Montreal·BOOKS

Non-fiction and diction: 6 new books based on science, history or true stories

Here are some new, true books to help mould and shape our youth into better versions of our influences.

Angus P Byers' picks this month include a dictionary and a science book that makes gross facts fun

(Angus P Byers)

Looking to our surroundings is the first step in creating ourselves. Our earliest encounters with others have an indelible effect on our personalities and tastes. Here are some new, true books to help mould and shape our youth into better versions of our influences.

Killer Style, by Serah-Marie McMahon and Alison Matthews David

(Angus P Byers)

The clothes we wear can define us, but in some cases can bring us to an early end!

Lead makeup, arsenic laced dresses and even radioactive wool have all been dark notes in humanity's efforts to look our best.

An overflowing casket of information, Killer Style manages to keep the tone light while the facts are kohl black. Perfect for science teachers looking to give their presentations a little oomph, or students looking to make their projects a touch more grim.

The Dictionary of Difficult Words, compiled by Jane Solomon, illustrated by Louise Lockhart

(Angus P Byers)

Now I'm sure you are asking why am I reviewing a dictionary, dear reader? Tut! This is no ordinary encyclopedia or dull thesaurus. This is a collection of odd words, some archaic, some near forgotten and some bleeding edge cool.

From abecedarian to zygodactyl, any reader of this winsome (page 95) tome is sure to increase their love of language and maybe help them develop their own idiolect (page 39).

An Owl at Sea, by Susan Vande Griek, illustrated by Ian Wallace

(Angus P Byers)

A short-eared owl, which normally ranges in the tundra or the plains, lands on an oil rig in the North Atlantic. Exhausted and famished, the workers airlift this wandering bird back home to dry, dry land.

Written in poetic prose, we are carried aloft in this story of unexpected travel by Griek's precisely timed words. Based on a true story, the art of it elevates this small, unusual story into a real miracle.

Rotten! By Anita Sanchez, illustrated by Gilbert Ford

(Angus P Byers)

Pee-yew! What is that smell? Why, it's nature at its finest decomposition. Though we might find some rotting things gross, like mould or dung beetles, some we love to eat, like cheese or kimchi. Either way, it helps keep the world clean.

Like a rising pile of yeasty bread dough, this book rises to the challenge of making gross facts fun.

Bound to spark a child's interest in what is happening to the forgotten food at the back of the fridge, even if they still don't want to clean it.

Little People Big Dreams: David Bowie, by Isabel Sánchez Vegara, illustrated by Ana Albero

(Angus P Byers)

All our favourite stars, all our icons, all had childhoods, even the ones that came from Mars. A picture book introduction into David Bowie's outrageous art and fashion, continuing his legacy for another generation to be sure.

Written for the oddball and the straight-laced alike, both can be boosted into the stratosphere by the anecdotes within.

Hedy Lamarr's Double Life, by Laurie Wallmark, illustrated by Katy Wu

(Angus P Byers)

Hollywood star Hedy Lamarr not only captured filmgoer's eyes, she also sparked scientists minds.

An amateur inventor, constantly tinkering with new ideas, when she wasn't filming classic movies, she was developing a frequency hopping device, integral in how today's cellphones work.

The dichotomy of Lamarr's life is depicted wonderfully by Wu's art, mid-century hard edge painting style done with the latest in digital techniques. Interspersed throughout are quotes from the actress-inventor herself, giving a gravitas to the struggle to be taken seriously.


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About the Author

Angus P Byers

CBC Homerun Book Columnist

Angus P Byers is a bookseller at Livres Babar Books, an illustrator and a tattoo artist. You can find him on Instagram @angustattoos. You can also hear Angus on Homerun, on CBC Radio One (88.5 FM), once a month on Wednesday afternoons starting at 3 p.m.

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