Readers of all ages will spend hours lost in enchantment perusing these detailed cutaway images of the insides of a castle, observatory, galleon ship, ocean liner, submarine, coal mine, tank, oil rig, cathedral, jumbo jet, car factory, helicopter, opera house, steam train, subway station, fishing trawler, the Empire State Building, and a space shuttle.
Illustrator Stephen Biesty, along with writer Richard Platt, have created a number of such books featuring historical and architectural cross-section drawings, some of which fill colorful oversize double spreads (such as, in this book, the ocean liner and the steam train). The pictures are surrounded by captions that explain both what you are seeing and what you are not seeing.
For example, in the cutaway of a 16th century Spanish galleon, you see and learn briefly about the parts of the galleon, such as swivel guns, the helm, and even poisonous scorpions in the hold. But you also learn about what you can’t actually see, such as: “A terrible smell: Sea water that seeped into the ship collected in the bilge – the space between the old and the keel – and turned into a foul brew. This pump [pointed to in the drawing] cleared the bilges, but the smell of the water was disgusting.”
Similarly, in the cross-section of a World War II German submarine, you see a picture of hanging meat, and you read, “The wurst of it: Because of the lack of space, smoked meat, bread, and other supplies were stored anywhere there was room – in the crew’s quarters, or even in the toilet!”
Each intricate drawing contains a wealth of historical information both from the images and the text on the buildings, machines, and people who used them, along with “key facts,” anecdotes, and minutia that people often wonder about but aren’t often part of the usual descriptions, such as: What did people eat? How did they go to the bathroom? What was daily life like?
Evaluation: This entrancing book will keep you busy for hours, and send you searching for Biesty’s other cutaway books. There is even one on the Star Wars vehicles, and one with pop-up cross-sections. You will want to see them all!
25th Anniversary Edition published by DK, a division of Penguin Random House, 2019
I looked at this and thought “This seems familiar.” When I saw that it was the 25th anniversary edition, it made total sense; pretty sure my children had it. Sigh!
What fun! I’d probably like this even more than Gage 🙂