The Comedy of Physics

How Machines Work: Zoo Break! by David Macaulay; DK Books, $19.99, 30 pages, ages 6-10.

A sloth and his rodent pal Sengi are attractions at the zoo, but one fateful day they decide their enclosure too boring. They hatch an escape plan, employing simple machines like a wedge, a lever, and a pulley. Will the critter successfully catapult themselves to freedom, or will they remain forever behind bars? David Macaulay continues to dominate the world of elaborate show-and-tells in this latest volume by expertly combining witty storytelling, sly humor, and smart science. Jemma Watson’s paper mechanisms bring Macaulay’s drawings to life, and the entire cover is a working gear, the manipulation of which either saves or sinks Sloth into a piranha-filled pond. Zoo Break! is an excellent introduction to Macaulay’s world, with plenty of simple machines to encourage scientific inquiry and motor-skill practice.