Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Stuff You Need to Know

Pick Me Up: Stuff you need to know...
Dorling Kindersley, 2006; this paperback edition, 2009
Ages 8-->
review copy provided by the publisher

This book is a dare: PICK ME UP.

You will, and you'll open it, too, and find photos, diagrams, timelines, big questions ("How might the history of World Wars I and II have been different?), opposites, explanations ("Why do we smile?"), maps, challenges ("Spot the odd one out"), instructions, commands ("Are you a girl? turn to page 224), and everywhere color and font and design that make you keep browsing and reading and (gasp!) learning.

If you're left-brained, at some point you will try to figure out the logic of the book. You'll read the "How to Use Me" pages at the beginning of the book and find out that if you're looking for an encyclopedia, you'll have to make do with the traditional index at the back of the book to find the stuff you want to know. OR you can read by category (all the "Arts, Entertainment and Media" entries are coded with a purple box at the top of their pages). OR BETTER YET you can just start browsing. Inside the color coded topic box there are three words that let you know what's on that page...or should I say, suck you into the page to find out how those three words can all be contained in the information on that page!

I'll turn to a random 2-page spread and show you how this works. Pages 176-177. Topic code: orange (I look back to find out this means "You and your body.") The key words inside the orange topic code box are Nutrition to Bugs to Nursery Rhymes. "An Apple a Day" lists common chants and rhymes that encourage us to eat apples. This is followed by a text box explaining why eating apples (but not apple pie) every day might be healthy. Titles of short articles on the next page: "What should you be eating every day?", "Why the potato is an apple," What nursery rhymes are really about," and "You're not going to eat that!" (insects in Northern Thailand, edible frogs in Ghana, a fruit that smells like dirty socks...) In the article about nursery rhymes, there is a mention of the Bubonic plague. The word plague is bold and underlined with a page number after it. You guessed it...a "hyperlink" to more information! If I follow the link, I find "Viruses to Rats to HIV." Links from that spread could take me to information about computers, Europe, or the immune system.

Why do you need this book?
  1. It's like a model of the Internet. It would be fascinating to compare searching for information in the encyclopedia to searching for information in this book. I think there could be lots of lessons about using a search engine that start with this book.
  2. It showcases what student research could look like. There is nothing boring about the presentation of information in this book. Cure for the dreaded "Country Report"? Check out the pages about China, India, South Africa, etc. Want your students to really THINK about their topic instead of barfing back facts? Study the ways (WAYS, plural) information is presented in this book.
  3. The two-page spread that explains how this book was written. (Get out your magnifying glass--this is literally the fine print--but it is also a fascinating glimpse into the writing process on a professional level.)
  4. It's colorful, fun, and inviting. Anyone of any age who opens this book is guaranteed to learn. Do you need any other reasons?


  1. No pun intended, but I need to "PICK THIS UP!" :)

  2. Great review...I now need to "pick it up"!!!

  3. Great! Just when I was trying to tame spending in the new year, you blog about a fabulous book like this! :)

  4. can't wait to get my hands on this! thanks, as always, for the great recommendations. happy new year!


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