Some children love to read non-fiction as narratives. They don’t necessarily want a large format book with flaps and pop-up-diagrams. They are looking for books, like fiction paperbacks, that they can take with them to school, on a journey, to waiting rooms. And two great series were published this year.
Last year Orion announced it was expanding its hugely popular Early Readers series with four non-fiction titles. The last of these to be published this year is Early Reader Space by Timothy Knapman and illustrated by Kelly Canby. This is fabulous news for newly independent readers who want to read about facts. Divided into eight snapshot sections, all of which sound enticing and entertaining, from ‘Space Ship Earth’ to ‘Aliens’ and ‘Places You Don’t Want to Go on Holiday’, it takes a comprehensive, although compact look at space.
Fun from the beginning, and easy to read, the first page says “You are a space traveller” and is accompanied by Kelly Canby’s delightful pictures of two children dressed as astronauts, looking pleased and slightly knowing. There is never too much text on the page – not more than two paragraphs, and the language is accessible for such a difficult topic, although of course the names of things are rather difficult – ‘Betelgeuse’ for one.
What’s more the style is friendly and fun at all times. Neptune is the windiest planet, and the book tells us “You’d have wanted to hold on very tightly if you wanted to fly a kite there.” Accompanied by another lovely illustration of our two space travellers struggling with a kite.
It is packed with facts as it says on the cover, but as it also says – “it’s never too early to find things out”. Fully enjoyable and informative. Let’s hope there are plenty more in the series in 2016. Age 5+. You can buy it here.
John Blake publishers are also storming ahead with their new non-fiction series called Dr Dino’s Learnatorium, for slightly older readers. The various titles ask witty questions for the age group, titles so far include How Many Greeks Can You Fit Inside a Horse? Do Dinosaurs Make Good Pets? And How Do Astronauts Wee in Space? By Chris Mitchell
The series aims to do what many non-fiction series aim for with children’s books, which is to provide the weirdest, funniest, foulest facts. Told by Dr Dino, a dinosaur scientist, the book reads as quite a dense running narrative, but dispensed in a casual way, talking to the reader, and interspersed with text boxes about certain extra elements, and rather hilarious cartoons – not unlike those seen on greetings cards. The cartoons are very funny and nicely break up the text.
There are some excellent paragraphs of solid information in each book, but also some rather lovely observations and opinions by Dr Dino, which lends the whole venture a comic light-hearted element. The Greek title was my favourite – although I expected it to be about Ancient Greece, in fact it talks about legends and myth the world over, starting with Godzilla and the Japanese, and dipping into a host of countries and their myths, including the Germans, the Aztecs, the Egyptians – yes it skips merrily round the world and through different time zones, but is all the more fascinating for this.
Each title has a quiz at the end to test the reader’s knowledge (if they wish). A thoroughly enjoyable ‘read’ and packed to the brim with information. Highly recommended. Age 9+ years. You can buy them here: How Do Astronauts Wee In Space?, How Many Greeks Can You Fit Inside a Horse? and Do Dinosaurs Make Good Pets?