"Why?" is an important question. Adults ask "why?"all the time. In questioning, we seek answers to help make better sense of the message, the messenger, and our world.

It's no different for children, yet too often adults tire of children asking "why?" The adult reply of "just because" or "because I said so" doesn't help the child to grow and understand. Instead, the child learns not to ask, and that's tragic.

Nonfiction books are an excellent way to expand a child's mind. The key to getting children turned-on to nonfiction and therefore learning is to choose books that impart knowledge in a well written, fast-paced and engaging way. Today's reviewed books are good examples of just that. Make sure to include terrific nonfiction books in your weekly mix of reading materials. Planting that seed early in life will yield dividends so great they can't be counted.

Children are curious about everything, including things they aren't yet aware of. Books can be a tremendous springboard to ignite the imagination, provide new ideas, discover and understand the world. Of equal importance is a caring adult who takes the time to listen and answer a child's questions, no matter how often they ask. Make that adult you.

Books to Borrow

The following book is available at many public libraries.

"Lucy Long Ago: Uncovering the Mystery of Where We Came From" by Catherine Thimmesh, photos: various credits, Houghton Mifflin, 64 pages

Read aloud: age 10 - 11 and older.

Read yourself: age 11 - 12 and older.

In November, 1974, Donald Johanson was in Hadir, Ethopia, hunting hominids: skeleton bones of human ancestors. When he happened upon a bit of an elbow jutting out of the sediment, Johanson was ecstatic. He soon discovered it to be a partial skeleton of a single hominid individual; an even more remarkable find. But as the scientists progressed in solving answers to their many questions about their discovery, they would come to know just how very incredible their specimen really was.

At once comprehensive and fascinating, "Lucy Long Ago" is an extraordinary book.

Librarian's Choice

Library: Jefferson County Public Library, 420 West Main St., Madison

Library Director: Brent Stokesberry

Children's Librarian: Kara Pettey

Choices this week: "Freight Train" by Donald Crews; "Nubs: The True Story of a Mutt, a Marine, and a Miracle" by Major Brian Dennis; "Orangutans are Ticklish: Fun Facts From an Animal Photographer" by Jill Davis

Books to Buy

The following books are available at favorite bookstores.

"Galápagos George" by Jean Craighead George, illustrated by Wendell Minor, HarperCollins, 2014, 36 pages, $15.99 hardcover

Read aloud: age 5 and older.

Read yourself: age 7 - 9.

This story began around one million years ago when a giant tortoise lived in the ancient South American desert. When a violent storm struck, Giantess George and many of her species were washed into the ocean and, six hundred miles later, finally landed on a small island. As the years passed, Giantess George and her species evolved with physical adaptations to better suit their changing environment and ensure survival.

In the early 1970s, the last remaining descendent of Giantess George was discovered on Pinta Island and taken to the protected Charles Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz Island. Here, Lonesome George (as he was named) lived and thrived until his death on June 24, 2012 - roughly one hundred years of age.

A brilliant introduction to evolution and the natural world, this outstanding book is top-notch.

"Plesiosaur Peril" by Daniel Loxton, illustrated by Daniel Loxton with Jim W.W. Smith, Kids can Press, 2014, 32 pages, $16.95 hardcover

Read aloud: age 5 - 6 and older.

Read yourself: age 8 and older.

The newest addition to the series "Tales of Prehistoric Life" vividly recreates the ancient undersea world of the Jurassic era and some of its inhabitants.

A baby Cryptoclidus plesiosaur swam with her mother and their pod. The ocean was filled with much to eat. It was also filled with much danger, namely another plesiosaur - Liopleurodon. Liopleurodon was much bigger and stronger than the Cryptoclidus and hunted the smaller species. When the baby Cryptoclidus plesiosaur was distracted and swam too far from her pod, Liopleurodon was close behind. Would she be able to escape the fierce predator?

Scientifically accurate and thoroughly researched, this captivating story and its state-of-the-art computer-generated images is bound to fascinate young and old alike.



Nationally syndicated, Kendal Rautzhan writes and lectures on children's literature. She can be reached at kendal@sunlink.net.