I can’t believe it’s August already. I feel as though the summer is flying by. And while my plan was to do some structured school-type activities with my son, I haven’t got around to it yet and feel I likely won’t. But all is not lost. We are a reading, activity-loving family and while he is not sitting down with math sheets, he is reading – about math, science, geography and his neighbourhood. And maybe that is the best kind of learning he can do.

Kids ask questions and get the answers in this math and information book
How Many Guinea Pigs Can Fit on a Plane?

How Many Guinea Pigs Can Fit on a Plane?

Ants can carry up to 50 to 100 times their own body weight. If the same could be said for a child, how much could he carry?

This fascinating question, along with a slew of other interesting ones, was asked by Sophia and published in the book How Many Guinea Pigs Can Fit on a Plane? ($24.99, Raincoast Books, Feiwel and Friends). And author Laura Overdeck, the creator of the Bedtime Math books, answered it.

The answer? You take your body weight and multiply it by 50. So a 60-pound kid, for example, could lift 3,000 pounds, the weight of a four-door compact car.

Each question receives a double page spread with information about the subject, information on how to do the math, the math worked out and the answer.

So when Nina asks how many bees does it take to make one jar of honey, for example, we learn that honeybees turn sugary nectar into honey by passing it from one bee’s mouth to the other and drying it out by fanning their wings 118 times per second. In its six-week lifespan, a bee makes 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey.

So 12 bees make 1 teaspoon of honey; a tablespoon has three teaspoon in it so 12×3=36 bees to make 1 tablespoon. If a jar of honey weighing eight ounces has about 10 tablespoons in it, it requires 36 bees times 10 tablespoons to equal 360 bees to make one jar.

It also makes my head spin. So while I appreciate the math, I appreciate, even more, that someone else is figuring it out, and I just have to read the answers.

And 472,500. That’s the number of guinea pigs that fit on a 747 plane.

Learn how to be a Scientist with this DK book
How to be a Scientist

How to Be a Scientist

I lost my son for a while when he opened up a package from DK Books and discovered Steve Mould’s How to Be a Scientist ($25.99, DK Books) inside.

The book asks questions to help budding scientists like my eight year old figure things out, offers interesting facts and provides experiments so he can see for himself what happens.

As he tells me he is going to be a chemist when he grows up, that section seemed to draw him in. He learned what a chemical is, more information about the periodic table, particularly helpful for his mother who has no idea, and an experiment to clean coins using various household liquids, separating colours and making a bubble bottle, which looks really cool. There are a number of other sections with equally amazing information including natural world, human body, Earth, physics and space.

While I am a fan of DK Books in general, I particularly like this one both in variety of information as well as the layout itself. The font is big and bold, the books is bright and colourful, the photos and graphics are beautiful and the instructions are easy to follow.

Explore your backyard and your neighbourhood with this Lonely Planet Kids book
Backyard Explorer

Lonely Planet Kids Backyard Explorer

I really like Lonely Planet Kids Backyard Explorer Adventures Right at Your Doorstep book ($18.99, Raincoast Books, Lonely Planet Kids), but many of the activities are not found right at our doorstep. While we can do the wildlife watch, where we sit still for 15 minutes and observe the creatures that call our yard home (but perhaps not right on the ground as we have fire ants) and Planning Permission, where we could redesign a house on our street, every time I think about the activity titled How Wide is Your Web, I giggle. Because a five-minute walk away from our house would find us more houses, and 50 minutes later we would still be on our street. The hospital is 40 minutes away, the best friend is 30 minutes away and the airport is an hour-and-a-half drive. We won’t be able to find a number of items in Spot The Lot, but we can see the stars, we have a unique skyline silhouette, and there are enough crafts to keep as going including weather watch, soil scientist and rubbings, which I plan to do with the kids during the upcoming family reunion.

Learn about the Great Wall of China with this Lonely Planet Kids book
Lonely Planet Kids Following the Great Wall

Lonely Planet Kids Unfolding Journey Following the Great Wall

I must admit that Lonely Planet Kids Unfolding Journey Following the Great Wall, Explore the Majestic Wonders of China by Stewart Ross and Victo Ngai (Raincoast Books, Lonely Planet Kids) was not what I was expecting.

The information was great, and there is certainly a lot of it. I spent a fair bit of time reading through some of the amazing facts about the Great Wall including The Cave of a Thousand Buddhas, which includes 492 caves that contain more than 2,000 sculptures and 484,000 square feet of wall paintings and the Hukou Waterfall, which sees the thick, brownish water of the Yellow River crash over the falls. The Great Wall of China is the longest man-made structure in the world, made up of different sections built over the course of 1,800 years, according to the book. It certainly makes me want to add it to my to-see list. However, I wasn’t a fan of the illustrations, and would have loved to see real pictures mixed in with drawn ones.

French writer Herve Tullet releases Say Zoop!, his latest book in his Press Here series
Say Zoop!

Say Zoop!

Say Zoop! is the latest book by Herve Tullet, and it certainly pulled my eight year old in.

It’s the first thing he pulled out of the package that arrived from Raincoast Books ($21.99, Chronicle Kids, http://www.chroniclekids.com) and he stood at the table following the dots with his finger and shouting out words in various volumes. It was fun watching him read the book and following along. I then had to read it a loud to him and I must confess I might have been cursing Tullet’s name – there might have been a bit too many dots, lines and squares to follow along that night.

Read my interview with Tullet about Mix It Up here.

Keep your kids learning all summer with this educational books
Under the Sea

Under the Sea

Under the Sea ($27.99, Raincoast Books, Silver Dolphin Books) is one of the neatest books I have come across in a while.

There are five sections: Explore the Great Barrier Reef; Dive into the Mediterranean Sea; Peer into the Arctic Ocean; Sail the Open Ocean; and Plunge into the Deep Sea.

Each section starts with pictures of some of the creatures you would find in, for example, the Great Barrier Reef. While the illustrations are not my favourite – I would prefer real pictures of the creatures – the information was fabulous and informative. I didn’t realize, for example, that the pom pom crab picks stinging anemones from the rocks and carriers them in its claws and uses the anemones to defend itself against attack. There is also one creature in each section that offers sound. As you flip the pages, you learn more about the creatures highlighted in the first section, layer by layer until you come to the final layer and that creature makes noise. So you hear what a polar bear sounds like in the final layer of the chapter titled into the Arctic Ocean.

I found each layer’s information easy to read, easily presented and really interesting.

A copy of these books were provided by Raincoast Books and DK Books for honest review. The opinions are my own.

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