National Geographic Kids creates the kind of nonfiction books that kids of all ages (and adults, too) love to read. They are filled with facts, photographs, maps, charts, and lists, in addition to the nonfiction text features that elementary school students learn about — like table of contents, indexes, glossaries, and pages with more information. In short, they are the perfect vehicle for teaching about nonfiction reading because kids love the content. And as every teacher knows, when the content is engaging and interesting to the reader, kids are able to read higher level material. As an aside, when my six-year-old grandson saw these books, his eyes lit up. “I’m taking these home,” he declared. Music to my ears. From dinosaurs to animals and space, these sturdy, beautifully edited books will have you covered.
“5,000 Awesome Facts (About Animals!)” is organized in an unusual manner. Each double page spread is titled with a number and the subject matter. For example, one such spread is called “35 Witty Facts about Animal Intelligence” and features a big picture of an African gray parrot. Fact number 10 states that “in a study, African gray parrots showed selflessness—one parrot helped another get treats, even if it meant it would get less.” There are facts about dolphins, a beluga whale who could mimic human speech, fish, elephants, and even chickens.
Some of the clever groupings include “100 Eye-popping Facts about Animal Vision,” “50 Buzzworthy Facts about Bees, Wasps, and Hornets” and “50 Facts about Animals that Can Take the Heat.” This is a book that will be picked up over and over again, as it’s not a book that will be read straight through. I could envision a teacher using this every morning to share a few fascinating facts with students as an engaging way to start the day.
“Dinosaur Atlas: When They Roamed, How They Lived, and Where We Find Their Fossils” is true to the title and includes a map on many double page spreads. In the table of contents we see that the book is organized perfectly. It starts with “Meet the Dinosaurs” and then has “Prehistoric Planet” which includes sections about the three periods, Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous. Then there is the section “Finding Fossils,” which takes readers to different continents from North and South America to all the other continents except Antarctica.
Then, of course, no book about dinosaurs would be complete without information about what happened to the dinosaurs, so three theories are presented: The Asteroid, Volcanoes, and Slow Climate Change. We learn about dino descendants and prehistoric birds. There is a very detailed dino dictionary at the end, listing all the dinosaurs in alphabetical order with pronunciation, meaning, geologic time, where found, length, and group. And like all the information in these books, the careful use of color makes reading and understanding the information simple.
“Can’t Get Enough Space Stuff” states on the cover that it includes “fun facts, awesome info, cool games, silly jokes, and more!” This soft-covered book includes double page spreads that are labeled “From the Field,” which explain different elements of space like black holes, water on Mars, Europa, a planet with two suns, and more. There are pages with space sillies, fun and games, quizzes, and far-out facts. This book is filled with corny jokes like “Why couldn’t the astronaut focus on his book?” Of course — “he kept spacing out.”
Some of the information is interesting, like “Astronaut John Young sneaked a corned beef sandwich onto the Gemini 3 mission in 1965.” There are pages labeled “Try it out” with ideas for activities like creating a galaxy mobile. There isn’t a chronology, and it isn’t organized by sections, so kids will enjoy looking randomly at the different pages and activities. It’s another book that they won’t tire of because of the plethora of information it contains.
Please note: This review is based on the final books provided by National Geographic Kids, the publisher, for review purposes.