Two intrepid librarians

Two intrepid librarians review the best nonfiction books for children

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Worst-Case Scenario Survive-O-Pedia: Junior Edition

The Worst-Case Scenario Survive-O-Pedia: Junior Edition 
by David Borgenicht, Molly Smith, Brendan Walsh and Robin Epstein
illustrated by Chuck Gonzales
Chronicle Books, 2011
ISBN: 9780811876902
The reviewer obtained a copy of this book from the Southern Maine Library District's examination collection.

I have a loyal group of nonfiction readers (ages 8-10) who come into the library each week in search of The Guinness World Records. If all of the Guinness books are checked out, then they will check out The Scholastic Book of Records or The Dangerous Book for Boys. Now there's a new general knowledge book that will have reluctant readers asking for more. The creators of The Worst Case Scenario Survival Handbook have published The Worst Case Scenario Survive-O-Pedia, a survival guide for elementary school children.

The book is actually an encyclopedia with entries organized alphabetically. Each two-page spread features a topic that middle grade readers will find fascinating. Some of the subjects covered include airplane crashes, bull running, Komodo dragons, polar bears, and avalanches. General information about each topic is organized into paragraphs with headings, making the text accessible to young readers. A fact box with "how to" information provides instructions for what to do in each dangerous situation. If you want to avoid a crocodile attack, then stay away from croc infested water, run away, or punch the croc in the snout. The authors provide information about each event or animal without inciting fear in young readers.

Readers will be drawn to the combination of colorful photographs and cartoon drawings that illustrate each article. Boxes containing "Fast Facts" will thrill the trivia buffs in your library. For example, "The box jellyfish or sea wasp (found off the northern Australian coast) kills more people than any other marine creature each year."

I was a bit surprised that the entry about being lost on a mountain never mentions looking for trail markers. We have a lot of hiking trails in New England, and periodically hikers become lost. The best advice is to try to stay on or near the marked trail until help arrives. The entry on shipwrecks never mentions wearing floatation devices or using a marine radio to call for help.

Despite a few oversights in the survival advice, the book is sure to excite reluctant readers. Teachers and librarians may want to select pages to read aloud to classes as a springboard for research. The Worst Case Scenario Survive-O-Pedia would make a popular addition to the 031s (general knowledge). Beware, you'll need to start a waiting list once the kids see it!

3+ Stars
(grades 3-6)

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