Non-Fiction Reviews: The Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Elements & Earth’s Incredible Oceans

Two phenomenal non-fiction titles on the review docket today! First, I will be taking a look at Lisa Congdon’s The Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Elements: The Powers, Uses, and Histories of Every Atom in the Universe, courtesy of friends at Raincoast Books; second, I will be talking about Earth’s Incredible Oceans by Jess French, illustrated by Claire McElfatrick, courtesy of the kind folks at DK/Penguin Random House Canada. Happy reading- these are pretty fantastic books!

Artist, author, and activist Lisa Congdon– who you may recognize from Instagram, as well as the artist behind the picture book Round (with Jennifer Ward)!- brings young readers an exceedingly beautiful and precisely organized rundown of elements in The Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Elements: The Powers, Uses, and Histories of Every Atom in the Universe. A non-fiction title that can just as easily be digested and adored by children and teens as it can be by adults, Congdon’s singular artistry and presentation style is on full effect here. Divided by element categories (hydrogen plus ten other categories), the encyclopedia breaks down each element as follows: their atomic number, their symbol, their category, year discovered, who discovered them; as well as information and background on the element. Providing readers with a foundational study of every known atom of the periodic table, Congdon’s book further details: an introduction to what elements, atoms and compounds are; how to read the periodic table; a look at endangered elements; and much more. Included in the encyclopedia are also concise biographies and dives into related subjects such as: a look at Dmitri Mendeleev and Marie and Pierre Curie; Oliver Sack’s fascination with element collection; the ‘Deadliest Elements’; particle accelerators; radioactivity; and ‘Standout Chemists of the Periodic Table’ (Glossary and Index are also included at the book’s end). An exquisite non-fiction book that functions as much as an essential reference guide as it does a beautiful coffee table staple, Lisa Congdon’s The Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Elements is a must-read standout. Extras: A foldout of the illustrated periodic table can be found in the front endpapers.

Earth’s Incredible Oceans, written by conservationist and TV host Jess French and illustrated by Claire McElfatrick, is a children’s non-fiction title that offers readers a study of the ocean and all of the creatures that live within it. Opening with a look at what an ocean is and a world map showing the five ocean basins and the difference between an ocean and seas, French and McElfatrick takes readers on a tour of how water moves, a pictorial spread of the ocean floor and its components, as well as a fascinating breakdown of the five zones of the ocean (all the way down to the hadal (trench) zone which is more than 20,000 feet below and mostly unexplored!). A large component of the book focuses upon the animals of the ocean: this includes everything from invertabrates (with a close look at jellyfish and octopuses); sharks, rays, chimaeras; fish and ocean reptiles; seabirds; and ocean mammals. French and McElfatrick also offer readers a look at the connected ocean food web, as well as the complex, often incredible methods of survival- including the use of camouflage and symbiosis- that animals rely on to make their living in such a precarious world. With full-page pictorial spreads, blending nature and wildlife photography and Claire McElfatrick’s appealing illustrations, and Jess French’s concise text presented in an orderly fashion, Earth’s Incredible Oceans is a fantastic non-fiction primer. Simple to browse and offering truly intriguing animal facts and ocean information, Earth’s Incredible Oceans also spends some time looking at sustainability, waste in oceans, and the immediate dangers of climate change. (Glossary and Index are included at the book’s end). A terrific non-fiction title that would likely be well-used in a school or library setting, Earth’s Incredible Oceans is recommended reading.

I received a copy of The Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Elements courtesy of Raincoast Books; I received a copy of Earth’s Incredible Oceans courtesy of DK/Penguin Random House Canada in exchange for honest reviews. All opinions and comments are my own. Titles have been published and are currently available.

Author: michelle@fabbookreviews

Reference & Children's Librarian. Reader. Reviewer.

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