Backward Science by Clive Gifford ★★★★★ #BookReview #BookBlog #STEM


Primary Genre(s): Children’s Nonfiction, Middle Grade
Published: 21 Jul 2020 by Quarto Publishing Group
Page count: 64
My Format: eARC via NetGalley
Cover: Enticing
Pacing: Not Applicable
Ending: Not Applicable
Would I recommend it: Absolutely
Commission Link: Buy Backward Science

My rating: ★★★★ 

Synopsis from Goodreads
This book is backward! It starts at the end, ends at the beginning, and travels back in history to show you what life was like before major inventions and discoveries. Step into a time before smartphones, television, cars, or even the toilet; then learn about the major invention or discovery that changed the world.

Explore bright, detailed, humorous scenes from different eras that will spark discussion and make you think about what life was like in history. Learn about the clever inventors, the accidental discoveries, and how people managed without the everyday things that we take for granted.

My Thoughts
A couple of days ago I reviewed a book called Inventors: Incredible Stories of the World’s Most Ingenious Inventions. Today’s book is similar to that book except that, instead of focusing on the inventor, each entry starts with a description of what life was like before a particular invention. Here are my pros and cons for Backward Science:


  1. I liked the “backward” perspective. I think it helps really drive home how important some of the inventions were and how much they have changed how we live our lives now.
  2. Each chapter or page presents a “Life Before” scenario and then introduces inventions and innovations that have made life easier, more comfortable, or just better in general than it used to be. For example, the first entry discusses life before smartphones and satellites and discusses how things like communication and navigation used to be very different in the past. Then brief details about the invention of mobile phones, smartphones, apps, and satellites are provided and we learn how these items completely changed how humans communicate and experience the world.
  3. Some of the 27 “Life Before” topics included in the book are: the internet, digital cameras, personal computers, television, air travel, anesthetics, cars, electric light, fire engines, and the wheel.
  4. There is a helpful glossary included in the back of the book to help children understand unfamiliar words.
  5. There is also an interesting timeline at the end of the book that provides a visual perspective of inventions and innovations over the centuries.
  6. Creative and fun illustrations by Anne Wilson.


  1. I loved the illustrations, but I feel like I need to warn parents or potential readers that there is a rather gruesome illustration depicting a leg amputation. While fitting for the topic – invention of anesthetics for surgery and what people had to endure before they were available – it still surprised me to find it in a book for kids. I’m not particularly sensitive to stuff like this, and perhaps kids won’t be either, but I felt I should note it exists.

As an adult, I remember life before things like digital cameras, the internet, smart televisions, and personal computers. However, this book is targeted at 7 to 11 year olds, and they haven’t experienced “life before” those things. Kids today haven’t experienced any of the “life before” scenarios in this book. And therein lies the most important thing about this book in my opinion. Not only does it provide information about unique and innovative inventions, but it specifically identifies how those inventions made life easier or even just more fun. I think that perspective is important so that everyone – kids and adults alike – appreciate the things we have! I also think it can remind us all that creative and smart people are always changing and improving things and we should be excited about all the innovations we may be able to experience in the future.

Thank you NetGalley and Quarto Publishing Group for a free eARC of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

If you would like to read this book and form your own opinion, please consider purchasing through this link: Buy Backward Science. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases at no extra cost to you. Thanks!

Click here for a description of my rating scale.

(image from Goodreads)

Where to find me:
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Twitter: @kayckayreviews
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