Here’s another non-Halloween book that’s still appropriate for this time of year. Bob Barner’s Dem Bones depicts dancing skeletons teaching the familiar African-American song (Chronicle Books, $16.99). The illustrations are comprised of colorful torn collages and bring the song to life, if you will. Interesting bone facts accompany the text, making this picture book a one-of-a-kind crossover Halloween/science book (impressive, huh?) And who better to teach lessons about bones, than a band of skeletons?
The skeleton playing the trombone on the front cover cracks me up. Is s/he closing her/his eye sockets?!? That’s one passionate skeleton. No cuddling for this book; break out whatever instruments you have laying around, or make your own, and rock around the house/classroom singing and learning about bones. Your skeletons will appreciate the party.
I’ve decided to finish out this week on Fantasy with one of my all-time favorite books, with the promise that next time I revisit this genre I’ll include books that are a little more recent (yes, there are some amazing ones). Madeleine L’Engle is best-known for her sci-fi novel, A Wrinkle in Time, but she has written numerous other books that are all worth reading, especially A Ring of Endless Light (Square Fish, $7.99).
A Ring of Endless Light is one of the later books in what is now marketed as The Austin Chronicles. Readers, however, do not need to have read the previous books in this series. Vicky Austin, a teenager and a poet, meets Adam Eddington, a marine biology student, and assists with his summer research about dolphins. The book has science, music, literature, family, and romance, but mostly it is about death and grief. And yet this is one of the most inspirational books I read as a kid: a book I read and reread. L’Engle weaves science, religion, and love together so expertly, it’s almost impossible to determine whether A Ring of Endless Light is fantasy or simply the reality we’re looking for. As a teenager, her books showed me how amazingly mysterious life could be and as Vicky began to learn how to communicate with the dolphins, I started to learn how to communicate with the intricate world around me.
Today is my final post on non-fiction for the week, and I must admit this topic was much harder than I expected, probably because I don’t read a lot of non-fiction myself. I know there are some great series out there, but I am starting to agree with the Guardian article that non-fiction just doesn’t get the attention it deserves.
Today’s recommended series is thanks to a tip I received from a customer. A boy, about 11 years old, came into our store one day asking about books on physics, technology, the periodic table. I had no idea what he was talking about, but finally discovered the Basher series. The books are written by various authors but illustrated by Simon Basher (Kingfisher, $8.99). This particular young customer had bought a few of these books the day before and wanted to know what else we had from the series. I’ve never seen a kid so enthusiastic about books on grammar, music, chemistry, math, or punctuation, but as I gathered the series from around the store, he got increasingly excited and had a really hard time deciding which one to take home. I started to see the appeal. Simon Basher is an internationally recognized artist, and this series contains delightful, vibrant illustrations. Each book is narrated by relevant characters; according to the website description of Astronomy: Out of this World!, “The universe is an enormous place. Imagine it as the home of a crowd of cool cosmic characters, each with their own personality. This book is your essential guide to these out-of-this-world beings who make the universe tick.” The books are quirky, humorous, and informative and the website is engaging and interactive, with games, activities, and further information on the series’ topics. I was a little sad that the customer didn’t choose the grammar book, but his parents did remind him several times that they could come back for more books later. Mollified, he selected two: Physics and The Periodic Table. What an endorsement for this excellent series!
Today’s category is rather general, because this recommended series covers a lot of topics. Turtleback Books, of HarperCollins, publishes a series of books entitled Let’s Read and Find Out – Science ($5.99), which are edited according to levels. The levels are as much about cognitive development as reading level. Level 1 includes titles such as Clouds, From Seed to Pumpkin, Fireflies in the Night, My Five Senses, What Lives in a Shell, and A Nest Full of Eggs.
Level 2 contains significantly more books and is more conceptual than Level 1. Examples of titles in Level 2 are Why Do Leaves Change Color?, Fossils: Tell of Long Ago, What Happens to Our Trash?, How Do Birds Find Their Way?, Follow the Water from Brook to Ocean, Volcanoes, How Do Apples Grow?, Forces Make Things Move, What Will the Weather Be?, and the latest title, Almost Gone: The World’s Rarest Animals.