Ask Pippa

2006: What's New in Non-Fiction?

Science DetectivesScience Detectives, by the editors of Yes magazine, with illustrations by Rose Cowles ($17.95Cdn, Kids Can Press).

This is an amazing book about how scientists follow clues to explain different things. For instance, when typhoid fever broke out in a posh area of Long Island, New York—it took real detective work to find out where the disease came from, and who got it when. This gives readers an understanding of how answers in science don’t just appear, but that there is a series of steps. Indeed, when they are on a path to discovery, scientists work very much like detectives. They follow clues and try to prove that something is true or false. Intended for readers 8 and up.

The author: Yes is an award-winning Canadian magazine for kids aged 9 to 14.

We Came from Slime

We Came From Slime), by Ken McNamara, illustrations by Andrew Plant ($6.95Cdn, Annick Press).

Lots of people are familiar with dinosaurs, and can even name several different types and tell you what they ate. But how much do you know about life on Earth before the dinosaurs appeared? Now, you can find out details of the very first life forms that appeared millions of years before T-Rex and her pals ruled the earth. The very first life forms were our earliest ancestors -- microscopic slimy stuff. Later on, there were all sorts of bizarre creatures that swam and crawled around the planet. The book is written in such a way that is truly entertaining. You'll be laughing so hard at some of the text that you'll forget you're reading fact. My only complaint is that the word 'bug' is used for bacteria – it's not a word scientists would use in this context. For readers aged 8-12.

The author: Ken McNamara is a palaeontologist at the Western Australia Museum in Perth.

The illustrator: Andrew Plant is an illustrator who collects fossils and teaches kids about dinosaurs at the Monash University Science Centre in Melbourne, Australia.

Crime Doesn't PayCrime Doesn't Pay, Beverly MacDonald, illustrations by Andrew Weldon ($6.95Cdn, Annick Press).

Crimes such as stealing, looting, cheating and mugging go a long way back in human history. Accusing people of crimes is also pretty old and there were some pretty weird ways people tried to determine the guilt or innocence of someone – like throwing them into the water in a sack to see if they floated (guilty) or not (innocent). But the science behind solving crimes is relatively new. This book, part of the awesome It's True series, covers the history of crime and crime-solving in a way that gets the facts across in a really fun way. In fact, it’s hard putting this book down. For readers aged 8-12.


The author: Beverly MacDonald writes non-fiction kids books and lives in Australia.

The illustrator: Andrew Welden is a cartoonist in Australia.

You Can't Read ThisYou Can't Read This: Forbidden Books, Lost Writing, Mistranslations and Codes, Val Ross
($26.99Cdn, Tundra Books)

If you want to know just how much power words can have, this historical look at writing is a can't-put-down read. The words in this book are that powerful! But writing is a powerful thing, and throughout history different texts have influenced the way people think and act – especially political and religious texts. This is an historical look at writing, examines why words can be so powerful, and why various people throughout history have banned, or even tried to change written information. A very readable, intriguing book. You'll appreciate just how much writing has helped society grow and develop through the ages. This is a terrific book that deserves a lot of recognition. For ages 14 and up.

The author: Val Ross is a well-respected, award-winning journalist who works at one of Canada's national newspapers The Globe & Mail.

Jurassic PoopJurassic Poop, Jacob Berkowitz and illustrator Steve Mack
($16.95, Kids Can Press)

Ever hear the word coprolite? It means fossilized poop. But along with studying and digging up fossilized dinosaur bones, some people really dig (and study) fossilized poop. Why? To get clues about what dinosaurs ate, how their digestive tract worked, and whether or not they were healthy. It's amazing how much you can learn from these blobs that dinosaurs left behind. This book will fill you in on the lovely details. Really. For ages 8 to 12.

The author: Jacob Berkowitz is an Ontario based science writer and playwright.:

The illustrator:Steve Mack is a Canadian illustrator who also self-published the book Steve Mack's ABC: An Illustrated Alphabet Compendium A Through Z.