Tag Archives: non-fiction

Australia Illustrated by Tania McCartney

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Australia Illustrated by Tania McCartney, hardback non-fiction, 96 pages, published by EK Books in 2016.

Discover Australia in this beautifully illustrated book. It contains bite-size pieces about Australian culture, its quirks, landmarks, cities, flora and fauna. It is simple enough to be enjoyed by young children, whilst also being interesting enough to engage older kids and adults.

I found this to be a somewhat quirky look at Australia and I loved it! The illustrations are simply gorgeous; colourful, detailed and unique. I enjoyed reading all of the place names and other information contained in the outlines of each state or territory; these were very cleverly compiled. Reading Australia Illustrated made me feel great to be Australian! It made me want to travel and explore my beautiful homeland, and seek out some of the more unusual aspects of our nation.

I read this book cover to cover in one sitting, though I still took my time to enjoy it. It wouldn’t necessarily need to be read in order; it is browsable, and could make a good coffee table or waiting room book. I also think it would be a good book to spark the interest of reluctant readers, hopefully leaving them wanting to know more about Australia.

Australia Illustrated is suitable for children and adults alike. It is a great read and I highly recommend it.

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Horrible Histories: Top 50 Villains by Terry Deary

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Horrible Histories: Top 50 Villains by Terry Deary, paperback non-fiction, 141 pages, published by Scholastic Ltd in 2016.

Top 50 Villains is a special edition in the Horrible Histories series, detailing fifty of the vilest villains from across all periods of history, including American gangsters, Mongol Warriors and Roman Emperors.

I’m a huge fan of this series, and I love reading all the foul facts. This book was quite interesting, with a couple of pages dedicated to each criminal, including a portrait of each. There is also some more general information about villainy through the ages scattered among the mini biographies.

I would have liked a little more depth about each person, but for the intended age group, it is quite a good taster. It introduces some of the most notorious people in history (and a few I hadn’t heard of!) to middle and upper primary school children, hopefully inciting them to undertake a little of their own research to find out more about their favourite crooks.

This book has been produced in full glossy colour, bringing the illustrations to life. I find the pictures to be darkly humorous, but perfectly suited to the style of the book. Unfortunately, I was a little disappointed in the poor quality of binding on this book, with some of the pages coming loose on its second read.

Lonely Planet Kids Paris City Trails by Helen Greathead

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pariscoverLonely Planet Kids Paris City Trails by Helen Greathead, paperback non-fiction, 102 pages, published by Lonely Planet Publications in 2016.

This book caught my eye on the “New Books” table at my local library. I thought it would be good for my nine year old as she is learning French and this looked like an interesting cultural book to complement her learning. I started flicking through some of the pages and found myself immersed in the streets of Paris discovering museums, bridges, cafés and even cemeteries!

The book contains nineteen themed trails through Paris. Each trail has a number of stops with some information about each location. Some of the locations are well-known, such as the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame Cathedral, while others are somewhat obscure, but all were fascinating. These trails had every possible interest covered, from food journeys, sport, and art to romance, history and magic.

The layout and content are superbly presented, with short bursts of texts, interspersed with plenty of photos and coloured illustrations throughout. There are also fact boxes and extra tidbits around the main text. I really liked the illustrations, which included the two kiddy guides, Marco and Amelia. You can spot this pair participating in various activities along the trails. All of the illustrations were bright, colourful and clear; some were quite funny too.

I’ve never wanted to go to Paris as badly as I do right now! I would love to follow these trails and experience all of the incredible sights, sounds, smells and tastes I’ve discovered in Paris City Trails. It may be aimed at children, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. I highly recommend it for anyone planning to travel to Paris with children (and anyone just dreaming of it!)

Paris City Trails is suitable for middle primary school students and up. There are currently two other titles available in the Lonely Planet Kids series; London City Trails and New York City Trails. I plan to read them as well and hopefully there will be more titles available in the future. I’d really like to see some for other major European cities.

¡Hola! Let’s Learn Spanish by Judy Martialay

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holacover¡Hola! Let’s Learn Spanish by Judy Martialay, paperback, 30 pages, published by PoliglotKidz Press in 2015.

Ride along with Panchito (a Mexican jumping bean) and Pete the Pilot to learn some basic Spanish. Go from the bean fields to the markets and then off to a party, learning Spanish all the way.

My complete Spanish repertoire prior to reading this book was gleaned from Dora the Explorer episodes, so basically I could count to three and say hello. ¡Hola! Let’s Learn Spanish was perfect for a total beginner such as myself. It is a fantastic resource for children and adult beginners alike, with its engaging and interactive method of introducing the language. You can also go onto the Polyglotkidz website and download the audio files. This allows for listening to the correct pronunciation of the Spanish words, and provides an opportunity to practice speaking the language.

I liked the story of Panchito, which was fun and I picked up a number of words as I read. It was easy to see the translation of the Spanish words. I felt like I was learning Spanish straight away! There is a glossary of words at the end of the book for quick reference, which was handy for checking words I wasn’t sure about.

I really enjoyed the Culture Corner section of the book. The information was interesting, relevant and age-appropriate. I did not know that a jumping bean is not a bean at all! It even included the words and tune for the song which is traditionally sung during the striking of the piñata.

Activities designed to strengthen language retention were a useful addition to the book. Suitable for children of all ages these activities could be done in a group or individually. I really liked the idea of doing a treasure hunt as part of the language learning experience. There was also a short play which would be fun to act out.

¡Hola! Let’s Learn Spanish is suitable for primary school children, but can be used by anyone wanting a fun way to pick up a little bit of Spanish. I would like to see more books like this for other languages in the future.

 

*I received this book from the author, who asked me for an honest review of this book. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

 

Birds of a Feather by Vanita Oelschlager

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birdsofafeathercoverBirds of a Feather: A book of idioms and silly pictures by Vanita Oelschlager and illustrated by Robin Hegan, non-fiction picture book, published by Vanita Books in 2009.

Learn the meaning of some common idioms from the English language in this fun book for children. Each page contains one idiom, accompanied by a lovely and silly illustration. This is a great way to introduce idioms to kids of all ages.

The pictures were definitely my favourite part of this book. All of them were appropriate for the idiom it was illustrating, and they were all quite funny. They showed the literal meaning of each one, while the text explained the metaphorical meaning. I liked the ‘raining cats and dogs’ illustration best. Here ‘bright eyed and bushy tailed’ was depicted as being like a raccoon, yet this phrase has always made me think of possums!

The meaning of each idiom was explained and used in a simple sentence to demonstrate its usage. This text was small and upside down in the corner of the illustration. I didn’t like this, and I’m not sure why it was done this way. It just made it harder to read in a setting where it wasn’t answering a question, and I didn’t think it warranted being upside down.

Overall Birds of a Feather was quite good, and I think it would be suitable to share with pre-schoolers and primary school students.

 

*I obtained this book as a digital copy from Netgalley. I did not receive any other remuneration, and this is an honest review composed entirely of my own opinions.

Piggy Sense!: Save it for a Rainy Day by Reed Abbitt Moore

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piggysensecoverPiggy Sense!: Save it for a Rainy Day by Reed Abbitt Moore, e-book, 19 pages, published in 2015.

A young boy starts with a penny, which he saves, and adds to. He finds that saving money can be very rewarding, as he is able to reach his goals and sometimes help others.

This is a good story designed to help children learn the importance of being careful and saving money. It’s a great concept, presented in an appealing way. We are in Australia, so our money is a little different. We don’t have pennys, quarters or one dollar bills, and the terms nickel and dime are not used here either. This didn’t affect the concept though, I just had to take a few moments to explain the differences and similarities between the two currencies to my kids.

The illustrations are lovely, clear and bright. The language is simple and clear, with rhyming text, which helps to engage children. It is an easy book for kids to read themselves, but I liked sharing it. As we read we talked about what the kids might like to save up for, and how they would earn more money.

I thought the amount the boy saved was probably too much to aim for for young children. A grand is a lot of money, and plenty of adults have difficulty saving that amount! I’m also wondering why he didn’t put his money in the bank sooner, it could have been earning interest. Perhaps that could be a topic for another book.

At the end of the story there is a guide to the different denominations with pictures, and a Piggy Sense Account sheet, where kids can fill in their savings and withdrawals to their piggy bank.

Piggy Sense!: Save it for a Rainy Day is suitable for primary aged children. It is a good way to introduce saving to children, and to start a conversation about finances.

 

*I received this book as a digital copy from the author, who asked me for an honest review of this book. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

Optics: A Fairy Tale by Sarah Allen

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opticsOptics: A Fairy Tale by Sarah Allen, e-book, 23 pages, published in 2013.

The woods surrounding Isabelle’s village are full of monsters. The villagers know it is not safe to enter the woods, but Isabelle must go to cut some wood to help her family survive. She discovers a monster stuck in a tree, and helps it. In return she is shown a special mirror in which she can capture the monsters’ souls so that they will stop terrorising her village.

This book introduces the properties of convex and concave mirrors and lenses in a fun and entertaining way. The mirror in the story is a large spherical concave mirror, like a big bowl on its side. In this mirror, Isabelle can see and trap the souls of the monsters that have chased her. She sees that the images of the souls change size and location when the monsters move closer to or further away from the mirror’s surface, and on the concave side, the images are upside-down. Through the telling of this story, I learnt a bit about optics. Being able to put this information into the context of a story will help me to remember the properties of concave and convex mirrors, and in turn, lenses.

There is a small section at the end of the story that explains these concepts in simple language. It covers the centre of curvature, focus and image location with simple diagrams to aid understanding.

Optics: A Fairy Tale is part of an educational series by Sarah Allen. This blend of fairy tale and physics is suitable for high school students and up. It simplifies some optics basics, helping to prepare physics students for more complex concepts.

 

*I received this book as a digital copy from the author, who asked me for an honest review of this book. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

 

Making It Home by Suzanne Roche

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IMG_6056Making It Home by Suzanne Roche, paperback novel, 179 pages, published in 2015.

Peri was an only child until her Dad remarried, then she became a big sister to Henry and Max. All three of them spend their afternoons in the antique store owned by Peri’s father and grandfather. Whilst exploring the stockroom, Max finds a set of old keys and takes them to show Henry, placing them on top of an antiques encyclopeadia. Peri tries to stop him, but it’s too late, and they are all transported back to Ellis Island when the first immigrants were processed through there prior to entering New York city. Now Peri, Henry and Max have to find a way home, and help some people along the way.

Making it Home is a time slip novel for upper primary and lower high school students. It is a bit different to the average time slip story though, in that it contains more detailed historical information, along with archival resources, such as photographs from the relevant time periods. It is fiction based in historical fact. There are also activities and recipes at the back of the book to allow the reader to get hands-on while learning history. It was a very interesting and educational read.

The story jumps through several times, all around the end of the nineteenth century in New York City, mostly looking at the immigrant population and their situations. It was very detailed, and I felt like I learnt a lot about this era whilst reading the book. The time jumps were often unexpected, and sometimes a little hard to follow, but the content was interesting enough to overlook this.

For a book that’s gone to print, there were quite a few text errors, such as repeated words or words out of order. These should have been picked up and corrected during the editing process. They didn’t affect the storyline, but I found them a little distracting. Something that did really bother me about the story, was how did Peri, Henry and Max get through the Ellis Island check point? They would not have been on a ship manifest anywhere, so they would have been detained by the authorities, yet they seem to walk through to New York without being checked. A minor issue, I guess, but still, it niggled me. Also, when the children meet up with Geraldo for the second time, they have not aged, yet Geraldo doesn’t seem to think this is odd, despite a number of years having passed by then.

I liked the children, they were written quite realistically for their ages and situation. I think Henry is my favourite. He’s so indignant at being demoted to middle child, irritated by Peri’s older sister bossiness, incredulous about being in the past, and just really wants to go home more than anything. Being the youngest, Max was rather carefree, and just happy to be having an adventure. Peri was a big reader, and knew quite a lot about New York City, the immigrants, and tenements, which helped them. She felt responsible for their situation, and wanted to find the solution to returning home, but became very involved in helping the people they met in the past.

Making It Home is the first book in the new Time to Time series, following Peri, Henry and Max on their adventures through time, and making history fun. I wonder where in time they will find themselves next?

Horrible Histories: The Big Fat Christmas Book by Terry Deary

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IMG_5904Horrible Histories: The Big Fat Christmas Book by Terry Deary and illustrated by Martin Brown, hardback, 159 pages, published by Scholastic Ltd. in 2014.

Come on a journey through the twelve days of Christmas Horrible Histories style!

This book is divided into sections for each of the twelve days of Christmas from the 25th of December through to the 5th of January. Each part is dedicated to a different aspect of Christmas, such as food, animals, royals, games and weather. It covers many eras in history, from the Stone Age through to more recent history. Each section also contains some information on something that happened in history on that particular day.

There is a lot to learn in this interesting and entertaining non-fiction book for primary school students. The Horrible Histories series makes learning history fun, and this Christmas book is particularly good. I had no idea that Christmas was such a popular time for bad things to happen in the past! There are be-headings, ghosts, wars, storms and other amazing historical events to read about. It is made more fun through the use of anecdotes, comics, plays and illustrations.

With Christmas coming up, now’s a great time to sit down and read a good Christmas book, and this one really is fun. It’s a must for any Horrible Histories fan!

Punch Lines “Humerus” Art by George D. Wachob

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IMG_5450Punch Lines “Humerus” Art by George D. Wachob, paperback collection of artworks, 64 pages, published in 2015.

This is a collection of individual drawings. Each piece of art represents a pun, phrase or name. They are fairly simple coloured drawings, one to each page. The actual names of the artworks are located at the back of the book to give the reader a chance to work out the pun for themselves.

I looked at this book with my husband, as he is a big fan of puns. We went from page to page trying to work out what each picture represented. It was obvious what some of the art was, while others had us stumped. Even after reading the name of the artwork, there were a couple that I still didn’t get. I think it’s possible that some of the puns just don’t translate well across the seas. We laughed at some, and groaned at others, but there were only a few that I really really liked, such as brain waves and false teeth. My husband liked the pigeon ‘toad’ and the airplane hanger. I reckon some of these pictures would be awesome as printed t-shirts.

Punch Lines “Humerus” Art is good for some light entertainment with a bit of brain stretching too. Whilst there isn’t anything expressly unsuitable for children in the book, I thought that the artwork would be too complicated for many children, and would be better suited to teenagers and adults.

*I received this book from the author, who asked me for an honest review. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions and those of my husband.