Ask Pippa

2007: What's New in Non FIction?


SOS Stories of Survival, by Ed Butts ($16.99, Tundra Books).

This book describes 13 real-life disasters from around the world, and tells about the people who survived them. From earthquakes, to tsunamis to explosions. It has it all!.

Several disasters that happened in Canada are mentioned, including the Halifax explosion in 1917. Here, a boat carrying munitions blew up in the harbour, threw up debris five miles into the air, and pretty much flattened the entire city.

And, did you know a tsunami hit Newfoundland in 1929? SOS also describes massive fires, floods and even a nuclear disaster.

While some disasters in this book were caused by people, others were caused by forces of nature. There are some amazing stories about the power of destruction, as well as impressive tales about young people who survived.

The book does need more pictures (the ones that are in it are amazing -- more! More!). It could also use a few maps to show where the events happened. Pictures also would have broken up the big blocks of text. But, still this is an exciting and informative read. For readers 8 and up.

The author/artist: Ed Butts is a Canadian writer who has an interest in history.



Pirates Most Wanted, by John Matthews ($19.99, Simon & Shuster).

Arg! Have you ever wanted to read about the lives of real pirates? Then this bejewelled book is for you – it has a plastic jewel stuck on the cover.

This book highlights of the lives and stories of 13 of the most famous and notorious pirates who ever set sail. Who were these pirates? Why did they sail, and why did they attack other ships? What were the tools of their trade? And, what did others do to try to stop them?

Of course, you'll have to read this book to find out the answers. There are lots of neat photographs depicting pirate life, so the inside of the book looks pretty cool. For readers who haven't had enough of pirates in recent history. For ages 8 to 12.

The author: John Matthews is a pirate enthusiast.


Naturally Wild Musicians: The Wonderous World of Animal Song, by Peter Christie ($8.95, Annick Press).

Creatures in the wild make an amazing mix of noises. From the croaking of frogs to the chirping of crickets, and even the rhythmic foot stamping by certain types of spiders.

This book is a cool introduction to the types of sounds creatures make, and why. Often, animals (or amphibians, or whatever type of creature) break out into what sounds like a musical tune to attract a mate.

In this book, you'll find out that sometimes, there are other reasons for music-like sounds - like the ultrasonic sounds made by moths to help them navigate.

This book will get a lot of "wow, awesome, I didn't know that!" reactions from readers. The text is quick and easy to read. And, there are lots of great, brightly coloured pictures of the creatures being described. If you're into learning about animals, this is a pretty good start.

Though, when you get down to it, it's not exactly music these creatures are making -- but would you pick up a book called Naturaly Wild Mating Calls? For readers 8 to 12.

The author: Peter Christie is a science journalist who has written for many newspapers and magazines.


Sweet! The Delicious Story of Candy, by Ann Love and Jane Drake. Illustrated by Claudia Davila ($24.99, Tundra).

If you're hooked on candy, you could get hooked on this tastey book about it. This is also one of the rare cases where the book is as much fun as its jelly-bean cover.

Sweet tells you the story of candy -- what types of sweets were the first ones people ate, what types of candy were developed around the world through the ages, and more. It even covers why people like sweet things so much.

Did you know that in some parts of the world, the recipe for ice-cream was a protected secret? That sweets in India commonly use a syrup made from milk as their base? Or that the ancient Greeks sometimes chewed on beeswax (gum wasn't around then in that part of the world)? In a related topic, the ancient Romans treated toothaches using eardrops made of olive oil mixed with boiled earthworms. Nobody says it worked.

These are among the amazing facts you'll find in this book. Finding out about the history of candy is fun. The text is lively, funny and factual. The illustrations add to the humour.

The authors: Ann Love and Jane Drake are sisters who have written several kids books together. They live in Ontario.

The illustrator: Claudia Davila is a Toronto-based illustrator.