Terrific nonfiction books for kids

Fifteen years ago, when my daughter had just learned to read independently, her favorite book was "Pompeii, Buried Alive!" - a "Step into Reading" book published by Random House. She carried the book everywhere and read it countless times.

This little gem of a paperback captured her imagination, ignited an interest in nonfiction and for reading, and planted a firm desire to someday be able to visit Pompeii. Two weeks ago she did just that - a lifelong dream that came true.

You never know when a book will spark an intense interest. That's why it's important to expose children to all kinds of literature - nonfiction as well as fiction. Today's reviewed books feature nonfiction the way it should be written for a young audience - full of excitement and fast-paced. Whether it's paleontology in the late 1700s, a close-up look at sharks, or a brand new book about Pompeii (of course), one or more of these selections may kindle an interest in a subject that will change a child's life in one way or another. It's worth a try.

Books to borrow

The following book is available at many public libraries.

"Stone Girl, Bone Girl - The Story of Mary Anning" by Laurence Anholt, illustrated by Sheila Moxley, Orchard Books, 28 pages

Read aloud: age 6 and older. Read yourself: age 8 and older.

Born in England in 1799, Mary Anning was a bright and curious girl. One of her greatest interests was digging for strange stone shapes she found in the clay cliffs near her home. Mary called her stone shapes "curiosities," and sold them to tourists. But it wasn't long before her neighbors, the Philpot sisters, realized that what Mary was uncovering was far more important than simple curious stones. The Philpot sisters were scientists, and quickly took Mary under their wing to teach her about her discoveries - fossils.

Mary listened carefully to what the Philpot sisters shared with her and borrowed books from them to increase her knowledge. One day Annie Philpot showed Mary a huge tooth she had found buried in the clay cliffs.

Annie told Mary that the tooth belonged to a great sea monster, and she believed the rest of the creature was still hidden in the cliffs. "If anyone could ever find that, Mary. That would be the greatest treasure of all." From that moment on, Mary imagined finding the ancient sea monster, and despite the tormenting of her peers, didn't abandon her dream.

A fascinating, true story of Mary Anning's discovery and subsequent contributions to the world of archaeology and paleontology, this selection promises to captivate and motivate readers of many ages.

Librarian's choice

Library: Dayton Valley Branch Library, 321 Old Dayton Valley Road, Dayton

Branch Manager: Theresa Kenneston

Choices this week: "Abracadabra Zigzag - An Alphabet Book!" by Nancy Lecourt; "Big Brother, Little Brother" by Penny Dale; "Bob" by Tracey Campbell Pearson

Books to buy

The following books are available at favorite bookstores.

"Sharks and other dangers of the deep" by Simon Mugford, photographs by various photographers, designed by Matt Denny, priddy books, 2005, 30 pages, $9.95 hardcover

Read aloud: age 5 and older. Read yourself: age 7Ð8 and older.

Come face-to-face with over a dozen sharks, four different species of rays, and several other dangerous creatures of the sea. Amazing photographs are coupled with fascinating information about each creature, including a "Danger rating" chart for each one.

This outstanding book is the next best thing to actually meeting these deadly creatures, and certainly a much safer alternative.

"Bodies From the Ash: Life and Death in Ancient Pompeii" by James M. Deem, photographs by various photographers and sources, Houghton Mifflin, 2005, $16 hardcover

Read aloud: age Ð8 and older. Read yourself: age 8Ð9 and older.

When Vesuvius erupted on Aug. 24, AD 79, the entire city of Pompeii and many of her citizens were buried alive under the volcanic ash, pumice, and large rock fragments. Wiped off the map, it wasn't until hundreds of years later that Pompeii was unearthed by archaeological excavations, and what they found shocked archaeologists and the world.

This incredible book is loaded with photographs and up-to-date information, making it outstanding in every way.

n Nationally syndicated, Kendal Rautzhan writes and lectures on children's literature. She can be reached via e-mail: kendal@sunlink.net.


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