Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

A Book is a Book is a Book

Unwrapping a giftI always looked for­ward to pack­ages under the tree that were a cer­tain rec­tan­gu­lar shape and thick­ness, heavy and not resilient … I knew they were books. But which book?

I enjoyed receiv­ing fic­tion and biogra­phies and books about for­eign places and his­to­ry, so in that moment before care­ful­ly remov­ing the tape and turn­ing back the wrap­ping paper fold by fold … I had the pos­si­bil­i­ty of a world of books to antic­i­pate. Even so, I always hoped that among the books there would be at least one vol­ume with which I could do some­thing.

These are the books that gift-givers are reluc­tant to pur­chase and wrap because their favorite young peo­ple won’t be “read­ing.” Have no fear! I believe that kids read every word in these books in order to under­stand what to do, absorb the back­ground infor­ma­tion, and ulti­mate­ly to be able to do some­thing.

There are even big­ger pay­offs … these books address mul­ti­ple intel­li­gences, help­ing kids learn while they play. Cre­ative prob­lem-solv­ing, high­er-lev­el think­ing, kinet­ic mem­o­ry, learn­ing while doing, the urge to explore beyond the book’s infor­ma­tion … all of this can be found wrapped inside the pages of these books.

Accessible to younger readers

How Big is the Lion?How Big is the Lion? My First Book of Mea­sur­ing
by William Accor­si
Work­man Pub­lish­ing, Sep­tem­ber 2010
“Can you mea­sure the pret­ty kites? Which is longer–the red or the white?” With felt, lace, but­tons, and yarn (inspir­ing by them­selves), this book’s sim­ple text inspires chil­dren to use the accom­pa­ny­ing 6-inch ruler-on-a-rib­bon (it won’t get lost) to mea­sure the crea­tures and objects on each page. Some­times there’s a com­par­i­son to be made: “Can you mea­sure the pink pea­cock? Is he taller than the croc?” Some­times it’s about spa­tial rela­tion­ships: “Can you mea­sure the lit­tle mouse? Does he fit inside his house?” A lot of learn­ing and math con­cepts here—they’ll whizz right by your young peo­ple. They’ll just be hav­ing fun. Sneaky you.

1 + 1 = 51 + 1 = 5 and Oth­er Unlike­ly Addi­tions
by David LaRochelle, illus­trat­ed by Bren­da Sex­ton
Ster­ling Pub­lish­ing, 2010
When does 1 plus 1 equal 3? When two crea­tures read­ing books in a library, Myth­i­cal Beasts and Barn­yard Bud­dies, real­ize that one uni­corn plus one goat equals three horns! Are you with me? When does 1 plus 1 equal 1? The sun and the moon could answer this in a snap: 1:00 am plus 1:00 pm equal one day! This entire book is a series of mind-bend­ing puz­zles, some­thing which David LaRochelle takes very seri­ous­ly. A life­long affi­ciona­do of con­tests and puz­zles, David’s ques­tions will have your young­sters (and dare I say old­sters?) con­tem­plat­ing alter­nate ways of think­ing. Bren­da Sexton’s bright and ener­getic illus­tra­tions offer clues, details that are so involv­ing that the youngest chil­dren will enjoy look­ing at the pic­tures and the old­est among us will expe­ri­ence great sat­is­fac­tion upon pre­dict­ing what the answers might be. (I rec­om­mend this book for senior cit­i­zen homes, too. These are engag­ing puz­zlers to keep the mind sharp.)

A-MAZE-ing Zoo AdventuresA-MAZE-ing Zoo Adven­tures
by Jill Kalz, illus­tra­tions by Mat­tia Cer­a­to
Pic­ture Win­dow Books, 2010
Intri­cate­ly detailed illus­tra­tions of zoo lay­outs, com­plete with ani­mals, peo­ple, build­ings, and hid­den items that require close atten­tion … these com­prise the mazes in this delight­ful book. Ques­tions are posed by the author that encour­age the maze­walk­er to become involved beyond get­ting from Start to Fin­ish. In which direc­tion is some­thing? The com­pass pro­vid­ed on each page will help. Can you count a set of items or peo­ple? Of course you can. The dou­ble-page mazes are large enough and col­or­ful enough to engage a sin­gle child or a group of friends or stu­dents in a learn­ing cir­cle. Learn­ing while play­ing with mazes? Hours of fun! (And noth­ing to plug in … no bat­tery required.)

10-Minute Puppets10-Minute Pup­pets
by Noël Mac­Neal
Work­man Pub­lish­ing, 2010
Do you remem­ber get­ting instruc­tions to make crafts that nev­er turned out as good as the pic­tures? Well, there’s no dan­ger of that here. You know this author. He’s the bear pup­peteer from Disney’s Bear in the Big Blue House. (Trans­la­tion: he knows pup­pets.) Using items you have around the house (gloves, envelopes, brown paper bags, con­struc­tion paper, felt … oh, and take the eyes off of your Mr. Pota­to Head® or oth­er detach­able toys), you can make pup­pets eas­i­ly. There are step-by-step pho­tos and writ­ten instruc­tions to help even the most timid of pup­peteers. The bright illus­tra­tions will help inspire the make-your-own spir­it. Chap­ter 5 is all about mak­ing pup­pet the­aters … out of chairs and sheets, card­board box­es, card tables. You can do this! Chap­ter 6 informs you about telling sto­ries, their struc­ture, sug­gest­ed pub­lic domain sto­ries and folk­tales, songs you can sing, and telling your family’s his­to­ry. The last part of the book has pages and pages of repro­ducible pup­pet parts, forms, and even a page of eyes to cut out (in case your Mr. Pota­to Head® is using his). Open up just one page of this book and you’ll be sit­ting down to make a pup­pet with­in min­utes.

For older children … and you!

Book of Potentially Catastrophic ScienceThe Book of Poten­tial­ly Cat­a­stroph­ic Sci­ence
by Sean Con­nel­ly
Work­man Pub­lish­ing, 2010
I love this guy’s books. He gives us his­to­ry, the sci­ence behind, and the exper­i­ment that solid­i­fies under­stand­ing of sci­en­tif­ic mark­ers. Now, you know your kids. Page through this book before giv­ing it as a gift. Read one or two exper­i­ments (they’re all marked with the “degree of mess”) and fig­ure out if this is some­thing you want your chil­dren to read. This may be a fam­i­ly-activ­i­ty book, a good read-aloud (yes, I mean that). Don’t say I didn’t warn you. That being said, I find this book irre­sistible. Start­ing with a Stone Age tool and work­ing for­ward in time to the Large Hadron Col­lid­er (don’t wor­ry, you won’t have to give over your base­ment to strange quarks), your under­stand­ing of the advance­ments in sci­ence will take off like a rock­et, defy­ing grav­i­ty. Wish you (oh, yeah, the kids) knew more about Marie Curie’s dis­cov­ery of car­bon dat­ing? With a fas­ci­nat­ing two-page his­to­ry of Marie Curie’s con­clu­sions about radi­a­tion, and “the sci­ence behind it” lead­ing us to under­stand that radioac­tiv­i­ty is about ener­gy release, the accom­pa­ny­ing exper­i­ment invites us to time the pop­ping of pop­corn, mak­ing sci­en­tif­ic nota­tions, and arriv­ing at the “half-life” of pop­corn. Dammit, Jim, I’m a read­er, not a sci­ence geek. Wan­na bet?

Mummy MazesMum­my Mazes: a Mon­u­men­tal Book
by Eliz­a­beth Car­pen­ter
Work­man Pub­lish­ing, 2010
“Join Pro­fes­sor Archie Olo­gist on his expe­di­tion through the secrets of ancient Egypt—if you dare!” This large book has fold-out pages, each with a black-and-white maze (these are not easy, there are false paths, and only one cor­rect path). Many of the mazes are wor­thy of col­or­ing with col­ored pen­cils (some­thing with a fine tip) . I think the text is equal­ly entranc­ing (Beware the Mum­my!). I learned a great deal by read­ing through the involv­ing pages. Ever hear the old Ara­bic expres­sion, “Man fears time, but time fears the pyra­mids?” Well, no, I haven’t but it set me to think­ing. And then I learned that King Djos­er built the ear­li­est known pyra­mid with six huge stone steps. “It stood taller than 34 men stacked one on top of the oth­er and was part of a tem­ple com­plex the size of 28 foot­ball fields.” Oh, this is good read­ing. There are side­bars with facts for the col­lec­tors among us. When you fin­ish a maze cor­rect­ly, you col­lect a heiro­glyph which you can lat­er trans­late using the car­touche trans­la­tor. (I know what I will be doing late on Christ­mas Eve.)

StoryWorldSto­ry­World: Cre­ate-a-Sto­ry Kit
by John and Caitlin Matthews
Tem­plar Books, an imprint of Can­dlewick Press
The two peo­ple who have cre­at­ed this set of sto­ry­telling inspi­ra­tions are sto­ry­tellers and folk­lorists, liv­ing in Eng­land, teach­ing and writ­ing and singing. This boxed set of lus­cious­ly illus­trat­ed cards, each sug­gest­ing a sto­ry, will have you think­ing about sto­ries in a way you haven’t for a long time … if ever. Let’s take a look at “The Man in the Moon” card. The cratered moon has its ear turned toward us, it’s face con­tem­pla­tive­ly turned away. There’s an old, beard­ed man walk­ing across the moon, a lantern and a bun­dle of sticks slung over his back. Two ducks fly near him. A jester with pointy shoes and jing­ly hat has his faced turned away toward the moon … or is that his face on a stick in his hand? An owl and a scare­crow look on. The illu­mi­na­tions are filled with crea­tures and faces, flo­ra and fau­na. Sto­ries spring into your mind with no effort. Turn the card over and you’ll find prompts: “The Man in the Moon makes the moon wax and wane. Where did he come from and how did he get here? Who is the scare­crow wait­ing for? What does the owl see?” Anoth­er sam­ple card is The Star Blan­ket and still anoth­er The Wild Beast. The small book­let includ­ed sug­gests games and the­ater and indi­vid­u­al­ized activ­i­ties. There are even Hid­den Clues on each card that tie it to anoth­er of the 40 cards in the pack.

Movie MakerMovie Mak­er: Every­thing you need to know to cre­ate films on your cell phone or dig­i­tal cam­era!
cre­at­ed by Tim Grab­ham, Dave Reeve, Clare Richards, and Suridh Has­san, illus­trat­ed by Gar­ry Par­sons
Quar­to Children’s Books, Can­dlewick Press, 2010
With the help of this book, I’m going to become a movie pro­duc­er. Seri­ous­ly. It’s all in here. In short para­graphs, I learn about plan­ning, pre­pro­duc­tion, pro­duc­tion, post­pro­duc­tion and … ta-da! … show­ing the movie. Every­thing is in here. Wardrobe, make­up, cam­era shots, com­po­si­tion, light­ing … all cov­ered. A binoc­u­lar mask is includ­ed to help the movie mak­er frame a shot. There are fold­ers to help you be orga­nized: pre­mière night (includes tick­ets); ani­ma­tion stu­dio (with per­fo­rat­ed robot parts to punch out and make stop motion films); props and spe­cial effects (per­fo­rat­ed punch-outs of a time traveler’s wrist­band, a pirate’s eye­patch, and stick­ers of fin­ger­prints, cracks, and much more); sound stu­dio (a CD with 99 sounds effects such as sci-fi beeps and sleigh bells and a jet tak­ing off). In the fic­tion sec­tion of the book (we’re read­ing, remem­ber?), we learn about scriptwrit­ing, silent movies, musi­cals, and clas­sics in their genre are ref­er­enced to inspire read­ers to watch them. The doc­u­men­tary sec­tion has tips for sports films (have you watched Step into Liq­uid, the surf­ing film?), trav­el­ogues, and nature films. In the ani­ma­tion sec­tion, there are tips for stop-motion (watch Cora­line or The Wrong Trousers), paint­ing cels, and exper­i­men­tal films. A sep­a­rate book­let pro­vides repro­ducible pages for cre­at­ing your own sto­ry­boards or fill­ing in the blanks between scenes that the authors sug­gest. I’ve saved the coolest part for last: the box this all comes in is a movie clap­board and it makes the most sat­is­fy­ing sound when you snap it shut. It even has a chalk­board coat­ing so you can write on it. With the pro­lif­er­a­tion of videos, every child (and quite a few old­er peo­ple) should read this book and use these tools.

Do SomethingDo Some­thing! a Hand­book for Young Activists
Nan­cy Lublin, Vanes­sa Mar­tir, and Julia Steers
Work­man Pub­lish­ing, 2010
What do the kids in your life care about? Feel strong­ly about? Talk pas­sion­ate­ly about? This is a book to inspire them to do some­thing about it. You remem­ber activism, don’t you? Per­haps you con­sid­er your­self an activist right now. Get the kids in your life involved in being good cit­i­zens of the world. In a step-by-step, wire­bound book, there are projects, activ­i­ties, and essays to pro­voke think­ing and action. There are pages to draw on, box­es to write in, and repro­ducibles for peo­ple who can’t bear writ­ing in a book. You’ll find sug­ges­tions and meth­ods and resources for writ­ing let­ters to express your con­cern. There are quotes and ideas to make posters for Mar­tin Luther King Day. There are sug­ges­tions for hold­ing a coat dri­ve. One sec­tion describes the peo­ple and orga­ni­za­tions who are already doing some­thing. You’ll find prac­ti­cal tips for cre­at­ing peti­tions. Want to learn how to mind-map? It’s in here. Think­ing about a name and a slo­gan but you’re stuck? You’ll find tricks and tips to help you move ahead. This 280-page book is an ide­al gift for the kids (or adults) in your life who can’t imag­ine sit­ting still with­out doing some­thing to make the world more secure and healthy and sat­is­fy­ing for every­one.

Have I con­vinced you? Every­one loves a chance to read a book that helps them do some­thing. These books are just right for some­one on your list.

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