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The variety of nonfiction books for young readers is more numerous than ever before with selections from how-to books, biographies and documentaries.

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Nonfiction books appeal to a very broad audience with simple concepts ("Farm: A Touch and Feel Book") to detailed photo-essays ("The Boy Who Invented TV: The Story of Philo Farnsworth" by Kathleen Krull). Nonfiction books sometimes accompany and extend fiction ("Leprechauns and Irish Folklore: A Nonfiction Companion to Leprechauns in Late Winter," a Magic Tree house #21 book by Mary Pope Osborne). Children are led to nonfiction by their interests in specific topics ("Global Warming" by Seymour Simon) and curiosity ("Countries of the World").

Following are a few titles as representative of nonfiction science and survey books for young readers:

HarperCollins' Let's-Read-And-Find-Out-About series covers basic science concepts and are grouped according to reading interest and ability level; preschoolers to beginning readers. "Where Do Polar Bears Live?" is an example. Simple sentence structure and uncluttered format makes this series a perfect choice for beginners.

Children of 7-9 will enjoy "Bugs and Bugsicles" by Amy Hansen (Boyds Mills), which provides a explanation of where insects disappear in the fall and their survival all winter. Robert Kray's detailed drawings are clear and supportive of the text. He has included two winter and ice experiments for budding scientists.

Another popular science series for young readers is the Magic School Bus by Joanna Cole and Bruce Degen (Scholastic). One hundred and thirty-one titles have appeared since the beginning of this series in 1986. Each book takes a classroom of students on a science trip with their weird teacher Ms. Fizzle. The trademark of the series is humor, quips and jokes, but underlying simple scientific facts made easy and applicable to young readers ages 7-10. The most recent, "The Magic School Bus and the Climate Challenge" explains why the earth is getting warmer while engaging young readers to take action on the climate problems of the world

Two atlas-type volumes are the "Book of World Records: 2010" (Scholastic) and National Geographic's "Kids Almanac: 2010." Each are stuffed with tidbits of information, wacky facts and nuggets of statistics. The "Book of Records" is divided into six categories; for example, pop culture, sports and nature accompanied by full-color photos and graphs to compare standings between countries and materials. Here you can find out the largest lakes in the world and the library with the most volumes.

"Kids Almanac" is the first such reference specifically for children ages 8-12. More than 500 outstanding color photos provide facts, stories and additional activities on hundreds of subjects.

"Really, Really Big Questions About Life, the Universe and Everything" by Dr. Stephen Law (Kingfisher) treats different issues than the almanacs in a more subjective text. For example, questions are asked — and answered simply — 'Is everything physical?' and 'Is my mind my brain?' Law encourages free thinking: " Even when I think I know the answer, you should still make up your own mind. …"

Perhaps that is the best purpose of nonfiction books for young readers: to help them make up their minds.

e-mail: marilou.sorensen@att.net