Books: References for every desk

Posted: Friday, August 11, 2000

Computers or no, you just can't get through school without books:

"The Reader's Digest Children's Atlas of the World" (Reader's Digest Books, $24.99 hardcover) started just two years ago and is one of the best-sellers in the field. It's just been updated with the newest world information and maps, accompanied by nuggets of useful information about each area.

A companion piece with an even wider focus is "The Reader's Digest Atlas of the Universe" (Reader's Digest Books, $24.99 hardcover). Youngsters can learn about the solar system, planets, space exploration, the history of astronomy, and mythology.

Thanks to the Hubble Telescope and similar equipment, the face of space has been captured photographically. "DK Guide to Space: A Photographic Journey Through the Universe" (Dorling Kindersley, $19.95 hardcover), by Peter Bond, has pictures of planets, moons, galaxies and more.

The northern part of the world may seem as remote as foreign planets, but it's home to many tribes, eight countries, and perhaps 30,000 polar bears. All this is explained in "The Kids Book of The Far North" (Kids Can Press, $15.95 hardcover), by Ann Love and Jane Drake.

"1000 Makers of the Millennium" (Dorling Kindersley, $19.95 hardcover) is an illustrated who's who of some of men and women who gave shape to the history of the past 1,000 years.

Name the presidents. That schoolroom challenge will be easier with "Presidents" (Dorling Kindersley Eyewitness Books, in association with the Smithsonian Institution, $15.95 hardcover). Sketches offer a glimpses of events occuring during the administration of each president, along with basic biographical facts.

For such a little critter, the mosquito is a big menace. More people -- two million annually -- die from malaria and other diseases transmitted by mosquito bites than any other cause, including war. These and other facts can be found in "Reader's Digest Pathfinders/Insects and Spiders" (Reader's Digest Books, $16.99 hardcover).

A cat has muscles at the base of each furry hair that enables it to fluff up its fur to keep warmer. The male midwife toad takes on his share of parenting by carrying fertilized eggs on his back until they hatch. "Eyewitness Natural World" (Dorling Kindersley, $29.95 hardcover) offers a fascinating look at the animal world.

Rodents generally don't get a good press, but the "National Geographic Animal Encyclopedia" (National Geographic Society, $29.95 hardcover) reminds us that the category includes chinchillas and beavers, prized for their furs, and rabbits, cute at Easter time and if you can keep them out of your garden.

National Geographic also offers a series of closeups of various animals: "Bug Faces" ($16.95 hardcover), by Darlyne A. Murawski; "Sea Critters" ($16.95 hardcover), by Sylvia A. Earle with photos by Wolcott Henry; "Feathered Dinosaurs" ($17.95 hardcover), by Christopher Sloan; and "Destination Deep Sea" ($16.95 hardcover), by Jonathan Grupper.

Want to know why you have to go to school? Why you wear clothes? How electricity works? A brief history of the world? Check out "Reader's Digest Book of Amazing Facts" (Reader's Digest Books, $26.95 hardcover, September).

Factoids also abound in "The Kingfisher Facts and Records Book (Kingfisher, $14.95 hardcover). Discover interesting things about everything from prehistoric animals to hamburgers.

Yes, girls can do math, if only they'd try. Inspiration comes from "The Math Book for Girls" (Kids Can Press, $14.95 hardcover), by Valerie Wyatt, with illustrations by Pat Cupples.

Loads of pictures, brightly colored alphabet locators, and brief "word history" paragraphs make an inviting read for "DK/Merriam-Webster Children's Dictionary" (Dorling Kindersley, $17.95 hardcover).

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