A Dino Guide, a Biblical Who's Who, and More Reference Titles

New titles from DK shed light on dinosaurs and biblical figures, while a new Guinness World Records volume has a science slant.

Bible Characters Visual Encyclopedia. 208p. glossary. illus. index. DK. Feb. 2018. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781465468901.

Gr 3-6 –This selected introduction to the Bible presents Solomon’s Temple, Paul’s journeys, a dozen additional events or structures, and 90-plus characters. Most subjects receive a page or two of information (Jacob and Moses each get eight). Lively illustrations dominate, with key data in prominent boxes. The “Old Testament” is acknowledged as the Christian name for the Jewish bible; dating is in BCE and CE. Language and complex narratives are simplified (there are two Genesis creation accounts, but just one is provided here); only four of Jesus’s miracles and four parables are covered. Interpretation is eschewed (such as the idea that the story of Cain and Abel represents pastoral-agricultural conflict), and few symbols besides names and numbers are explained. Some dubious episodes (Noah’s drunkenness) are elided but not the patriarchs’ polygamy. The Judeo-Protestant version of the Ten Commandments appears (with the sixth prohibiting “murder”). The detailed images are undistinguished but only slightly romanticized, idealized, or spiritualized (no wings or halos). Violence is downplayed (even the crucifixion is bloodless), though not entirely glossed over: one image shows flood-era humans about to drown. Back matter includes an annotated map and brief notes on additional characters (Jael, Joab). VERDICT Readers new to the Bible will find abundant cultural references concisely and attractively presented. Suitable for both religious and secular libraries and schools.–Patricia D. Lothrop, formerly of St. George’s School, Newport, RI

Dinosaurs: A Visual Encyclopedia. 2nd ed. 304p. illus. index. photos. DK. Apr. 2018. pap. $19.99. ISBN 9781465469489; Tr $29.99. ISBN 9781465470119.

Gr 4-8 –Like the 2011 edition, this revised version provides a wealth of well-organized, visually appealing content, with more than 200 species profiles mixed with overviews of broader groups and related topics. Some spreads introduce a family, such as hadrosaurs, followed by brief facts and images about several species from the group. Other spreads focus exclusively on a single species in more detail. Visuals include eye-catching digital images of prehistoric creatures in full, uncluttered layouts. Despite the “dinosaurs” in the title, coverage includes prehistoric reptiles, mammals, and invertebrates as well. Time lines, fact files, pronunciation guides, and scale diagrams offer further information in accessible formats. While much of the text and illustrations are identical to those of the earlier edition, significant changes based on up-to-date scholarship have been made. The description of the relationship between dinosaurs and birds, for instance, is more clear and decisive. Both the content and artwork reflect recent discoveries about physical features. Currency extends up to 2017, as reflected in the recent recognition of stenonychosaurus as a distinct species. Other changes include slight date adjustments based on the latest research  and corrections of a couple minor errors from the earlier book. VERDICT Thorough in scope, with strong visuals and updated information, this title is equally useful for reference or browsing.–Steven Engelfried, Wilsonville Public Library, OR

Guinness World Records: Science & Stuff. 216p. index. photos. Guinness World Records. Jan. 2018. Tr $24.95. ISBN 9781912286393; pap. $14.99. ISBN 9781910561645.

Gr 3-6 –From flatulence and stinky plants to space poop and feats of superhuman strength, Guinness sure knows what kids like. And while all these entries on the weird, gross, smelly, noisy, and noxious may have the popular ick factor, they also have some basis in science. What better way to get kids to learn about chemistry, physics, medicine, math, and more? In a format similar to other “Guinness World Records” books, this volume delves into topics as diverse as rocketry and taste buds, piquing young minds’ interest with trivia-worthy tidbits. Packed with just enough information to make students want to find out more, each chapter includes an “Ask an Expert” section—interviews with people with fascinating jobs in science, including a space plane engineer, a deep-sea explorer, a pyrotechnician, and even a dinosaur poop collector. Graphs, charts, sidebars, and tantalizing photos—mutant vegetables and a man on fire, anyone?—make this volume hard to put down. VERDICT Science plus shock factor equal a winner for the middle grade set.–Sharon Verbeten, Brown County Library, Green Bay, WI

Jacobs, Robin. Flying Colors: A Guide to Flags from Around the World. illus. by Robert G. Fresson. 144p. maps. Cicada. Mar. 2018. Tr $22.95. ISBN 9781908714466.

Gr 2-6 –Budding vexillologists will want to get their hands on this book. Jacobs’s guide to the flags of the world is beautiful and informative. After a brief walk through the history of flags in general, the author offers a two-page lesson on flag design, with definitions of many of the unique terms associated with vexillology (the study of flags). The rest of the book is dedicated to each of the flags of the world, organized by specific design elements. The pages are filled with various historical iterations of a country’s flag, with brief captions outlining how and why flags changed over time. Intriguing facts and sidebars are included on every spread and provide a broad understanding of flags and their use throughout the world. Maps at the end offer an opportunity to locate unfamiliar countries mentioned within, and empty pages are available for young enthusiasts to create their own flags. The entire design, from whimsical endpapers filled with people carrying all sorts of flags to the thick, creamy pages, makes for an utterly browsable, attractive package. VERDICT Recommended for most libraries.–Jody Kopple, Shady Hill School, Cambridge, MA

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