Non-Fiction

Review: Out And About – Night Explorer.

Review: Out And About – Night Explorer.

img_9647

There’s plenty of fun to be had when the sun’s gone down. Outside our windows, when the night sky is shining, a whole host of animals and plants are raising their heads. Grab a torch, a grown-up, and a jacket and explore the nighttime with this handy, pocket-sized book. 

With ideas about ways to have fun out in the garden and further beyond, this is a wonderful guide which encourages safety, respect for nature and a bucket load of curiosity. 

From traditional skills like identifying animal tracks and following scent trails, to instant fun like glow in the dark paint, there is bound to be a suitable suggestion for every occasion. 

As regular readers know, I am all for books which put us back in touch with nature. Over recent generations, we have lost touch with the natural world to the extent that knowledge is being forgotten and empathy for other species is at a low. My Granddad, for example, recognised bird songs by ear, a skill which few people today have. The great news is that between the young people who are fighting for our planet, and the wave of books which has come in the past year, there has never been a better time to discover the wildlife on our doorstep. 

This would be a lovely book to slip into a satchel, and it would also make a great stocking-filler for anyone who is getting ahead on the Christmas planning. A guide book, a torch and a compass and you’re all set to go (even if it isn’t beyond the front gate). 

The design is neat and attractive. The illustrations manage to be cute while not being sentimental, and examples are clear enough for the reader to follow. I love the rounded corners and elastic band, which make this feel like a journal or an adventurer’s log-book. 

With a focus on nighttime wildlife, this offers something different to other nature books I have seen, and it is clearly designed to encourage young people to get outdoors. 

 

Thanks to Nosy Crow Ltd for my gifted copy of Out And About – Night Explorer. Opinions my own.

Advertisements
Non-Fiction

Review: The Language Of The Universe by Colin Stuart and Ximo Abadía.

Review: The Language Of The Universe by Colin Stuart and Ximo Abadía.

IMG_E9872

Maths can feel confusing. At times in my childhood, it felt like nothing more than memorising a string of processes, the use of each was more obscure than the last. Yet maths is the language of the universe. It is written into nature, into the laws of physics and into modern-day technology. 

This beautiful book introduces the places where maths can be found. It reminds us that maths is about more than examinations. It is a magical, complex language. One waiting to be explored. 

Four sections divide the book into topics: 

  • Maths In The Natural World
  • Physics, Chemistry and Engineering. 
  • Space. 
  • Technology. 

Within each section, different concepts are explored through beautiful double-page spreads. 

There are gems of information inside this book which will make you look at the world in a whole new way. Did you know that female pufferfish examine the patterns a male makes in the sand on the ocean floor? The female looks for the most geometrically perfect patterns when selecting a partner. And did you know that you could lift the Earth up and turn it (if only you were positioned with a lever billions of light-years long)? Fascinating facts like this make it impossible to not want to know the principles. 

The illustration and design is undoubtedly part of the attraction of this book. Pages are cleverly divided into different sections with shapes and colours which attract the eye. The retro-style pictures are attractive and fun and make spreads which deal with complex ideas feel more welcoming to novices. 

IMG_E9873

What also makes the book fantastic is that is doesn’t once water down its subject matter. The book is certainly aimed at a younger audience, but it doesn’t ever give the impression that children might be reluctant to learn. Sections of text are kept short – one or two paragraphs at a time – but the principles are explained and illustrated in sensible and engaging language. The book takes its readers seriously, unlike so many books on complex subjects which resort to heavy-handed humour to engage readers. If information is presented in an engaging way, people are often eager to know more. 

A stunning introduction to the way mathematics underpins our world. Numbers are part of our history, of our make-up and of our communication. Books like this remind us that to study them is a great adventure. 

 

Thanks to Big Picture Press for my gifted copy of The Language Of The Universe. Opinions my own.

 

Non-Fiction

Review: Find Tom In Time – Ancient Egypt by Fatti Burke.

Review: Find Tom In Time – Ancient Egypt by Fatti Burke.

img_9578

Whoosh! A magic amulet has transported Tom back to Ancient Egypt alongside his Granny Bea and Digby the cat. There’s so much to see and explore. 

Where’s Wally spotting challenges meet non-fiction in this addictive book which will keep everyone staring at the pages. 

This isn’t a big fat history book. It introduces the reader to the idea of a different historical period through different spreads which show how life, death, religion, housing and daily life might have looked during that time. This gives an overview and flavour of what we know about the general period. Placing one period in relation to another can be difficult, and the first step is to understand that life has happened in times and places other than our own. 

Tom sees so many places along the way that the series would be brilliant for anyone with burning questions. What did school look like? What did people eat and what kind of clothes did they wear? Alongside the spotting game, there are short bites of text to explain what is happening in the pictures. 

The book is addictive, with additional things to spot on every page. It would be great to play alone or in a group, with each person looking for a different thing. 

Granny Bea is a wonderful addition as a female archeologist. Certain jobs are surrounded by stereotypes and the only way to end this is to constantly show all kinds of people filling these roles. 

A fun way to dive into a new period, and a great concept to hook budding historians. 

 

Thanks to Nosy Crow for my gifted copy of Find Tom In Time – Ancient Egypt. Opinions my own.

Non-Fiction · Picture Book Reviews · Picture Books

Review: Manhattan by Jennifer Thermes.

Review: Manhattan by Jennifer Thermes

img_9799

From millions of years ago, when the island was inhabited by wildlife, to the thriving metropolis we know today, this is the story of Manhattan. It’s geography, it’s history and it’s people. With maps to show how the island would have looked and illustrations of the different eras, this beautiful book is the story of one place through time. 

And what a place. Manhattan isn’t somewhere I have visited, but even so I feel I know its streets. Not only from the photo shows of my sister’s visits but from the multitude of films and television programmes which are set in New York. Before reading this, I knew little of its history, but I recognise so many of the best-known locations. 

Manhattan moves through the earliest settlements, to the American Revolution and then to the Grid Plan of 1811 and the great skyscrapers of the 20th Century. Every era is brought to life through the illustrations, which show not only the place but the people who lived there. History is easier to understand when we realise it is about people like us. Relating to another person’s story makes the past more accessible. 

img_9800The maps are so detailed, and it is fascinating to see how the city built over time, and how different areas were joined together as a result of the grid plan and subway and bridges. With double-page spreads covering different topics, this book manages to provide a detailed account of the area’s growth without overwhelming the reader. There is plenty of breathing space to look at the maps and illustrations. 

Towards the back of the book is a wonderful double-page spread which shows the island in four different eras right next to each other. As I looked over this page, it really seemed to grow before my eyes. There is also a useful timeline which allows the reader to look over the history without reading the whole book. 

As an introduction to or visual history of an area, this is fantastic. The level of detail is impeccable and it is difficult to resist flicking through and comparing the different eras. 

 

Thanks to Abrams Books For Young Readers for my gifted copy of Manhattan. Opinions my own.

Non-Fiction

Review: Edvard Munch Love And Angst. Edited by Giulia Bartrum.

Review: Edvard Munch Love And Angst. Edited by Giulia Bartrum.

munch 1

Edvard Munch’s ‘The Scream’ is an iconic image of our era. For the first time ever the British Museum has put together a major exhibition of his work, which is also the largest show of his prints in 45 years. The accompanying book, Edvard Munch Love And Angst, examines the society and times in which his works were produced and how they influenced his work. 

Munch grew up in 19th-Century Europe. Industrial advance and high mortality existed hand in hand. Munch’s own sister and mother both died from tuberculosis, which meant he was familiar as a child with blood-stained handkerchiefs and agonizing decline. Great theories about the world were in their infancy, and a sense of the uncanny was born from the possibilities about the world which were opening up but not yet confirmed.

The scene is set in an opening chapter, then Munch’s career is examined in chronological order.

Munch had a conviction from early on that art should show more than the surface. Inner secrets and turmoil were at the heart of his work, and the trauma of watching his mother and sister die from tuberculosis left him with a terrible fear that he too would succumb to the illness. Today such complex grief would be recognised and aided, but Munch’s obsessions are apparent even in work from his later life. 

Seeing this collection of images gave me a broader context to ‘The Scream’. Even a person with no interest in art can associate the image with inner-turmoil, but seeing it alongside Munch’s images of sick beds and dying children helps relate that famous image to the time in which it was created. Looking at the full-colour pictures in the book, I got the sense of a time when death was so normal it was continually on the mind. 

Another thing the book taught me is the number of mediums Munch worked in. Woodcut, oil, etching and printing are represented among others, and Munch’s experimentation with medium is as fascinating as his subjects and life story. Later chapters are dedicated to his process and I was particularly interested to see different works which had come from the same printing moulds. 

Although this book was produced to accompany a museum exhibition, it is possible to appreciate it without attending (and I am now desperate to see the exhibition which runs until 21st July). 

A fine study which gets behind the popular image to reveal the human story. 

 

Munch Love And Angst runs at The British Museum from 11th April – 21st July 2019.

Thanks to Thames and Hudson in association with The British Museum for my gifted book. Opinions my own.

 

 

Activity Book · Non-Fiction

Review: The Unworry Book by Alice James

Review: The Unworry Book by Alice James

img_9148-1

Let go of your worries and identify your emotions. This brilliant activity book is on hand to help everyone deal with worries, fears, and bad memories. 

Unlike standard activity books, this has a range of different pages. There are advice sheets, spaces to write and identify worries, drawing pages, puzzles and games for mindfulness and distraction, diary pages and places to figure out what is most important to the reader. It is not only a fun space. It is a toolkit and helping hand. 

The Unworry Book came at a brilliant time. I was able to test it out not only in the spirit of a good reviewer but as a place to help me deal with my own emotions and fears. Although I am an adult, and this is targeted at younger readers, I found it a brilliant way to try out new management techniques. For example, I would never have thought of using a dot-to-dot for mindfulness or of drawing a creature to represent my feelings, but both activities have their place. Following on from this it would be possible to build a worry kit based on the activities which worked best for me. 

Worries lead to so many places. To a sleepless night, to a shouting session, to sheer desperation. The Unworry Book has a technique for every occurrence. It encourages the reader to manage their emotions and keep their fears in proportion. 

The design mixes calming colours with happy ones. Pale blues and greys with bright yellow. A round, friendly-looking guide follows the reader through the book. Not only does this provide a friendly face, but we see a different range of facial expressions which might prompt the reader to think about how they are feeling. 

This book is a big hit in so many ways. Unlike conventional books about emotions, which can feel heavy on the lectures, this leaves the reader to find the right page for the moment. 

A section of numbers and advice at the back suggests places where young readers can go if things get too much. 

A treasure trove of ideas for dealing with stress and unhappiness. 

 

Thanks to Usborne Books for my gifted copy of The Unworry Book. Opinions my own.

Non-Fiction · Picture Book Reviews · Picture Books

Review: Brave Molly by Brooke Boynton-Hughes

Review: Brave Molly by Brooke Boynton-Hughes

img_9075

Every time  Molly tries to go outdoors, her fear-monsters appear. 

They follow her down the pavement and prevent her from having conversations with new people. They crowd her and surround her and multiply no matter how far she runs. Eventually, Molly realises that if she ever wants to join in with other children, she will have to face her fears down. 

A beautiful wordless picture book about social anxiety.

The thing about social anxiety is that, on the surface, it can look like nothing is wrong. Like the person in question is being rude, or like they shun the company of other people. The truth is that the experience is intense. The fear that you won’t be liked, that other pepole are laughing at you, and that you’ve done everything the wrong way is a tremendous thing to deal with and it multiples inside you just like Molly’s monsters. 

The trouble is, walking away from social situations doesn’t defeat it. 

The story begins with Molly indoors. She is a happy, creative and intelligent girl whose love of art and reading can be seen around her bedroom. The trouble isn’t that she likes to spend time alone – and this is an important point because sometimes it feels as if society views social pastimes as superior to lone ones. The trouble is that when she wants to socialise, her fears stop her from making friends. I liked how the opening scene shows us how much Molly has to offer. A person skulking away may not look, at first glance, like the obvious friend, but make that little bit of effort and they might turn out to be interesting and kind. 

Molly’s monsters are dark shadows which hang over her. The way they darken any social situation and hound her away from other people is extremely evocative. 

As well as encouraging people to face down their fears and recognise their worries, this book will help others to empathise with people who have social anxiety. The wordless format is brilliant because it encourages the reader to ask what is going on and to take time to read the visual clues which we so often miss out on in the rush of real life. 

A wonderful and relatable book about social anxiety. 

 

Thanks to Abrams & Chronicle Books for my gifted copy. Opinions my own.