Posted in Intermediate, Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Non-Fiction

Creepy, Kooky, Oogie: Weird But True Halloween!

Weird But True! Halloween: 300 Facts to Scare You Silly, by Julie Beer & Michelle Harris, (Sept. 2020, NatGeo Kids), $8.99, ISBN: 978-1426338281

Ages 7-12

These books are the backbone of my nonfiction section. These little Weird But True! books MOVE; kids love the wild facts that NatGeo writers keep unearthing, and the incredible photos throughout are creepy, freaky, and downright cute. What facts await us in this volume? There are some good ones: a theme park in St. Louis, Missouri, held a “Coffin Challenge” where contestants lay in a coffin for 30 hours to win a prize; there are gummy tarantulas the size of a kid’s hand; there are more Halloween emojis than there are U.S. states. There’s a Halloween theme running through, with Halloween-themed facts, eerie facts, and overall Fall facts. These don’t even require a handselling in my library – I just put it on the shelf and watch the kids surge. The NatGeo Kids digests are essential for pleasurable, nonfiction, reading.

 

Posted in Fiction, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Halloween-ish Reading: Ghostology

Ghostology: A True Revelation of Spirits, Ghouls, and Hauntings, by Dugald A. Steer & Lucinda Curtle/Illustratrated by Anne Yvonne Gilbert, Garry Walton, & Doug Sirois, (Aug. 2020, Candlewick Press), $27.99, ISBN: 9781536209150

Ages 8-12

A spooky letter from a ghost hunter who’s just seen too much. A tome filled with information, including notes about (in)famous hauntings and maps of haunted rectories, and sketches of ghost towns; journal excerpts and information on hunting ghosts, with flaps and secret notes throughout. And… a missing page, torn from the book? Are those… notes from a ghost, scribbled hastily all over the book? Ghostology is a ghost-hunting adventure in a book, with fun facts on putting together a ghost-hunters kit, detailed information on the types of ghosts and a map of notable spottings, haunted houses, hotels, and forts, and so much more. Perfect for Halloween collections and for readers who love reading about ghosts all year long, but make sure you keep a copy on your Reference shelf; my library kids love the “-Ology” books, but they are eaten alive in circulation.

Back when I used to have actual people and programs in my library – fun times, right? – I used the “‘Ology” books as part of my program planning. I would recreate notes, leading kids to clues that they could look up in the books (Wizardology); read excerpts and use codes (Spyology) as part of dossier files I’d hand out to the kids. They are just so much fun for grownups and kids alike – imagine what I’d have been able to do for this last year’s Imagine Your Story Summer Reading? Now, to think about ways to recreate these programs virtually… Actually, these are pretty much made for Escape Room planning, so let me just get my notebook out and start writing!

The ‘Ology books are largely authored by Duglad Steer and have been around for a while, but as they’ve had different publishers, it’s hard to find one spot for all of them. I linked to Candlewick’s page earlier, and I also found a Beautiful Books page that lists quite a lot of them. If you click through to the Ghostology book detail page, check the lower left-hand part of the screen for more titles by Dugald Steer, and that’s also a pretty detailed list. Dugald Steer also has an ESL-ology website for teachers and educators, with free tools for English lessons in the classroom!

Posted in Non-Fiction, Teen, Tween Reads, Young Adult/New Adult

Cursed Objects: A trip through weird history

Cursed Objects: Strange but True Stories of the World’s Most Infamous Items, by J. W. Ocker, (Sept. 2020, Quirk Books), $19.99, ISBN: 9781683692362

Ages 12+

If you have teens (and tweens) who love the creepier side of life, you have to hand them Cursed Objects. If you have fans of the podcast (and Amazon Prime show  and series of books) Lore, have this book at the ready. Cursed Objects is a worldwide road trip through some of the weirdest, wackiest, allegedly objects that may or may not be cursed. Some of these treasures are well-known and infamous: the Hope Diamond and the actual Annabelle the doll are both in here, as are Robert the Doll (also featured on Lore) and . Some may be new to you, like Robert the Doll, one of the creepiest The Unlucky Mummy, who launched a thousand e-mail chain letters back in the ’90s. And some were new to me, like The Dybbuk Box, which was sold on eBay, and The Ring of Silvianus, a Roman artifact that allegedly inspired JRR Tolkien. Illustrated in two-color blue and white, each entry has a few pages dedicated to the object’s history, alleged misfortunes, and where it is today. There are callout boxes and bulleted lists throughout, making this an easy, entertaining, and absolutely fun read.

Author J.W. Ocker is the Edgar-winning author of The Rotter House and creator of OTIS: Odd Things I’ve Seen where you can read about more of his visits to oddities of culture, art, nature, and history across the world.


Posted in Intermediate, Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Non-Fiction, Tween Reads

Two stocking stuffers from NatGeo Kids: Brain Candy and Surprising Stories Behind Everyday Stuff

NatGeo Kids has two digest-sized, chunky little books loaded with fun facts and pictures that will be perfect for a stocking stuffer or last-minute gift!

 

Brain Candy: Seriously Sweet Facts to Satisfy Your Curiosity, by National Geographic,
(Oct. 2019, National Geographic Kids), $8.99, ISBN: 9781426334375
Ages 7-13

Brain Candy is so much fun because it’s loaded with facts, but it also connects facts together. Each spread presents one big fact – “A million is a lot”, for instance – and then connects other facts to that main fact: “A million days ago, the first Olympics were taking place in Ancient Greece”; “A million ants weight as much as one human”; “If you live a million hours, you will be 114 years old”. Taste buds, birthdays, pizza, animals, and trash are only a few of the subjects covered in this jam-packed book that will give kids endless things to think about, and tons of fun facts to spout off during dinner time. These little digest-sized books are great to stick in your bag, and they’re good for hours of entertainment. My second grader has a growing collection of them that he loves; he’ll just slip one off his shelf, curl up on the couch, and start reading them, because the facts are presented in bright, bold color and they’re easily read. Fun fact: One of my library kids once stood next to me with a NatGeo Kids joke book and read jokes to me for 30 minutes. He loved it, I had a good laugh, and other kids immediately wanted in on where he found the book. Reading is contagious!

 

Surprising Stories About Everyday Stuff, by Stephanie Warren Drimmer,
(Sept. 2019, National Geographic Kids), $9.99, ISBN: 9781426335297
Ages 7-13

Ever wonder how blue jeans became so popular? Or where soap came from? Surprising Stories is all about how things we use everyday found their ways into our homes and our lives. Organized into 10 chapters, readers can see where the most popular toys, food, fashion, tools, household objects, holidays, and more came to be. Each chapter has a spotlight on fads throughout the years, and there are loads of callouts with even more quick facts. You know that Slinky jingle? It’s the longest-running jingle in the history of TV advertising. Cowboy boots have heels for guys and gals alike, because those heels keep a cowpoke’s foot from slipping through the stirrups. Once again, NatGeo Kids creates a quick-take book loaded with absolute fun.

 

Posted in Intermediate, Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Non-Fiction

More Weird But True Facts for all those barbecue conversations!

Weird But True! USA: 300 Fascinating Facts About the 50 States, by National Geographic Kids, (March 2019, National Geographic Kids), $8.99, ISBN: 9781426333712

Ages 7-12

You’ve got a lot of barbecues to hit this summer. Family, friends, someone’s having a BBQ, somewhere, and you’re invited. What better way to keep a conversation going than to bust out some weird – but true! – facts about the US of A? NatGeo Kids has kids (and grownups, too: you know you love these books) covered with their latest digest-sized Weird But True facts, easily carried in your favorite tote.

Dazzle friends and family with goodies about our states! Did you know that the average driver in New York City spends more than 100 hours a year looking for a parking spot? (I did, just ask my husband.) Or the Pledge of Allegiance was written for a magazine to help sell subscriptions? How about one of my favorites: the Washington National Cathedral has a Darth Vader gargoyle? Seriously, this this knowledge has made my day.

The NatGeo books just get better. Where do they find all these wacky facts? I hope they keep doing whatever they’re doing, because I love them, my own kids love them, and the kids in my library can’t get enough of them. Add these to your NatGeo collections and just sit at the reference desk and wait for them to come at you with their favorite facts.

Posted in Middle Grade, Non-Fiction, Non-fiction, Tween Reads

Catch up on U.S. History with NatGeo Kids

Weird But True! (Know-It-All) U.S. Presidents, by Brianna Dumont, (July 2017, National Geographic Kids), $12.99, ISBN: 978-1426327964

Recommended for readers 8-12

I love these NatGeo Kids’ facts-at-a-glance books. I learn something new every time, and I have a good time reading them. I’m pretty sure my library kids agree with me, because these books fly off the shelves. In this latest Weird But True, NatGeo gives readers a quick rundown of the U.S. Presidency: fun facts, a renovation timeline, an overview of the three branches of government and the powers of the Supreme Court, Congress, and the President; from there, we get a profile of each President, from Washington through to 45. Profiles run between 2 and 8 pages, outlining high points (Oval Awesome), low points (Oval Awful), and fun facts (Why He’s Weird!). It’s a fun read, loaded with caricature art and photos. Also a nice little supplement for reports and projects down the line.

 

Benjamin Franklin’s Wise Words: How to Work Smart, Play Well, and Make Real Friends, by K.M. Kostyal/Illustrated by Fred Harper, (Jan. 2017, National Geographic Kids), $16.99, ISBN: 978-4263-2699-8

Recommended for readers 8-12

Think of this as a “Life’s Little Instruction Book” for middle grade history fans. Ben Franklin’s sage advice is organized into quotes on tranqulity, industry, order, humility, resolution, sincerity, and moderation. Readers may be surprised at how many sayings they’re familiar with: “there are no pains without gains”, “haste makes waste”, and “honesty is the best policy”. There are 50 of Franklin’s quotes in this book, each with an accompanying caricature illustration with loads of physical comedy to appeal to middle graders. Quotes receive a more modern, accessible translation and a story about Franklin’s life, which may cause a disconnect to anyone who expects the story to illustrate the quote. It’s a fun look at one of U.S. history’s more fascinating characters, but unless you have a dedicated Franklin fan or two, it’s a supplemental or secondary add to your collection.

Posted in Uncategorized

Real or Fake? Wacky facts and far-out fib from NatGeo!

real or fakeReal or Fake? Far-Out Fibs, Fishy Facts, and Phony Photos to Test for the Truth, by Emily Krieger, (May 2016, National Geographic Kids), $7.99, ISBN: 978-1426324055

Recommended for ages 7-12

What a fun way to get kids learning – give them the craziest stories, and show them that truth is truly stranger than fiction. Real or Fake? is loaded with news stories – some are real, some are made up, but can readers figure out which is which? Answers are explained on a following spread, and a meter icon shows readers whether the story is “Honest Abe”, “A Little White Lie”, or a “Big Ol’ Whopper”. Fun Facts are sprinkled throughout the book – did you know it’s illegal to throw away food in Seattle? – and Real or Fake flash challenges, where kids are presented with a handful of fast facts that they have to call real or bogus on, round out the book. Crazy, funny collage art punches up the fun factor in this little book that’s packed with information.

I’m going to use some of these in a trivia contest with the kids at my library. Takeaway fact from this book: The stinky smell of blue cheese and sweaty feet is caused by the same bacteria. You’ll never look at your socks the same way again, and I can’t wait to introduce that tidbit at my next Discovery Club. Unsee that, kiddos!

 

Posted in Middle Grade, Non-Fiction, Non-fiction, Tween Reads

Could Dracula make it in today’s world? Monster Science gives you the scoop.

monster scienceMonster Science, by Helaine Becker/Illustrated by Phil McAndrew, (Sept. 2016, Kids Can Press), $18.95, ISBN: 9781771380546

Recommended for ages 8-12

Monster Science takes a look at some of our favorite monsters – Frankenstein’s Monster, vampires, Bigfoot, werewolves, zombies, and sea monsters – and, using science smarts, discusses the plausibility of these monsters’ ever being able to exist in our world. If you’ve ever wondered whether or not you should really start stockpiling food and weapons for the upcoming zombie apocalypse, or stared for a little too long at those blurry pictures of Bigfoot and Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster,  you’ll love this book.

The book devotes a chapter to each monster, provides background info, incorporating the history of the monsters, and using science, history, literature, myths and legends, helps readers work through whether or not these creatures could have ever existed or could exist today. There are colorful, cartoony illustrations, seriously groan-worthy jokes, and pop up facts throughout the book, and a quiz tests finishes up each chapter and challenges readers to remember what they’ve just read. There are enough gross facts – the stages of decay; electric shock bringing making dead body parts jerk and move, dead people who sat up at their own funerals – presented with a humorous bent, to delight middle graders who want something fun and gross to read, yet will also give them some cool facts to bring to their science class.

This is the kind of book I love booktalking to kids, because my awesome nonfiction selections are sadly underappreciated. When I put a coding book out, I get interest, because I have a library full of Minecraft mouse potatoes, but when I try to get them excited about science, I usually get eyerolls, or – zounds! – blank stares. A book like this will help me explain how wonderful and gross science can be! We can talk about The Walking Dead (no, they’re not old enough to read the comics, but you know they’re watching it at home), we can talk about Dracula and Frankenstein, and I can terrify them with repeated viewings of Mad Monster Party and the Groovie Ghoulies, because ’70s monster claymation and cartoons are aces with me, but they leave the kids bewildered. They don’t know what they’re missing.

In all seriousness, the book is fun leisure reading and a good companion to science, history, or ELA classes. There’s so many interesting facts, presented in a fun, light, manner, that kids will end up reading and remembering more information than they can imagine. Add it to your library collections, or make it a fun gift for a monster fan you know and love.