Book Beat

A Head Start on Getting Smart

by Frank Lipsius

Let’s hope the new president will make it cool to be smart again, and if so, the targeted 5- to 8-year-olds for Smart-opedia Junior: The Amazing Book About Everything (Maple Tree Press, $24.95) will get a head start from the book’s vast and skillfully chosen array of information delivered with a light touch. Even their parents may want to have a peek.

Today my favorite section is the two-page spread of eight periods of history, starting at the upper left with Prehistoric Times and ending in the lower right with Right Now. Other subjects include our bodies, animals of the forest, how movies get made and what the projectionist does, underwater sea creatures and how European children live.

The book is enlightening for all the subjects it covers, including a page on “the biggest, highest, longest, hottest,” that mentions the Sahara, Angels Falls and the Nile, and a quick, cogent tour of the climates of the world, including Russia, which is “very hot in the summer and very cold in the winter.”

The 5-year-old who has absorbed it all can pass the book along to adults, who will find things even they don’t know, described in pithy sentences accompanied by colorful childlike illustrations.

Imaginative Packaging
The Action File series (Silver Dolphin, $15.95) is particularly adept at packaging information in an imaginative way. Any page could inspire interest in a whole area of knowledge, which can then lead to more specialized coverage. Each package includes a spiral-bound book with 100 stickers, a 24-page fact book, an action adventure giant poster and, for the subject Sharks, pieces to make a paper shark-face mask.

Egypt includes pieces to make a vertically-striped black-and-gold headdress. The same publisher’s Field Guide to Dinosaurs ($15.95) includes 70 pieces to make eight three-dimensional specimens as well as a diorama for them to roam in. The book provides detailed explanations of the vast variety of dinosaurs, their habitats and salient characteristics. Something for everyone… who wants to think.

Frank Lipsius is a contributing writer to MetroKids.