Bookin' it: nonfiction offers facts and fun

Technology lets students tap into classrooms from home

Posted: Monday, July 22, 2002

The emphasis is on the first of the Three Rs -- reading -- as the school year begins:

With the revival of patriotism in the past year comes another look at American history. ''The Making of America: The History of the United States from 1492 to the Present'' (National Geographic, $29.95 hardcover, October), by Dr. Robert D. Johnston, is an illustrated survey of the nation's beginnings and development. Features include discussions of the great political issues that accompanied events, such as slavery, the industrial revolution, civil rights and the terrorist threat.

''The Story of America'' (DK Publishing $35 hardcover, October), by Allen Weinstein and David Rubel, covers the historic ground from pre-Columbian times, with focus on specific events that helped shape the country. The book includes 28 ''American Profiles,'' contributed by noted historians and writers, of people who had pivotal influence on these events.

Throughout history, mankind had tried to fly like the birds, but it was only in 1903 that the Wright Brothers got the first viable flying machine up and going, at Kitty Hawk, N.C. The story of how the two bicycle makers from Dayton, Ohio, developed the prototype that launched modern aviation is told in ''The Wright Brothers: A Flying Start'' (Kids Can Press, $14.95 hardcover), by Elizabeth MacLeod.

''Under the Ice'' (Kids Can Press, $16.95 hardcover) is marine biologist Kathy Conlon's account of her underwater explorations below the ice line in Antarctica. Her photographs document some of the undersea life she encountered, including sea stars, the antarctic toothfish, sea spiders and volcano sponges. She also records an eerie visit to Robert Falcon Scott's base camp at Cape Evans, to which he never returned after his 1912 quest to reach the South Pole.

Exotic life on this planet still exerts fascination for young readers. ''SuperCroc'' (National Geographic, $18.95 hardcover), by Christopher Sloan, traces the lineage of crocodiles from their prehistoric ancestors, including one that was about twice as big as today's species and which snacked on dinosaurs. The book chronicles the research of Paul Sereno of the University of Chicago, whose team uncovered fossil remains, including a 6-foot-long SuperCroc skull.

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