Thing Explainer

Thing Explainer

Complicated Stuff in Simple Words

Book - 2015
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Uses line drawings and common words to provide simple explanations for how things work, including microwaves, bridges, tectonic plates, the solar system, the periodic table, helicopters, and other essential concepts.
Publisher: Boston : Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, ©2015.
ISBN: 9780544668256
Characteristics: 61 pages :,illustrations, maps ;,34 cm


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Oct 23, 2018

Hilarious!!!! Great illustrations and very simple. Easy to understand in a short, simple way.

Aug 26, 2018

Agree with the commenter below: "The illustrations were excellent, one reason I looked at the book. However, the terminology used was obtuse, inane and ridiculous to say the least."

I flipped through the illustrations for a little while, but I found the text unreadable after more than a few minutes. I think readers would only find this enjoyable if they're interested in trying to solve a puzzle as they read.

It was an interesting premise, but it's not practical.

May 17, 2017

This book was fantastic! The illustrations were really fun and in the stick man style of this author. He explained everyday things in simple language like a microwave, or washing machine. He also explained more complicated things like the space station and a nuclear rector. He then explained things or concepts about the earth, like the tree of life and the age of the earth and the earths crust. It was a really fun read over all. The only issue that I had was that sometimes the language was too simplified and actually made the explanation more complicated, which was the case for the periodic table explanation.

Apr 04, 2017

The illustrations were excellent, one reason I looked at the book. However, the terminology used was obtuse, inane and ridiculous to say the least. Rather than say this Saturn rocket and it's capsule plus the lunar module... It was like reading this thingy is connected to that thingy, both parts of the big gadget over there. Now don't forget the important watcha-ma-call-it that works with this long tube. I suspect if a parent is showing this to a child that unless he/she knows what the correct terminology is, they too would be lost any lessons learned would be minimal. I wish it were better.

JCLHopeH Jun 14, 2016

I love Randall Munroe's XKCD comic, even when it often goes over my head. In Thing Explainer, even the most complex topics get a little easier to understand. Munroe creatively breaks down a variety of intricate systems using his original strategy for explaining "Up Goer Five," NASA's Saturn V Rocket ( simple illustrations and concise descriptions using only the 1000 most common English words. It's not necessarily the clearest explanation, but the fun illustrations and core vocabulary make for a great coffee table read.

Mar 20, 2016

Full points for taking complex systems and explaining them simply, but constraining the explanation to 1000 common words only is an annoying affectation. "Sky Boat" instead of "Airplane"? "Hanging Road" instead of "Bridge"? Some will argue that this reduces the objects to their functional essence, but using a few commonly understood words outside of the 1000 would not have taken away from the brilliantly simple explanations and diagrams in the book.

PimaLib_JenM Feb 22, 2016

While I highly recommend "What if? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions" (which was so good that I gifted it to my brother), I don't think this one quite works. The pictures are fantastic, as his always are, but the adherence to very simple words is just, well, too simple. Some of it is funny, but not enough of it to make me read through the whole thing.

Feb 22, 2016

he could have used a few more words to make sense of this book! nice pics, but the text is TOO simple, way too simple!

Feb 22, 2016

Hilarious but also really informative!

Jan 20, 2016

The premise of the book is that it explains stuff to you. The truth of the matter is that unless there's a companion guide to this - an online guide even, that has the diagrams with proper names of "stuff" to refer to as one comes upon each page - it's just not very useful as a thing that 'splain stuff to anyone.

It's fun to go through if you ALREADY have basic knowledge of this stuff though.

For those with eye sight problems: the text is very small. Very very small. Tiny. Expect to use a magnifier.

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Age Suitability

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Oct 23, 2018

lanaleif thinks this title is suitable for All Ages

May 17, 2017

csrestall thinks this title is suitable for All Ages


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May 17, 2017

It is difficult to give a summary of all of the things in this book so i will try to list them as best i can.
Space Station
Mars Rover
Washing Machine/ Dryer
The Earths Crust
The Age of the Earth
The Tree of Life
A Tree
Organs inside a Human
A Cell
A Helicopter
Sports Fields
An Apartment Building
The Sun
A Cockpit and Plane Engine
Computer/ Laptop/ Smartphone

Each topic is accompanied by a simplistic explanation. I am sure I am missing a few.


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