Monday, October 26, 2009

Out of this world by Jacob Berkowitz; Harry Houdini by Elizabeth MacLeod

Now, a couple of quick nonfiction reviews. First, we have a book on the exploration of outer space -and beyond. Out of This World: The amazing search for an alien earth focuses mainly an astrobiologist and astrophysicists' searches for a planet that can sustain life. It's full of interesting facts and explanations of how scientists explore the farthest edges of the universe. A glossary and index is included, but no bibliography or further resources. I was disappointed that the book didn't explain until near the end that most of the pictures are artist's representations and I didn't think they made it clear which were "real". I found the layout and design very dated, from the font of the headings to the dopey little cartoon character zooming around the pages. To me, that screams "I was written in the 80s!" Of course, the fact that I weeded masses of 70s and 80s nonfiction last summer means I'm a bit prejudiced...

Out of this world: The amazing search for an Alien Earth by Jacob Berkowitz
ISBN: 978-1554531974; Published September 2009 by Kids Can Press; Review copy provided by the publisher through Raab Associates
Our second book is an easy reader biography of Harry Houdini. It's labeled as "level 3 read alone" easy reader, and the vocabulary and content is suitable for the reading level. It contains many interesting facts about Houdini's life and focuses on his amazing escapes. However, I found the illustrations very blah and without character. In my library, most of the kids looking for biographies need something at least 100 pages long. However, if you have younger kids interested in Harry Houdini, this is a good starter biography.

Harry Houdini by Elizabeth MacLeod, illustrated by John Mantha
ISBN: 978-1554532995; Published August 2009 by Kids Can Press; Review copy provided by the publisher through Raab Associates
Verdict: These books are fine if you have a need for more information in these areas, but I'd recommend getting Sid Fleischman's Escape and Ellen Jackson's Looking for Life in the Universe, first.

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