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

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. 

My First Book of Relativity by Kaid-Salah Ferron Sheddad

Don't be put off by the subject! This book does an amazing job of explaining a very complex subject in a way that makes sense to everyone, even those, like me, not in the least scientifically-minded. Einstein's theory of relativity is fundamental to modern physics but it can be really hard to get our mind around. Strange things happen in a relative universe: length and time are not fixed and depend upon your frame of reference. If you move at high speed, time slows down, space contracts and weight increases. So a period of time for someone on Earth that lasts for hundreds of years may only be a couple of hours for someone travelling in a rocket close to the speed of light. Just how do we explain it? Read this book, that's how. Through easily understood text matched by plenty of detailed and clearly labelled diagrams, the subject is made understandable. The artwork is by Eduard Altaribba and it is fundamental to our understanding of the book. It's the perfect way to support KS2 science, giving children confidence in their knowledge. Our world is indeed anawesome place and children's appreciation will be enhanced the more they understand. Published by Button Books, August 2019, ISBN 978-1787080331.

Do Elephants Ever Forget?: And Other Puzzling Questions Answered (Buster's Actually-Factually Books)

Myth or truth? If you and your children like to sort fact from fiction, then the Actually-Factually series is just for you. This fascinating book contains more than 45 questions, some serious and some silly, in a completely random selection of fascinating facts.Do cats always land on their feet? Why can't I tickle myself? Do twins have the same fingerprints? Is cracking my knuckles bad for me? Some of the answers will amaze you, and they will all inform. The book is packed with humorous coloured illustrations by Paul Moran. So - do elephants ever forget? You'll have to get your own copy of this fascinating book to find out and you will thoroughly enjoy it, I am sure. There are endless talking points for all the family to share and enjoy together; it's a great book for all ages.

Dolphins! by Laurence Pringle

Dolphins are wonderful creatures and always really popular with children, who find them fascinating. They will love to discover more through the fascinating facts and detailed artwork of this book. Various dolphin species are introduced from the well-known bottlenose dolphin to several species of blackfish including orcas that most people believe are whales. Importantly, the book also discusses conservation and how dolphins can be protected from hunting, pollution and other threats - something of which we all need to be aware. This useful guide includes a glossary, index and further resources. Published by Boyds Mill Press/Highlights, April 2019, ISBN 9781629796802.

The Extraordinary Life of Stephen Hawking by Kate Scott

This is a striking new series from Puffin Books and the presentation makes them an excellent set to collect. Few modern day lives are as extraordinary as that of Stephen Hawking, so he is an excellent subject for this series. Diagnosed with motor-neurone disease as a young man, and given just a few years to live, Stephen Hawking defied the odds and lived to the age of 76. His determination to solve some of the mysteries of the universe, and to share his knowledge with others, shines through in this book. His scientific discoveries changed the world and this book exlpains them clearly for young readers. From building model aeroplanes as a child to travelling all over the globe and experiencing a zero-gravity flight, Stephen Hawking's life was extraordinary from beginning to end. At the end of the books are 'things to think about' - good discussion points. There is also a comprehensive index.

The Extraordinary Life of Malala Yousafzai by Hiba Noor Khan

Inspirational and courageous from a young age, Malala is famed around the world for her bravery, resilience and hope in the face of terrifying adversity. From growing up in the Swat Valley in Pakistan to making speeches at the United Nations, she has become an inspiration for people fighting for justice and this account summarises her life in a highly accessible way which manages to pack in lots of information. The narrative biography format of the series means the accounts flow smoothly, giving an engaging read that will appeal to all children, whether they prefer fiction or non-fiction. The friendly conversational approach makes these sometimes abstract figures seem really real, encouraging children to discover more - and maybe to emulate them. Information value is increased by the use of illustrated timelines and fascinating facts.

The Extraordinary Life of Michelle Obama by Sheila Kanani

Children will enjoy learning about Michelle Obama, role model and feminist icon. Born and raised in Chicago, she studied and worked hard to become a lawyer, and then took to the international stage as First Lady. The book is full of revealing insights into her life. The eye-catching presentation of the books makes them a pleasure to read. The pages are edged in colour and that colour is used throughout the book for text and illustrations, giving a simple unified effect - it's extremely effective and makes for easy reading as the colour is bold enough to be easily read against the pale cream background. The illustrations themselves are bold yet simple, and other visual features such as fact boxes help the readability. An impressive series, and I'm looking forward to future releases - at the end of each book, there are enticing glimpses into other titles.

Discovering Architecture by Eduard Altarriba and Berta Bardi I Mila

 Architecture is all around us, and it raises many intriguing questions for children, as well as giving us a snapshot of culture and social history. This highly visual guide, which is packed with enlightening drawings and diagrams, is a perfect introduction to architecture around the world and will be as interesting to adults as it is to children. It takes a comprehensive look at the history of building, from the mud huts of ancient history to today's towering edifices, showing the development of different building materials, from mud and straw to paper, steel and reinforced concrete along the way. Famous architects are also discussed, as are construction techniques. The mass of information is clearly presented and the diagrams are well labelled and very informative. An index would have been a useful addition. Published by Button Books, ISBN 9781787080287.

Little Frida by Anthony Browne

Anthony Browne is a talented artist whose unusual perspective on the world has brought us some iconic and highly memorable picture books. Now he turns his attention to another quirky artist in this beautiful and surreal picture book. The fascinating illustrations, coupled with text related in Frida Kahlo's own words, tell the story of a lonely young girl who discovers the power of the imagination to set you free. They are full of Anthony Browne's subtle humour and well repay close attention. Themes of belonging, creativity and hope resonate through the book.This beautiful picture book is a worthy tribute to an iconic artist.

Ultimate Explorer Rocks and Minerals (National Geographic) by Nancy Honovich

Just right to encourage children's interest in the world around them, this fact-packed guide to rocks and minerals will amaze children as they learn about the beauties that lie beneath the earth. Detailed descriptions of over 150 rocks and minerals give children all the information they need, as well as activity prompts to encourage their discoveries. An ideal companion for studying at home or school and for field trips, camping and holidays. Perfectly sized to carry around. With all the resources that lie behind National Geographic, you'd expect these books to be superbly illustrated, and you won't be disappointed - each one is packed with superb photos and illustrations to bring the topics to life.

Ultimate Explorer Field Guide: Night Sky (National Geographic) by Howard Schneider

Wherever we live, we can all marvel at the night sky and this pocket-sized guide is ideal to take out into the garden or further afield - and to swot up beforehand on what might be seen. Superbly illustrated, the book covers everything children need to know, from Mars to meteor showers, Scorpius to satellites. The book clearly shows how, where, and when to spot these phenomena in the night sky at any time of the year and includes clear sky maps and constellation charts. The friendly approach includes jokes and fun facts to engage children. All the books in this series are excellent examples of reference books. There are clear contents pages set out with plenty of detail; excellent glossaries and comprehensive indexes

Ultimate Explorer Birds (National Geographic)

Covering birds in Great Britain and Ireland, this book gives comprehensive coverage of all the birds children are likely to spot - and the detail is enough to satisfy many adults too. 200 birds are photographed and described with snippets of additional information in 'Be a bird nerd'. Birdtastics pages give fascinating supplementary information. The pages are excellently laid out. The volume of information could be overwhelming but clever use of fact boxes, clearly labelled illustrations, coloured backgrounds and a variety of fonts all help to make a good visual presentation. Technical details are included but presented in a way that doesn't impinge on the easy flow of information, yet complements the topic and satisfies those readers who love technical detail. A clear, easy-to-use guide.

What A Waste: Rubbish, Recycling, and Protecting our Planet by DK Children

This is a comprehensive look at the way we are destroying our planet, with enough detail on all the various aspects, and one with a positive message about how we can work together to save the planet... just as DK have done in producing the book using responsibly sourced materials and soy inks. There are someamazing facts here that will make us all stop and think. Did you know that every single plastic toothbrush ever made still exists? Or that there's a floating mass of rubbish larger than the USA drifting around the Pacific Ocean? What I like about this book, though, is the positive side as the book shows what we're doing right. Discover plans already in motion to save our seas, how countries are implementing schemes that are having a positive impact, and how your waste can be turned into something useful. Clear visual presentation, plenty of practical ideas and lots of information give us a book with something for every child. Highly readable, a book that will stimulate discussion and action.

The Everything Book of Horses and Ponies by DK Publishing

​ This is an ideal first book for young horse and pony enthusiasts, whether they have their own, love riding or have hopes for the future! The straightforward presentation, large font and simple language make it perfect for young children. Readers will learn about more than 20 different breeds of horses and ponies from all around the world, from huge shire horse to tiny Shetland pony, with useful fact files and well labelled ilustrations. They will also find out about how horses grow and develop, how they behave and how to look after them, including feeding and grooming. There's just enough information to really inform young readers... and they can test their knowledge with a quiz.

Hedy Lamarr's Double Life by Laurie Wallmark

I have to confess that although I have, of course, heard of Hedy Lamnarr, I thought of her purely as a star of the screen, so I was really interested to read a book about the other side of her life - what a talented person! Called 'The Most Beautiful Woman in the World', she was happiest at home inventing. Her amazing inventions that were relevant to everyday life include a flavour-cube that changed plain water into soda, a glow-in-the-dark dog collar to help people find their pets at night, and a device to help people get in and out of the bathtub. But her work had far wider-reaching significance as her most important scientific breakthrough frequency hopping, now known as spread-spectrum broadcasting turned out to be one of the most important technologies of the 20th century. It's what keeps mobile phones safe from hackers and is still used to this day. Who'd have thought it? The explanations of the discoveries are clear and will be excellent to support KS2 science. A fascinating look at an incredible woman. Published by Sterling Books, April 2019, 978-1454926917.

So You Think You've Got It Bad? A Kid's Life in Ancient Egypt​ by Chae Strathie

I love this approach to history, which is vu-irtually guaranteed to capture children's attention. Young readers will soon learn that the lovely weather and stupendous pyramids were far from the most important part of ancient Egyptian children's lives; in fact, life could be very tough! How do dodging Deathstalker scorpions and cleaning up cow dung, to fetching water from the well, eating roast hedgehog and being slammed in the stocks for being naughty at school sound? Be prepared for a few groans too - the book is riddled with puns and jokes. Beneath the lively approach, though, the book is packed with facts and insights that will make this ancient civilisation really come to life for children, making history both memorable and enjoyable. The book is highly visual so will appeal to a range of learners and it's a great way to develop a keen interest in history as it puts children centre stage. Produced in collaboration with the British Museum.

Odd Science - Spectacular Space by James Olstein

It's the strange and quirky information that makes things memorable - and this book really makes best use of that. When we read facts like the lack of gravity makes it impossible for someone to cry in space, we are encouraged to read on. This engrossing book is full of similar weird and wacky facts that you've never heard before. Read about the first flower grown in space, wonder at the tallest mountain in the solar system and learn that Saturn could float in water! The appeal of the book is enhanced by James Olstein's gloriously quirky illustrations with their retro feel, which will really make you chuckle. There's a young planet in a nappy and Einstein surfing on a gravitational wave. It's a fun approach to science which presents a great deal of information in a memorable form.


Tony T-Rex’s Family Album: A History of Dinosaurs! by Mike Benton

This book takes a completely fresh approach to the history of dinosaurs, being told by Earth’s last surviving dinosaur, Tony. He takes a humorous look at many members of his family and doesn't hold back when it comes to their lifestyles! The stories he tells reveal the defining characteristics of some of the most memorable creatures from the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. Key to the success of this book are the wonderful illustrations by Rob Hodgson. Each spread is beautifully designed with stylised dinos shown against colourful prehistoric backgrounds. The expert approach of the author, professor of vertebrate paleontology at Bristol University means the facts are accurate and right up-to-date, whilst being presented in a fun way that makes the subject accessible to young readers. It's a super book to generate enthusiasm.

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