What is it: A series of more than 30 disgusting, gross, yucky, bloody and nefarious books about science, with titles such as Angry Animals, Bulging Brains, Evolve or Die, Fatal Forces, Nasty Nature and Wasted World, most written by Nick Arnold and illustrated by Tony de Saulles. Also 82 issues of fabulously full-colour magazine re-issues of the books.
Why Cinder loves it: Cause it’s really gross. Informative, yes, chokful of scientific facts and all that—but there’s blood, vomit and fart jokes on just about every page.
Why Jane loves it: Cause it’s pretty funny and chokful of science in a way a non-scientist like me can really get into. And cause Cinder loves it. And I can read it for hours without getting bored.
Why Flora barely tolerates it: Cause sometimes “they’re mean to animals. And why is that supposed to be funny? It’s just mean.” And also, “that’s just so gross. Why did they have to show that?” There are some issues that she enjoys… but she skips over a lot of stuff.
Recommended ages: We started reading Horrible Science with Cinder when he was five or six. And Flora not quite three. So we’ve probably scarred her for life. Cinder’s 10… and we’re still reading Horrible Science together.
Best way to test drive it: Buy or borrow the full-colour, hard cover The Stunning Science of Everything (here’s the BBC review of it and here’s the more critical Popular Science review). It’s a good test drive.
Need to know more? You can check out the Horrible Science UK site, or visit author Nick Arnold’s gross (not really) site and illustrator Tony de Saulles site.
Lucky Americans can buy Horrible Science books AND the colour magazines at reasonable prices at Ray’s Horrible Books in San Diego. North American editions of most of the books are now available for overlooked Canadians too, who can order individual book titles from Book Depository, Chapters or Amazon. (Ray will ship to Canada, but says, truthfully, the price ends up being extortionate. But if you’re planning a trip to the States…)
The best deal on the books, however, is through Scholastic Book clubs, which will often have box sets available at discounted prices. (If they’re not being offered locally currently, try the World Scholastic Book Clubs. Even with the pound prices and the 25% shipping, the box set prices through the international clubs are often much lower.)
Buyers’ Tip: If your kids love Horrible Science books the way Cinder did, you probably want to plonk down the coin for what’s left of the magazines. You can get them from Ray’s Horrible books at $3 an issue. They’re full-colour and even more visual than the books (which are b&w paperbacks). And at 24 pages, they’re the perfect, “OK, I’ll read you one before bedtime” length (“Two?” “One.” “Two?” “One and a half.”) They are full of typos and oversimplify concepts… but whatever. They’re cool.
And then you might want to look into Horrible Geography. And Horrible Histories. And Horribly Famous. And Murderous Maths. We have them all. We want more.
Tony de Saulles at Epsom library (Photo credit: Surrey County Council)