The Quantum Realm: Philly the Photon by Mark A. Montgomery tells the story of Sebastian, a young man who gets stranded out in the forest with his father during an intense thunderstorm. After being frightened into inaction by the lightning, Sebastian becomes curious about the way light, gravity, and other forces of nature are formed. That night, he is visited by a subatomic particle named Philly the Photon who whisks Sebastian off to the Quantum Realm and offers to answer all of his scientific queries, while posing new questions along the way: What is time, really? Is light from the Sun the same as light from an electrical fixture? Sebastian travels to exotic locales like the Electron Sea and the Lair of Grunk the Great Graviton, meeting a variety of memorable characters who help teach him how to follow his curiosity and find truth.
Philly the Photon is a science-driven journey for young readers in the style of Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time and Norton Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth. The author explains all manner of natural phenomena by using outlandish and amusing scenarios to construct teachable moments. In one scene, for example, Sebastian encounters a negatively charged electron whose mood begins to affect Sebastian himself; he is able to help the electron by radiating positivity and gratitude. These sorts of scientific in-jokes make Philly the Photon a delight, distracting readers from the fact that – gasp! – they are learning. As is often the case with well-written works, this novella can appeal just as well to school-aged students as it can to adult learners. This is the start of what promises to be an enjoyable, educational series tackling science’s big mysteries.
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