High-Tech Highways and Super Skyways
by Nikole Brooks Bethea

Price at time of review: $22.99
32 pp.
Capstone Press
Manheto, MN
2017
ISBN: 9781491482667


Grade Level: 3-4

Reviewed by Steve Canipe
Director, Science, Mathematics & Instructional Design Technology


Using the graphic novel format to illustrate key scientific concepts is a great idea. Not only is it possible to write the material at a level of understanding that would normally be beneath the regular reading level, it is possible to have high interest. This is what this series of books called Our World: The Next 100 Years does. Titles in the series are: Power Plays: The Next 100 Years of Energy;Medical Marvels: The Next 100 Years of Medicine; High–Tech Highways and Super Skyways: The next 100 Years of Transportation; and Sailing the Solar System: The Next 100 Years of Space Exploration. The publisher, Capstone, rates the reading level of the series at grades 3–4 but the interest level at grades 3–9. This enables scientific concepts to be presented at an interest level up to the first year of high school but with a reading level being lower if reading is a problem.

Using the graphic novel concept, the series does not demean or talk down to lower reading levels. Each book in the series has not only high interest and accurate information, each also has a respectable glossary, links to internet sites, resources for reading more, a good index, and a more about section where facts and figures are presented. Each book in the series is well illustrated and draws the reader into the story. In High–Tech Highways and Super Skyways, futurist Luna Li, discusses with a school field trip the current state of transportation and what the future may hold. Like the other books in the series, this one begins in the present with a visit to a transportation museum and then, using Luna’s famous FSG (Future Scenario Generator), sees alternative futures. It is pointed out that predicting the future is never straight forward,so what can be done is to look at some possibilities of what the future may hold. Luna Li helps the students on the field trip understand how various modes of transportation got their start and how they have evolved. Some of today’s emerging technologies like driverless cars and maglev trains are observed to be in their infancy but they may hold greater possibilities in the transportation future. Possible futures in transportation like the reintroduction of supersonic aircraft, pilotless planes, the proposed Hyperloop from Los Angeles to San Francisco that will cover the distance of 350 miles in about 30 minutes are described. Other more glamorous transportation futures like suborbital flights and space tourism as well as the space elevator are also discussed. These are not just glimmers in some wild–eyed scientist’s eye but projects that are being actively pursued. One last possibility, that of teleportation, is briefly described and the proof of concept occurred in 2014 when scientists in the Netherlands teleported subatomic particles a meter! Obviously not the stuff of Star Trek but the idea had to begin somewhere. Just like in the transportation museum with the Wright brothers’ plane that flew for only 12 seconds but presaged jet engines and rockets!!

Each book in the series is well written and illustrated and uses the sneaky graphic novel format to draw in both the non–interested reader as well as the lower reading level reader. For these reasons alone the series would be worthwhile. But beyond this, the science is good and the ideas are valuable to all students regardless of reading level. Definitely a win–win–win for the teacher, the science, and the student!! Every middle school to early high school science teacher needs to have access to this set of books. A classroom set would be great but in the school library also works. A definite thumbs up for this series and each book individually. High interest and easy reading makes the graphic novels a hit.


Review posted on 9/28/2016


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