Thursday, September 24, 2009

Children’s Books: Wow! Animal and Wow! Earth

Wow! Animal and Wow! Earth, like all Dorling Kindersley books, are beautifully presented and gorgeous to flip through. And, like most books in this imprint, they are full of snippets of information, just right for children like my nephew, Max, who are good readers, to browse through and call, “Hey, Dad, did you know that starfish push their stomachs out through their mouths to absorb food?”

Both books are divided into sections that enable children who need them for homework to look up what they want. Wow! Animal has a well laid-out animal classification page that explains how classification works. Wow! Earth starts with the galaxy and works downwards.The double-page spread on the solar system has a paragraph about each planet, with all the information the young researcher will need or that the browser like Max will love to know. A pity it doesn’t mention Pluto. Just because it’s no longer considered a planet doesn’t mean it’s no longer there. But there’s only so much you can fit into a book like this, I suppose.

Wow! Animals reminds me of the books I used to read when I was a child and is nicely broken down, though those ones used to begin with prehistoric animals. But children who read it for fun will enjoy it for the same reason I did: this is a fascinating world and there are some wonderful and horrible creatures in it.

Both books also have good, clear indexes at the back and have handy glossaries. I should repeat, however, that DK Books are usually for good readers. The words are long and difficult and not all of the hard words are explained in the glossary. But if you have a bright, inquisitive child in your life, or a classroom library, or run a primary school library, buy it and watch those young eyes light up.

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Blogger Laurel Kornfeld said...

The book should mention Pluto; this is one of the adverse consequences of the controversial IAU demotion. I recommend contacting the author and requesting he/she revise the content and add Pluto back in.

Pluto is still a planet. Only four percent of the IAU voted on the controversial demotion, and most are not planetary scientists. Their decision was immediately opposed in a formal petition by hundreds of professional astronomers led by Dr. Alan Stern, Principal Investigator of NASA’s New Horizons mission to Pluto. One reason the IAU definition makes no sense is it says dwarf planets are not planets at all! That is like saying a grizzly bear is not a bear, and it is inconsistent with the use of the term “dwarf” in astronomy, where dwarf stars are still stars, and dwarf galaxies are still galaxies. Also, the IAU definition classifies objects solely by where they are while ignoring what they are. If Earth were in Pluto’s orbit, according to the IAU definition, it would not be a planet either. A definition that takes the same object and makes it a planet in one location and not a planet in another is essentially useless. Pluto is a planet because it is spherical, meaning it is large enough to be pulled into a round shape by its own gravity--a state known as hydrostatic equilibrium and characteristic of planets, not of shapeless asteroids held together by chemical bonds. These reasons are why many astronomers, lay people, and educators are either ignoring the demotion entirely or working to get it overturned. I am a writer and amateur astronomer and proud to be one of these people. You can read more about why Pluto is a planet and worldwide efforts to overturn the demotion on my Pluto Blog at

Thursday, September 24, 2009 at 10:39:00 PM PDT  

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