Monthly Archives: November 2012

Abracadabra to Zombie: More Than 300 Wacky Word Origins

By Don and Pam Wulffson
Overall: 4 out of 5 stars

Category: Nonfiction

Personal Evaluation: I love etymology. I did not know a fair number of words in this book, which I found curious – are they more popular in other areas of the country? Or is it just a quirk of the authors? If I, in 30 years of speaking English, have not heard of these words, how likely is it that a 10-year-old has heard of them? But for the ones I didn’t know, there were many more I did know, and was interested to learn the origins.

What might interest children: Grouping like items together, like cars, is probably helpful to a reader with a special interest. I personally didn’t care for the cartoon illustrations, but they would probably help hold some kids’ attention. There are also some really great asides, in the form of little bubbles.

Astronomy for Every Kid

by Janice VanCleave
Overall: 3 out of 5 stars

Category: Nonfiction

Personal Evaluation: The experiments described seemed a little confusing but I am not a science person. The book’s age showed in the plain, uninteresting design, but the experiments seemed to cover a whole range of astronomy concepts.

What might interest children: Kids who learn best hands-on would like this book. I think some of the experiments would best be done with an adult and more emphasis could be put on that fact.

Carnivorous Plants

by Nancy J. Nielsen
Overall: 3 out of 5 stars

Category: Nonfiction

Personal Evaluation: My high school put on a production of Little Shop of Horrors, and that’s about as far as my interest extends. But it was good to note that there are other carnivorous plants, for future reference (see below).

What might interest children: There is a high “ew” factor (or shock value, or whatever you want to call it) that I think calls more to boys than girls, but whoever it is will love grossing other people out with facts learned and pictures examined.

The Blackfeet

by Raymond Bial
Overall: 3 out of 5 stars

Category: Nonfiction

Personal Evaluation: The thing that most struck me was a complete glossing-over of white people’s involvement in recent history. The author makes some factual statements, but nothing to convey the horror and devastation that caused sharp decreases in population or took native children away from their families. While it’s probably not necessary to go into all of the gory details for younger kids, I don’t think it’s out of the question to ask kids today to really think about these things.

What might interest children: That omission aside, this book (and series) is probably great for doing projects on specific tribes’ traditional customs and cultures, and what their lives and reservations look like today (with the omission of what life is like for Native Americans who do not live on reservations).

In the Paint

by Patrick Ewing
Overall: 4 out of 5 stars

Category: Nonfiction – Art

Personal Evaluation: I learned so much about Patrick Ewing and about how to paint, I just might try it myself! The authors walk a novice painter through getting started, by suggesting that they experiment with designs first, and then try mixing colors to get skin color and then try painting people, then painting scenes from your day, in a way that seems totally doable. There are lots of paintings by kids, along with the artists’ comments, so you don’t need to feel intimidated by adult artists.

What might interest children: Definitely Patrick Ewing’s celebrity would be a big pull for a basketball fan, but this book is aging out of where kids this age would know who he is. In any case, fans of basketball will enjoy the little Patrick Ewings dressed in his basketball uniform, giving painting tips. This book skews the art of painting a bit more toward boys, which is not entirely a bad thing, if you ask me.

The Usborne Introduction to Modern Art

By Rosie Dickins
Overall: 4 out of 5 stars

Category: Nonfiction – Art

Personal Evaluation: I thought this was a great basic modern art book, and I was pleasantly surprised to see some of my favorite artists included, such as Andy Goldsworthy. I was also interested to see that the author included a photo of a cross-dressing artist and a brief, matter-of-fact description of that person.

What might interest children: The layout is simple but visually appealing, with information in little chunks and related images. It was very easy to follow as it goes chronologically and has lots of reference aids at the back (a timeline, a glossary, index, etc).