorical machine. Unsure about how to make his dream machine a reality, he draws inspiration from the World’s Fair in Belgium. For the next 23 years, he visits flea markets and junkyards, filling bags and carts with odds and ends of all kinds. He hauls everything back to his workshop where he tinkers in secrecy. When he finally reveals his creation to his family and neighbors, he’s crushed when they don’t understand his vision. They want to know what the machine does, but they miss the point that sometimes, a creation doesn’t need a practical purpose. Some things can be appreciated simply for their artistic beauty, ingenuity, and creativity. Backmatter pages include a brief biography of Franz Gsellmann as well as black and white photos of him with his machine. 

THOUGHTS: This title will be a thought-provoking addition to STEAM lessons as it highlights the ideas of perseverance, experimentation, creativity, and optimism. It also draws connections between science and art and shows the value of thinking outside the box. Share this with art teachers too to kickstart units about recycled art or self-taught artists. 

621 Applied Physics          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD
Picture Book

Elem. – Take It Apart (Series NF)

Ringstad, Arnold. Take It Apart. The Child’s World, 2020. $20 ea. $240 set of 12. 24 p. K-3.

What’s Inside a Clock? 978-1-503-83207-7.
What’s Inside a Computer Mouse? 978-1-503-83209-1.
What’s Inside a Digital Camera? 978-1-503-83238-1.
What’s Inside a Drone? 978-1-503-83237-4.
What’s Inside a DVD Player? 978-1-503-83204-6.
What’s Inside Headphones? 978-1-503-83236-7.
What’s Inside a Keyboard? 978-1-503-83206-0.
What’s Inside a Radio? 978-1-503-83203-9.
What’s Inside a Remote Control? 978-1-503-83235-0.
What’s Inside a Remote-Controlled Car? 978-1-503-83205-3.
What’s Inside a Toaster? 978-1-503-83208-4.
What’s Inside a VCR? 978-1-503-83210-7.

By introducing the different parts of various objects and providing instructions for taking these objects apart, this series encourages students to learn how everyday household items work. Captions and labeled photographs provide additional assistance throughout the process of disassembly. Complete with a table of contents, index, glossary, and sources for further research, this series would make a great addition to any STEM collection.

THOUGHTS: I personally received What’s Inside a Computer Mouse? and What’s Inside Headphones?, and I must admit that I initially judged these books by their covers. I thought they simply described these tools and how they worked, and I was skeptical about how interesting they could possibly be. I was pleasantly surprised, however, when I realized that the books actually provide instructions for taking these objects apart. What a fantastic idea for hands-on STEM learning! Disassembling these various objects would probably require some adult assistance for young elementary students, but I could totally see this being done in an elementary makerspace or science class with teacher assistance—perhaps even as a small group activity. Such an activity would be an excellent way to teach about concepts like circuit boards, switches, electromagnetism, and much more.

620 Engineering          Julie Ritter, PSLA Member