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Culture Children's Books

World wonders

Associated Press

George Washington

Children’s Books

World wonders

Books for budding scientists

How Machines Work: Zoo Break!

David Macaulay

A sloth and a mouse long to escape their home at the zoo—but how? David Macaulay, author of The Way Things Work Now, cleverly introduces simple machines (screws, inclines, etc.), which the animals use creatively in their breakout attempt. Best of all, the book contains movable flaps, working gears, and a paper lever readers can use to flip cutouts over a pop-up fence. The story is admittedly thin but doesn’t directly reward misbehavior. Macaulay presents detailed scientific information in fun ways with kinetic elements that increase the book’s appeal to a wide range of readers. (Ages 6-12)

How Many Animals Were On the Ark?

Craig Froman

Critics of the Bible claim Noah’s Ark couldn’t hold all the animal types of our world today, but the Christian organization Answers in Genesis shows here how the ark had room. Text-heavy at times, the book introduces readers to taxonomy (kingdom, phylum, etc.) and explores the relatively few animal orders and classes from which millions of modern species may have developed. Colorful pictures and computer mock-ups of unusual hybrids (i.e., ligers and wholfins) as well as ancient dinosaurs will captivate young readers. Parents may need to summarize some less clear pages. (Ages 8 and up)

Radioactive! 

Winifred Conkling

Just before World War II, two female atomic scientists—Irène Curie (daughter of Marie) and Lise Meitner—made breakthroughs necessary for nuclear weapons. Conkling’s writing isn’t dramatic, but she does bring scientific concepts and personalities to life. Meitner’s escape from Nazi Germany adds excitement to the last half of the story. Remarkably, both women expected their work to remain apolitical and purely scientific: They did not support America’s use of the first atomic bombs, and Conkling—writing from a moderately feminist point of view—never criticizes their naïve political views. Rich fodder for worldview discussion. (Ages 12 and up)

Rubber Band Engineer 

Lance Akiyama

Curriculum designer Lance Akiyama uses rubber bands and other inexpensive materials like paint stirrers and pencils to explore basic engineering elements. From the familiar (slingshot, catapult) to the not-so-familiar (hydraulic fighting robots), readers use detailed photographs and instructions to build engineering projects. Akiyama mostly lets kids learn with their fingers, and even reluctant readers won’t be turned off by occasional text bubbles of scientific explanation. Some experiments may require adult supervision (bow and arrow), and readers likely won’t have all the needed materials on hand. But handy substitution charts allow for immediate and continued experimentation. (Ages 12 and up)

Afterword

This election year, parents and educators may want to introduce kids to American presidents of the past. Patricia A. Pingry’s board books reflect traditional values and occasionally Christian faith: The Story of George Washington (Ideals Children’s Books, reprint 2015) may remind us of the unhappy choice we have this year, and drive us to prayer. Teens ready for substantive conservative content may appreciate the updated audiobook version of Larry Schweikart’s A Patriot’s History of the United States (Blackstone, 2016).

New books to skip: Ken Burns’ Grover Cleveland, Again! A Treasury of American Presidents (Knopf, 2016) reduces many presidents’ accomplishments to money spent on liberal causes. Bill O’Reilly’s The Day the President Was Shot (Henry Holt, 2016) gives too many details about John Hinckley Jr.’s sexual perversity. —E.W.