The Disappearing Spoon

Author: Kean, Sam

Publication date: July 12th, 2010
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company




This bestselling history of the elements takes readers through a journey of invention, discovery, politics, betrayal, and romance. The Disappearing Spoon is a comprehensive account of the Periodic Table, infusing elements of literature, history, and compelling story-telling. The book covers the organization of the Table, column by column and row by row. It also details the stuff of atoms themselves, and how atoms of new elements are made. The text tells stories of the chemical reasons for poisons, how elements exist in the human body, how they are used in paper money and in art, and even in outer space.


This text is written at a high reading level, receiving a Flesch-Kincaid rating of 12.0, though it might more accurately be categorized as an early college-level text. It reads as a fusion between a fictional collection of stories and a nonfiction science writing book. The book uses varied vocabulary and figurative language, appropriate for a seasoned reader. The writing style is informative, though the author’s voice is that of a storyteller. The concepts in this book complement the material in a high school general chemistry class nicely, and are appropriate for high school students. The book is organized like a chapter book, which provides a familiar format to many avid readers, although section headings and notes in the margins to guide readers are absent. The font size is medium and readable, but most pages are 100% filled with words; there are occasional black-and-white photographs sprinkled throughout the text.

Use in Class

The “storytelling feel” of this book lends it nicely to be used as a read-aloud in class. As a teacher reading aloud to my class, I would practice modeling to students while I read by interrupting myself to define new vocabulary, ask questions, and make predictions. Further, I will be able to use my tone and inflection to demonstrate to students how the reading “should” sound when they read it to themselves. Because this text incorporates most chemical concepts that would be learned in a high school general chemistry course, it could be used as a read-aloud for the whole school year, not just the unit on the periodic table.

Unit Focus


Submitted by Molly McMahan

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