Posts tagged ‘children’s nonfiction’

EARTH, OUR PLANET

Planet Earth! A Kids Book About Planet Earth-Fun Facts & Pictures About Our Oceans, Mountains, Rivers,Deserts, Endangered Species & More

Written by Alexander G. Michaels

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The title of this post is much shorter than the name of the book, but in fact the author provides a concise guide to all those things in an e book of less than fifty pages. Targeted for children in the early elementary grades and written in fairly simple language, this guide sets forth basic information combined with beautiful photographs. It can be a asset to the science section of the classroom as well as serve as a quick reference book or starting point for more research. The author might consider releasing a paper edition for libraries and print book lovers.

Michaels begins with the planet’s history, characteristics, composition, and place in solar system. He next outlines the geographic regions of land and water and gives details about well known examples. The section on fun facts is sure to be a favorite among children; it provides a vast compendium of information in sentence form. For example, each winter approximately one septillion snow crystals drop from the sky or that 75% of the earth’s animals could be extinct within the next three hundred years. Michaels concludes with some ideas on how we can preserve the planet for our descendants.

I have to admit that I learned quite a few things from this book. While I knew that most of the Earth’s surface is water, I was not aware that only 3% of the water on earth is fresh water. Did you know that the largest desert in the world is in Antarctica? Where can you find most of the Earth’s gold? How are mountains, volcanoes and rivers formed? There are lots of surprises for adults as well as the children who pick up this book.

Take a look at this beautiful guide to our planet and share it with your children. Michaels has written a whole series of books, including one on the solar system, endangered species, and dinosaurs. I plan on taking a look at those as well.

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DELVE INTO DISNEY

Planet Explorers Walt Disney World 2013: A Travel Guide for Kids

Written by Laura Schaefer

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This book is billed as a travel guide for kids, but is just as useful for adults planning a trip to Walt Disney World in Florida. The author has really done a thorough job. She provides everything from the origination of the idea with Walt Disney and the history of the site to updates of most current information. There are maps and photos of street scenes, rides, restaurants, hotels and venues. The author advises the best way to negotiate the theme park as well as Epcot Center and how to find the fastest lines. Information on regulations, safety, and transportation is provided.

Readers will learn about things like where to find the characters throughout the parks, lots of plans that were never carried out, and where to go to find the best entertainment, restaurants and hotels. Advantages and disadvantages of the resorts are laid out to compare and contrast. There is even an informal tour of the Disneyland Hollywood Studios and the Animal Kingdom. Schaefer teases us with lots of fun facts of which I was completely unaware. For example, did you know that the whole park is built over structures called utilidores? The actors and personnel can walk around freely underneath the park! The science fiction writer, Ray Bradbury, helped design and write the script for Spaceship Earth. No one visits the park without jumping on some of the famous rides so the author even provides a key to classifying them with the following code letters: S D T W or A. These letters stand for Scary, Dark Thrilling, Wet, and Awesome.

The book is organized by the sections such as Magic Kingdom Park, Epcot, Movie Studio, Animal Kingdom. Entertainment, Special Tours, and Resorts. I can’t think of anything that has been left out. Near the end of the approximately one hundred twenty seven page guide is a list of Disney isms which explain its unique characteristics. Maps of the monorail and railroad are also included. Finally, the author writes a quiz to see how well you have been paying attention. She ends with last minute planning tips to remember before you embark on your trip.

I have visited the Disney Park many times and still found so much I did not know about it in this guide. Some critics complain they would like to see it in book form, but I am very happy with this kindle version, which I will definitely review before my next trip to Disney World. Happy Travels!

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FOOD FASCINATION

Mission Explore Food

Written by Geography Collective and Tom Morgan Jones

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This is a most unusual book targeted for children nine and older. There are almost three hundred pages divided into six sections. If you expect a conventional book on food groups and good nutrition, you are not looking at the right choice. Some adults may find parts of it distasteful. This volume does provide a lot of information written in a way that many children will enjoy and includes some very unconventional activities. .

The book is available in hardcover and kindle editions. While the kindle version has nice pop up features, you will need a paper journal to complete activities. Basic premise of the book is to change the way you view food forever. Practical information is provided on how to deal with emergencies related to food like choking, poisoning, insect bites and first aid. It teaches how to set up balanced meals, use sustainable foods, and the methods of cooking and harvesting foods. There are diagrams showing the cuts of meat, and lessons on preserving foods, and how to forage, hunt and fish. An extensive glossary explains terms that will be unfamiliar to a child exploring the many topics included here.

Probably the most unusual parts of this work are the mission or exploration sections. For example, in the balanced food section there is an activity to train yourself to eat foods you don’t like. Some suggestions are to take a given list of foods and record how they affect your breath, combine foods from several different countries, reverse the order in which you eat your daily meals, and make a graph comparing the number of calories people in different countries eat. Children are given different statements and asked whether they believe them to be fact or fiction. Some missions are rather conventional like planting herbs, flowers and bulbs. Others are truly unique like making chocolate poo and keeping a poo diary in the section on waste. The reader learns how to make a band of edible musical instruments, graph and eat his height in spaghetti and eat his words on sugar paper. Cooks in the kitchen learn how to make ginger beer monsters, bake cookies in the shape of countries and invent their own cheese by combining a few ingredients.

I think by now you have a good idea of what this book is about. The content is somewhat rambling, but the work has a lot of value in the basic knowledge that it imports. Even though some of the missions and activities may appear somewhat strange, most children will find an interest that they would like to explore. I feel that the book is most valuable as a reference tool on food nutrition, earth science, geography and environment.

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DEEP FREEZE

Arctic Fox: Animals Knowledge Series

Written by Deutsche Don Juan

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The author has written several books with the intent to inform the reader about animals and their environments. He writes well in an easy to read format that will appeal to both children and adults. Gorgeous pictures illustrate each of the major points. As is the case with previous books in the series, Don Juan covers every aspect of the arctic fox’s life. You will learn about appearance, feeding, geography, mating, behavior, habitat, predators, and dangers to humans. Near the end of this short sixty page book, the author provides a summary of fun facts with questions and answers. This makes the book perfect for a unit study or cooperative learning project in the classroom.

Without giving away all the wonderful details that the author provides, I will provide a short summary about this amazing animal. The arctic fox ( Vulpes lagopus ) has many common names. These include polar fox, white fox, and snow fox. This animal lives in the alpine tundra or arctic regions. Despite its name, this animal is not always white. It is born a darker brown color which gradually becomes white over time, while in summer its color actually returns to brown providing camouflage. Its body is round and fat with short legs and a thick tail preventing loss of heat; adaptations that evolved over time so that it could survive in this harsh environment. The arctic fox preys on smaller animals, the lemming being its favorite when available. In spring it will attack baby ringed seals. Fish found beneath the ice are also a food staple. Arctic foxes live in caves or burrow in the sides of cliffs. They are generally monogamous and choose one lifelong mate. The mother’s litter of kits generally ranges from seven to fifteen. Their average life span is only three to four years.  Polar bears are their biggest enemy, but wolves, snowy owls and humans also hunt them. They have keen senses especially in the area of smell and hearing. Arctic foxes carry diseases like rabies and encephalitis and may be affected by mercury poisoning from the fish that they eat.

Readers will learn much more by studying in detail the text and photographs in this unique book. Just the thing to stretch your mind and remind you of the wonders and beauties of nature.

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MUCH MORE THAN A SWIMMING GAME

HISTORY FOR KIDS:AN ILLUSTRATED BIOGRAPHY OF MARCO POLO

Written by Charles River Editors

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Many children who live in the 21st century like to play a game in the pool called Marco Polo. The man who lived from 1254-1324 certainly knew a lot about water because he was born and raised in Venice. His father Niccolo and uncle Maffeo traveled world-wide as successful merchants. It appears that Marco did not even meet his father until he was a teenager because due to his father’s long absences from home. When Niccolo returned to Venice in 1270, he did not know that his wife had died nor that she had bore a son. Marco accompanied Niccolo when he left on the next business trip in 1272. The journey would take them to Jerusalem, Persia, Armenia, Turkey and the Mongolian Empire where Marco met Kublai Khan, the grandson of Genghis Khan.

Few Europeans could imagine the palace of Kublai Khan who dressed in robes of silk and gold and lived in a building so large that 40,000 people could dine at the same time. Marco and he became good friends. Marco became an official royal messenger and tax collector for the Emperor traveling to Indonesia, India and Africa. He learned how to use native weapons like the bow and arrow, discovered how coal could be used for fuel, and used their paper currency for trade. Polo became fluent in the Mongolian language. His journals describe exotic animals like the rhinoceros, peacock and rhinoceros unknown to the Western world.

The Emperor was generous to his people, but eventually a war with Japan caused unrest. Polo could not leave without the Emperor’s permission. When he finally returned to Venice at age 38,  they were at war with Genoa. Polo was imprisoned. There he met another prisoner named Rustichello who encouraged him to record his world -wide journeys. By the time he got out of prison, Polo had inherited his father and uncle’s fortunes. Europe was about to enter the age of exploration. Sailors and cartographers based their calculations on his journals. Christopher Columbus decided to sail west to get to China discovering a new continent in the process.

As you see, this concise biography is not written simply to explain one life but to show the influence and future consequences of his fascinating life. The editors say that the book is aimed at the 7-10 age group and I feel that they are on target. The illustrations help to visualize the textual descriptions and the maps give a flavor of the knowledge of the period. I believe that most of the information is accurate though there is a dearth of written documentation. Both children and adults can use this book as an introduction to a study of religions, trade and culture of regions not well known to the Western world in the thirteenth century. Children may have a better understanding of just what they mean when they say, “Marco….Polo” in the pool.

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A LIFE OF ILLUSION

History for Kids: An Illustrated Life of Harry Houdini

By Charles River Editions

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Harry was born Ehrich Weisz in Budapest, Hungary in the year 1874. His father was a trained lawyer who moved to Wisconsin due to discrimination against Jews. Here he became a  rabbi moving from congregation to congregation to support his wife and six children.

At the age of nine, Ehrich was already putting on magic shows in his backyard, When he was twelve he tried his hand at magic by traveling west. He soon moved back to New York to join his father where he worked as a messenger and factory worker while training and developing his body into that of an athlete. He discovered the French magician Robert Houdin and added an I to his name. For a while Ehrich put on magic shows with his younger brother Theo. Ehrich became Harry Houdini. When he met Bess, he teamed up with her magic card act, and they worked to develop new magic show acts. Harry began developing his escape acts beginning with escaping from a steamer trunk and then handcuffs. The tricks became more and more elaborate. After visiting a mental hospital, Harry came up with the idea of escaping from a straitjacket. A man named Martin Beck discovered Harry and booked him for a European tour. At this time he learned the swallowing forty needles trick. All throughout Europe, Harry perfected his handcuff escape and straitjacket tricks and added a new trick which was to escape from a tank filled with water.

By the turn of the twentieth century, Harry and Bess were rich. He tried other pursuits like writing diaries and magic books. Then he became obsessed with “death-defying” stunts. He threw his manacled body over bridges and dove handcuffed into rivers. He even performed an escape from being buried alive stunt that almost killed him. Harry was no longer a young man. His kidneys were failing, but he refused to quit. Harry became a pilot; he developed an interest in the movies believing that they would replace stage shows one day. But one night after being punched in the stomach, he collapsed during a performance suffering from appendicitis. Harry ignored his pain and refused to cancel the performance. Houdini died on Halloween night in 1926 at the age of fifty two. His life could best be summed up in his dying words, “Dash, I am getting tired and I can’t fight it any more.”

This biography is replete with photographs and posters from the family and mentors as well as pictures of some of the more famous Houdini stunts. Children age seven and older will find his personal struggle, moral character and determination inspiring. The story moves along quickly and is well written. Boys and girls, and of course, magic lovers will find it an interesting read.

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CATOPEDIA

Cat Books for Children-Cool Facts about Cats

Written by Barry J. McDonald

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The author claims to have written this book for children but I am fairly sure that any one reading it will be astonished by the number of facts you did not know about cats. It really does not matter whether you a cat lover or not, you will be pleasantly surprised. There are beautiful photographs accompanying the text which is presented clearly and succinctly so that even beginning readers will have no trouble handling it. My only criticism is that perhaps the presentation of facts could have been better categorized.

Cats have  lived in human homes half the amount of time dogs have, yet their appearance and behavior have not changed in the last 35 million years! Depictions of cats are drawn on ancient walls. Archaelogists have found more than 300,000 mummies in ancient tombs and many of these had embalmed mice to prevent them from going hungry in the afterlife. When a family cat died, the members shaved their eyebrows as a sign of mourning. The Japanese believed that cats had the power to change into super spirits, and Buddhist spirituals used them as surrogates.

In many ways cats are similar to humans. Every human has a set of unique fingerprints; every cat posseses a unique nosepad. The organization of a cat’s brain is similar to that of a human as it is the center for processing emotions. Cats dream like humans do, they lose their baby teeth, and they can be blood donors for other cats.  They have good memories and may hold something in memory as long as sixteen hours. If you spend time talking to a cat, it is more likely that the cat will talk back to you. Like humans, they may give you the silent treatment if you ignore them!

Yet, there are many differences as well. Cats move the left front and back leg together as they walk. The only other two animals in nature that do that are the giraffe and the camel. Cats’ vision is better than that of a human, but their color sensitivity is poor. A cat’s whiskers are controlled by muscles in its face and are used for balance. The average cat has twelve whiskers on each side. When a cat is blind, it can actually move the whiskers in front of its face to prevent bumping into objects using its whiskers like a human would use a cane.

You might think that I have already presented most of the information in this book, but that is far from the truth. The reader will find out how cats were used in war and as spies. McDonald explores the senses of the cat and how they work, how they hunt, gender differences, the classifications of cats, and social behavior. The reader learns how to tell if your cat is too fat, if he is in danger of being poisoned, and what you can do to keep your cat safe and happy. Parents, teachers, children and  anyone interested in animal behavior will benefit by reading this book and keeping it on hand for reference.

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