________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number 19. . . .January 19, 2018


Biometrics: Your Body and the Science of Security.

Maria Birmingham. Illustrated by Ian Turner.
Toronto, ON: Owlkids Books, 2017.
48 pp., hardcover, $17.95.
ISBN 978-1-77147-193-0.

Subject Headings:
Biometry-Juvenile literature.
Biometric identification-Juvenile literature.

Grades 4-8 / Ages 9-13.

Review by Cate Carlyle.

*** /4



How will you be paying-cash, credit or face?

Leave the wallet behind. A Finnish company recently began working on a scanner that will let you pay with your face. Instead of using cash or credit cards, you simply position your face in front of a scanner. (Smile!) Once ID is confirmed through facial recognition, you can go ahead and make a purchase. The system links up to your file in its database to charge you for your items.


Biometrics: Your Body and the Science of Security explores all the identifying characteristics that make us unique individuals and how these identifiers are being used in society. Author Maria Birmingham explains how our fingerprints, odor, face, eye, ear shape, voice, veins and even our fingernail beds identify us. Through biometrics, these unique traits, both physical characteristics, behavioral and physiological ones, can then be used as our personal password. Birmingham describes how our identifiers can allow us to make purchases, catch shoplifters, open doors, monitor crowds, and identify and track animals. Birmingham doesn’t shy away from the fact that biometrics is not a perfect science (something as simple as growing a beard can throw off facial recognition), as she describes how privacy, hackers and errors in the systems can all create issues with the science.

      Both Birmingham and illustrator Ian Turner worked for OWL magazine, and it shows in this book. The layout, sidebars and graphics are typical of magazines for youth. The bold illustrations are cartoon-style and serve to make a somewhat complex topic accessible and fun. Each page features various facts graphically organized as though in a notebook with overlays, bullet points and timelines, including one for the history of handwriting and signatures from cave man to present day. For each type of biometric, such as hand geometry, facial recognition or retinal scanning, Birmingham highlights the type in a sidebar which includes the method (e.g. voice or odor recognition), the type (e.g. physiological), collection (easy, difficult) and security (average, strong). Such sidebars are useful for young students needing a quick overview of the topic or type, or for project based learning and/or science fair projects. The detailed index, listing of online sources and concluding chapter on the future of biometrics are all helpful additions for young students.

      While not intended to be an in-depth scientific tome on the topic, Biometrics: Your Body and the Science of Security fills a gap as a readable and comprehensive introduction to the topic of biometrics for young scientists, one applicable for elementary and middle school research or a nice option for young readers of nonfiction and high interest titles.


Cate Carlyle is a former elementary teacher currently residing in Nova Scotia where she is a librarian at Mount Saint Vincent University.

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