When I was younger, non-fiction books used to be, well, rather dull! Long gone are those days. Non-fiction books now are some of the most fun, interactive and down-right fascinating books around. It’s non-fiction November (yes, ALL month!) so I thought I would showcase some of the most fantastic factual books around right now, you know, in case you might be looking for any gift ideas of birthdays or Christmas.
Am I Made of Stardust? Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock (author), Chelen Ecija (illustrator), Buster Books (publisher)
Blow your little one’s mind with stellar facts from this out of this world work of non-fiction by space scientist, Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock. Your reader can find out the answers to some of the most interesting inter-gallactic questions out there. Like whether there are really diamonds on Jupiter (take me there, quick!)? Or why some planets might smell like rotten eggs? Or what the Milky Way smells of (disappointingly, it’s not chocolate). You can even find out what an astronaut’s wee is recycled into!! This question-and-answer style book is split up into three chapters: chapter one looks at the big stuff across the far and distant reaches of the universe, chapter two flies us closer to home as it explores our solar system and chapter three looks at human space exploration. You can read the book from start to finish if you so desire, or you can dip in and out of it, reading snippets of fascinating facts and mind-blowing details as you go. There’s also a brilliant glossary at the back of the book to explain any unfamiliar words and concepts. With ideas of things to try at home and awe-inspiring chunks of fascinating information, not to mention the out of this world NASA photographs, this is the perfect book for any budding astronaut or space enthusiast. My youngest daughter announced last night that she wants to be an astronaut so she is very excited by this book. It’s bright, bold, exquisitely illustrated and full of fascinating snippets of information which will have your childrens’ jaws dropping in awe.
Birds of a Feather – Lauren Fairgrieve and Kate Read, Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)
Wah!!! Why weren’t non-fiction books this much fun when I was little?!! I mean, this book is the ultimate in terms of engaging, interactive non-fiction. Produced in conjunction with The National Trust, this book contains ten exquisitely illustrated, vibrant cardboard cut outs for your little one to press out the pieces and make into three dimensional birds to play with. Following a section on how to make the birds (it’s very easy – there are only three parts to slot together), there are ten gorgeous birds to fit together. At the back of the book there is a beautifully illustrated two-page spread on each bird where your reader can learn some fascinating facts about these ten feathered friends. The factual information is set out in short paragraph blocks of text, surrounded by superb drawings of the birds in their natural habitats, providing maximum engagement for readers. Not only can they learn about various habitats and homelands of these European birds, but there is some fascinating factual information on the history surrounding each bird and how they have been seen across the ages. Did you know that Goldfinches are sometimes called ‘red caps’ which, in Northumbrian legends are seen as a type of mischievous magical creatures? Or do you know how Magpies got their name? Or that, according to superstition, if you see a blue tit flying alone, you will soon find new love?! Containing all these wonderful flutters of information and more, I don’t think I have come across a more joyful and interactive work of non-fiction. My children adore it.
The Big Book of Mysteries – Tom Adams (author), Yas Imamura (illustrator), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)
Do you believe in tales about demons and devils? Or ghost ships and vanishing villages? How about alien encounters or haunted houses? You might not think you do but you haven’t read this book yet! Or maybe these things can be explained in a rational way? Get ready to send shivers down your spine and have your jaw hang open in awe and wonder as you read all about some of the world’s most unfathomable mysteries. Have you heard the legend of Bigfoot, or the story about the vanishing of Amelia Earhart? What do you know about tales of alien abductions, or stories of mind-boggling natural phenomena? This book provides bite sized text blocks of information all about such spine-tingling mysteries and tries to explain the extraordinary….. unless, of course, the extraordinary cannot be explained!! You will just have to make up your own minds! I, for one, am still convinced about the existence of the Loch Ness Monster!! With its neon- coloured, laser-cut hardback cover, this book is a stunning visual representation of some of the paranormal and staggering stories it contains. I literally start singing the tune to the “X-Files” as soon as I see it (but, perhaps I am just showing my age there!). The illustrations are superb: impressively showcasing the gob-smacking events and stories that they are depicting. This is a fascinating book on so many levels and would be the perfect book for any young science-fiction enthusiast. The most riveting of reads at this time of year, we love it (and are slightly freaked out by it too -ha ha!).
101 Dogs -Romy Blumel (author), Nicola Jane Swinney (illustrator), Big Picture Press (imprint of Bonnier Books) (publisher)
Did you know that there are around 350 breeds of dog in the world? Me neither. And although this book doesn’t look at them all, this delightful canine compendium showcases some of the most well-known breeds and also adds in some of the more exotic of our furry friends too. From the diddy Dandie Dinmont Terrier to the massive Mastiff, or the sleek and streamlined Greyhound to the wrinkled Shar-pei or the flufftastic Samoyed, this is the most gorgeously illustrated book all about our faithful companions. If you have a child who is doggy-mad (this would be my eldest daughter in our house) then this is THE book for them. Each breed featured has a spread about them which contains an adorable illustration and then a paragraph of fascinating information, together with a fun synopsis about the dog’s life expectancy, height, trainability, grooming requirements, exercise habits and a funny sentence on what the breed would be most and least likely to say. The opening pages are brilliant, explaining what the book is about and defining groups of dogs (from working dogs to toy dogs, for example) and lots of doggy details. It’s expertly written, beautifully illustrated in a fun and captivating style, and uses a gorgeous colour tone throughout. What’s my favourite then? Well, apart from the Labrador Retriever (I would say that, I have two!), I am now rather partial to large and gentle giant Leonberger! For any animal lover out there, whether you are just fascinated by dogs, or thinking of buying one, this book is a must have for your book shelves.
Little People, Big Dreams – Elvis Presley – Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara (author), Ana Albero (illustrator), Frances Lincoln Children’s Books (imprint of Quarto) (publisher)
This is another fabulous book from this fascinating series all about the lives of inspirational people. This book looks at the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll and how he changed history forever, showing the entire world that music is truly colour blind. Did you know Elvis was a twin and that his twin brother died at birth? I had no idea! This vibrantly illustrated book takes your young reader through the early life of Elvis Presley, growing up in North Mississippi and Memphis listening to blues, gospel, pop and country music. He worked it all together and went from strength to strength, winning talent shows at school and then going on to conquer the music industry with his new type of music …. Rock ‘N’ Roll. He became a sensation and a heart throb with just a shake of his hips. Even after Elvis came back from military service and acting in lots of Hollywood films, he realised that the excitement of performing on the stage was where his heart lay and his music sounded even better than ever, particularly when he performed his moving tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr., the civil rights activist that Elvis so much admired. This is a wonderful book showcasing how Elvis shaped the course of the musical world for years to come and how he made sure that no song would ever again be black or white, regardless of what some people thought. The illustrations are characteristically superb: engaging and colourful, really drawing the reader into the gregarious performances and vibrant personality of Elvis Presley. There is a great two-page fact and photo section at the back of the book, showing real life images of Elvis and stating some further fascinating facts and explaining that Elvis died prematurely aged 42. A brilliant book for any Elvis fan or music lover.
A Dinosaur a Day – Miranda Smith (author), Jenny Wren, Juan, Calle Xuan Le, Max Rambaldi and Olga Baumert (illustrators), Red Shed, part of Farshore (imprint of HarperCollins) (publisher)
Shamefully, I confess, I had no idea that there were 365 dinosaurs. I mean, to give myself some credit, I guess that I had never really thought about it!! But, this extraordinary book puts me to shame and showcases a dinosaur for every day of the year. How fantastic is that?! My eldest daughter (who is a HUGE dino fan and who, in true seven-year-old fashion, rolled her eyes at me when I expressed my fascination about the fact there was a dinosaur out there for every day of the year) had such fun with this book. We found our birthdays and discovered what dinosaurs we were (Yutyrannus (I had never heard of it!) and Thanatotheristes, in case you were wondering) and then proceeded to find every family member’s, close and distantly-related, dinosaur by using their birthday. From really familiar dinosaurs to lesser-known names, you will become immersed in this fascinating pre-historic world, learning snippets of information about each creature detailed. It provides key information for each dinosaur, such as the height, weight and diet (would they have eaten you, or not?). The illustrations are absolutely stunning: each dinosaur is intricately drawn and brought to life in the most wonderful of colour tones. There is even a two-page spread about the rise of the dinosaurs and another on how their world came to end, together with a fabulous section on pronunciation of the dinosaur names, as well as a great glossary. Beautifully packaged up, filled with fascinating facts, stunningly illustrated, this book would make a wonderful gift to any budding palaeontologist or dino-enthusiast aged 6 and above.
Wild Animals of the World – Dieter Braun (author and illustrator), Flying Eye Books (imprint of NoBrow Ltd) (publisher)
You know when you see a book and you instantly know you are going to love it. That’s this book, right here. It’s an absolute beauty of a book, it really is. Not only is it a phenomenal piece of artwork in its own right (I mean, take some time, really appreciate the beauty of those stunning illustrations in the most striking and stark of colour tones) but it provides fascinating snippets of information about lots of the animals it details. The book is dedicated to wild animals around the world and is split into the various continents and provides details on where they live, what they look like, what they eat and how they survive, to name but a few. With large, full-page colourful illustrations, this book is truly special. It’s sublime, in fact. The dazzling images are set beside short text blocks of information which are truly mind-blowing in their nature. Did you know that Blue-Footed Booby (my favourite bird!) actually consumes a blue pigment in its food which is what gives it its blue legs and feet? Or that there is a horse (called a Przewalski’s horse) which has two chromosomes and one extra rib more than its other equine relatives and cannot be ridden? Or that you can recognise the head of a group of Mandrills by his snazzy blue cheeks? This book is an absolute wonderland of wild animals. It would make the most exquisite gift to any young animal enthusiast and is the ultimate addition to any young reader’s non-fiction book shelf. Indeed, it should be showcased proudly. I hope you manage to get your hands, or paws, on a copy.
Illumibugs – Barbara Taylor (author), Carnovsky (illustrator), Wide Eyed Editions (imprint of Quarto) (publisher)
Did you know that the weight of all the ants on earth might be greater than the weight of all the humans?! Or that there are more than 200 million insects for every one person on the planet?! That’s a LOT of insects, right? And this book takes a look at this biggest family on earth and the vital role they play on earth in one of the most interactive and fun ways. It journeys through the undergrowth with a magical three-colour lens (well, it’s not magic but it seems like it is!) and helps your reader discover over 180 types of minibeast from every continent, the sea and even from pre-historic times. There is a section at the beginning of the book which explains how to use the colour lens: look through the red part to see the insects, the green part showcases the plant life and the blue lens details other hidden bugs. It’s split into continents (with the additional sections on the underwater world and pre-historic life as detailed above) and has lots of short text blocks of information contained within the black and white two page species guide spreads. The artwork is dazzling – hugely detailed drawings to explore and be amazed by – and the interactive element of the book makes it one of the most engaging and interactive non-fiction reads around. It’s aimed at readers of age 6 and above but my youngest daughter (who admittedly is a huge minibeast fan) absolutely loved it and it has been a huge hit with all of my children, as well as me! It’s a carnival of colour, bursting with bugs and filled with fabulous facts – what’s not to love?!
A Wild Child’s Book of Birds – Dara McAnulty (author), Barry Falls (illustrator), Macmillan
Ooo, this book is a beauty! Following the feathered friends that you would find in Britain and Ireland, this sensational book is broken down into seasons so that your young reader can find out what the birds do in each season. Having owned an aviary of canaries when I was little, I am a huge bird enthusiast and I think I have passed some of this on to my children. They were enthralled by this book. Whether your little one would like to be an ornithologist or a twitcher (bird watcher), whether they don’t know anything about birds or are fascinated by them, this book is absolutely superb. There are pieces of poetic prose packed between the brilliant blocks of information on birdsong, beaks and bills, nests, eggs, feathers, to name but a few. Add to that that your child will find out about the science behind flight, migration and what to do to attract more birds to your garden, and how to record their findings, and you can see why this makes such a wonderful book. Not only is it an absorbing and thoroughly engaging read, it’s also an absolute delight to look at – the illustrations fly out at you, so intricately drawn are they and so vibrantly colourful and enticing are the pages. We love the pages on the author’s top five birds of prey and top five songbirds, as well as the fascinating spread on captivating corvids, some of the cleverest birds on the planets. The English literature student in me also loved the page on Birds in Literature! Beautiful and passionate, this book would make a wonderful gift to any avian enthusiast, young or old.
Secrets of the Dead – Matt Ralphs (author), Gordy Wright (illustrator), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)
My youngest daughter is absolutely fascinated by mummies and loves “Mummies Unwrapped” (also published by Nosy Crow) so I knew that we needed to review a copy of this book. And even from the cover of this book, with its gorgeous gold writing, you are immediately drawn into the secrets of the past. The remains of our ancestors are all around us, from ancient Egyptian mummies to Otzi the Ice Man, European bog bodies to the most beautiful mummy in the world, found in western China, this morbidly fascinating book will take you on a journey around the globe, showing your reader what scientists and historical experts have uncovered about our ancestors’ lives from the bodies that they left behind. The book showcases some of the amazing discoveries that researchers have made, revealing fascinating secrets about the dead! The information is set out in text blocks spread out over each two-page spread and interspersed with beautiful artwork, not only depicting the dead but also fantastic landscapes, history and architecture, really bringing to life those secrets of the dead. There are jaw dropping facts contained within the book, as well as one or two pieces of information that might make your stomach turn (prepare to be a little horrified reading about the self-mummifying monks of Japan!!). There is a wonderful conclusion to the book, laying out what has been unravelled but also those secrets that have been kept (and which we will keep guessing) but also imbibing the reader with a sense of possibility and wonder, that there are new secrets to be uncovered one day. Maybe they will be the ones to find them? We also love the map at the back of the book, pictorially detailing where these mummies and human remains were found around the world. Produced in collaboration with The British Museum, this book is a superb read for any budding archaeologist or Indiana Jones fan out there. My daughter and I have been absolutely absorbed by it, in all its gruesome detail.
An Invitation to the Ballet Theatre – Charlotte Guillain (author), Helen Shoesmith (illustrator), Welbeck Editions (publisher)
You are cordially invited to your own VIP tour of the ballet theatre with your own golden ticket! Welcome to the enchanting world of the ballet, take a tour behind the scenes to see what goes on between performances and marvel at the strength and skill of the dancers themselves. This book is a sparkling introduction to the world of ballet and the theatre, filled with exquisite illustrations of a magical world. You begin your tour in the auditorium, looking at the theatre and the seating itself and then travel on to a fold out double spread of the dazzling costume department and move on to the shoe room. Follow the dancers themselves as they go through their paces and moves, rehearse, look after themselves and eat well. There are more gorgeous fold out spreads, detailing the magical world of the set-building workshops and the stage itself as well as showing the back-stage areas such as the lighting department, make-up studio and amazing orchestra pit. Your little one can also learn about famous ballets such as Swan Lake and Romeo and Juliet as they turn the pages. Produced in consultation with English National Ballet’s Ballet Futures programme, this book is exquisite. It makes me wish I had learned how to dance as a child. There is lots to learn (did you know that a dancer can get through at least six pairs of pointe shoes in a week?!) and it is set out in bite-sized blocks of information interspersed throughout the stunningly illustrated pages. It’s a piece of magic in itself and this would make a wonderful gift for any child (young or old) who has an interest in ballet or dance. Magical non-fiction!
Transported – Matt Ralphs (author), Rui Ricardo (illustrator), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)
Can you imagine a world without vehicles? No bikes, no boats, no trains, no planes, no cars…. How insular do you think it would feel? In order to travel any distance, you would need the help of one of the 50 vehicles that changed the world and that’s where this gorgeous book comes in. It takes you on a voyage of discovery around the world from the first vehicles made which were powered by wind, and chariots pulled by horses, to the modern-day vehicles we see today and discusses each individual vehicle along the way. Each vehicle has its own boldly illustrated two-page spread with fascinating paragraphs of information about the vehicle spread out across the pages, as well as a succinct facts and stats block on each page. This is also accompanied by a paragraph about how the amazing vehicle changed the world. The drawings are superb, vibrantly bringing to life the life-changing impact each vehicle has had and providing maximum engagement for your young readers. We also love that you have to turn the book around for some of the vehicles so this feels like an interactive and immersive work of non-fiction. We were fascinated by how big an impact vehicles like the omnibus and the combine harvester have had, as well as the snow mobile and auto rickshaw and we have loved that this book has taken us on a truly globe-trotting journey through the ages. We also particularly liked the final pages of the book which acknowledge that despite the incalculable progress that these vehicles have given the human race, our dependence on them is also causing great harm to our beautiful planet and this book encourages children to all do their bit to help. It’s a great book to dip in and out of but your reader could equally devour lots of it in one sitting as well. For any child who is interested in vehicles of any shape and size, this is a mind-blowing book. A wonderful work of non-fiction that they will zoom through (pun intended!).
Lift-the-Flap What Dinosaur Am I? – Peter Curtis (author), Macmillan Children’s Books (publisher)
I love a non-fiction book aimed at younger readers and this one is superb. It’s interactive, it’s colourful and it’s full of fun. Meet Dinosaur Roar, Dinosaur Honk, Dinosaur Munch, Dinosaur Bash and more of their dino friends in this sturdy lift-the-flap board book. Each dinosaur has a full two-page spread with fun short facts behind each uniquely shaped lift the flap. There are four flaps to lift on each page providing lots of engagement and entertainment for your little ones. The facts are fun and interesting and provide details about each dinosaur mentioned, together with their real names and a way to pronounce those names correctly. The illustrations in the book are vibrant and really sweet, bringing each dinosaur to life and allowing your child to have fun with the World of Dinosaur Roar. This would be a brilliant gift for any young dinosaur enthusiast and it is a superb size to be able to pop in a bag to take with you to provide entertainment for little hands while you are out and about. A lovely engaging work of non-fiction for younger readers.
Planets -John Devolle (author and illustrator), Pushkin Press (publisher)
We loved the first of these picture books, “Atoms”, bringing big ideas to little minds and so we were very excited to be able to review this second book about one of our current favourite subjects: planets! My youngest daughter is desperate to be an astronaut when she is older (aww) and so this book has been read on repeat night after night in our house. For readers aged 4 and above, it is the perfect book to introduce big ideas to them and what can be bigger than the infinity of space?! This vibrantly colourful work of non-fiction introduces your young readers to our solar system and takes a rocket-blasting mission look around it and the planets within it. It focuses on the sun and then, in each double-page spread, it goes on to explain a few mind-blowing facts about each of the planets surrounding the sun and what it might be like to live there before coming back to focus on the uniqueness and beauty of our own glorious planet. This book is brilliant. It’s bold and it’s bright and it is absolutely perfectly pitched for its target audience, containing some out of this world facts about our solar system and the planets contained within it in simple yet memorable words. The illustrations are hilarious: there are lots of pages filled with funny pictures which are wonderfully drawn in bright colours which are in stark contrast to the space-filled landscape of other illustrations. If you have a child that is just beginning their fascinating journey into understanding our solar system, space or planets then this is the perfect book to fuel their imagination.
Little People, Big Dreams – Alexander Von Humboldt – Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara (author), Sally Agar (illustrator), Frances Lincoln Children’s Books (imprint of Quarto) (publisher)
We were absolutely fascinated by this exquisitely illustrated work of non-fiction all about this scientist who recognised the importance and unity of nature all across the world. If I am being completely honest, I hadn’t really realised what a profound impact Alexander von Humboldt had had upon the natural world. He has so many amazing things named after him – a glacier, a waterfall, a penguin, a squirrel monkey and even a giant squid, and that’s only naming a few!! As a child, he was fascinated by the world around him and he was expected to get a respectable job but he just wanted to spend his life learning all about nature. As an adult, he travelled the world (a pretty amazing feat in the 1700s!) learning about plants and animals and journeying to discover how everything was interconnected. He recorded everything along the way and changed the way that many people see the world. As usual, there is a fantastic further facts and black and white photo section at the back of the book where your little reader can learn more and be inspired by the lifetime achievements of this super scientist. I cannot sign off without mentioning the artwork. It absolutely stunning: beautiful colours and gorgeous illustrations of adorable animals and fabulous flora and fauna. If you would like to find out more about this wonderful series, do take a look at the Little People, Big Dreams website Little People, BIG DREAMS – Be Bold, Be Brave, DREAM BIG! (littlepeoplebigdreams.com) to subscribe to their newsletter so you can stay up to date with the latest releases.
Lore of the Land – Claire Cock-Starkey (author), Samantha Dolan (illustrator), Wide Eyed Editions (imprint of Quarto) (publisher)
Uncover the hidden magic of the natural world through the folktales and nature lore set out in this decadently illustrated anthology. This book combines wisdom and legend to provide a wonderful selection of fascinating folklore which is celebrated in this book and which will have you and your young reader absolutely enthralled. Split into six sections about our natural world – forests, seas and oceans, mountains, hills and valleys, rivers and lakes and wetlands -this book has you travelling the globe to discover the secrets said to be contained within it. Discover the moss that can heal wounds, the mythical creatures of the woodlands, the sea gods from around the world, the scary dark elves from Norse mythology, the kindly creatures called Fantine who live in the Vaud valleys in Switzerland, the thirsty Old Badger and Old Frog who formed California’s Clear Lake and many more! Find out what happened to the gruesome witch Vixen Tor in the English folktale or Why the Sea Moans according to Brazilian folklore. This book brings to life some of the most fascinating (and, at times graphically gruesome) folk tales from across the world. All of this is depicted by the most sumptuous artwork which truly brings to life this nature lore. Exquisite worlds of woodlands and mountains, lakes and rivers, seas and wetlands have been created in the most wonderful tones with drawings of the stunning (and sometimes scary) legends depicted in glorious colour and detail on the pages. The information is set out in an original and captivating way with paragraphs of text swirling around the amazing artistry, thereby providing maximum engagement for your reader. If you have a reader who is fascinated by folklore then this is the most exquisite book for them.
How to Survive Anywhere – Ben Lerwill (author), Daniel Long (illustrator), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)
“Going on a big adventure is always exciting – but it’s even better when you’re well prepared.” Enter, this book! Do you have a little explorer at home? Then this is the book for them. From the most extreme places in the world – desert islands to frozen landscapes of the artic – your reader will travel all around the globe learning all sorts of hints and tricks to try and stay safe in those environments. What would you do in a sandstorm? How do you recognise animal tracks in the outback? What would you eat in the rainforest to stay alive? How do you build an igloo? Humans need four basic things to survive: food, water, warmth and shelter but this book explains that the art of survival is about so much more than that. It’s about being able to adapt to your surroundings and knowing how to stay fit and well. My children and I have found this book absolutely fascinating. With fact files on each location visited (and these are visually mapped out for you at the beginning of the book on a stunning illustration of the globe), things to remember, stories to read and hugely helpful survival tips, there is nothing not to love! We adored the section on ways to help each particular environment detailed, providing our children with a sense of guardianship for the planet we live on. The illustrations are hugely impactful too with gorgeous drawings of the landscapes it showcases and wonderful pictures of the plants and animals found in those locations which bring the sections into bursting life. The information is contained in bite-sized text blocks and is so visually appealing in the way that it is spread out across the pages that your reader cannot fail to be captivated. This would make a wonderful gift for any little Bear Grylls in the making!
Dinosaur Atlas – Tom Jackson (author), Maggie Li (illustrator), QED Publishing (an imprint of Quarto)
Do you fancy travelling back in time to wander the Earth when the dinosaurs roamed? Fancy meeting one of the first ever dinosaurs (the Eoraptor?) and then travelling around the world to see some of the most amazing, bizarre and even downright scary dinosaurs? Then this is the book for you. With some superb pages explaining all about how different the world was then, how the fossils we have found help us to understand so much about dinosaurs (together with a brilliantly visual timescale of the different prehistoric eras) and even explaining what came before the dinosaurs (I confess, I had never really thought about this!!), this book focuses on over twenty dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures in all their absolute beauty. Not only are there key facts for each dinosaur detailed but there are superb blocks of text spotted around each two-page spread, in between the stunning illustrations. Each page signposts the correct era the dinosaurs were found in (Triassic, Jurassic, Mesozoic, Cretaceous) and details fabulous facts about them, such as how they survived, where they lived, how they actually looked (the Megalosaurus did not walk upright with its head held high!) and what they ate. There is even a spread about how the dinosaurs became to be extinct – I had not heard this third theory about plants poisoning the dinosaurs before I read this book – as well as a brilliantly visual dinosaur family tree. The artwork in this work of non-fiction is captivating: bold and bright, the drawings really bring these prehistoric creatures to life in the most wonderful of ways and we love the addition of real-life pictures being brought into the pages of the book to combine with the illustrations and text to make this an addictive read. This book is a must-have for any little (or big!) dinosaur enthusiast.
The Curse of the Tomb Raiders – Andy Seed (author), James Weston Lewis (illustrator), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)
Ok, ok, so this one isn’t completely non-fiction but it does have some fantastic facts contained within it that I just couldn’t leave it out of this post! Produced in collaboration with The British Museum, this book has it all. The year is 1422 BC and a gang of ancient Egyptians robbers are planning to raid a royal tomb. Your reader’s job is to help best friends Nub and Iteti stop them and find out who could be behind the evil plot. In order to do this, your reader must follow the clues on each page and use the fold-out hieroglyphic charts and dictionary at the back of the book to help them read the words of the pharaohs. How cool is that?! And that’s not all. Along the way, there are scorpions lurking in every scene, cats to find, puzzles to decipher and lots of fascinating “Did You Know” facts set out in colourful circles. The story is a fast-paced adventure and really captivates the reader’s imagination. Setting this all against a backdrop of beautiful artwork on every page, really bringing to life the ancient Egyptian civilisation, then you can see why this is truly an exquisite book. It’s educational, it’s immersive, it’s interactive with all its puzzles and codes and search and finds, it’s visually appealing and it’s totally unique. It would be a brilliant gift for any young code-breaker or puzzler.
An Atlas of Lost Kingdoms – Emily Hawkins (author), Lauren Baldo (illustrator), Wide Eyed Editions (imprint of Quarto) (publisher)
Let’s start with the cover of this book! Copper foiled detailing and exquisite artistry draw you in right from the off, allowing you and your young reader to get lost in a world of forgotten places. The decadent pages filled with sumptuous artwork captivate you, luring you to lost kingdoms and legendary continents which have long since been forgotten. Most of the places in this book have never been found but your reader can succeed where other adventurers have failed, within the pages of this book. This work of non-fiction takes you on a fantastical adventure like no other: it transports you to places shrouded in mystery and legend but which might just be real. It untangles the threads of history and fact from those of myth and legend, separating the real from the make-believe. Split into areas depicted on the most fantastically drawn maps, each two page spread details a legendary place, setting out text blocks of information in short paragraphs and artistically dotted around the breathtakingly beautiful illustrations. You may all have heard of the lost city of Atlantis, or the legend of Troy, but have you ever really researched them? Have you ever heard of the underground school of black magic, Scholomance? Or Shi Cheng, the real-life sunken city? How about Aztlan, the legendary homeland of the Aztec people? Or Baralku, the island of the dead? I have been fascinated by tales of lost cities all my life but when I was in my twenties I went on a trip to Central America and saw lots of Mayan ruins. I found it astounding that over 90% of temples and buildings there have just not been uncovered. Who knows what treasures and legends lie there? Who knows how many cities have become lost across the world and are now under the sea or ocean? Fascinating. Just like this book. It will transport you to another world, whimsically blending fact, legend and myth altogether within the spines of one sumptuously drawn book.
Amazing Animal Treasury – Chris Packham (author), Jason Cockcroft (illustrator), Red Shed (part of Farshore, imprint of HarperCollins) (publisher)
This book is the ultimate animal treasury for young nature and animal lovers. Your little reader can join Chris Packham on a globe-trotting journey around the world as he goes on an epic exploration of the animal kingdom. Split into sections – amazing animal babies, amazing animal homes, amazing animal journeys – your reader will meet lots of unusual and fascinating animals and see how their babies grow up, the homes and habitats that various animals live in and some of the incredible journeys that they go on which can take them across our huge planet. My twins love recognising the more commonplace animals and learning some fascinating facts about them but they also love hearing mind-blowing details about other animals which they have never come across before, such as the golden jellyfish which have to migrate from one end of a lake in the Pacific Ocean to the other, because without doing so, they would die! The font is larger sized and the factual information is set out in short paragraphs which are spread out across each two-page spread, making this an easy and engaging read for its target audience. The artwork is adorable in the extreme: each animal depicted is beautifully detailed and really brings to life these amazing animals. The colours used are bright and vibrant and each illustrated scene is absolutely captivating in its fun and beauty. There is even a map which details where various animals can be found and some of the amazing journeys that they make, together with a ‘discover more’ section providing a further short paragraph of detail about each amazing animal featured. This book would make a wonderful gift for any little nature enthusiast.
An Atlas of Dogs – Frances Evans (author), Kelsey Heaton (illustrator), Lonely Planet Global Limited (publisher)
“Explore the paw-some world of pooches” says the caption of this book and we would have to agree that it is totally pawsome!! This is such a bright and colourful book taking you on a round the world caper of waggling tails and cuddly canines. At the beginning of each chapter your little animal lover will find a map so that they can see where each perfect pooch is from and then each delightful doggy has a profile paragraph or two (with gorgeous diagrams) so they can find out more about each particular breed, including their background and their care needs and there is a super synopsis entitled “pooch profile” for each doggy detailed. We also love the special sections on cute crossbreeds, puppy life, record-breaking dogs, helpful hounds (with jobs to do), gentle giants, super hounds and so many more. It’s also a wonderfully interactive book because you have to turn it around to look at the maps and this makes it so much more fun and engaging for children. There’s also a comprehensive and really useful glossary at the back of the book. We also HAVE to mention the illustrations. Oh wow! They are just adorable. Each two-page spread is filled with the most vibrant and glorious artwork, really bringing to life these wonderful woofers in all their beautiful details. The wording of this non-fiction book is fun and engaging and your children are not only learning about canine capers but also about geography and the positioning of the countries these dogs can be found in across the globe. What a truly special book. It’s woof-tastic #sorrynotsorry!
A is for Bee – Ellen Heck (author and illustrator), Pushkin Press (publisher)
This book literally blows my mind!! And my eldest daughter’s and yet we find it so fascinating (and educational) – what’s not to love?! But what is it all about? Well, it’s an alphabet in translation. So, if I asked you, “What letter does the word “Bee” begin with?” and you said “b”, you would be right. In English at least. But in many, many languages, it actually starts with the letter “a”. Bee is Abelha in Portuguese, Aaamoo in Ojibwe and Anu in Ibgo. G is for Cat because Gato means cat in Spanish, Goyangi means cat in Korean… you get the idea. This book is an exquisitely illustrated multilingual alphabet book; each page is vibrantly colourful and contains the most beautiful drawings of the animal it details. Our favourites are the porcupine (or Yamaarashi in Japanese), the rabbit (or Lapin in French) and the fox (or Roka in Hungarian) but they are all absolutely stunning illustrations. This book will take your young reader on an exploration in the beautiful variety of ways we talk about familiar animals across the world. It is fascinating on both a visual and a linguistic level. My children did not realise how many different languages there are around the world. It has prompted lots of questions like, “where do they speak that language, Mummy?” and, I confess, I have to say that I have had to look up lots and scrub up on my geography! A is for bee but it is also for awesome. Because that is what this book is: an awesome teaching resource about language, linguistics, geography and the wider world.