Monday, October 19, 2009

Nonfiction Monday - geography and biography, reviewed by Yoda

I am definitely memory-challenged. I meet new people and read new books every day, and I forget names and titles about three seconds after I hear them. I use my status as the oldest as an excuse, but it is a little frustrating at times, so I was especially interested in the "Adventures in Memory" series from Millbrook Press (division of Lerner).

Lerner was kind enough to send us the above title to review. While learning the original 13 colonies might not directly help me with kids' names, studies have shown any work with mnemonics can help in other areas. According to the AMA, exercising your brain can make it stronger at any age, so there is hope for me yet!

This edition had a nice mix of mnemonic devices, from anagrams to songs to silly stories. It also gave tips on adapting some to make them easier for you to remember them personally. In some places it had a little too much information - for example, while I would certainly recommend reading Anansi stories if you were doing a unit on Africa in school, it really doesn't relate if I'm trying to memorize basic facts about the continent. I'm also not sure that word scrambles are a helpful mnemonic device, especially when the scrambled word is so unrelated, you would have a hard time remembering that one, too. Finally, they missed some simple tricks that I learned back in school a million years ago - i.e., LONGitude lines go the LONG way down, lATitude lines show how fAT the earth is. I'm not sure I would remember the banana and watermelon thing.

Then again, everyone's brain is different, so what doesn't work for one reader or student may be just the ticket for another. While it's not their best offering, it may be handy to have around the classroom.

Also received from Lerner:

We definitely do not discuss politics at work, but there is no denying the public's interest in the First Family at any given time, and it has been encouraging to see more books offered about the Presidents' wives over the last few terms. This one had more information than some others I've seen about Michelle Obama's childhood, which children may find more interesting - what types of toys she played with, what her chores were, etc.

Typical of most children's biographies, there is only one paragraph in the whole book with any negative information, summing up her "proud of her country" gaff and other tidbits reported throughout the campaign. This is, as I said, typical of children's books, and not necessarily a complaint. Overall it was very readable, both entertaining and informative. A good addition to any library.

To order either book, click on the cover above. If you order through the link, we receive a very small percentage, which is used to purchase more books or materials for our public library.

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