Writing non-fiction for children is a challenge as it's not easy to explain complicated ideas in a way that's easy to understand. But it's a challenge I really enjoy so I've written quite a few non-fiction books for young readers. Here are some of my favourites.
Inside this book, you'll learn far more than just how to send secret messages. You'll discover the history of codes and ciphers and the constant battle between the codemakers and the codebreakers - a battle that's shaped history, won wars and lost one very important person her head. You'll also learn how to crack codes.
Shhh. Don't tell a soul. Put on your dark glasses and false moustache. Find a quiet corner where no one is looking and start reading. In the process, you'll learn how codes work, how to crack them and how to read minds. With any luck, you'll also put a stop to a criminal mastermind's dastardly plot.
Kimpton's book is an excellent introduction of the world of codes and ciphers
After being thoroughly entertained by the adventures of code-cracking secret agent Luke Warm, I suddenly realised that I knew an awful lot more about codes than any other book had ever told me.
This book was so interesting that I had to read it slowly to make sure I absorbed every word.
Another Amazon reviewer
Spectacular Special Effects(Scholastic)
Anything can happen on screen. Alien battle cruisers can attack a galaxy far far away. Dinosaurs can overcome extinction to roam the Earth again and perfectly ordinary broomsticks can fly. Bringing events like these to life is the task of the special effects team. But special effects aren't restricted to TV and film. They also happen on stage, and that's even harder as the audience are watching the whole time.
I caught my fascination with special effects from my son who decided at the age of 11 that that was what he wanted to do for a living. He spent hours working out how effects were done on screen, built props for the local theatre and filled his bedroom with severed arms, collapsing shelves and dripping taps. Eventually, after lots of work, he succeeded and his expertise has helped me create this book for other people who, like him, want to know how it's all done.
But this book goes beyond 'how it's done' to 'why it works'. It looks at low budget as well as high budget effects and includes some ideas simple enough to try yourself for your school play or home video. Read this book and you too could have a collapsing shelf in your bedroom.
A fascinating book that screens the truth from the lies about cinematic weather, fights, chases, monsters and disasters.
Edison's Fantastic Phonograph(Frances Lincoln)
Writing a picture book about Thomas Edison was a challenge. He was so prolific that my first task was to decide which of his many inventions to focus on. For me, the phonograph stood out from all the others. It was a totally new concept - not an improvement on other people's ideas - and it changed the world in a way children can understand.
The story of the first recording of sound is well documented so that part of my research was easy. But the big breakthrough for me was reading Edison's daughter's own account of the event. Here was exactly what I needed - a real child's involvement with an important scientific breakthrough and a possible explanation of why the first words ever recorded were "Mary had a little lamb". Armed with all that information, I just needed a little imagination to bring the story to life.
This absorbing account is an excellent example of the approach and tells the story of how Edison recorded sound for the very first time.
Books for Keeps
Diana Kimpton has cleverly woven the science together with the storyline involving Dot, the inventor's daughter, and I am sure that this book will appeal to children who may not readily be interested in science.
The School Librarian
Puppets on Film
(Rigby - Springboard series)
This was my first book to come from my fascination with special effects. It's quite different from traditional puppet books about marionettes and Indonesian shadow puppets as it concentrates on puppets readers will have seen in films like Star Wars, Labyrinth3and ET. The eye catching colour photographs really grab children's attention.
(out of print)
(Rigby - Springboard series)
This started from a request to write a book about dealing with emergencies but it turned into a book on problem solving. The problems range from 'my bike has a puncture' to 'the gerbil ate my T-shirt' and each has a number of solutions, both silly and sensible, which get rated as either good or bad ideas. To my delight, it was described as unputdownable for upper juniors in the TES review of the series.
(out of print)
The Hospital Highway Code(Macmillan)
Both my sons were born with cystic fibrosis so I've spent more than my fair share of time in children's wards, and it was there that the idea for this book was born. It combines serious information with jokes, puzzles and cartoons. The wide range of topics it covers allows it to fit in well with most admissions, and I deliberately avoided phrases like "when you get better" to make it suitable for children with ongoing conditions.
(out of print - rights available)
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