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In the Stacks: New nonfiction books for young readers

Posted: December 19, 2013 - 12:01am

New nonfiction books for young readers are written to help children understand their world and explore their interests. Look for history, science, biographies, and much more on the New Book shelves in the children’s areas at all public libraries.

“Animal Encyclopedia,” by Dr. Lucy Spelman.

If you love all kinds of animals, want to see amazing photos, and learn more about them, this is the book for you. Beautifully organized on a grand scale, it has tons of full-color photos, color-coded sections for mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates, two-page spreads of each animal group, and colored insets with information about individual animals. Great for browsing or as a springboard to more in-depth research, this cannot help but entice even the most reluctantly-reading animal lover and will more than satisfy those who love the DK book style but want more organization. (Want more animals? See Steve Jenkins’ book, “The Animal Book,” for vast numbers of facts about animals grouped by characteristic, accompanied by Jenkins’ award-winning paper collage illustrations.)

“Unusual Creatures,” by Michael Hearst, illustrations by Arjen Noordeman, Christie Wright, and Jelmer Noordeman.

This doesn’t have the same immediate visual appeal of “Animal Encyclopedia,” but once you start reading, you’ll be hooked. Arranged from Axolotl to Yeti Crab, each one or two-page spread features a different amazing creature. Look for dangerous creatures like Komodo Dragons and Saddleback Caterpillars, tiny creatures like the Pea Frog and the Pygmy Marmoset, and really tough creatures, like the Tardigrade and the Bar-Headed Goose. Alongside the conversationally-written text that highlights extraordinary facts about each animal are line drawings, poems, quizzes, and maps showing where they live. There is also a discussion about ways animals go extinct and how we can “live green”. The lack of photos may disappoint some, but the charming detailed drawings make up for that, and, taken as a whole, this is a highly satisfying offering.

“Universe: Journey into deep space,” by Dr. Mike Goldsmith, illustrated by Dr. Mark A. Garlick.

The universe is brought to life through gorgeous photorealistic illustrations (photographs are noted when they appear) and scientifically accurate but not overly-wordy text. The authors first explain the measure of distances used for measuring space: light-minutes, light-hours, and light-years. And then, we’re speeding off through the cold dust, past the planets and out of the solar system to where brown dwarfs, red giants, and star nurseries spread across space, speeding towards the massive black hole at the heart of our galaxy. The authors let readers feel our place in the universe by reminding them that our galaxy is merely one of an unknown number of galaxies in our universe. One of the more striking illustrations is a diagram showing our solar system collapsed into the Milky Way Galaxy, collapsed into our local group of galaxies, collapsed into a greater group of galaxies – mindblowing!

“Castle,” written and illustrated by David Macaulay and Sheila Keenan.

Part of a new series for beginning readers, this is an invitation to visit a castle, meet its inhabitants, and take a look around. After explaining that castles are designed to keep enemies out, Macaulay, master of the friendly exploded diagram, illustrates how a friend of the castle might enter by climbing up the steeply-sloping ramp to the gatehouse in the outer curtain. After showing readers around the castle from top to bottom (including toilets), Macaulay discusses the kinds of attacks that an uninvited enemy might try, including using a battering ram and catapulting diseased animals over the walls. Happily for the residents, Macaulay’s castle is sturdily built and its foes are thwarted, trapped in “murder holes,” shot at by archers, and locked in the dungeon. Carefully written to be factual, friendly, and not too difficult (2nd graders ought to be able to handle it), this is a treat for any reader who wants a look inside a castle. (Want more Macaulay? Check out Jet Plane, another title in this new series, all about how planes work.)

•••

Interested in getting a tablet computer or an e-reader but aren’t sure which one would suit you best? Come to the Douglas Library any Sunday this month between 2-4 p.m. and test out the library’s new Nook, Kindle, iPad, and Android at the Tech Petting Zoo. Or, bring your own device and library staff will show you how to use it to download free ebooks and audiobooks.

Story and Toddler Times are on a break until Jan. 6 at all branches.

All public libraries will close at 4 p.m. on Christmas Eve and will be closed on Christmas Day. They will be open normal hours on Thursday, Dec. 26. Merry Christmas!

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

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