Book looks

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

Put enough trivia together and soon you have a substantial block of information. These books offer young readers a wealth of material in mostly bite-sized bits:

* An Uncommon History of Common Things (National Geographic, 303 pages, $40, age 9 and older)

Bethanne Patrick and John Thompson separate household items and traditions into categories such as "garments and accessories," "symbols and markings" and "food and drink"; and come up with lots of juicy tidbits: Pies were called "coffins" in medieval England because they were used as containers for fillings. The napkin traces its origin to the Spartans, who kept lumps of dough at the table to wipe their hands. An index guides readers to categories of interest.

* How To Be a Genius (DK, 192 pages, $19.99, age 9 and older)

Writer John Woodward and illustrators Serge Seidlitz and Andy Smith cover the anatomy of the brain, then tackle complicated issues such as how people learn, how the senses work, how language is used and how creativity is defined. The colorful book -- packed with cartoons, illustrations, diagrams and photos -- also investigates brainy thinkers such as Albert Einstein, Charles Darwin, Leonardo da Vinci and George Washington Carver.

* Open Me Up: Everything You Need To Know About the Human Body (DK, 256 pages, $24.99, age 9 and older)

A team of writers adds a large dose of humor to the definition of body parts and systems, and how they all work together. A "spare parts" page discusses goose bumps, wisdom teeth and the third eyelid. Biologists who broke down the DNA molecule are pictured on a couch, knitting together the strands. William Beaumont's gastric experiments in the early 1800s are told in a comic-book panel. There's something arresting on each page to command attention.

* Children's Book of Art (DK, 142 pages, $24.99, ages 7 to 12)

The uncredited creators of the book approach art from a variety of directions: eras from prehistoric times to modern; how different forms of art (including mosaics, watercolors and street art) are created; famous artists and famous works; and themes, such as animals, war and nighttime. The eclectic approach is entertaining, and the reproductions are stunning.