Today’s review on Childtastic concerns two amazing non-fiction books from Dorling Kindersley, which any child fascinated by fun facts will want to have at their disposal.
The first is:
When I was little, I used to carry around a huge but deceptively light paperback book about amazing facts. I couldn’t get enough of learning about people, places and things from around the world and I’d tell anyone who would listen what I’d discovered. I still have that book – I can’t bear to give it away – but this new release from DK is a great addition.
The premise is simple: a double-page spread for more than 100 topics with 13 concrete facts about them and then a half-a-fact that acts as a myth-buster. For example, looking at the snowboarding infogram (Feel the Force – there’s a lot of pleasing alliteration in here and play on words), I discovered that while many people think that snowboarding is dangerous, you’re more likely to get injured playing football, basketball or rugby. (Tell my knees that!). Meanwhile, on the ‘Get the Message’ spread (about methods of communication throughout the ages), I was surprised to read that car phones date back to 1946, although to be honest you would have needed a car anyway to transport them, since they were a handset attached to a 36kg (80lb) box.
Image of Planet Parade, from the book.
The best ideas are simple ones and I can see that this will be a hugely popular addition to my school library. The children love books in which they can find facts quickly and easily and the accompanying images are arresting (I must admit I skipped past the enormous fly and the skull with the eyes literally out on stalks). This book is big, bright and brimming with fascinating facts that you can keep coming back to when you want to learn something new. I’m off now to read more about storms … not in teacups, though.
And… I’m back. The second title under the microscope today is a tome that requires some upper-body strength to lift.
If you have a budding naturist at home, this is a must-read. The authors and illustrators of this book have chosen a huge variety of creatures and looked at them from different viewpoints, helped by the use of specially commissioned photography. For example, in the spread below, ‘How Herbivores Work’, we find out exactly what it is that makes herbivores the animals they are, rather than the simple knowledge that they eat plants. They specifically need large digestive systems to help them break down the massive amounts of hard-to-digest cellulose that they ingest. As you can see in the picture below, giraffes often grab their food with their tongue, which is dark-coloured to help protect them from getting sunburnt (scientists think). I never knew that!
A page I found fascinating was on how octopuses work. I had no idea, for example, that they are relatives of slugs and snails, and that they are amongst the most intelligent of invertebrates. Also, thanks to their soft composition (no hard internal or external shell), octopuses can squeeze through most spaces, as long as their beak fits (the only part of them that is hard). They are nature’s escape artists: ‘Houdinis’ with 8 legs.
I admit I skipped the insect pages – I have no stomach for creepy crawlies up close – but I had a good look through the rest of the book, which comprises ten chapters covering:
- the basics of life
This is a huge compendium full of answers to all sorts of questions that any young natural scientist may have, such as why chameleons change colour, how wings work, and how trees work (did you know that more than 99% of a big tree trunk is actually dead?). This will be another much-borrowed book in the library, though I may have to ensure the children have adequate biceps to carry it!
Please note that while I received review copies of both books, the views expressed are entirely my own.