Books: Non-fiction

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2 The Usborne Animated Children's Encyclopedia (pounds 19.99) combines book and CD-Rom; the former, divided into sections ("Our planet"; "People"), is a colourful cartoon guide to the world; the latter looks rather more exciting, with illustrative games and full narration.

2 The Young Person's Guide to the Ballet by Anita Ganeri (Pavilion pounds 14.99) tells the history of ballet, illustrates simple steps and positions, introduces the terminology and tells the stories of famous ballets. It's accompanied by a CD of music from The Sleeping Beauty, The Nutcracker and Swan Lake.

2 A Young Person's Guide to Philosophy by Jeremy Weate, illus Peter Lawman (Dorling Kindersley pounds 9.99) certainly aims high, and makes its topic up to date rather than dusty ("Is a computer virus alive?" we're asked on page 5). Like all DK books, it's attractively illustrated and well thought out, introducing the young reader to most of the big names from Socrates to Wittgenstein, and a brief overview of schools of thought: Rationalists, Materialists, Scholastics and so on. Sometimes the book's very simplicity can be cryptic, however.

2 Seeing Stars by James Muirden (Walker pounds 8.99), part of the "Bright Sparks" series, introduces the mind-boggling statistics of astronomy in an easily graspable, point-by-point way, covering a considerable amount of detail in only 23 brightly coloured pages. Also in the series are Rocking and Rolling (the earth), Wild, Wet and Windy (weather) and Wings, Stings and Wriggly Things.

2 Ultimate Panoramic Atlas (Dorling Kindersley pounds 12.99). This stupendous and mind-boggling view of the earth uses computer modelling not just to map out the land masses but to show the equally impressive mountains, shelves, valleys and plains of the ocean floor. The island of Bermuda, for example is a mere dot of green atop a great needle formed by a deep- sea volcano.

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