Newest Children's Non-Fiction Reviews

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The Street Beneath My Feet by Charlotte Guillain and Yuval Zommer

5star.jpg Children's Non-Fiction

It's one thing for a non-fiction book for the young to show them something they themselves can explore – the pattern of the stars, perhaps, or the life in their back yard. But when it gets to things that are equally important to know about but are impossible to see in real life, why, then the game is changed. The artistic imagination has to be key, in portraying the invisible, and presenting what can only come from the pages of a book. And this example does it at its best, as it delves into the layers of the soil below said back yard, down and down, through all the different kinds of rock, until we reach the unattainable centre of the planet. And there's only one way to go from there – back out the other side, with yet more for us to be shown. It's a fantastic journey, then – and a quite fantastic volume. Full review...

The Big Book of Beasts (Big Books) by Yuval Zommer

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One of the many issues people have with the TV nature programme, such as Planet Earth II, is the obvious one of all the blood and guts it features – yes, in amongst all the cutesy, comical animal life are creatures eating other creatures (normally the cutesy, comical ones, what's worse). You'll be pleased to know, however, that this book is very light on death and destruction. Yes, here are lions sharing some chunks of meat (while the females that caught and killed it sit and wait their turn), here are salmon seemingly willingly flying towards brown bears, and here is a red fox stashing a dead mouse while in a time of plenty, but there is so little to make this even a PG book – it will be perfect for the home shelf or that in a primary school. Full review...

My First Animals by Aino-Maija Metsola

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Get used to two simple words if you have a child, What's That? You will hear it over and over and over again. If you are lucky they are pointing at something that you actually know – chair, hat, my sense of regret. Sometimes they will point at something that is not too familiar. Here the parental practise of making something up comes into play – it's a bird type thing. Books that show images of items, colours or animals may seem a little dull to an adult, but to a toddler learning about the world they are a who's who of what's that. Full review...

Rosie Revere's Big Project Book for Bold Engineers by Andrea Beaty and David Roberts

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For a long time now, people have worried about females taking up STEM subjects – the sciences, engineering and suchlike. But I know of at least two sources of role models in that regard. One, most obviously, is Star Wars – let's face it, the latest main film had a girl who scavenged parts but could fly the Millennium Falcon with ease, and the likes of Ahsoka is adept at mending some sort of flying farming machines. If you don't wish to go too fantastical, or are seeking role models for the younger audience, there is the output of Andrea Beaty. Full review...

What's Where on Earth? Atlas: The World as You've Never Seen It Before by DK

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I dread to think how old the atlas we used when I was a child was, but at least we had one, and I didn't need to go to school or a library to check up on whatever bit of trivia I was seeking. I'm so old a lot of things about it now would be most redundant, but if you choose to risk your arm and buy an atlas for the family shelves that all generations will benefit from, as opposed to relying on electronic and updateable sources of information, then this is the one to have. Full review...

Stephen Biesty's Trains by Ian Graham and Stephen Biesty

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Trains look imposing, but true fans (little boys, usually from about three years old and upwards) want to know what lies beneath the skin which you can see. They want to know how it works. Getting to grips with one in real life is quite a big ask, but the next best thing is Stephen Biesty's Trains which features trains from all over the world and spanning the early steam train (complete with cow catcher) right through to the trains of the future which can reach a speed of 430 kph and don't even run on rails. Once the train reaches a speed of 150 kph the wheels are raised and the train is held up by magnetic forces alone. Full review...

Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World by Rachel Ignotofsky

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Women in Science takes fifty prominent women in STEM fields and celebrates their achievements. There are women from the ancient world and women working today. Each of them is given a double page spread including a stylised portrait and infoboxes with factoids on one side and a page of text with a brief biography and outline of her achievements. These intrepid women are inspirational for their work and their discoveries but also for the barriers they overcame - barred from classes or employment because they were women or even barred from employment because they were black in racially segregated America. Full review...

Forest Life and Woodland Creatures by DK

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This book knows that if you're going to learn about forest life and the animals, plants and trees in it, then you're only going to be itching to go and explore the woods for yourself. It's for a very young audience, so always expects an adult hand to guide you – but provides a warm companion itself through several quick and easy tasks, and a few lessons. The balance between carrot and stick, or duty and reward, is great – but what exactly is the edutainment going to provide, and what will it demand of us? Full review...

Sharks and Other Sea Creatures by DK

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Never before have I found much cause to point out the sort of lower-case, almost-a-subtitle wording on the front of a book. I say that because very little of this is about sharks – so if you have a youngster intending to come here and learn all their bloodthirsty imagination can hold, then they may well be disappointed. If you take it on board that the 'other sea creatures' make up the bulk of the book, then all well and good. And even better, if you expect yourself to make the bulk of said creatures… Full review...

Labyrinth by Theo Guignard

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Of all the books published for people's paper-based hobbies when I was a youngster, it's remarkable that all of them have been revisited and revamped. I say this because they certainly weren't exactly brilliant fun back then. No, we didn't have quite the modern style of colouring-in books, but they were available, if you'd gone beyond 'join the dots'. I read only recently that origami is allegedly coming back – and I remember how every church book sale for years had Origami, Origami 2 or Origami 3 paperbacks somewhere for ten pence. But the ultimate in paper-based fun back then was the use-once format of the maze book. This is the modern equivalent – but boy, hasn't the idea grown up since then… Full review...

Life on Earth: Farm: With 100 Questions and 70 Lift-flaps! by Heather Alexander and Andres Lozano

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I'm sure I was full of questions when I was a nipper – which means I was too full of questions. Parents just don't need to be deflecting questions all the time, do they? Living on the edge of a village in the middle of nowhere as I did, I knew quite a lot about farms and farming – that different animals gave different results, that different vehicles meant different things and that the crops behind our house changed. But for the inner city child, there is a chance they have never met a cow or seen a silo. This colourful book, bright in both senses of the word, will allow the very young reader the opportunity of their own fantasy trip to the working countryside. Full review...

Life on Earth: Human Body: With 100 Questions and 70 Lift-flaps! by Heather Alexander and Andres Lozano

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I wonder how much time I've saved in not being a parent – and therefore not having had to answer such pesky questions as why is the sky blue, where did I come from, where does my wee come from, what is earwax, and why do I have a spleen? Still, apart from the first two, those questions and the answers to them and more are in this book, which is a lovely primer for biology, and a great source of quick facts for the very young, all presented with an addictive lift-the-flap approach. Full review...

Moments in History that Changed the World by Clare Hibbert

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One of the problems with presenting humankind's history as a timeline is that not a lot happened at perfectly identified times. Of course we can pinpoint when the US Declaration of Independence was signed, or when Poland was invaded in September 1939, but when (and even why) the Maya cities died out? We don't know. How do you pin a date to the Renaissance, or the invention of the modern city? This book may aim to be a portrayal of key moments in time, but even it admits you have to be vague in itemising the specific days and dates. Get over that, and the pages are packed with information. Full review...

Baby Dinosaurs (Follow the Trail) by DK

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If you ever have the misfortune to stumble across some as yet undiscovered dinosaur I offer this piece of advice; don't take your finger and track their spine, don't put it in their mouth and don't go following them to their parent. Instead, run. Run faster than you have ever run before in the opposite direction. The unfortunate thing is that anyone with a toddler knows, they love to grab and poke anything – including terrible lizards if they got the chance. Better play safe than sorry and just get them a book that allows them to get their dinosaur touching thrills vicariously. Full review...

Amazing Animal Babies by Chris Packham and Jason Cockcroft

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Many children love animals, but they love baby animals even more. Would you rather watch a dog or watch a puppy? A cat or a kitten? A meerkat or a smaller meerkat? The answer is a no brainer to most children who enjoy the wide-eyed stumbling of youth that is not dissimilar to their own. However, someone needs to give them the facts about baby animals and who better than wildlife presenter Chris Packham? Full review...

Exploring Space: From Galileo to the Mars Rover and Beyond by Martin Jenkins and Stephen Biesty

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I take it as read that you know some of the history of space exploration, even if the young person you buy books for doesn't know it all. So I won't go into the extremes reached by the Voyager space craft, and the processes we needed to be expert in before we could launch anything. You probably have some inkling of how we learnt that we're not the centre of everything – the gradual discovery of how curved the planet was, and how other things orbited other things in turn proving we are not that around which everything revolves. What you might not be so genned up on is the history of books conveying all this to a young audience. When I was a nipper they were stately texts, with a few accurate diagrams – if you were lucky. For a long time now, however, they've been anything but stately, and often aren't worried about accuracy as such in their visual design. They certainly long ago shod the boring, plain white page. Until now… Full review...

Pairs Underwater by Smriti Prasadam-Halls and Lorna Scobie

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Following on from Pairs in the Garden by Smriti Prasadam-Halls and Lorna Scobie, comes the aquatic themed Pairs Underwater. It's a lift-the-flap book with the added twist of a game of Memory thrown in, as you try to match the pairs across each double page spread. Full review...

Little People, Big Dreams: Marie Curie by Isabel Sanchez Vegara and Frau Isa

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Some little girls want to be princesses, but the girl who would become Marie Curie wanted to be a scientist. She was from a poor family in Warsaw but she was determined to do well and won a gold medal for her studies. In Poland, in the middle of the nineteenth century, only men were allowed to go to University, so Marie moved to Paris where she had to study in an unfamiliar language, but was soon the best maths and science student. It was here that she met and married Pierre Curie, another scientist and they jointly discovered radium and polonium: they would eventually win the Nobel Prize for Physics for this work. Marie was the first woman to receive the honour. Pierre was killed in a road accident, but Marie went on to win a second Nobel Prize, this time for Chemistry. Her work is still benefiting people today. Full review...

Little People, Big Dreams: Agatha Christie by Isabel Sanchez Vegara and Elisa Munso

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As a child Agatha Christie and her mother would read a book together every afternoon, but there were early signs of what the future novelist would become: she always had a better idea about how the story should end. She would read in bed at night and detective novels were always her favourites. In the First World War Agatha, who was then in her early twenties, nursed wounded soldiers in hospitals: her experiences with poisons and toxic potions would be put to good use when her first detective novels were published just after the end of the war. Most people have heard of her first and most famous detective - Hercule Poirot - or of Miss Marple. Mrs Christie's novels were widely read and her plays were very popular in theatres. Full review...

Pairs in the Garden by Smriti Prasadam-Halls and Lorna Scobie

4star.jpg Children's Non-Fiction

Pairs in the garden is a fun book/game hybrid for little fingers into creepy crawlies. It's a lift-the-flap book with a difference, because not only do you get to see what's underneath, you then must see if you can find a matching pair. But beware! You cannot just use process of elimination because there are 7 flaps on each page, but only 3 pairs to find. One poor creature is all alone with no partner. Full review...

Lots by Marc Martin

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The children's encyclopaedia is not the same genre as those used by adults. Whilst the older generation had to make do with giant tomes filled with information and perhaps, if you are lucky, a small black and white picture every now and again; the kids get full colour books with more images than facts. Lots by Marc Martin takes this even further by reducing the facts even further and bombarding your eyeballs with illustrations. Full review...

Krysia: A Polish Girl's Stolen Childhood During World War II by Krystyna Mihulka and Krystyna Poray Goddu

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Most of us would think of Polish children suffering in World War Two because of the Nazi death camps – they and their families suffering through countless round-ups, ghettoization, and transport to the end of the line, where they might by hint or dint survive to tell the horrid tale. But most of us would think of such Polish children as Jewish victims of the Holocaust. This book opens the eyes up in a most vivid fashion to those who were not Jewish. They did not get resettled in the Nazi Lebensraum, but were sent miles away to the East. Krysia's family were split up, partly due to her father being a Polish reservist when the Nazis invaded, and then courtesy of Stalin, who had signed a pact with Hitler dividing the country between the two states, before they turned bitter enemies. Krysia's family, living in the eastern city of Lwow, were packed up and sent – in the stereotypical cattle train – east. And east, and east – right the way across the continent to rural Kazakhstan, and a communal farm in the middle of anonymous desert, deep in Communist Soviet lands. Proof, if proof were needed, that that horrendous war still carries narratives that will be new to us… Full review...

Infographics: Technology by Simon Rogers

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As parents, we can often be bombarded with questions as our children start to discover the world. These questions soon become increasingly complex, especially with the latest technological advances. How do computers work? What's inside a smartphone? How can earth communicate with spacecraft? Thankfully we now have a handy, illustrated guide to help us: Infographics: Technology. Full review...

The Hello Atlas by Ben Handicott and Kenard Pak

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Sannu! Kina lafiya? That's how Azumi greets us in this book. He's from Africa, and he speaks Hausa. Do you? Don't worry if not, because you're about to learn. Full review...

Knowledge Encyclopedia: Animal! by DK

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The encyclopedia may be an informative type of book, but it's not always the most interesting. A series of dry facts plastered all over the page with nary an image in sight. This dry type of learning is never going to work with some of our modern youth, more used to spending time looking for imaginary animals on their phones, than researching real ones in a book. If you want to capture their attention, you must first draw their eyes. DK have attempted this in one of the most colourful and vibrant encyclopedias you are likely to see. Full review...

The Ultimate Book of Space by Anne-Sophie Baumann, Olivier Latyk and Robb Booker (translator)

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Space. For all the huge, empty expanse of it, it's a full and very fiddly thing to experience. The National Space Centre, in the hotbed of cosmology and space science that is Leicester, is chock full of things to touch, grip, pull and move around – and so is this book. It's a right gallimaufry of things that pop up out of the page, with things to turn and pull, and even an astronaut on the end of a curtain wire. Within minutes of opening this book I had undressed an astronaut to find what was under his spacesuit, dropped the dome on an observatory to open up the telescope, and swung a Soyuz supply module around so it could dock at the International Space Station. Educational fun like that can only be a good thing for the budding young scientist. Full review...

Incredibuilds: Buckbeak: Deluxe Model and Book Set (Harry Potter) by Jody Revenson

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The general perception is that to become a leading British actor, you need the fillip of Eton or somesuch education. But you don't have to be an actor to make a great film. Gravity for instance has extended scenes where the only thing natural is the performers' faces – everything else, even their bodies, was made in Britain by people using computers. The eight Harry Potter films, also made in the UK, needed a lot of computing power as well, but also a lot of craftsmen with their hands on tools and a keen eye. What better way to start training the young reader into that side of things, than with tasking them with making a, er, hippogriff? Full review...