Newest Children's Non-Fiction Reviews

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Children's Illustrated Thesaurus by DK

4.5star.jpg Children's Non-Fiction

One of the most valuable literary skills which children can learn is how to use reference books. As a child every question which I began with how do you spell...? would be answered with EXACTLY as it says in the dictionary. This was fine, but the family's Collins Little Gem Dictionary didn't encourage exploration, not least because the font was small and difficult to read. Fortunately those times have now changed and reference book for children are now much more inviting. Not every book comes with a set of instructions but it's worth studying the How to... section, not least because similar systems are used in other reference books. Full review...

First Science Encyclopedia by Dorling Kindersley

5star.jpg Children's Non-Fiction

I wasn't introduced to 'science' until I was eleven and went on to senior school: I wasn't alone in this, but it really was too late. Thankfully, times have changed and children at primary school are getting to grips with plants and animals, atoms and molecules and even outer space from a very young age. What's needed is a good, basic reference book which will introduce all the subjects and give a good grounding. It needs to be something which would sit proudly in the classroom library and comfortably on a child's bookshelf. The First Science Encyclopedia would do both well. Full review...

Origami, Poems and Pictures by The British Museum

5star.jpg Crafts

Sometimes you find a delight of a book. On an afternoon when it was unseasonably cold and decidedly wet I discovered Origami, Poems and Pictures and I was transported to Japan. As the title suggests we're looking at three celebrated arts and crafts: the ancient art of paper folding, haiku poetry and painting. I'll confess that it was the origami which caught my attention, but I was surprised by the extent to which the rest of the book caught my imagination. We begin with something very simple: a boat and in case you're worried, all the entries have a degree of difficulty (from 'simple' through to 'tricky') and this one is at the lowest level. Full review...

The Beautiful Game by Alan Gibbons

4star.jpg Dyslexia Friendly

Football is all about its colours. And even if I write in the season when one team in blue knocks another team in blue from the throne of English football, it's common knowledge that red is the more successful colour to wear. But is that flame red? Blood red? The red of the Sun cover banner when it falsely declared 96 Liverpool FC fans were fatally caught up in a tragedy – and that it had been one of their own making? And while we're on about colour, where were the people of colour in football in the olden days? There are so many darker sides to football's history it's enough to make a young lad question the whole game… Full review...

The Big Bird Spot by Matt Sewell

4star.jpg Children's Non-Fiction

Recently I stood on a viewing platform at the RSPB reserve at Bempton Cliffs as a very helpful volunteer guided my sight line to one of the puffins who'd arrived on the cliffs in the last few days. Finally, I found one, after visually sorting through all the other birds on the precipitous cliff face. It was great fun and very rewarding. The third double-page spread in wild-life author and artist Matt Sewell's first book for children, The Big Bird Spot, shows some cliffs very like those at Bempton, but this time you're going to be looking for twenty three Little Auks, in amongst the guillemots, puffins, herring gulls and razorbills. Oh, and you're looking for a pair of binoculars too: our bird watcher is very careless, because you're going to have to find them in every picture. Full review...

Lift-the-Flap and Colour: Ocean by Alice Bowsher

4star.jpg Children's Non-Fiction

When you think about it, it's quite startling that oceans cover most of our planet and they're home to nearly half of all species, apart from humans. We don't know a lot about the oceans either - less than 5% of the area has been explored, but it is an area of outstanding beauty. With Alice Bowsher's Lift-the-Flap and Colour: Ocean children as young as two have the opportunity to do a little exploration and to colour their own pictures. The flaps are a stroke of genius: when we look at the sea we see little more than the movement of the water, but how different it would be if you could see a little of what is going on underneath. Full review...

100 Steps for Science by Lisa Jane Gillespie and Yukai Du

3.5star.jpg Children's Non-Fiction

Science is a far reaching subject that covers almost everything that exists in the Universe from the smallest specks to the largest space bound objects. Point at anything and there will be some sort of scientist who has studied it. Trying to fit all of this into 100 hundred steps for children is ambitious and should be lorded, but if you are going to try and do this; at least make it readable. Full review...

Spot the Mistake: Lands of Long Ago by Amanda Wood, Mike Jolley and Frances Castle

4.5star.jpg Children's Non-Fiction

You'll like as not have seen a children's book before and harangued it for containing errors. This book has at least two hundred, and that's not a problem. Yes, in personifying the idea of learning through your mistakes, we get ten large dioramas of historical activity, all containing twenty things that shouldn't be there. Your task, should you choose to accept it, is to try and find them all. And the learning is also here, as we get text to tell us what the goofs were designed to show us. Make no mistake, this is a clever and absorbing read… Full review...

Lighter than Air: Sophie Blanchard, the First Woman Pilot by Matthew Clark Smith and Matt Tavares

4.5star.jpg Children's Non-Fiction

We're in Paris, and – not to be too rude about things – we seem surrounded by idiots. For one, it seems they think the perfect place to experiment with manned hot air balloon flights is in the middle of the biggest city in the world. For another, they think only men could suffer the slightly colder and slightly thinner air experienced on such an adventure – women would never be able to cope. Meanwhile, a young girl is dreaming of flight, as so many are wont to do, completely unaware that she will soon marry one of the most famed balloonists. They will have joint journeys skyward, before his early demise – leaving the young woman, Sophie Blanchard, to go it alone and become the first female pilot. Full review...

The Earth Book: A World of Exploration and Wonder by Jonathan Litton and Thomas Hegbrook

4.5star.jpg Children's Non-Fiction

The Earth. I kind of quite like it, you know – it seems to serve my purpose. I don't think I've taken too much out of it, all told, and if it's divided up into 200 countries I'm getting close to having visited a quarter of them. But way back when I just didn't get on with studying it. I didn't like geography – what with having to draw maps, oxbow lakes and whatnot I think it was one of those subjects I was put off through the pictorial element – and dropped it as soon as I could. But then, I didn't have the likes of this book to inspire me… Full review...

The Story of Space by Catherine Barr, Steve Williams and Amy Husband

4.5star.jpg Children's Non-Fiction

I have no actual idea how I first got an interest in space. Perhaps it's there because I'm so old to almost coincide with the last Apollo astronauts being on the moon (and that's pretty old, it's been so long) and it kind of rubbed off on me. Perhaps in fact all young children are interested in space anyway, and don't need any impetus or reason to look up in wonder. But if they do, this is the newest way of nudging the newer child towards a keenness for all things celestial. And it's a pretty good way indeed. Full review...

Lots – The Diversity of Life on Earth by Nicola Davies and Emily Sutton

5star.jpg Children's Non-Fiction

How many different kinds of living things are there on Earth? Lots…that's how many. Children will learn lots and lots from this wonderful book. I learned lots from it too. There are 100,000 different kinds of mushrooms. Who knew? Well I certainly didn't. This is one of those special books with cross-over appeal. Tiny children will adore the illustrations, slightly older ones will learn fascinating facts and readers of any age will be moved by the message that we need to take better care of our beautiful environment. Full review...

Build a ... Butterfly by Kiki Ljung

4.5star.jpg Children's Non-Fiction

I love butterflies: they're one of the delights of my garden and it's always a pleasure when there are children there and they see a butterfly close up, possibly for the first time, as it rests on a flower. Kiki Ljung has given us the opportunity to learn about butterflies and also to build a 3D model of our own. The book is primarily aimed at the five to eight year old age group, but I have to confess that I had a great deal of fun building my own painted lady. I learned quite a bit too! Full review...

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo

4.5star.jpg Children's Non-Fiction

It's been said very often that 'history is told by the winners'. Well, too often history, the news and even destinies are written by men, and the proof is between these covers. I didn't know anything about this before reading it, even if it has become the most richly-backed crowd-funded book ever. I'd never heard of the Hollow Flashlight, powered purely by body warmth – which is rich if you're old enough to remember the brou-ha-ha when a maverick British bloke did a wind-up radio. I'd never read about the Niger female who has successfully made a stand against forced, arranged marriage, rejecting a cousin for a fate she wishes to write for herself. My ignorance may, perhaps, show me up to be a chauvinist of sorts, but I think it is further evidence that 'the gaze is male' and that the media are phallocentric. I hope too that this book doesn't turn any of its readers into a feminist, for that would be as bad as the chauvinist charge against me. If anything it is designed to create equals, and that is as it should be, even if there is still a long way to go… Full review...

Taking Flight: How the Wright Brothers Conquered the Skies by Adam Hancher

4.5star.jpg Children's Non-Fiction

Flight. It happens all around us, wherever we may be, and many are the young audience members for this book who have taken to the air already. But it was once something impossible to take for granted, and this book easily takes us back to those days. It presents us with danger, determination, and a certain pair of American brothers going all out to get both their names in the history books and their feet in the skies… Full review...

The School of Music by Meurig Bowen, Rachel Bowen and Daniel Frost

3star.jpg Children's Non-Fiction

I have a love/hate relationship with music. I love it in that I own several large bookshelves full of CDs, and have seen and met quite a few noted performers, from Radiohead to Philip Glass, but I hate it in that as regards making it I can only hit things (and that only with my hands, never with my feet at the same time). Only in the last few years have people been at all appreciative of my singing, for want of a better word, and one of those suggested closing my eyes to sound better (I think she also may have plugged her ears when I wasn't looking). That from a kid who was lumbered with something big and brass to lumber about on the school bus with, dammit. But hey, what's the use of my own example being so off-putting, when there is a world of pleasure, mental and physical exercise and fun to be had from being active in music? This book, dressed as the lesson programme of a full-on, proper musical college, is only designed to encourage and inform. But does it? Full review...

Ballerina Dreams by Michaela DePrince and Elaine DePrince

4.5star.jpg Children's Non-Fiction

Africa is a place full of music and rhythm and joy of movement. It is not, however, always a place for the structured tuition and commitment required by ballet. Sometimes there are more pressing issues than whether your pointe shoes are darned or whether you have a pianist available or will have to dance to pre-recorded music. For Michaela, growing up in Sierra Leone, her concerns were more simple: where was her next meal coming from, and who was going to look after her now she had been left orphaned by the war. Full review...

Botanicum Activity Book by Katie Scott and Kathy Willis

4star.jpg Children's Non-Fiction

Children and adults who enjoyed Botanicum (Welcome To The Museum) by Katie Scott and Kathy Willis are going to love the Botanicum Activity Book. Don't be misled by the suggestion that the book is aimed at the seven-plus age group: there's plenty in here for anyone who is still capable of holding a pen or pencil. Full review...

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

4.5star.jpg Children's Non-Fiction

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

4star.jpg For Sharing

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

4star.jpg Children's Non-Fiction

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

4.5star.jpg Reference

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

5star.jpg Art

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

5star.jpg Children's Non-Fiction

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

4star.jpg Children's Non-Fiction

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

4star.jpg Children's Non-Fiction

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...