Book reviews - non fiction ages 7-11 (page 5)

We have reviewed some of the best new non fiction available. There are so many wonderful books being published now that it can be hard to choose, so take a look at the ideas below and then browse in your local bookshop or library. Many of these books are also excellent classroom/library resources, so there's plenty here for teachers.

The most recent reviews are at the top of the page, so these are generally the most recently published books.


National Trust: Ned the Nature Nut's Nutty Nature Jokes and Facts by Sarah Horne

This is another result of the collaboration between Nosy Crow and the National Trust and I can see many happy children picking up a copy of this in the gift shops! This nutty, nature joke book is full of side-splittingly hilarious jokes and fascinating facts based on nature. It's all perfectly geared to children and they will absorb a surprising amount of knowledge as they enjoy the humour. Full of green-fingered giggles and wildlife witticisms, as well as incredible facts about nature, Ned the Nature Nut will turn you into a nature nut too! A great way to encourage an interest in nature.

The Book of Me by Adam Frost

This is really a book for children to get totally immersed in, as they doodle, draw and complete it with their own data. Here are some questions for children to ponder: "If you ran your school, what would the rules be? Would you rather talk to animals, or speak every language in the world? How fast can you run?" These are just a sample of the questions children will encounter, and which will really stimulate their thinking. A lively, fun book which is bound to intrigue and amaze.

What's Where on Earth? Atlas: The World as You've Never Seen It Before (Children's Atlas) from DK

This book certainly lives up to its claim, as you would expect from DK - it really does take us way beyond the ordinary. With over 60 unique specially commissioned 3-D maps and artworks, this wonderful atlas will take children (and adults will be entranced too) on a continent-by-continent tour of the world. There are themed maps for each continent, on topics such as major geographical features, cities and monuments, population, and wildlife; these will fit perfectly with the KS2 curriculum, really stimulating children's interest in the wider world. With fast travel today, it's easy for children to lose sight of the inter-relationship of countries, and this atlas is the ideal way to address that balance. The artwork is really stunning and it is accompanied by masses of interesting and practical facts. An ideal gift and home reference for children aged between 8 and 11, guaranteed to stimulate an interest in the world around them.


Lesser Spotted Animals by Martin Brown

Martin Brown's illustrative style will be familiar to most children, as he has illustrated the hugely popular Horrible Histories - but what a treat, as we can now enjoy his illustrations in full colour, along with his instantly appealing text. If you are tired of the same old animals, then you will love to discover the brilliant beasts you never knew you needed to know about - the ongar, the sandcat and zorilla are just a few of the creatures you will meet and who really come to life through humorous text and illustrations, with plenty of jokes thrown in. A great read.

The Street Beneath My Feet by Charlotte Gullian

This is a quite extraordinary book. The double-sided foldouts take the reader on a fascinating journey deep underground in the city and in the country. One side of the foldout shows the ground beneath the city, whilst the reverse side shows the ground beneath the countryside. The underground scenes include tunnels and pipes, creatures' burrows, layers of rock and the planet’s molten core, and run seamlessly into the next.It's very cleverly done, and every time you look, there are new things to spot and appreciate. There's plenty of helpful text to explain what is being seen and the text is well linked to the illustrations. The fold-out, 'laperello’ style, which extends to 2.5 metres in length, is ideal for spreading out on the floor to pore over for hours.Just imagine a group of children marvelling over what they can see! Fascinating.

Lots by Marc Martin

Travel all around the world and enjoy the author's gathering of facts, thoughts and observations about our planet in this wonderfully illustrated celebration of the world we travel far and wide. You will travel from to Hong Kong, the Amazon, Antarctica, India through the villages, towns and cities where most people live, to the deserts and vast oceans that cover the surface of the planet. There is so much to discover - lots of people, lots of places, lots of different landscapes and cultures. All the rich variety of human and animal life is here in a multitude of tiny pictures which together make each page a sheer delight. A wonderful book - a book to dip into time and time again.

Star Wars Rogue One: Mission Files

Top-secret! This book contains files about the characters from the new movie, Star Wars: Rogue One, including in-depth profiles, mission briefings, and more. An imperial weapons test of some kind is imminent; it's time to act to save the empire. Set before Star Wars: A New Hope, Rogue One follows a rag-tag group of rebel commandos who must steal the plans to the Empire’s new superweapon, the Death Star. This standalone story transports fans to unseen corners of the Star Wars universe and strange new planets not to mention an encounter with a familiar adversary, Darth Vader. Perfect to accompany the film.

Super Optical Illusions (Carlton Kids) by Gianni A. Sarcone and Marie-Jo Waeber

This intriguing book uses colour, angles and ambiguity to trick the eye.. and then comes the interesting bit - it gives you fascinating explanations of what you are seeing and why you see it. I found myself having to go back to the pictures over and again to see what I really had seen! Often, optical illusions are black and white but here we have a fantastic range of colourful illusions. Enthralling - you'll never believe your eyes again!

LEGO: The Book of Everything from Scholastic

This is a great way to encourage children to take an interest in general knowledge. From the cut-out and embossed cover throughout the book, a wealth of information about our world is presented with the help of LEGO people. Chapters include history; heroes and villains; earth is awesome; home on earth; invention and discovery; 3,2,1, Blast off; cool vehicles; sports crazy and fun stuff. Each spread contains a LEGO scene to enhance the learning journey: a vignette, mini story, or icon featuring LEGO models and characters. The clever graphic design combines the LEGO illustration with real-world photography and facts for an immersive experience. It's an unusual way to present information but it has been cleverly done and it's really effective. LEGO fans will love this highly informative and excellently presented book.

The Pop-Up, Pull Out Human Body from DK

Help children to answer their questions about the human body with this exciting pop-up, pull-out book which will really engage their attention. Packed with facts, the book is perfect to support lower KS2 learning about the human body; the book makes it easy for children to understand how the body works. There's just the one pop-up which is a seated human skeleton who jumps out of the first page. After that, the book explores each organ in turn, looks at how muscles work, what makes the brain tick, and how the body is pieced together. Colourful illustrations show body parts in detail, while slide-out pages add lots of facts. Q and As throughout the book help children to reason on what they have learnt, making learning more effective. The effective layout features information about organs on one side, with the opposing page showing how the organs and other body parts work. Attractive and clear, this is a good introduction.

Australia Illustrated by Tania McCartney

Everything that goes to make Australia the country that it is, is showcased in this fascinating book that gives a real insight into life in Australia. Not only does it celebrate the well known Australian flora, fauna and landmarks, such as The Great Barrier Reef and Sydney Harbour Bridge, it also highlights the everyday quirks and idiosyncrasies that make Australia unique. Some of my favourites are the Kite Festival, iconic foods, the variety of wild flowers and chocolate factory. Laid out in Australia-wide entries as well as state and territory specific elements, readers will learn an amazing range of fascinating facts. The detailed drawings are full of intriguing elements, with masses to spot and learn about. A superb book which will keep readers engrossed for hours.

What on Earth? Water by Isabel Thomas

Readers are encouraged to explore and discover this essential element in a variety of ways. There is plenty of emphasis on hands-on tasks - the best way to help children to understand and remember science facts. Children can make a rainbow, a water-powered sprinkler, a mini-pond and secret salt pictures, among a whole range of other activities. Many of the KS2 science topics are covered, including the water cycle and make a precipitation gauge or grow your own stalactite. Children can explore this fascinating book as they like, following the internal links encourage children to choose their own path through the book, with each spread providing a new adventure. The explanations are clear and easy to follow and plentiful illustrations and diagrams help understanding; there are also lots of snippets of interesting information in this excellent book.

What on Earth? Wind by Isabel Thomas

Perfect for enquiring young minds, this is an engaging look at the importance of wind and the myriads of ways in which it affects our lives. It's packed with information, ably supported by the wide-ranging illustrations; the clear layout makes it easy to take in the information. Again, the book is full of hands-on activities to enhance learning, and there are plenty of out-of-the-ordinary ideas - perfect for classroom use as well as at home. How about a wind trap, a sail racer or a wind-sock? A practical flexi-binding makes the books easy to use. These are excellent cross-curricular books which incorporate a whole range of subjects, including English, science, geography and creative activities.

Star Wars: Galactic Atlas by Lucasfilm

This is a superb poster-sized book and a must-have for all Star Wars fans. Illustrated in full dramatic colour by Tim McDonagh, the atlas covers everything from Alderaan and Naboo to Tatooine and Yavin 4, taking in the epic stories, strange creatures and glorious vistas of the entire saga. "Taken from the holdings of the Graf Archive and found in the underground Shadow Stacks, these ancient hand drawn maps were unearthed from the Shadow Stacks. The Head Curator's theory is that they are the work of the great Ithorian artist Gammit Chond. Chond never travelled off-world but he was fascinated by travellers' tales, and many of his works depict their stories of adventure and discovery in the rest of the galaxy. While we know that many of the things he has included are a matter of fact, some may merely be tall tales spun by explorers; but all presents a unique view of a fascinating slice of history." With dozens of maps, star charts, character profiles, and a timeline of the entire saga, this book is the perfect gift for Star Wars fans of all ages .A fantastic and superbly produced gift book that will be returned to over and over again; the perfect companion to the films and one which will enhance enthusiasts' enjoyment.

A First Book of Animals by Nicola Davies

This follows the author's wonderful A First Book of Nature, and makes the perfect companion. Wonderfully lyrical text about the animal world is illustrated in outstanding detail by Petr Horacek. Showcasing the marvellous variety of animal life, the book gives us an insight into animals everywhere including polar bears playing on the ice, tigers hunting in the jungle, fireflies twinkling in the evening sky and nightingales singing in the heart of the woods. The perceptive words give us a new slant on the animal world, and this is far from being just a book for children - adults too will appreciate the engaging text and the beauty of the illustrations. The artwork completely fills every page and the vibrancy and liveliness are a real joy. This book is a glorious celebration of life in the wild in all its variety and splendour, and belongs on every family's bookshelf. It really heightens our appreciation of nature and it will make a perfect gift.

Hands-On Science: 50 Kids' Activities from CSIRO by Sarah Kellett

Inquisitive children will love this hands-on book which answers all sorts of questions. Did you ever wonder why some insects can walk on water? Or how the Ancient Egyptians made mummies? Are you curious about why a guitar sounds different from a flute? All the experiments use everyday materials from around the home, and many can be done without adult supervision (where adult help is needed, it is clearly indicated).  The activities cover electricity and magnetism, sound and light, heat and motion, water and gases, living things, shapes and our planet Earth; this is ideal to support KS2 science as many of the main topics are covered. Each activity includes a list of materials required, and gives easy to follow step-by-step instructions and drawings. The range of experiments is really good and many of them produce really exciting and often unexpected reactions. Fast facts and quiz questions help consolidate knowledge, and alongside each activity is a practical explanation of the science behind it, as well as examples of how each principle works in the real world. How about these ideas? Dancing slime; rubbery bones; a ping pong ball shooter; ghastly ghostly photos; and fizzy dinosaur eggs - an enticing collection.

The Hello Atlas by Ben Handicott

Covering more than 130 countries, this informative atlas gives readers an insight into the lives of children all over the world. It celebrates one of humanity's greatest achievements - written and verbal language, through the pages of the book and through the app. Each continent is introduced with a map showing the children who live there, and some of the languages they speak. There are then pictures depicting children's lives in the various countries along with English and native language words. The one- book features more than 100 languages, from well-known and lesser known indigenous languages that introduce us to some of the world's most remote communities. The book has a foreword by ethnobotanist and explorer, Professor Wade Davis. Download the free app to hear more than 100 different languages - sometimes, I feel that apps are included with books as a bit of a gimic, not serving any particular purpose, but this app has real value and it's fascinating to hear the variety of languages. An engrossing book that helps children put languages and peoples into their geographical context.

British Museum: Secret Treasures of Ancient Egypt: Discover the Sunken Cities by Kate Sparrow

This superb book accompanies the British Museum exhibition Sunken Cities: Egypt's Lost Worlds (May - November 2016). The book tells the story of two magnificent ancient aquatic cities, Canopus and Thonis-Heracleion, which once stood at the mouth of the river Nile. Now the ruins, which first started to be explored in 1997, reveal how their inhabitants lived, worshipped and interacted with their foreign visitors. It's a fascinating account, which will enthrall young and old, as they marvel at the wonders discovered, and the new light thrown on an ancient culture. The book is superbly presented, with an engaging mix of test and visual material, which includes photos and delightful colour drawings, which are in themselves, packed with information. And if that's not enough, there are 120 stickers, a fold-out sticker scene, a press-out-and-make animal sarcophagus, a fold-out map and an illustrated timeline. Wow! A quite fantastic book - I love it.

Gaming Record Breakers by Clive Gifford

Children can have a refreshing break from playing games by reading this engrossing book which is packed with facts, including the longest Minecraft marathon, the most expensive computer game ever made, the richest gaming prizes, the biggest games console... Boys and girls are big fans of all sorts of gaming, and this colourful book will astound them with its facts; there is plenty to lean about the games themselves as well as about the records that have been set. A great way to get keen gamers engaged with a book.

NY is for New York by Paul Thurlby

This is a superb series, one that gives the reader a real insight into cities. Join Paul Thirlby as he takes you on a tour of the Big Apple including the Statue of Liberty, Central Park, the Empire State Building, Brooklyn Bridge, Times Square and the Yankee Stadium, as well as discovering some lesser known gems. The atmosphere of the city is excellently conveyed, with brief but very informative text. The illustrations are works of art, with a superbly retro feeling, reminiscent of 20s and 30s railway posters - good enough for anyone's wall! The book is produced on heavy cream pages which set the pictures off to perfection. A book which will appeal to all ages - an ideal coffee table book and a perfect gift.

Atlas of Miniature Adventures: A pocket-sized collection of small-scale wonders by Emily Hawkins

This is a perfect pocket-sized book to take with you on a long journey - it's packed with amazing facts that will keep you enthralled through the most tedious of journeys. The book takes the reader on a whistle-stop journey across seven continents, learning about the best small-scale adventures on Earth. Would you like to find a primate that can fit inside a teacup, travel on the world's largest miniature railway, meet 3000 people in a miniature village or find a butterfly as small as a fingernail? They are all here in this absorbing book - and to make sure you haven't missed the tiniest thing, there are 'Can you find? pages at the end. A lovely little book.

What's Below? by Clive Gifford

Encourage children's natural curiosity by discussing with them what might lie beneath their feet - and then amaze them with this lovely book with its cleverly engineered pop-ups. From lush rainforest to mysterious underwater kingdoms, what goes on beneath the snow, the undersea world and a secret world beneath the streets, this gorgeous and captivating pop-up book shows them all in wonderful detail. Compelling facts are told by the expert author and contributor to Encyclopedia Britannica, Clive Gifford, winner of the Royal Society Young People's Book Prize. It's stunningly illustrated, with a wealth of detail to explore and enjoy - for adult and child alike.

Destination: Space by Dr. Christoph Englert

Wide Eyed Editions can be relied on to produce books that are stunningly illustrated and packed with amazing facts - it's always a pleasure when I receive their books for review. The book invites young readers to hop on board the space shuttle and get ready for the ride of their lives as they explore deep space with five fellow space cadets - it's an approachable way to help children get involved with the book. The book takes young explorers into and beyond through our own solar system, to galaxies far and wide. There's a big poster included showing the stars and constellations of the Southern and Northern hemispheres - perfect for a bedroom or classroom wall. Questions are asked and answered as children learn more about the science behind the stars, planets, meteors and comets in our sky, and the history of our universe. The book is superbly illustrated, and will have children in awe at the marvellous universe in all its beauty. A superb book for young and old.

Day of the Dinosaurs by Steve Brusatte

There's is always room for another book about dinosaurs, as it is such a popular subject with children. This book presents facts in a simple but informative way, allowing the reader to compare the biggest, fastest and fiercest creatures of the land, sea and sky from four different prehistoric periods: the Triassic, the early Jurassic, the Late Jurassic and the Cretaceous. Sections on diet, weapons and defence and dinosaur senses make this a comprehensive introduction to one of the earth's most successful animals. Full of information, all beautifully presented against coloured backgrounds with plenty of clear, dramatic illustrations that really help the reader understand the world of these creatures. A thrilling and very informative read for any budding paleontologist, brilliantly presented.

50 things you should know about The Tudors by Rupert Matthews

This is an excellent series, with succinctly presented facts in a layout that will appeal to children and make learning easy and enjoyable. In fact, there are far more than 50 facts, because there are 50 two-page spreads, each one containing several facts linked by a common theme. The book covers the exciting and dramatic Tudor period (1485 until 1603). It shows the impact the Tudors had on history, through the lives and actions of the monarchs, and also famous people of the era. Starting with the Wars of the Roses and ending with the linking of England and Scotland, this was an exciting period, and this excellently illustrated book will encourage children to take an interest in history - and supports KS2 learning excellently.

Pharaoh's Fate: Solve the ancient Egyptian mystery by Camille Gautier

This engrossing book takes young readers on a fascinating journey back in time as they learn about ancient Egypt in this thrilling interactive adventure. Someone is plotting to murder the pharaoh and it's up to you to stop them. From the glittering riches of the royal tombs to the bustling markets of ancient Thebes, your journey will require you to decipher hieroglyphs, learn about gods and goddesses, hunt for clues and unmask the culprit before it's too late. It's such a good way to get children to really engage with history, as they work out how to solve the clues. The book is packed with information, and there are lots of informative illustrations too. The challenges will really stretch children, helping them to reason and deduce and the format ensures the learning will be thoroughly embedded. Fascinating and unusual.

Coming to England by Floella Benjamin

This special edition has been produced to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the first publication of the inspiring story of Floella Benjamin and her experiences when she first came to England. The start of the book tells of her idyllic life in Tobago. Separated from their parents for 15 months before coming to England, Floella and her siblings were reunited with their parents on arrival in England in 1960. Leaving behind the island paradise of Tobago, they found themselves in a society which rejected them, despite the fact the government had encouraged West Indians to help rebuild the country after the Second World War. Floella realised that she would have to prove herself by working twice as hard and being twice as good as anyone else. By doing so, she has become an inspiration to others, and that message is powerfully conveyed in her account. Michael Frith's wonderful illustrations are poignant and touching, reflecting the feel of the book to perfection.

Secrets of the Sea by Kate Baker

Big Picture Press produce stunning books, always superbly illustrated - a real feast for the eyes. This book is no exception This book takes you on a journey which showcases the beauty of marine life. The reader is taken on an awe-inspiring journey from the shallow sea, to coral gardens, out into the wide blue sea and into the depths of the ocean. Creatures familiar and less-known are illustrated in detailed drawings, which show the patterns off to perfection; each has an accompanying description with plenty of enthralling facts. As you read, you will discover the tiny organisms that are the very building blocks of life - some harmless, some deadly, some alien in appearance, yet others incredibly beautiful. A superb book that will have the reader marvelling at nature's beauty.

Halloween (Flip-Flap Journeys) by Richard Platt

How much do you really know about Halloween? Now's your chance to find out as you join in the Halloween adventure and learn about trick or treating, dressing up, celebrations around the world, spooky creatures and much more. Did you know that the world’s largest pumpkin weighed more than 14 adults? Or that during the Day of the Dead in Mexico, people picnic in graveyards? The engaging approach of this colourful book includes over 50 flaps to explore, each adding to your knowledge of this, the spookiest of festivals. Don't read this one under the bedclothes!