Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978



Spring 2016 Magazines
Ages: 7 - 10 yrs.
Newsstand Price: $6.95
Subscription Price: $33.95 / 9 Issues
Ask magazine, Cricket Media's arts and sciences periodical for early readers, offers elementary school-aged children a window into how science and engineering can infiltrate all areas of life, often in entertaining and unexpected ways. Each issue revolves around a specific theme, such as shipwrecks, food, or laughter. An animated strip about a group of friends introduces the theme, dramatizing how kids might encounter the issue in daily life; for example, in the issue on chances and probabilities, the friends experience increasingly unlikely events, from finding four-leaf clovers to picking a winning lottery ticket to being hit by lightning. A series of informative illustrated essays and stories comprises the bulk of each issue. The periodical finishes with a science advice column, "Ask Jimmy and the Bug," which responds to readers' science questions, and which highlights reader artwork and letters.

The editors of Ask clearly know how to appeal to their target audience. The topics are well chosen for this age group; stories of shipwrecks, historical accounts of jokes and clowns in the ancient world, and explanations of bizarre animal food preferences are more or less guaranteed to garner many kids' interest. They are also nicely handled and broken down in interesting, varied, and extremely clear ways. Genetics isn't easy to explain, but a feature on Gregor Mendel for the probability issue explains the mechanics of breeding pea plants quite cogently, complete with a pretty Punnet square for illustration. Similarly, the shipwreck issue offers not only a comic strip about Manjiro, the shipwrecked Japanese fisherman who became an unlikely liaison for the first official contacts between Japan and the U.S., but also a very clear, and surprisingly interesting, technical explanation (with numbered diagrams) of how engineers lifted a ship off a reef without damage from oil spills or wreckage. Although Ask is billed as a magazine of arts and sciences, it skews much more toward science than art. It is also designed for children who like to read, rather than to complete puzzles or games. This periodical is an excellent example of how creatively creative nonfiction can be handled. Readers prepared for a primarily informative focus, will find much to enjoy.

Naomi Lesley   ©2016 Parents' Choice
Naomi Lesley taught middle and high school English for six years. She is currently in a doctoral program at the George Washington University, focusing on American young adult literature.

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Cricket Media, Inc.

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