My first book of the week for National Non-fiction November has to be this incredible fact book from Dorling Kindersley. It just screams excitement from the first page because the images are bright and striking, and the pages glossy and thick.
For me fact books tend to separate into two groups – those you dip into for random facts, and those that specialise on certain topics and that are organised like an encyclopaedia so the focus on subjects comes in sections. This one definitely falls into the ‘random facts’ group – the sort of book a reader dips into to discover something about a topic they’d never considered before.
There are more than 80 topics, each with 13 distinct facts, and then a ‘half fact’ that aims to ‘bust’ a myth about the topic. So for example, on auroras, the book’s half fact points out that the northern lights don’t just happen at night, they also happen in the day, but are too faint to see by eye alone.
Each double page spread has a large image dominating the centre, but each varies so that some are mind-blowing images that almost fall out the book – such as the photographic close up of a fly, a supercell tornado, or the rather scary open jaws of a rattlesnake, but other images are blown apart – such as the scorpion illustration, which shows the creature dissected on the page so that all the distinct parts are visible (including stomach and venom gland). A particular favourite is the ‘Time Flies’ page, which features a modern watch also blown apart to show the constituent parts and workings. Clever, informative and rather beautiful at the same time.
Other pages show diagrams to extrapolate meaning and understanding, particularly on technical topics, and annotations throughout the book tell the reader what they are seeing.
The random page order means that it really is a book for dipping into rather than an encyclopedic tome for homework, but it can still be useful. We used the double page on chocolate for a project on chocolate, and made the study of ‘matter’ interesting by looking at the cool images of spilt drinks, as well as absorbing the helpful diagram of the different states of matter on the same page.
The information ranges across the spectrum from animals to science, history to transport. The text is well written – it’s absorbed well and memorable and there are even some new facts that I hadn’t come across before on these sorts of topics (bearing in mind I worked in children’s non-fiction for many years). This is a great addition for a school library, but also really, a perfect gift for that child who loves to dip into facts and amaze their friends and parents with them. (All children, then). You can buy it here.