Inner Workings | Book Review

Inner Workings: The Extraordinary Insides of Ordinary Things

by Peter Hinckley, illustrated by Olga Zakharova
Picture Book

Is the inner structure of a loaf of bread as complex as the inner workings of a toaster? Inner Workings provides answers to such puzzling questions using cutaway illustrations, informative captions, and labels to explain the inner workings of everyday items. Both man-made and natural objects are featured. This allows us to see the complexity of fabricated mechanisms and nature’s creations alike. A side-by-side comparison of a wooden beehive and a hornet’s nest, for example, reveals the ingenious construction of both types of insect communities. The text is written to appeal to kids, and includes historical and fun facts. Zakharova employs double-page spreads, full-page exploded views, and small vignettes. Bright graphic art floats impressively on a black background, and highlights the structural layers of food, fireworks, and more.

Some cross-section illustrations convey interconnections better than others. The ant colony diorama, for example, is a fascinating graphic map. It shows their cooperative group activities that range from collecting food, to laying eggs. Yet, the bird’s-eye view of the anatomy of a billiard table is an ambiguous pattern of shapes and lines. It may confuse young readers rather than clarify how the ball-return system works. The creative approach to showcasing technology and nature, however, will get kids thinking. This book is sure to spark questions about the world around them. Pair this title with David Macaulay’s The Way Things Work Now and Stephen Biesty’s Incredible Cross-Sections series for an in-depth dive into how our world works.

VERDICT: This book is a good introduction to STEM topics that will increase critical thinking skills and vocabulary.

Review by Rita, Children’s Librarian