I don’t often review books for younger readers on my blog any more, but managed to get my hands on a couple of the new ‘Very Short Introductions for Curious Young Minds’ series for children from the OUP. They have long been producing their VSI series for adults – which now has over 700 titles and 400 volumes in print – covering topics as diverse as Abolitionism to Zionism. The new series for children numbers ten so far and is broadly based in science and ecology, plus one on Ancient Myths, Legends and Superheroes and another on Activism – the last being of the zeitgeist but also a surprising choice. The books are aimed at 9-12 years old, years 5-8 at school and are each 96 pages long. They are absolutely full of information, presented in full colour, with plenty of diagrams, drawings, photos and cartoons to illustrate the facts. ‘Speak like a scientist’ text boxes give definitions of key terms, and ‘Hero’ boxes give brief outlines of famous people working in the area.
I read The Expanding World of Data by Tom Jackson, and The Earth’s Essential Rainforests by Isabel Thomas. It’s fair to say that I not only was reminded of and revised topics such as the water cycle and food chains from the latter, and basic stats and John Snow’s 1854 cholera map of Londonfrom the former, but I learned many, many new facts too!
I liked that the book on data contained a history of data – beginning with counting methods from pre-history through to the internet, the latter only appearing towards the end of the book. Much time is spent on helping the reader to understand how to use and present data – from drawing a graph to calculating probabilities. I had no idea that ‘Zero’ was invented by an Indian mathematician called Brahmagupta in the 7th Century, and I enjoyed the explanation of where ‘Black Swans’ – unlikely surprises that turn out to be real – came from… Australia of course!
In the Rainforests book, I enjoyed meeting all the Rainforest Heroes, and reading about the different kinds of rainforest, including cloud and mangrove rainforests. This book ends with a couple of pages giving suggestions for how we can ALL help the rainforests – including avoiding using products containing non-sustainable palm oil (‘look out for the words palmate, stearate, and sodium laurel sulfate.’) Who really needs SLS making foam in their toothpaste?!
I’ve now donated these two books to our science library at school where I’m sure they’ll find many readers with curious minds. Attractively produced, colourful, and digestible these are are a great addition to the OUP’s VSI series.
These books also fit in with Novellas in November too!
Source: review copies OUP flapped paperbacks, 96 pages each.