13½ Incredible Things You Need to Know About Everything by DK

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13½ Incredible Things You Need to Know About Everything by DK

Category: Children's Non-Fiction
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: While this will never replace the home encyclopaedia, it will serve as a colourful depository of trivia and factoids.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 176 Date: September 2017
Publisher: DK Children
ISBN: 9780241238936

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Having the Internet in the home for a child to learn from is all well and good, but it won't replace an encyclopaedia. For one thing, there definitely is an instance of having too much of a good thing – it is no use for the young mind to be exposed to every bit of knowledge we may have amassed. No, you need someone authoritative enough to come along and collate the important bits, letting you learn just enough, and the key things you do need to know, all from one place. This book doesn't really term itself as an encyclopaedia, that has to be said, but its large format puts it on the shelf next to them, and its colourful and educative mien proves it's a very close relative, at least of the modern kind. What it has decided to do is to structure the world into certain subjects, and to give us 13½ facts regarding every topic. And what a diverse range of topics it has amassed.

And that jumble of subjects will be a problem for some sticklers out there. Amphibians are next to languages are next to costumes and then chocolate. There're no chapters beyond each dramatic double-page spread, and there is no progression from the biggest to smallest or oldest to newest, or division by category. It makes it great for browsing, and the multiple times I picked this up to scan another section then put it down, only to return for more, is testament to how addictive it can be.

But I always have been a stickler for the kind of detail the text here gives us. No, there is no such thing as half a factoid – that really is a needless gimmick, and in fact with a bit of a background paragraph quite often you get fifteen bits of script per spread. I liked the variety here, and the trivia beats can teach most people something – The name tiger comes from a Persian word meaning arrow; the world makes 165,000 cars a day; bananas are berries and pumpkins are fruit – and that's only from my first session perusing the first few pages. My second – the world's first diamond engagement ring, the blue blood of scorpions, and the forty minerals found in space rocks we never previously had on Earth.

But it's the visual side of this book that bears more discussion, and is where either the creators have got it wrong or I just prove myself to be one of those old-fashioned sticklers. I didn't like the demand for the impactful and explosive on the pages here. Sure, give us a humongous fly image across both large pages for the section on flies, and yes obviously the gaping maw of a shark breaching the water is going to appeal, but everything here has to be shown to be as kinetic as possible. The first graphic is of the exploded earth – and while it's a step-up from the usual cut-away it didn't work for me. You get the innards of a scorpion and King Tut's tomb, and neither subject is helped by the arrangement here. A car is presented in bits that I could never hope to put back together again, so I haven't learnt anything about its construction. Everything has to try for motion – a steam engine (again, in arbitrary bits) has a gloop of water across it for no reason; food is illustrated by a hamburger, and give it a black background and a Clean Bandit soundtrack and you have a well-known, annoying TV advert.

If this came with 3D glasses I could understand. And it clearly has a right to not sit still in a world that shares the same problem. But with so much to take on board here – again, the script is dutifully educative, and even when reducing serious subjects to convenient bullet points it can teach anyone something – don't we need a little quiet corner in order to absorb things? You also get a weird layout of the script – it's hard at times to get the fourteen bites of data in the right order, they're laid out in such an unusual way, and they're often weirdly enlisted – the solar system ones just flit all over the shop, as opposed to moving from the sun out or anything, and it's a relief to get the technology of human messaging and music in chronological order. I certainly liked this book and appreciated its writing, for all it could despite all this give me, but it was far too gaudy and lively for me to love it.

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

And of course the same publishers do have a proper Children's Encyclopaedia to pair this with.

Buy 13½ Incredible Things You Need to Know About Everything by DK at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy 13½ Incredible Things You Need to Know About Everything by DK at Amazon.co.uk.

Buy 13½ Incredible Things You Need to Know About Everything by DK at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy 13½ Incredible Things You Need to Know About Everything by DK at Amazon.com.


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