Author: Bunpei Yorifuji

Publisher: No Starch Press, Inc.

ISBN: 978-1-59327-423-8

The common saying “being in your element” rings true even with the scientific periodic table and Japanese artist Bunpei Yorifuji proves it in his book, Wonderful Life with the Elements – The Periodic Table Personified.

This two hundred and three page, small eight by eight inch hardbound book has a drawing of a human, dog and bird “in their own element” on the front jacket. Both inside jackets have a quick reference guide on how to read the book. It also includes a pull-out periodic table poster to use. Mainly written in English, there are some Japanese writing and element symbols. The volume is one of several academic “geek entertainment” resources that No Starch Press, Inc. publishes.

Artist/author Yorifuji writes that, as an art student, he did not intend to inhale pure helium, but due to his naïve yet inquisitive mind, it somehow prompted him to produce this interesting text book. He first breaks the periodic table down by those elements found in our everyday world based on discovery year, then by their scientific family and groupings, and then by their specific, individual characteristics followed by how each effects our own bodies and finally which ones are in short supply.

The breakdown of each personalized element description is interesting, fun, diversified and unforgettable. Each prescribed element has a specific type of human figure, delineating body size, weight and matter, hair shape or cut and year discovered based on its scientific attributes. So one can visually “put together” the element based on its description. In analyzing the drawings, they are the key to the book, showing fun, creative and sometimes hysterical nuances or situations. The chapter on “How to Eat the Elements” is the most entertaining.

One random sample is Copper (Cu #29) which is the metal we have cared for the longest. It depicts a man standing (solid) on a bronze coin in his underwear (mineral) with a full head of hair and beard (transition metal) with smaller pictures of a copper statue, a man hanging from telephone pole wires, a spider, snail and octopus along with a copper wire. There is a paragraph about the element, its melting and boiling point along with its density. The chapter on how it affects our body shows nine foods that contain copper, a drawing of a pathetic man with anemia, hair loss, bone disease and white blood cell deficiency from not having enough of it in his system. There is a key note that it stops heart attacks, a paragraph with more information and the recommended daily intake for humans.

If you are a student, unsure, unappreciative or apprehensive of the scientific periodic table, this is a wonderful, easy to comprehend source of learning. With its fun, unique and sometimes silly explanations of an element, it is easy to learn, easy to understand and, most importantly, easy to remember. Kudos to Yorifuji for “being in his element” in making the challenging periodic table interesting!

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