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. 

Walk This Underground World by Kate Bake

r​ I've always been fascinated by what lies beneath our feet, and it's something that really interests children, as they marvel at the hidden wonders of a whole world that is hidden from view. The lift-the-flap format is absolutely perfect for revealing the excitement of these hidden wonders, and with so many flaps to enjoy on each page, children are in for a real treat. Each flap includes plenty of relevant information, to complement the catchy rhyming text on the pages. The landscape format of the book is excellent for really showcasing all there is to be seen. The limited colour palette of the illustrations by Sam Brewster is very effective, ensuring the objects come to the fore. From the ancient Egyptian desert to bustling city streets, this is a fascinating and informative book, beautifully presented to really capture interest.

Writers and Their Pets: True Stories of Famous Authors and Their Animal Friends​ by Kathleen Krull

Animals have a huge impact on our lives, and here we learn how animals influenced twenty of the world's best-known authors. Entertainingly related, the book is wide-ranging in its selection, including Charles Dickens, Virginia Woolf, Mark Twain and J. K. Rowling. The short chapters each focus on one author from the 19th to the 21st centuries, with biographical information that helps bring them to life for children, as well as explaining the impact animals had on their writing. Plentiful illustrations by Violet Lemay are a natable feature of the book. To me, knowing what pets famous people have, gives a real insight into their characters and helps us to get to know them better, so this is a fascinating, revealing and unusual read, giving us a different viewpoint on famous writers.

What Do You Celebrate?: Holidays and Festivals Around the World by Whitney Stewart

Children will be taken on a fascinating journey around the world as they learn about a wide variety of celebrations, some well-known and others less-familiar. The holidays included are: Chinese New Year, Losar, Carnival, Fastelavn, Purim, Cherry Blossom Festival, Holi, Eid al-Fitr, Fourth of July, Bastille Day, Halloween, Day of the Dead, Guy Fawkes Day, and the German Lantern Festival. Each two page spread gives an overview of the holiday, showing its significance in the culture of the area. I especially like the inclusion of vocabulary words related to the holiday, which are useful for children's writing. There are photographs of the holiday, plus instructions for a related activity. It's a great way to support the National Curriculum requirement to learn about the celebrations of different cultures, and the hands-on activities (which produce great results) are ideal for classroom use. Published by Sterling Books, May 2019, ISBN 978-1454932130.

Incredible Journeys: Discovery, Adventure, Danger, Endurance​ by Levison Wood

The author himself is a real-life explorer, so he writes from a personal viewpoint which makes the writing very appealing. This personal approach is put to good use with experiences to encourage children to undertake their own adventures. The book takes the reader along on 20 epic expeditions, from the Silk Road and medieval pilgrimages to the Holy Land to Nellie Bly's trip around the world, and recent missions to the Moon and the Mariana Trench. Packed with information, and a comprehensive index to make the information accessible. It's beautifully illustrated with maps showing the routes - these really help children to relate the journeys to their places in the world. The details bring the cultures of each region to life, making this a fascinating book to dip into - a perfect gift.

Trailblazers: Neil Armstrong by Alex Woolf

Trailblazers is a highly readable series, packed with information and trivia guaranteed to appeal to children while increasing their knowledge and awareness of famous people. From a young age, Neil Armstrong was obsessed with space travel, Armstrong was already dreaming of journeys above the clouds, visiting air shows and gaining his pilot’s licence aged just fifteen. All this lead to that key moment when man first set foot on the moon. It's a well-written account with lots of background material to fill out the story, and plenty of illustrations and diagrams to add to the information value.

All of Us: A Young People's History of the World by Yvan Pommaux

Children identify more readily with the history of everyday people like themselves, rather than the worlds of kings and queens, wars and battles - and that's what this fantastic book brings them; an engaging history of people through time.The story begins over one hundred and fifty thousand years ago and through that time, mankingd has invented, worked, created extraordinary things, and transformed the world. The book looks at how our history unfolded on our earth, from the beginning to the present, without giving more weight to one country than another. This is a really beautifully produced book, with plenty to appeal to all ages. The illustrations are outstanding and the level of detail phenomenal, really enhancing our knowledge and stimulating discussion and further research. The personal approach makes the reader feel part of the story and will engage children as they learn about the world from an overall and balanced perspective.

Ask A Scientist: Professor Robert Winston Answers 100 Big Questions from Kids Around the World! by DK Children

Totally engrossing, this is a book that children will return to time and time again. With 100 questions answered, this book really does make science fun, as well as easy to understand, making it relevant to our everyday world. They are real questions from children from around the world; Robert Winston was inspired to write this book by the many questions posed by his grandchildren and by children from the schools he has visited over the years. The questions were carefully selected to cover the main science topics: chemistry, physics, human body, Earth, space, and natural science. They are fun, engaging, and include some that most adults wouldn't dare ask! Despite the light-hearted approach, the book covers many aspects of the science curriculum and is vastly enhanced by the excellent illustrative material. I'm glad to see a useful index. Encourage children in their search for answers, and develop their natural inquisitiveness with this excellent book which is full of stimulating questions and answers that are perfectly in tune with what children want to know.

Where Once We Stood by Christopher Riley and Martin Impey (illustrator)

The book is subtitled 'Stories of the Apollo astronauts who walked on the moon and it's full of fascinating accounts which give us a fresh perspective on the moon landings. Combining a unique series of illustrations with the words spoken by the astronauts on the lunar surface, this book offers a rare insight into what it really felt like to live and work on another world. Martin Impey's paintings of the missions have been credited by the astronauts themselves as capturing the essence of their lunar encounters. The resulting book brings a new dimension to the timeless story of Apollo's extraordinary adventures on the Moon. My reservation about the book is that the shape and size makes it very unwieldy, especially for children; being a paperback, it's very floppy and I found that the only comfortable way to use it is sitting at a table. That's a shame because otherwise it's a super book.

Forced to Flee: Refugee Children Drawing on their Experiences

This unusual and emotional book is an excellent way to encourage children to reflect on the feelings of others. Refugee children explain in their own words and pictures their thoughts, feelings and experiences about having to flee from their home countries. Produced in association with UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) and with a foreword from Cate Blanchett, Goodwill Ambassador for UNHCR, this highly emotive title focuses on three current refugee crises in Syria, South Sudan and Central America. It book gives background information about how each crisis came about, why families had to flee and what life is like for them now is given in a clear and easy-to-understand way. An emotive and powerful book.

Balloon to the Moon by Gill Arbuthnott

This is a wonderful testament to the amazing achievements of man in the skies, spanning its development from the Montgolfier Brothers in 1783 right up to date, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing. The Montgolfier Brothers were the first people to experience controlled flight and developments from then on were rapid, as this books shows and illustrated throughChris Neilsen's wonderful coloured drawings which are evocative of times past. This feel is enhanced by the cream coloured pages which have a lovely retro feel. Timelines and clearly labelled diagrams are another excellent feature which add greatly to the information value of the book. Each chapter covers a key stage of flight; topics are covered succinctly but with plenty of information to engage the reader, young or older. This would make a lovely book for anyone with an interest in flight and exploration.

The Race to Space: From Sputnik to the Moon Landing and Beyond...​ by Clive Gifford

Marking the 50th anniversary of the first landing on the moon, this book commemorates the Space Race - the rivalry between the US and the Soviet Union to be the first into space and to land on the moon. It's a gripping story that goes from Russia's first satellite, Sputnik, to Neil Armstrong planting a US a flag on the moon. Paul Daviz's wonderfully nostalgic illustrative style gives the pictures an appropriately retro feel and make this book one that will appeal across the generations. Readers will discover how these two space agencies now work together for everyone's benefit. The book also demonstrates the way that the monumental achievements of the space race have created world-changing technology that we all use and benefit from today. It's a fascinating account.

When We Walked on the Moon by David Long

The 50th anniversary of the moon landing is certainly something to be celebrated and this account takes a very human look at the Apollo missions and the people behind them, to bring us a refreshingly different approach. The accounts of the brave astronauts certainly put us in awe of their exploits, and will stimulate children to ponder on what it might be like to go there. Each chapter tells the story of a different mission., from the 1969 first moon landing to the amazing rescue of Apollo 13. It's the everyday stories that bring the astronauts to life: discover how sad astronauts felt when leaving the moon; how their excitement almost got out of control; what happens to their rubbish; how helmets even contained scratchy material in case their noses itched! A fascinating insight with superb illustrations by Sam Kalda.

Let's See Ireland by Sarah Bowie

This is a lovely introduction to Ireland, as we join Molly and her parents in a trip aroun d the beautiful Irish countryside - not forgetting Mipsy, the cat, of course!Colourful and amusing illustrations feature many of the iconic sights, including the Cliffs of Moher, Dublin Zoo, the Ring of Kerry, Bunratty Castle and Hook HEad Lighthouse. Molly is an entertaining guide and her brief descriptions of the places make a great introduction to Ireland Children can look out for Mipsy on every page. A delightful book, full of fun.

D-Day: Untold Stories of the Normandy Landings Inspired by 20 Real-Life People​written by Michael Noble

Taking the stories of real-life people, Michael Noble has crafted an extraordinary book which gives us a very different perspective on a day that changed history. So many different people have shared their experiences, including those involved in reconnaissance, planning and logistics, espionage, the development of new technology, through to the military units involved in the different phases of the invasion and landings. There are collated photographs, personal accounts, and testimonies from all sides. The dramatic illustrations by Alexander Mostov, which form the backdrop to every page, add another informative element. This is an exceptional book which, through its very personal experiences, will really bring the reality of D-Day home to children. Adults, too, can't fail to be moved and touched by these accounts.

Planet Fashion: 100 Years of Fashion History by Natasha Slee

In this engrossing book, we are taken back to the world of high society at the start of the twentieth century and swept through fashion right up-to-date with a Skhothane Dance-off. Cynthia Kittler's wonderful illustrations really capture the feel of each era, giving an excellent insight into the social history of the period. Meet a fascinating array of characters showing off the distinguishing fashions of the time. The book is really informative, with captions highlighting key points. Fact boxes give the time, place, key designers, and trends in silhouettes, hemlines, and sleeves for each fashion scene. Timelines at the end of the book link history and fashion and a Can You Find? page encourages readers to study the scenes even more closely, often featuring delightful comical illustrations. It's a book full of life and joy, celebrating the many different fashions of the last 100+ years, beautifully presented to give lasting pleasure.

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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