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Book reviews: Non-fiction

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Kick-start children’s learning this new term with our selection of engaging non-fiction titles

One Small Step by Jerry Stone (Templar, £14.99 HB)

One small step

This year marks 40 years of the great Moon landing of 1969. And, although the anniversary was just before the holidays, children will still be enthused by the concept of that ‘one small step’ – a quote that happens to be the title of this scrapbook-style book that children will pore over. It’s bitty and has that feel found in such collections – a spacesuit guide stuck on one page, astronaut menu on another. As such it has that appeal of a book to be explored rather than read from cover to cover. You can’t flick through without stopping and inquiring at the photos and diagrams. A stunning collection.

Suitable for: boys; younger readers,; older readers; reluctant readers; more able readers; reading aloud.

A Little Guide to Trees by Charlotte Voake (Eden Project, £10.99 HB)

A little guide to trees

When it comes to enthusing children about our world, trees provide a great stimulus for learning. These huge, obvious trunks of nature are a rich resource for learning about the classification and diversity of species. Charlotte Voake’s A Little Guide to Trees is an attractively illustrated introduction to this subject, combining instructions and ideas for getting to know trees better, in which the watercolour illustrations capture the form and beauty of each variety. The trees are well chosen – even the most urban of children won’t have to look far to find a tree that they can look up.

Suitable for: boys; girls; younger readers; reluctant readers; reading aloud.

Animals up Close by Igor Siwanowicz (DK, £14.99 HB)

Animals up close

From big trees to small creatures, Animals Up Close is another Dorling Kindersley book that makes excellent use of photography to present a big insight into small worlds. Each double page spread takes a creature that is centimetres in size and magnifies it such that you can hear children’s ‘Woooarrh’ as they open this book. Each spread has a common set of key facts and a basic introduction before wisely breaking down what it has to say into short and readable chunks of text. As ever, the publisher catches the picture that tells the story – the bat’s teeth are bared and the spider strikes a pose. Our world at its most eye catching.

Suitable for: boys; girls; younger readers; older readers; reluctant readers; reading aloud.

Teach Your Granny to Text & Other Ways to Change the World (Walker, £10 PB)

Teach your granny to text

When it comes to making the world a better place, ‘Teach your Granny to text’ is just one of the ideas in this book of advice for young readers. This collection suggests that they can plant things, recycle and work for peace, but before we all start yawning at trite worthiness it interweaves these with some lively and interesting suggestions: ‘Take your Dad for a walk’ is a new one, ‘Go to more parties’ is even better. It also transcends the mundane with sage advice like: ‘Don’t worry if you make a mistake.’ Some of the best advice a child can get, delivered in a lively manner.

Suitable for: boys; girls; older readers; reluctant readers.

Made by Me by Jane Bull (DK, £7.99 HB)

Made by me

The creativity at the heart of Jane Bull’s Made by Me involves embroidery, sewing and knitting projects that begin with simple starting points to be embellished as far as each child wants to go. It’s a book of projects, each of which has a basic underlying idea, such as a flower or simple tapestry, but in doing so it opens up a wealth of possibilities. My daughter nabbed this off the review pile and soon had a project in the making, such is its accessibility.

Suitable for: girls; younger readers; reluctant readers.

Times Tables Book by Carol Vorderman (DK, £5.99 HB)

Times Tables Book

This book takes something as dry as the basic facts of multiplication and illustrates them with cleverly selected images, well judged to each table.

Suitable for: boys; girls; older readers; reluctant readers.

Charles Darwin by Alan Gibbons (Kingfisher, £14.99 HB)

Charles darwin

Alan Gibbons’ Charles Darwin tells the story of the great man through the experiences of a fictional cabin boy on Darwin’s ship, but everything else gives an accurate insight into this great voyage.

Suitable for: boys; girls; older readers; more able readers; reading aloud.

Inventions: Leonardo da Vinci by David Hawcock (Walker, £14.99 HB)

Inventions

This book takes da Vinci’s notebooks and makes them into elaborate pop-up models. Children should encounter da Vinci’s great mind, and this book provides the most entertaining means via intricate paper engineering.

Suitable for: boys; girls; older readers; more able readers.

George’s Cosmic Treasure Hunt by Lucy and Stephen Hawking (Doubleday, £12.99 HB)

George's Cosmic Treasure Hunt

George’s Cosmic Treasure Hunt follows the characters from George’s Secret Key to the Universe as they explore our solar system, in an effective marriage of story and facts about the cosmos.

Suitable for: boys; girls; older readers; more able readers, reading aloud.

See inside The Middle Ages by Rob Lloyd and David Hancock Jones (Usborne, £9.99 HB)

See inside the middle ages

This book takes a journey through medieval life in a ‘lift the flap’ format that encourages children to dig deeper into the past. The text is good, but it’s the little details in the illustrations that bring this book alive.

Suitable for: boys; girls; younger readers; reluctant readers.

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