In the stacks

Posted: Thursday, January 13, 2011

New nonfiction for kids includes graphic novels and books on history, space, and animals.

Beyond, by Michael Benson.

Gorgeous photographs (collected from space probes, satellites, and telescopes) will whet readers’ appetites for the facts about our universe. This book, aimed at kids in upper elementary and middle school grades, obliges with an engaging overview of the history of astronomy, followed by closer looks at the Earth/moon system, each of the planets, the sun, and the asteroid belt. Find out what makes Uranus such a mystery, which planet has winds speeds as high as 1500 miles per hour, why some planets have seasons and others don’t, and what scientists think about the possibility of life on other planets.

Written in Bone, by Sally M. Walker.

Step into the fascinating world of the archeologist and join an excavation of the Jamestown Colony’s first location at James Fort. Founded in 1607, but outgrown and disassembled to build other structures by 1630, the exact location of the Fort was unknown until 1994. Archeologists have been hard at work ever since, uncovering ceramics, food remains, and other artifacts in a quest to learn how the colony functioned and who lived there in the early days. Follow forensic scientist Dr. Douglas Owsley as he unravels the identities of a murdered boy in a trash pit, three bodies in expensive lead coffins, and a young African woman in an ordinary wooden coffin. Amazing photos accompany the clear explanations of the work, both physical and intellectual, that goes into an excavation. Written for middle school and high school readers, this will no doubt attract adults, too.

Just the Right Size, by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Neal Layton.

This clear, yet fun, explanation of why animals are the size they are (and, incidentally, why human-sized spiders can’t exist – whew!) is perfect for inquisitive elementary school and middle school kids. Simplified, but not dumbed-down, Davies introduces the Big Thing Little Thing rule to show why big animals need so much more air, water, food, and muscle to do what little animals can do easily. Cartoony illustrations make the point that an extra-large water bug couldn’t skate on water the way its normal-sized friends can unless it’s got extra-extra large feet (and they’d be so big the poor bug wouldn’t be able to lift them!). Other examples abound: the cautionary story of the giant ogre, the sad tale of why humans can never be superheroes, and the scary story of the bug and the water drop.

Cat Burglar Black, by Richard Sala.

Put Edward Gorey, Nancy Drew, and Charles Dickens together in a blender and what comes out might look like this: Katherine Westree, a young orphan raised as a pickpocket in an orphanage and then sent to reform school, is now invited to attend an exclusive girls’ school by her aunt, a member of the faculty. But when K. arrives, she is unnerved to discover that there are only three other girls in attendance, her aunt has been stricken by a mysterious illness that has left her bundled head-to-toe in bandages, and the rest of the faculty seems to be hiding something. Middle school and high school readers will enjoy watching the girls in action as all their unusual talents are called upon to solve the mystery posed by their headmistress.


The Douglas LIbrary’s Family Movie will be shown on Sunday, Jan. 16. Be there by 3 p.m. for snacks and a great “new classic” film for nearly the whole family (little ones may not find this one so enjoyable). See the library’s website,, for more details.

Also on Sunday: Pastries and Page-Turners, beginning at 3 p.m. at the Downtown Library. Bring books you’ve been reading and want to talk about and be prepared to watch your “to read” list grow.

All library branches will be closed on Monday, Jan. 17, in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

For information about upcoming programs, or to place a hold, visit or call 586-5249.

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