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September 2013 Kids Book Reviews

Mesmerizing Math and Hazardous Tales: Donner Dinner Party

Mesmerizing Math

By Jonathan Litton and Thomas Flintham (Templar Books, $18.99; ages 7-10)

This playful book with flaps and simple pop-ups is all about numbers and has a marvelous goal: “Math minus the boring bits = a world of discovery.” The emphasis, on how numbers describe the real world, makes geometry, measurements and series much more than mere digits. Nifty numerics — like squares and square roots, infinity and triangular numbers — come with useful illustrations. The section “Shaping Up” has cutouts of cubes and 3-D triangles. The illustrations are colorful, but while the design looks fine, some of the concepts may be steep going for budding mathematicians; a comment like “Marvel at mathematical sequences in nature” is an example of what could prove challenging to the age group. So get ready for precocious mathematical questions that will only be the beginning of a parent’s quickly receding ability to solve kids’ math problems as school progresses.


Hazardous Tales: Donner Dinner Party

By Nathan Hale (Abrams, $12.95; ages 6 and up)

This historical graphic adventure details the predicament of a group of intrepid souls crossing the Sierra Nevada Mountains at Truckee, CA in the rough winter of 1846. Through desert and marsh they plodded, and the vivid writing and illustrations are a fine example of history at its most personal. This true story is part of the author’s series on notable American events conveyed through the eyes of the participants, in all their emotional vicissitudes. The narrator suddenly warns, “Readers, the next part of this tale is not for the faint of heart. Horrible things are going to happen.” Indeed, the book will shock any 6-year-old reader when he finds out that the “dinner party” of the title refers not to the guests at a meal but to the book’s characters becoming the meal. Parents have to judge the suitability of the story for their kids, some of whom will avidly take to the grisly plot while others will skip dinner.

Frank Lipsius is a contributing writer to MetroKids.

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