Do you know her?

14th December 2007 at 00:00
If children are half as interested in this fun and informative book as me I'll be happy, says Phil Gamble.Do Not Open. John Farndon. Dorling Kindersley Publishers Ltd. pound;19.99

Do Not Open is lavishly illustrated, well thought out and lots of fun. It comes in a large silver box, which opens to reveal a 256-page book packed with facts. "An encyclopedia of the world's best-kept secrets" is how it describes itself and this is certainly true. Well, for me it was. I always wondered what was under Cheyenne Mountain, a simple explanation of the DNA time capsule and to know the truth about dirt.

The book packs so much in on a wide variety of different subjects. You can read it in the traditional way or jump around using the links that lead to similar articles. For instance, you can jump from an article exploring what happened to Lord Lucan to articles about hackers or safecracking or a tour of the law. This way of moving round fits the way that children explore the internet, so I can see this being really popular.

It will keep them amused for hours, but it will also inform and educate. It is not a traditional facts book that you would use for reference, but if you use the index it can be used to research certain topics.

I am all for getting children to read and find out information for themselves. Too often they are happy to just "Google it" or go to Wikipedia. I tried this for iris recognition and got the usual 100-plus pages from Google that needed further research to find anything relevant. Wikipedia gave me a detailed description, half of which I didn't understand. Do Not Open gave me a two-page snippet explaining simply what it is and how it may be used in the future.

I only have one reservation about the book; will today's children be interested in some of the mysteries it seeks to investigate? Have they heard of Nostradamus, Houdini, Marilyn Monroe or Elvis Presley? Do they care about The Turin Shroud, The Marie Celeste or Nazca Lines? I don't know but I hope it keeps them interested as long as it did me. I enjoyed Do Not Open and I pick it up and have another look regularly.

Phil Gamble teaches design and technology in Nottingham.

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