Young children are always fascinated with their bodies and how they work and this new publication from DK is the perfect starting point for those who are ready to delve a little deeper. Divided into nine sections, each dealing with a different but related phenomenon of the body, with bite-sized chunks of information in accessible text interspersed with colourful informative diagrams and photos, this is would be an ideal addition to the family reference library ready to consult when questions are asked as well as the school library collection. Having it out on display so students can leaf through it as they wait will spark lots of curiosity and a desire to find out more. The perfect introduction to the role of the encyclopedia as a starting point to finding out a little and sparking the desire to go to a more specialised book to find out more.
DK have been at the forefront of introducing non fiction to young readers for decades and this is no exception.
This is an ideal reference tool for young readers who want to see the world at a glance, rather than having to click through screens that can become confusing and lost.
Clearly divided in to 10 sections – each continent, Early Earth, Polar Regions, The Oceans and Reference – it brings the planet’s geography alive with 3D maps, lots of pertinent facts and illustrations about the landscape, population, landmarks, climate and wildlife. Each section also takes a particular focal point and expands on it – South America is the Amazon Basin; Australia and Oceania is New Zealand – providing a ready reference tool that kept both Miss Nearly 11 and Miss 6 poring over its pages on a recent wet afternoon.
Globes and maps have a fascination for children – they love to discover where they came from, where their family and friends might be and also the settings of their favourite stories so to have a book that provides not just maps but so much more is a treat. While many school libraries are doing away with their reference collections, having a beautiful volume like this on permanent display so students can flick through it at their leisure will not only grab their attention but may have them demanding more information about a particular region.
Miss Nearly 11 was particularly fascinated by the Early Earth section as she knows Australia is ancient and we regularly drive through an area littered with huge granite boulders, the remnants of long ago mountains now weathered away. Miss 6 liked Australia but also New Zealand where she had a holiday in 2015! Definitely something for everyone which would be a superb addition to the collection that students will keep returning to.
Forty years ago when most of the world was dancing to Saturday Night Fever George Lucas created a collection of characters who lived “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away”. Star Wars was launched and Hans Solo, Princess Leia, C-3PO, R2D2,, Eowks and Darth Vader became part of our vocabulary and light sabres and X-wings were in everyone’s home!
Fast forward to 2017 and Star Wars has more fans now than then and it holds the Guinness Book of records record for the most successful film merchandising franchise ever. So on this, the 40th Star Wars day, this visual encyclopedia will be greeted with enthusiasm from fans new and old.
The publisher describes it best…
“Covering more than 2500 characters, creatures, planets, vehicles, Droids, weapons, technology and more from the Star Wars universe, this visual tour is the ultimate compendium for the epic saga and beyond.
With a full history of the galactic politics, the Jedi Council, and the Empire, Star wars: The Visual Dictionary walks fans through the entire timeline of Star Wars. Galleries of images and information on every page, including lightsabers, languages, clothing and more are showcased with fascinating facts and trivia…Discover the food, architecture, transportation and more from this galaxy far, far away. Each section of the book focuses on different topics to dedicate special attention and detail to every part of the universe, no matter how small. From the planets in the outer rim to Padme’s bridal wear, nothing is missed.
A celebration of all things Star Wars, this visual museum is the perfect addition to any fan’s bookshelf.”
Given that I couldn’t keep the books on the shelves in my primary library two years ago, this would also be a great addition to a library’s shelves too.
Those of us of a certain vintage will remember a film from a few decades ago called Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines(or if not the film, at least the earworm of its title tune). The subtitle was How I Flew from London to Paris in 25 hours 11 minutes and the film focused on a fictional 1910 competition, when Lord Rawnsley, an English press magnate, offered £10,000 (about $A2 000 000 today) to the winner of the Daily Post air race from London to Paris, to prove that Britain was “number one in the air”. Set less than a decade after the Wright brothers made that famous first flight at Kittyhawk in 1903 it offered a look at those early days of aviation and the costs and risks involved for those who live in an era when air travel is taken for granted.
But while the focus of flight was centred overseas, Australia was producing its own heroes who were also thinking about how humans could fly – people like Dr William Bland whose drawings of an Atomic Ship were displayed in the Crystal Palace in London in 1854 and Lawrence Hargrave who experimented with box kites to investigate the concept of wings in 1894 and whose work led to that iconic flight of Orville and Wilbur.
When we think of Australian aviation heroes we tend to think of Charles Kingsford Smith, Bert Hinkler and perhaps Nancy Bird Walton but in this book the experiments and exploits of a number of other great aviators are brought to life adding to our incredible story of innovation and invention. Written by authors who bought their own vintage aeroplane in 2000 and wanted to know its history, it brings to life the lives of those pioneers through imagined diary entries, easily written facts and numerous archival photos and illustrations in a way that makes them accessible to young readers with a thirst to know more. Fascinating reads within themselves, each story makes the reader want to investigate further – why were the long-distance, record-breaking flights so important to Australia? Why were women not allowed to fly until 1927 and who broke the barriers? Who is Deborah Wardley and why do girls owe so much to her? There are so many more heroes than the ten covered in this collection – offering students the opportunity to add another chapter to the timeline, or to investigate flight itself, including how the technical difficulties were understood and overcome without the aid of computers.
The best non fiction doesn’t tell us all the answers – it poses questions that make us want to investigate further. Amazing Australians in their Flying Machines certainly does that. Could well be among those nominated for the CBCA awards next year.
The Periodic Table Book: A stunning visual encyclopedia of the elements
208pp., hbk., RRP $A35.00
Watch any quiz show on television and there is bound to be a question about the Periodic Table, that, odd-shaped mysterious, multi-coloured chart that decorates the walls of science classrooms and labs and which to many, including me, remains a mystery even after it is studied and memorised.
The Periodic Table
However, in this bright, brand-new publication from DK (Dorling Kindersley) those new to the wonders of chemistry are able to understand it better through the use of clear explanations and thousands of photographs and diagrams, starting with an explanation of just what an element is. “Everything in nature, from the mountains and the oceans to the air we breathe and food we eat are made up of simple substances called elements… The elements are rarely found in their pure form. Mostly, they are combined with each other to make compounds, which make up substances around us. To find out more about the elements, we need to take a good look at the periodic table …it shows the key information for each element, grouping them into similar types. With this information we can use the elements to make the things we need. Every element has its own story of where it comes from, what it can do, and how we use it.”
So it’s a bit like baking a cake – you put some butter, sugar, eggs and flour in particular proportions together and the chemical reaction amongst them when heat is applied leads to a cake we can eat, rather than four separate ingredients that are not so palatable. Or. as my son the chef keeps telling me, “It’s about how the ingredients work together that produces the dish.”
Using the stunning DK layout of photos, bite-sized chunks of text and white space that is their signature style, it begins with an explanation of what elements are (that even I can understand), through to ancient ideas about alchemy, a very clear explanation of inside an atom (I do remember that it was a New Zealander, Sir Ernest Rutherford who first split it but never understood what that meant or its impact),so the reader is taken on a on a visual tour of the 118 chemical elements of the periodic table, from argon to zinc. It explores the naturally occurring elements, as well as the man-made ones, and explains their properties and atomic structures. Each has a ready-reference summary of its atomic structure, physical and chemical properties, and the compounds it occurs more frequently in, as well as photographs of it in its raw state, its origins and uses (who knew that sodium was a key element of both mummification and fireworks) so that everything begins to make sense. There is even one of those charts tucked into a pocket at the back, perfect for the bedroom wall, the toilet door or the classroom.
While I have managed to reach a senior age without knowing too much about chemistry, it is very different for today’s students as so many new technological developments, medical breakthroughs and as-yet-unknown jobs rely on a knowledge and understanding of chemistry, the elements that make up this world and others, and how and why that periodic table is what it is. With STEM being the primary focus of so many curricula, this is a must-have for both the beginner and experienced junior scientist. Instead of just memorising “Happy Henry Lives Beside Boron Cottage, Near Our Friend Nelly Nancy MgAllen. Silly Patrick Stays Close. Arthur Kisses Carrie” or “Here He Lies Beneath Bed Clothes, Nothing On, Feeling Nervous, Naughty Margret Always Sighs, Please Stop Clowning Around” or singing The Periodic Table Song students will understand the basis of chemistry as a subject and see the relevance of it to their own world.
Perhaps if I came from an era of where it was more than reciting so the chanting was accompanied by explanation, connection and understanding, I would be a better cook today. No, perhaps not!
What do Demeter and Persephone, Finn MacCool and the fish of Maui all have in common? Well, they are included in this collection of stories from around the world beautifully illustrated by Anya Klauss.
In times long past before the truth was known, many of the things like the sun’s passage across the sky or the formation of the land were a mystery to those observing them so they made up stories to explain the particular phenomenon. Even though they came from far-flung places and diverse peoples. their common thread was to explain the seemingly inexplicable so that the world made sense to them. Whether it involved giants, mythical beings and creatures, magic or sorcery, each story sought to demystify and through their telling through generations across thousands of years they have endured, even though science may have intervened to expose the truth.
As well as being a wonderful introduction to these sorts of stories and embracing a range of cultures, such myths can also be the entry point into scientific investigations for young and not-so-young scientists. If Maui did not fish the North Island of New Zealand out of the sea, how did it get there? If the changing of the seasons are not caused by Demeter’s love and loss, how are they formed? A great way to link literature and science and start our students on their own quests.
The National Museum of Australia is home to one of the richest collections of objects, photographs, artefacts and other items that document the history of this country from the times of our earliest indigenous people through European exploration, settlement and expansion and on into the 21st century. Drawing on these riches, Robert Lewis has traced the story of Australia in a way that is accessible to young independent readers wanting to begin to understand their heritage.
Filled with photographs, charts and other illustrations, it gives an overview offering explanations of key events and the people behind them which encourage the young historian to delve deeper, explore further and perhaps even make a plan to visit the museum itself to see the actual objects.
This would make a great reference work to have on the home shelves as children start their formal study of the nation’s history but it also perfect for the library’s collection to help answer quick questions and show that history is about story not just facts and figures.
From the time they are born children are innately curious and as soon as they are able to articulate the words, they ask questions so they can make the connections they need as they try to make sense of their world. As the nearest adult we try to help them with the answers. Some of the answers are at our fingertips but some need a little more digging.
Often those answers lie in science and this book is a great introduction for the budding young scientist who has the questions and wants a basic explanation that can be followed further if they wish. Just 16 pages long, it is divided into double page spreads with the headings what, why, when, where, which, who, how and yes or no. Each page has several questions, the answers for which are hidden under the flaps. Starting with the basic “What is science?” and “What do scientists do?” it goes on to explore other questions about science itself as well as others such as “Is the sky really blue?” Simple explanations and quirky pictures under the flaps provide a straight-forward answer as well as the starting point for further investigations. Having the answers under the flap gives the child an opportunity to consider the question and then suggest their own explanation before checking to see if they are on the right track.
Aimed at the young reader with an interest in science, nevertheless it is a book to be shared with a grownup who can help with some of the words, interpret the answers more fully and suggest other sources for finding out more including the publishers’ webpage for the book which has more questions, links to websites and other books in the series that delve deeper.
Books like this start the young child on their way to being information literate – able to locate, evaluate, analyse, interpret information so they can then use it to satisfy their curiosity, discover the world around them and ask new questions. With the current emphasis on STEM (science technology, engineering and maths) in the school curriculum not only does this book provide answers , it demonstrates that those answers can be found in print as well as modelling how to ask questions that require more than a one-word answer to take an investigation further.
It could even be the springboard for an ongoing class activity with a question posed each week so students can share their answers which are then compared to the explanation provided, discussed and investigated sparking an interest in science that endures.
This is a dip-and-delve book – one the reader will come back to time and time again.
Long before J.K. Rowling introduced us to basilisks, blast-ended skrewts and bow-truckles, literature was alive with fantastic creatures stretching way back into the mythology of ancient civilisations. “Mythology is a place where we can meet all kinds of beings, from human-like spirits to hybrids formed from two or more different animals.”
From giants to griffins, Cerberus to Pegasus this luxuriously illustrated book introduces a menagerie of sixteen fantastic creatures and explains their origins and their powers. With the illustrations being done by a variety of artists and a myriad of techniques used, this is a lavish visual feast that has the reader delving into each creature’s story and learning the background of those things that inhabit so many favourite books and films and may even take them on a journey through the mythologies of storytellers, perhaps even investigate why they populate history in the way they do.
This is a must-have in any school library collection to satisfy the fascination with fantasy and those which inhabit that world that shows no signs of abating.
In Focus: 101 Close Ups, Cross Sections and Cutaways
Little Tiger Press, 2016
26pp., hbk., RRP $A29.99
Twenty years ago one of the most popular series of books in my library featured the cutaway illustrations of Stephen Beisty as the children were fascinated by being able to look beneath the outside of things to see what lay concealed and how these things worked. In this fascinating book compiled by Libby Walden, ten illustrators have placed ten everyday subjects under the microscope to uncover what lies beneath their surface and produced 101 fascinating pictures that are familiar to children and which will fascinate them for hours.
Using the broad headings of Oceans, Home, Earth and Space, Landmarks, Nature, Everyday Objects, Buildings, Fruit and Vegetables, Animals and transport, they can explore the workings of everything from a shark to the Statue of Liberty to the inside of a banana in close-ups, cross-sections and cutaways. They can even discover how their toilet works!
Even though the book nominally has 26 pages, each opens out to a double spread giving each topic six pages of fascinating information. On the exterior of the gatefold is an illustration of a number of objects and then by opening it, the interior of each object is exposed, a clever design technique that adds to the notion of peeking inside. Because the captions are brief and sometimes technical this is more suited to the independent reader who can use it as a starter to find out more, but nevertheless would still be good in the hands of an adult and child who is curious and just wants a simple explanation.
Another example of why and how we can keep our print collections vibrant and interesting. A perfect adjunct for those with a makerspace in the library.