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by Tae Keller


Found in Amplify curriculum, Grade 5, Unit 10. (so for 5th graders).


Reviews from and .


For more on Amplify ELA curriculum, see our Amplify blog.



The Science of Breakable Things is a book written as a fiction story for middle school age students presented to a 5th grade audience in Amplify. The cover of the book is “cute” for lack of a better term, in no way does it indicate the heartache to be found in the pages. Fifth graders who have suffered with familial depression will be confused by the lack of adults in the story addressing the issues. The main characters are a mother who has dealt repeated with depression, her husband who thinks he is protecting their 7th grade daughter and the daughter who just feels rejected by her family. This book will be confusing and scary to students who have not experienced familial mental health. To students who have experienced such it can not help their personal experience. The school has no business introducing 10 years to a topic of such depth and potential hurt. The activities that go along with the book are confusing. It isn’t until the last 2 chapters of the book, when Natalia and friends have been caught breaking an entering her mother’s university office that the reader realizes every feeling to this point has been a misunderstanding. How can a student have addressed the subject matter if the first 2/3 of the book don’t admit the problem. This is important, Amplify is teaching our students NOT to TRUST their parents. Character Relationships 2.1 is a worksheet to identify interactions between Natalia and her mom; but, at this point, there is NO relationship other than a closed bedroom door. The next 2 worksheets a are simply and assignment to fully engage children’s imaginations, not work on the truth of the problem. It really doesn’t matter to 5th grade mental health that Natalia’s plans and the value of the Blue Orchid will have any effect on the future. Not allowing a young student to know truth of issues is destructive, especially when the situation is being created just to destroy the students thoughts about truth. That is the problem with The Science of Unbreakable Things, the student is allowed to wander through an unknown then when Natalia and friends have broken an entering, the adults in the situation are forced to allow the students in on truth. The first 80% of the story can be thrown out the window of no use. Comparing Natalia’s journey to the Scientific process is invalid because the scientic process was never followed in the first place. The last chapter isn’t as much a revisiting of the process and establishing a pattern that led to the answer as it is a throwing out of the entire story to be replaced by a nudged TRUTH of the authors making. Texas children do not deserve to be fed The Science of Unbreakable Things as reputable fiction. It is a poor excuse for a reading program to delve into family values with Amplify’s point of view. The student will be graded on Amplify’s point of view, not their own family’s values The student will have been instructed that their own parent’s are potentially hiding a secret. The last activity is for the student to design a novel based on a raw subject they have only been briefly introduced to with a rubric. The Science of Unbreakable things has zero academic value to reading and questionable mental health value since 80% of the book is fiction. Texas schools have no business shaping families based on a fairy tale, since The Science of Unbreakable Things is classified as realistic fiction, it is a fairy tale


Age Inappropriate

Until AMPLIFY included The Science of Breakable Things in the 5th Grade, Unit 10, the book was suggested reading for Middle School students. Classified by GoodReads as Young Adult. Amazon does market it to 8-12. It isn’t sexual or profane. Likely 5th grade students have not been introduced to the concept of depression. In the beginning of the book as we are introduced to Natalie’s family, her father is an annoying therapist. Mom is introduced in her bedroom and not to be disturbed, “she needs some space.” Natalie’s actual feelings seem to be ignored with the telling, “but Natalie” meant to silence further questions. Which sets the tone for the entire book, Natalie’s feelings do not matter to a therapist, and she has no need for answers to why her mother is spending so much time asleep and alone. Natalie’s mother has been the previous answer to most of her Science questions. The book rectifies this later in the story when Natalie and her friends not only face disappointment; but, break and enter into her old office to find something. Depression is age-inappropriate for the majority of 5th graders. Throughout the book, the perspective of the students does not acknowledge that wisdom comes with age.


Political Agenda

Mental Health has become a hot button issue in schools. While the book doesn’t push any issue, finagling mentioning depression in the last few chapters, it does place parents in an unflattering light. Natalie’s father finally calls in the therapist card and sets Natalie up for sessions with a colleague. In the final chapters, Natalie brings up her relationship with her mother and the therapist begins addressing depression in adults students rely on. 

The Science of Breakable Things

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