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Nonfiction Books Wow With Facts

Lee Littlewood on

Some young readers prefer reading real facts in their books; others learn much from exciting nonfiction tales. These books introduce youngsters to horses, elephants, extreme weather and 14 extraordinary young women.

"How to Be an Elephant" by Katherine Roy; David Macaulay Studios/Roaring Brook Press; 44 pages; $18.99.

Elephants need all the appreciation they can get. Who wouldn't love a majestic creature with intricate family dynamics and an incredibly amazing lifestyle? Subtitled "Growing up in the African Wild," Katherine Roy's lush picture book introduces a newborn elephant that has to quickly learn how to walk and rumble and drink and dine. Roy does an amazing job portraying the precarious journey the baby takes on and provides detailed information on how her family assists so vitally. From how important a mother's milk is to how the baby's adult relatives' voices can reveal her identity and emotional state, Roy's incredible facts educate kids on the complicated yet naturally thrilling dynamics of an elephant herd. She researched "How to Be an Elephant" with a Kenyan expedition and up-to-date scientific research. Roy's fantastic watercolors are a beautiful backdrop to such a treasure trove of truly fascinating information on one of nature's most breathtaking and complicated species. The animal-loving writer adds an author's note; further reading and film recommendations; and her research sources, map and trip itinerary.

"Horses: All About Their Strength and Speed, Their Foals, Breeds, and More!" by Seymour Simon; HarperCollins; 32 pages; $17.99.

Seymour Simon is a prolific name in the world of children's science education books. The nonfiction picture books are bold with up-close, vivid photographs and large, clear text on white backgrounds. With "Horses: All About Their Strength and Speed, Their Foals, Breeds, and More!" Seymour updates his much-admired book with new science and photographs to show how beautiful, amazing horses have continued to play an essential role in the lives of humans.

Simon's photo essay begins explaining the long, storied history about horses and presents a gorgeous photo of a horse galloping in front of a sunset followed by a horse cave drawing. He tells how horses were brought to America 500 years ago by Spanish explorers and even includes a hilarious picture of a horse smiling, showing off his big, yellow teeth.

Simon's latest is a perfect, top-notch must-have book for all horse lovers.

"Al Roker's Extreme Weather"; Al Roker; HarperCollins; 42 pages; $16.99.

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Al Roker, weatherman on the "Today" show, concocted this photo essay of extreme, breathtaking weather photos and facts. Perfect timing, as the last year has seen its share of tragic, record-breaking weather events. Set up in a scrapbook-like array, Roker begins by introducing himself and his storied career; he also makes sure to mention the importance of taking safety precautions. He then divides the picture book up into sections "Predicting the Future," "Storms," "Dangerous Conditions," "Aftermath" and "The Final Word" (about the importance of science and news, and spreading the word about weather and climate change). He adds in a section about the biggest, deadliest, most extreme storms, a glossary and information on how to learn more.

Older readers interested in storm stories will enjoy the thrilling "A Storm Too Soon: A Remarkable True Survival Story in 80-Foot Seas," by Michael J. Tougias, (published by Henry Holt), a middle-grade book adapted from the adult novel about four intrepid coast guardsmen who brave a savage sea storm in order to find stranded sailors.

"Shaking Things Up: 14 Young Women Who Changed the World" by Susan Hood; HarperCollins; 36 pages; $18.99.

Thirteen stellar female children's book illustrators come together to create this artsy, inspiring, lovely collection of some of history's most trailblazing young women, one of whom is as young as 6 years old. From 13-year-old Mary Anning, who unearthed an important prehistoric fossil, to 21-year-old Maya Lin, who designed a war memorial and then had to appear before Congress to defend her right to create it, Susan Hood's inspirational poems are magnificent. Her encouragement to young girls to shake things up makes the book a super-smart gift for children. The artist contributors are stunning as well.


To find out more about Lee Littlewood, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at



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