For almost 15 years of my adult life I read mainly non-fiction. Then three years ago I discovered middle grade fiction and have read mainly fiction since. However, a Reading Rocks ( Twitter: @_Reading_Rocks) chat for non-fiction November got me thinking about the way’s we engage with non-fiction texts and that non-fiction is often not talked about as much as fiction. Looking into a selection of recent non-fiction books I am discovered that many are expanding the boundaries of ‘more traditional’ non-fiction, creating some truly awesome books that you will want to return to time and time again . For someone that also loves picture books, modern day fiction with its blurring of curious facts and information with awe-inspiring illustrations and photographs is a real treat. I kick-start my non-fiction discovery with 3 fabulous books that explore planet earth and some of the creatures we share it with.
Natural Wonders of the World – Molly Oldfield and Federi Bordoni
Get set to travel to some of the most awe-inspiring places on earth.
Molly Oldfield introduces her book:
“I love to travel and explore I wanted to create a book that is like a passport to the world, filled with pages that take you to the most incredible natural wonders on Earth. Get ready for adventures”
This is a coffee table style non-fiction book, with huge pictures, of animals, plants and trees and double page spreads featuring some of the most amazing landscapes in the world. It also has an annotated map, to show you where in the world you can find them and an index. Making this a really versatile book that will appeal to many sorts of readers.
There are facts about some intriguing creatures, including the Christmas Island crabs, Tenrecs of Madagascar, birds of paradise in Papua New Guinea. But, it is the landscapes this book takes you to that really excited me. For each landscape featured in the book you get information about the physical features, how they look and some information about how they are formed. There are also some great size comparison so you can get an idea of the size of some of these natural wonders, such as the Crystals are: ‘so big that people can walk along them!’ or a spring that is ‘deeper than a ten-storey building’. You also get snippets of stories about people discovering the landscapes and some examples of helping wildlife too. Here are two examples:
Molly Oldfield describes the moment when two brothers, who were working in a mine, discovered some giant crystals in Mexico:
“Imagine how the brother must have felt when hard at work, they suddenly broke through a wall into a magical space filled with enormous, ancient crystals!” p21
Crabs on Christmas Island, in the South Pacific:
“The people of Christmas Island are careful during the migration. The crabs are ushered towards tunnels called crab grids that go underneath the roads so they don’t get squashed. A crab sized bridge has even been built on one road” p24
There is so much to explore in this book. To help you to begin to do that I have made a list of 6 things to find.
Fanatical About Frogs – by Own Davey
I have to confess this is the first of Owen Davey’s fabulous non-fiction books, published by Flying Eye Books that I have seen. I will be definitely be looking up the others after seeing this! What I love about this particular book is that it chooses a creature that most children and adults know little about. Which means it will both introduce animal lovers to a new creature and potentially appeal to children that would not normally pick up a book about animals. It takes a classic non-fiction topic of exploring the characteristics and behaviour of a particular animal, in this case frogs and toads and through a unique layout and truly amazing illustrations transforms it into something truly special. That you are going to want to dip into time and time again.
In what is mainly bite-sized information I learnt so much about frogs, with those eye-catching illustrations drawing you in to look closer every time. This includes: how they catch their prey, regulate their body temperatures, the different croaks and calls they make. There is lots of variety in the presentation of the information, from almost full-page pictures, labelled diagram of the features of a frog, and a page of the life cycle of a frog. With detailed, accurate and precise information, and truly amazing artwork, Owen Davey’s books set the gold standard for a new generation of non-fiction books. There is a contents page and index, making it easy to explore this great book.
We Build Our Homes – by Laura Knowles and Chris Madden
A little different to the other two non-fiction books. This is written more like narrative fiction, with a different bird, insect or animal on each two-page spread telling it’s storey of how it builds it’s nest or home. The soft coloured and textured illustrations give a warm feel to the book, and bring the animal homes to life, leaving you in awe about what creatures on our planet can create. It includes: some unique bird’s nests, each using different materials and techniques, a peep into the world of bees, ants, wasps and spiders and animals such as: Gopher tortoises, moles, polar bears and beavers. A timely reminder that we are not the only creatures on Earth to create amazing things, and that we may even have things to learn from them.
At the end there is a simple map of the World and a mini fact files on the bird, insect and mammal builders, which adds another dimension to this book. The book gives three different ways to explore the way creatures build their homes: first person narrative, detailed illustrations and the fact files. Giving different children the opportunity to engage with this intriguing topic in a way that suits them, and plenty of scope to explore different ways of presenting non-fiction information.
Thank you to Flying Eye Books for a review copy of Fanatical About Frogs, the other two books I bought my own copies.