Monday, April 02, 2007

New Book Micro-Reviews

It's Monday night -- do you know what that means? Teeny tiny reviews of new books! This week, I'm indulging in Non-Fiction-O-Rama. Sit back and let the information just wash over you!

Extreme Animals: The Toughest Creatures on Earth
by Nicola Davies; illustrated by Neal Layton
This book's kind of like a funky Guiness Book of World Records for the animal world, with the basic premise being "humans are wimps." Through this, Davies gives wonderfully consice, clear descriptions of how animals are tough -- how camels store water, how frogs can turn themselves into "popsicles," how thermophiles can co-exist with undersea volcanoes. Layton's loopy illustrations add just the touch of goofiness to this text to make it fun -- his multimedia creations look like groovy doodles someone left behind in a science textbook. Perfect for zoo nerds of all ages.

John Smith Escapes Again!
by Rosalyn Schanzer
Armchair travellers, hie ye hence to Schanzer's book! This book attempts to give a historically balanced, accurate depiction of early American explorer John Smith's life without beating around the bush about his 17th-century outlook on life. This book has "classic adventure tale" written all over it: pirates, wars, shipwrecks, and -- of course -- daring escapes. Best of all, it features a portrait of Pocahontas as she probably was: ten years old, nearly naked, and with a shaved-and-painted-red-head. Thank you, National Geographic Press. Keep 'em coming.

Great Estimations
by Bruce Goldstone
When you were a kid, did you ever enter those "guess how many beans are in the jar" contests? And take them really seriously -- trying to make a good guess of how many were in the jar? Jeez, what am I saying, "were a kid?" I still can't resist the urge to make a good estimate. In this lovely book, Goldstone explains the math behind estimations, plus why certain professionals -- like field biologists -- need to make them, and how to train yourself to make better ones. The pages are filled with photographs featuring clusters of small objects just perfect for the I Spy set -- can you tell if there are a hundred Gummi Bears? Five hundred pennies? Two thousand pieces of macaroni? The brain games here are addictive; give this number a read, and you'll find yourself estimating people in crowds, flower petals, and the words in this blog.

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