Monday, September 5, 2011

7. I Get It Now!

Simplify the tough stuff AND make it fun to learn with these four series or books.
Basher Basics and Science, created by Basher, written by Dan Green or Mary Budzik, Kingfisher, $12.99-14.99 (hardbacks), $7.99-8.99 (paperbacks), ages 9-12, 64 pages. Don't know a cosine from a tangent? Get the scoop on algebra, anatomy and more right from the source in Basher's hip reference series. In every book, terms speak on their own behalf, defining who they are and what they do. Take "Function" from Algebra & Geometry: Anything But Square!: "I'm an operator, a hustler, and a mathematical string puller. I work the numbers, taking one value and chaining it into another." Each term has its own unique way of getting its message across. For instance, "Square Root," also in the algebra book, is a self-proclaimed scamp, the mathematical opposite of square. "I swing from my tail over a number to undo a Square's multiplication." With every definition comes a playful graphic: a plump, happy figure that represents each term. In Human Body: A Book With Guts, readers meet "Heart." He's a guy who loves a good workout (he pumps nonstop), so he wears a sweat band. He's also at the center of things, so in either hand, he holds arrow flags. One directs blood to the lungs to get more oxygen, the other sends it into the body for cells to lap it up. This is one of those series that can turn things around for a child and make it all make sense. There's even a folded poster in the back cover to pull a subject together. The series is now up to 9 books. Among the new releases: Grammar:The Bill of Rights and Music: Hit the Right Note. Check out Basher's website here for free games.

Feel the Force! (Super Science), written by Tom Adams, illustrations by Thomas Flintham, Templar, $18.99, ages 7-11, 20 pages.  Released Sept. 13! Kids use forces of their own making to learn about the forces of physics in this wonderful interactive pop-up book. Readers pull, push, flip, turn and lift tabs to learn about air resistance, upthrust, pressure and more. They also watch 3-D paper models rise off the page as they explore the roles of gravity, shadows and electricity. On a two-page spread about pressure, a mustachioed illusionist rises from the page on a bed on paper nails; then with the pull of a tab, readers release a stream of paper water from a squirter. On a spread about magnetism, a wheel turns to show that opposite poles attract each other and a switch causes a paper car to rise off a junk pile. At the end of the book, readers learn there are still a lot of unanswered questions in physics, such as how the universe began and whether time travel is possible.That's when the author coaxes them to learn more about the subject and search for their own answers. What we need, he writes, are a few good physicists to come up the ranks and figure this stuff out. "Are you interested?"

Mathemagic! Number Tricks, written by Lynda Colgan, illustrated by Jane Kurisu, Kids Can Press, $16.95, ages 9-12, 40 pages. In a quest to prove that math isn't the bad guy, Colgan shares nine number tricks that readers can play on friends and family -- from multiplying with their fingers to divining secret numbers on cards and dice. Along the way, Colgan sneaks in her own trick: she gets math to stick in readers' heads just by showing how fun it can be. Among her mathemagic feats: shortcuts to remembering the 9s and 6s times tables and long division, and a clever way to double numbers without a calculator. Some of the math terms explored include complementary numbers, prime factors, expanded notations and the binary number system. Each chapter details a different mathemagic, beginning with step-by-step instructions and tips for success, then concludes with an explanation of how it works. Straight-forward lessons and simple diagrams make it fun -- even for kids who sigh at the thought of math.

The Odyssey: A Graphic Novel, based on Homer's epic poem, written and illustrated by Gareth Hinds, Candlewick, $24.99 (hardback), $14.99 (paperback), 2010. Even if your teens laughed it up watching "Homer's Odyssey" on The Simpsons, they're probably not inclined to pick up the ancient tale of hero Odysseus by Greek poet Homer. The title alone suggests something epic and indeed it is a very long poem, and complex -- so much so, it can be hard to keep people, places and events straight. But suppose a graphic wizard like Hinds (creator of Beowulf, Bearskin: A Grimm Tale) comes along and reinvents it as a graphic story? Would your teens open it then? Leave this one in their room and see what happens. Who knows? They might just be pulled into a world of literature they never knew they could understand. In this masterly adaptation, Hinds brings clarity and drama to the complex story of Odysseus, hero of the Trojan War, with lavish comics, conversation bubbles and spare, everyday prose.For another clever interpretation, check out Sam Ita's The Odyssey: A Pop-Up Book, due out from Sterling on Sept. 6 ($26.95, ages 4 and up, 8 pages)

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