Jenny Martin Reviews Crazy Concoctions: A Mad Scientist’s Guide to Messy Mixtures

Review by Jenny Martin

Crazy Concoctions: A Mad Scientist’s Guide to Messy Mixtures
By Jordan D. Brown and Dr Viskus von Fickleschmutz. Illustrated by Anthony Owsley

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Want to get messy and wreak havoc in the kitchen with your (or someone else’s) kids, while learning some fascinating science? This book is for you.

Crazy Concoctions invites you to explore your ‘inner mad scientist’ and is both extremely engaging and chock-a-block full of good scientific information.

Divided into six chapters with delightful names like ‘Slime and Goo’, ‘Totally Gross’, ‘That’s Gas-tastic’ and ‘Create your own Concoctions’, there is sure to be a science experiment in here to captivate every kid. And I would hazard a guess, most adults too.

All of the experiments and recipes in this book have been designed to appeal to kids, and they are fun and easy.  For example, what kid doesn’t want to make Pretend Puke? I couldn’t bring myself to try making it but with oatmeal, corn, carrot, gelatin and instant coffee as ingredients, I imagine the effect is fairly convincing. I’m sure the fake snot recipe would produce something authentic too.

There are instructions to make a homemade lava lamp (my kids and I made one and it worked a treat) and a lesson in using cabbage juice as an indicator. We also made Gooey Glop (cornstarch and water), which produces a fascinating consistency to explore.

My kids are 6 and 3 and they had no trouble with the recipes once I got the ingredients organised and read the instructions to them. They most enjoyed being encouraged to make a mess and I was happy because the book gave me all the information I needed to explain to them what was actually going on!

All the background information in addition to the recipes makes Crazy Concoctions a useful book to have around for kids keen on science. The book covers everything from the invention of Silly Putty and Post-its to explanations of why mixing baking soda and vinegar makes so many bubbles and why oil and water don’t mix.

Along with the attractive and engaging layout, with illustrations, fun facts, accounts of accidents in chemistry and recipe boxes, there is another layer of interest in this book. It is ‘graffitied’ by a Dr Viskus von Fickleschmutz.

In the opening to the book Dr F. is credited as having been ‘originally hired to cowrite this book’. We read ‘things didn’t work out’ with the collaboration, the experiments he was suggesting were ‘way too dangerous for a kids’ book’ and hopefully he is getting the help he needs at the ‘Hansburg Hospital for the Diabolically Angry’.

The idea of having Dr F. graffiti throughout the book in red pen is genius. In his own words we hear he was kicked off the project after pulling a prank (involving baldness) on Jordan Brown and he has ‘added his expertise’ to the book.

This expertise generally involves silly, funny and often completely random commentary you can’t help but have a bit of a chuckle over.

Finally I should point out that the book has a detailed safely section and kids are encouraged in a fun way to think carefully about what they are doing and how they can be safe while doing it. There is also a useful glossary.

If you are looking for a book to share with your kids that is going to lead to fun activities together, as well as lots of good discussions about science, I highly recommend Crazy Concoctions. But depending on their age, it’s probably not a good book to expect your kids to use without your supervision.


Jenny Martin

Hi, I’m Dr Jenny Martin. My friends call me Jen. As a scientist, I spent the first decade of my career chasing possums at night to learn about their sex lives. These days I teach science communication at the University of Melbourne and talk science on Triple R community radio.

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