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New nonfiction titles for kids

Posted: July 25, 2013 - 12:04am

Look for these and other exciting new nonfiction titles for kids at the Juneau Public Libraries.

 

"Bomb," by Steve Sheinkin.

Winner of this year’s Robert F. Sibert award, this is the best kind of nonfiction I know: written with novel-like intensity and descriptiveness, this describes the birth of the atomic bomb. From the prologue, in which chemist and spy Harry Gold can’t think up lies fast enough and ends up spilling the beans to the FBI, the story backtracks through webs of intrigue, lab work, sabotage operations, and ultimately, the creation and use of the first atomic bombs. Besides Gold, the story focuses on Robert Oppenheimer, the brilliant physicist who led the Manhattan Project, and Knut Haukelid, a rough-and-tumble member of the Norwegian resistance. As we get to know each of these men who played such vital roles in the dissemination and assembly of information and supplies, we also come to really understand that it took both luck and hard work for the United States to have come out first in the race for the bomb. With source notes and an index.

“Blizzard of Glass,” by Sally M. Walker.

Here’s a second story about a wartime explosion, but this time it was accidental rather than an act of aggression. In 1917, Halifax Harbour in Nova Scotia was a hub of shipping activity — ships loaded with supplies moved in and out constantly, supplying soldiers in Europe. And when two of those ships, one carrying explosives, the other taking on medical supplies, collided on the morning of Dec. 6, the result was the biggest manmade explosion until the atomic bomb was detonated in 1945. Walker paints a picture of a bustling town going about its daily business: kids heading to school, men at work on the docks, women cleaning up after breakfasts. At 9:04 a.m., their worlds all turned upside down. Much of the town was flattened by the blast or burned in the aftermath, more than 2,000 people died, and families were separated. To make matters worse, within 24 hours, the area was hit by a blizzard. This is real life adventure and disaster, masterfully brought back to life. Source notes, a bibliography, and an index are included.

“Rome: everything you wanted to know,” by Klay Lamprell.

This latest installment of Lonely Planet’s Not-for-parents books covers Rome and is meant to whet kids’ appetites with facts and tidbits. Two-page spreads offer themed looks at the city: gelato, the seven hills of Rome, trash, catacombs, gladiators, fashion both then and now, and much more. This eye-catching book uses a DK format of photos and bits of information — somewhat scattershot and disorganized to adults, but appealing in a Ripley’s believe-it-or-not way for kids. Even if you’re not jaunting off to Italy, use this as a quick resource for ancient sites, customs and modern life in the Eternal City. Index included.

“Harness Horses, Bucking Broncos, and Pit Ponies,” by Jeff Crosby and Shelley Ann Jackson.

Everyone knows that some horses are fast and some are strong — but there’s much more to horse breeds than that. This lovely book goes well beyond the superficial attributes of various horse breeds to explain how differences in robustness, size, and temperament define animals bred for specific environments and uses. Dividing the book into sections that include Rapid Transit, Military Advantage and Feral, the authors lay out what kind of attributes are most useful for each and name the breeds that fall into each group. Some breeds, like the mountain-bred Kabardin and the desert-bred Marwari, have such tough hooves that they don’t need horseshoes. Others, like the desert Barb and Arabian, have “dry skin” with lots of surface veins that keep them from getting overheated. Satisfying reading for horse-lovers of all ages (new readers will need lots of help, older elementary and middle school readers should be fine on their own, and, while young adults may disdain the picture book format, there’s lots here for them, too!). Bibliography included.

“Busy Builders,” by Roxie Munro.

This mixed-level book is a great introduction to insects and the homes they live in. Each of the eight insects is introduced with a two-page spread drawing showing an unlabeled close-up of the featured insect. That’s followed by another two pages showing what “home” is for each creature, with close-ups and cutaways of important parts. The solid paragraph or so of information that accompanies this is not dumbed-down, but chosen with an eye to what interests kids about the world around them, and may need to be summarized by an adult for young listeners. Young insect-loving readers will find the glossary of “bug words” in the back helpful and will come away feeling wise about honeybees, red harvester ants, orb spiders and others. Short bibliography included for further exploration.

•••

Summer Reading is in full swing for kids, teens, and adults, who can read for prizes up to Aug. 17. Sign up at your local library.

For information about upcoming programs, or to place a hold, visit www.juneau.org/library or call 586-5249.

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