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Precision, progress and power

GET GOING: MARTIAL ARTS. Judo; Taekwondo; Karate; Kung Fu. By Neil Morris. Heinemann Library pound;10.50 each. TESDirect pound;10 each.

Many children have a real interest in the martial arts. This series starts with a health warning that none of the moves should be taught or used without a qualified instructor present. After a brief look at the sport and its historical context, there's a description of equipment, sections on the various moves, throws and other tactics, and details on the gradings at a national and international level.

A particular strength of each book is the photographic portrayal of some of the more detailed moves. In the Karate title, for example, a double-page spread deals effectively with the range of kicks used, giving the reader clear instructions alongside the photos.

The final spread is a reference section looking at the meanings of some of the Japanese, Korean and Chinese words used in the various sports, a glossary, book-lists and a collection of useful addresses for further information.

At last, the words kup, dan and kyu will begin to make sense.

STEVE BLACKMAN Steve Blackman is head of Great Alne primary school, Warwickshire Sick!: bloody moments in the history of medicine By Gael Jennings Illustrated by Roland Harvey Watts pound;8.99 This book is a happy anomaly within the popular genre of coarse chronicles. The pictures, liberally decorated with blood, pus, vomit, snot and fungal growths, are funny and informative. The text avoids facetiousness and tells a heroic story in which vaccines, stethoscopes, antibiotics and anaesthetics, supported by brave and inventive humans, battle against plagues, epidemics and misdiagnoses based on demonology. Many of the great names of medical history are here. The language is demanding for 11-year-olds but the progress it commemorates is clear.

Tom Deveson Monster Machines series: Jets; Racing Cars; Spacecraft; Super Bikes; Trucks By David Jefferis Belitha Press pound;9.99 each Monster Machines looks at the technology behind today's transport and will appeal to upper primary and older but less confident readers. The language is matter-of-fact, avoiding anorak tendencies and providing clear explanations of the principles involved. Each book uses factboxes to explain technical terms, and eyewitness accounts offer some unusually impressionistic accounts of the machinery.

A concluding section of facts and figures provides a resume of key developments. A small section suggesting simple projects or activities furthers understanding of the principles.

With evidence mounting that the environment is under global threat, this series provides food for thought on how to use resources as part of a learning experience that promotes social responsibility.

Jon O'Connor Jon O'Connor is head of Parkside community primary school, Borehamwood, Hertfordshire

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