"The best ice skaters can spin around on one foot up to 115 times without stopping" (p. 15). Also, at the annual La Tomatina festival in Spain, people throw around 1 million tomatoes at each other (p. 10). Oh, and one more thing: most Ancient Greek and Roman marble statues were originally painted (p. 25).
When I first opened The Usborne Big Picture Book: General Knowledge, I sat at my desk and pored through it for about half an hour. Every page is packed with interesting facts... I couldn't put it down! And there are so many tidbits of information, I am still learning something each time I pull it off the shelf. (Did you know a guy named Dave Kunst walked around the world in the 70s over the course of four years?)
One thing that makes this book so captivating is the way the information is presented. Each page is its own theme - Back in Time, On the Move, Animals, Natural Wonders, Record Breakers, etc. - and the facts are all presented with creative illustrations, so it's both a visual and written experience. Check out examples in the photos! You come for the pictures and stay for the fascinating info. :)
Incidentally, did you know that submarines extract oxygen from sea water, so the crew inside can breathe? (that's from page 9, "On the Move") Sorry, I can't help myself. Ok, so picture my excitement about all this stuff and translate it to kids! They will love exploring these pages and sharing their new finds with you. And what a great way to find topics they want to delve into deeper! This would make an incredible homeschool book... or really, an incredible book to have at the home of anyone who wants to learn something new.
It's that book that makes you more knowledgeable and more curious at the same time.
Oh, and by the way, Bangkok's name in full is Krungthepmahanakhon Amonrattanakosin Mahintharayutthaya Mahadilokphop Noppharatratchathaniburirom Udomratchaniwetmahasathan Amonphimanawatansathit Sakkathattiyawitsanukamprasit (p. 3).
"Bob is not a unicorn. Everyone can see that. Everyone but Bob." These are the opening lines from Bob is a Unicorn, written by Michelle Nelson-Schmidt. The premise of this one is simple: Bob approaches various friends, asking them to play with him in different ways. Each one dismisses him, though, until Bob finally finds the perfect friend to play with him.
This is a pretty subtle book. You don't even see Bob until the end of the book; the story is told through dialogue as Bob approaches each animal, and all you see is the animal he is talking to and the conversation they have. By the time you reach the end of the story, you come to see that Bob is (SPOILER ALERT :) an elephant pretending to be a unicorn, and the friend who plays with him is a little girl pretending to be a fairy.
The power of this book is in the different ways Bob's friends dismiss him. Here's one example:
What's that thing?
It's my horn. I'm a unicorn. See?
No, not really.
George, I don't suppose you --
Bob, don't you have more important things to do?
I'm being a unicorn today.
It looks like you're wasting time to me.
As with many of Michelle Nelson-Schmidt's books (she is author of Cordelia and Jonathan James and the Whatif Monster, among other powerful picture books), this is one that seems to be written as much to the adults as to the children. It's hard to read this as a parent and not hear myself in some of the dismissals... I'm too busy. What are you doing? Don't you have something better to do? Well, sometimes we just need to set our work aside and embrace the power of make-believe.
Now, I will say, the set-up of this story is a little off-beat because it is written completely in dialogue - I've seen a few reviews that marked it down because the style is "awkward". But I would say, embrace it; the simplicity of the dialogue is part of what makes the message stand out. Each time I have read this book with my four-year old, he asks to read it again as soon as we get to the end. I think that's because he, too, is unaccustomed to that style of storytelling... but as soon as you see where the story ends up (the contrast of the friend who is willing to play along), everything falls into place. So just read it twice! And besides, it's a great opportunity to pull out all your character voices. :)
It's that book that gently reminds us all to be both playful and accepting.
Buy Bob is a Unicorn here! ($6.99, paperback)
Hi there! I'm Christine - Usborne Books & More independent consultant, kids' book fan, English teacher, mom of two boys.