Ages: 8 - 12Producer: Hachette Audio


In story after story, starting with author Sam Kean’s fascination with mercury, each element on the periodic table is put in context through one of Kean’s tales. The jumble of strange chemical letters and numbers become understandable in these engaging, enlightening anecdotes.

Element 52, Tellurium, smells like garlic. Element No. 4, Beryllium, tastes like sugar but becomes toxic quickly. Iodine in salt (Element #3 Sodium and #17 Chloride) is crucial to health and
Misunderstood Manganese (#25) led to the “discovery” of the megalodon.

Narrator Sean Runnette explains the rows and columns, from heavier to lighter, the outer to inner elements, from the Big Bang theory through various ways the atoms and molecules have influenced politics, money and more. The listener will get a sense of urgency and irony, and a little touch of humor, as he tells of the connections between the elements and Marie Curie, Gandhi, and other famous people.

The Disappearing Spoon title refers to Gallium, Element No. 31, which, as Kean explains, is a moldable metal that melts at 84 degrees Fahrenheit. Rather handy for pulling a prank of molding spoons out of gallium, serving them with tea and watch as guests see their spoons disappear.

Elementary, dear readers.

Ann Oldenburg ©2018 Parents’ Choice

Ann Oldenburg, lecturer and interim director of the journalism program at Georgetown University, writes about television, food, workplace issues and other pop culture topics. A University of Florida Gator with a degree in journalism, she began her career at The Washington Post and spent more than two decades with USA TODAY. She and her husband have three sons and live in McLean, Virginia.