Book Reviews

Kitten Corner: Awesome Non-Fiction

I’ve been lucky enough to read some wonderful middle-grade non-fiction in the last few weeks, so here are some of my favourites! All of these were sent free of charge by the publisher, but as always that doesn’t affect my opinions.

Brain Bursts: Bugs and Brain Bursts: Space by Noodle Fuel and Rich Watson, from Little Tiger

These bright and exciting books are jam-packed with facts and presented in a high-energy, attention-grabbing way. There are fact boxes and fun illustrations with comic dialogue on every page, and while there are different themed sections, like ‘Bees’ or ‘Space Travel’, there’s no textbook-style explanations or general narrative, just lots of different fun facts dotted about, so these are perfect for readers who like their info bite-sized or those who struggle to stay focused on longer texts. At the back of each book there are some activity suggestions and a glossary, which give some great ideas for furthering interest. I think this mix of humour and snappy presentation is a great idea for reluctant readers, or just those who enjoy learning weird facts about things!

How to Survive Anywhere by Ben Lerwill and Daniel Long, from Nosy Crow

This is exactly the type of book that would have captured my imagination as a kid. With beautiful illustrations, this has a combination of facts about regions from the Arctic circle to the Australian outback, and information about how people and animals survive in it. There are practical, clear instructions for everything from making a fire to building an igloo! While it does discuss explorers, both historical and modern, it makes sure to centre native populations for whom this is daily life, discusses the negative impact of colonisation, and makes an effort to highlight that famous white explorers had a lot of help from guides and locals who don’t usually get mentioned. I liked the focus on ecological responsibility too, with tips to minimise your impact on the environment both on trips and at home.

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

I really enjoy this series – all the British Museum books are great! – and this one is no exception. It’s a humour-focused look at the life of children in a medieval castle, with a Horrible Histories-esque tone and plenty of terrible jokes. However, the silliness masks really quite a lot of detail about medieval life, and while the facts are more surface-level than in-depth, it would still be great for sparking interest in the period and could be a great jumping-off point. There are funny illustrations throughout and lots of fact boxes dotted around, as well as the main narration, so it’s great for holding the attention!

Transported: 50 Vehicles That Changed The World by Matt Ralphs and Rui Ricardo, from Nosy Crow

This might not seem like my kind of book, but it’s fascinating! As well as the obvious history of cars, ships, and planes, this also includes things like canoes, fire engines, combine harvesters and hot air balloons, and really takes a look at how changing technology has revolutionised life, whether that’s the invention of spoked wheels or electric cars. I appreciated the final section of the book, which talks a little about how glorifying vehicles can be bad for the planet, and how to make more eco-friendly choices, and also that the book tries to take a sensitive view of history, briefly discussing some difficult historical subjects like how paddle steamers had an impact on slavery. With beautiful illustrations, and well-laid out facts alongside the main historical text, this is a really engaging book for anyone interested in not only vehicles, but human progress.

Secrets of the Dead by Matt Ralphs and Gordy Wright, from Nosy Crow

This book is another fascinating one, but perhaps best for older kids or those with strong stomachs, because it’s quite a detailed look at mummies and other preserved corpses and discusses a lot of sensitive subjects, such as cause of death (including murder and illnesses), and the physical state of the bodies found. For someone who can handle the subject matter, though, this will be a wonderful, interesting read. It looks at various preserved bodies from all over the world, organised geographically, and talks about what we can learn from each of them about their cultures. It also explores some of the scientific and technological methods of examining these bodies, which is sure to fire the imagination!

The Earth Book by Jonathan Litton and Thomas Hegbrook, from Little Tiger

What a fabulous introduction to all things Earth! From the Big Bang to how weather works to dinosaurs and wildlife to the people who live here, this is a whistle-stop tour through history and science that is sure to keep kids fascinated for ages. There’s a lot of information on every page, and though it is split up into sections, it’s still quite substantial reading; the breadth of topics means there’s sure to be something that catches the attention for everyone. This would be a wonderful book to buy someone who’s really interested in everything around them!

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