Book Reviews

Kitten Corner: Fabulous Illustrated Non-Fiction for Older Readers

How to Make a Book by Becky Davies and Patricia Hu, from Little Tiger

This is so much fun! It’s a chatty, entertaining view of a book from the moment the author puts pen to page, through the acquisition by a publishing house, the editing, and the manufacturing, to the selling! I loved the meta touches – the book being made is this book itself, so things like the page proofs and storyboards are depicted as the actual pages of this book – and I enjoyed the touches of humour (particularly the woman asking for more dragons). This is the kind of book that would have thrilled me as a kid – a glimpse behind the scenes of publishing that makes it feel more real. It’s really warm and open, and makes sure to show that there are many important people responsible for a book’s success – not just the author and editor, but also the production controller and the rights team, for example. I absolutely loved this one!

Beyond Belief: The Science of the Future by Alex Woolf and Jasmine Floyd, from Little Tiger

This is such a fascinating book – it feels almost like a primer for science-fiction concepts, although it’s discussing very real possibilities for future technology, taking in everything from cloning to time travel to teleportation. The bright retro-futuristic art is a perfect fit, and though the text delves fairly deep into some of the concepts, it’s broken up into lots of little sections so it’s easy to read. The philosophical and ethical discussions, though, mean this is definitely one best suited to older children, probably 10+, as I can see younger children being scared or unnerved by the discussion of immortality and death, or even the concept of teleportation methods requiring destruction of the original body. Definitely one it would be best to read together, as it’s going to spark a million questions!

Also, I always love with Little Tiger’s non-fiction that they include a disclaimer that our understanding of the world is always changing, and that if information becomes outdated or history is recovered, they’ll be happy to revise the book. It feels like a nice touch both because it shows awareness not only that new things can be discovered, but also that existing claims may not in fact be true, and also because it’s a great jumping off point to talk to kids about how history and science interact. Much of what we take as fact about the ‘first person to do X’ or ‘the discovery of Y’ is affected by racism, sexism, and other discrimination, so I really appreciate Little Tiger making a commitment to update if other facts come to light.

So You Think You’ve Got It Bad? A Kid’s Life in Prehistoric Times by Chae Strathie and Marisa Morea, from Nosy Crow

This is a wonderfully info-packed book; there’s masses of information in here, far more than I was expecting! The British Museum collaborations Nosy Crow does are so wonderful for young history lovers – even I sometimes learn things I didn’t know. This would be perfect for really confident readers, as there’s lots of text on every page (though it’s broken up into sections of a few paragraphs each), but there’s a good balance of text and illustration so it’s very engaging to read! I really liked that it opened with an explanation of what ‘prehistory’ really means and what we can know about it, plus a quick timeline from the Paleolithic period to the Roman empire – it goes on to cover so many aspects of prehistoric life, all with the theme of comparing to the modern day. The writing is full of humour as well as facts, and the snarky speech bubbles on many of the illustrations add to this general sense of fun – this would be a perfect read for those who enjoy Horrible Histories, but want a something a little more illustrated! I’m certainly planning to collect the rest of this series, because this one was just fantastic.

Goddess : 50 Goddesses, Spirits, Saints and Other Female Figures Who Have Shaped Belief by Dr Janina Ramirez and Sarah Walsh, from Nosy Crow

Another British Museum collaboration here, and it’s a fantastically beautiful and interesting book. Another one for confident readers with good comprehension, this packs a lot of information into each page – if it feels a bit overwhelming, it would be perfect to dip into and learn about a new goddess each day. The figures described are drawn from so many different cultures all over the world, and the illustrations capture diverse skin tones and features in a beautifully inclusive way. This is a really fascinating read that feels informative and yet respectful of each deity; it treats each belief with the same amount of weight and doesn’t exotify anything. I found it so interesting to read even as an adult, so I highly recommend it.

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