Prepare kids for coming classes with fascinating, fun educational books

It's time for kids to go back to school! Your local library is filled with exciting nonfiction and history-inspired titles that can help make learning a blast and enhance what kids will discover in the classroom. Do they want to learn about astronauts, arithmetic or adjectives? Whatever they are interested in, you can find more information about it at the Fort Worth Public Library.

Here are just a few of the thousands of fascinating reads available that will put your family in a back-to-school mood.

Subject: History

The American Story: 100 True Tales From American History

By Jennifer Armstrong

Alfred A. Knopf, 2006

For ages: 9-12

American history is full of wonderful tales of adventure, suspense, tragedy, triumph, even humor. Armstrong presents 100 of these tales, spanning 400 years of American history, in a fascinating volume that is as entertaining and kid-friendly as a book of short stories. Readers can travel to the moon with Neil Armstrong or harness electricity with Benjamin Franklin. Some of the stories are famous, such as the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Some of the stories are less well-known but no less fascinating -- like the tale of Henry Brown, a very clever slave who literally mailed himself to freedom. This is a great read-aloud for the whole family.

Subject: Language arts

If You Were a Palindrome

By Michael Dahl

Picture Window Books, 2007

For ages: 4-8

What would you be if you were a palindrome? Would you toot, peep or pop? Is your name Hannah or Bob? You could be a mom, a dad or a pup. Dahl combines simple, clear text with bright, inviting and humorous illustrations to explain the concept of this linguistic term to small children. This is one of the entertaining "Word Fun" series of books introducing language concepts. Other books in the same series cover nouns, verbs, alliteration, adjectives, adverbs, interjections, pronouns, prepositions, conjunctions and onomatopoeia.

Subject: Mathematics

What's Your Angle, Pythagoras?

By Julie Ellis

Charlesbridge Publishing, 2004

For ages: 9-12

In ancient Greece, a little boy named Pythagoras observes two workmen arguing. One man has built a 12-foot ladder, which is too short to reach the roof of a 12-foot building. Pythagoras then notices that the columns the workmen have built have crooked bases and cannot stand up straight. Eager to solve these problems, the curious boy meets a master builder named Nef who uses a rope to make right angles. Pythagoras experiments with the rope and right angles until he figures out how tall to make the ladder, how to build a straight statue base and even how to plot a direct sea route from Samos to Crete. This fictional story about Pythagoras gives young readers an enjoyable and easily understood introduction to the Pythagorean theorem, with some examples as to why it is useful.

Subject: Science

Look to the Stars

By Buzz Aldrin

Putnam, 2009

For ages: 4-8

Astronaut Buzz Aldrin presents a richly illustrated history of space aviation. He begins by describing the accomplishments of Copernicus, Newton and other scientists who studied space and gravity, then moves on to the innovations of the Wright brothers and other early aviators. From there, he discusses the history of powered flight, early space flight and his own moon landing, closing with the space shuttle and some speculation as to what the future may hold for space exploration. Aldrin's narrative is filled with personal details that tie the present to the past. Beautifully detailed paintings by Wendell Minor make this read as enjoyable as it is informative.

Subject: Fine arts

Acting Out: Six One-Act Plays

Atheneum Books, 2008

For ages: 9-12

Invite six Newbery Award-winning authors each to submit a one-act play for young people based on six zany, unrelated words: "dollop," "hoodwink," "Justin," "knuckleball," "panhandle" and "raven." What do you get? This fun collection of lively skits designed to be read aloud in a classroom. In The Raven, a 12-year-old Edgar Allan Poe is told by his publisher to come up with a less "dreary" beginning to his famous poem, to insert a cheerful bluebird in place of his dour raven and to make the entire thing into a work of prose called Polly Panhandler and the Baseball Chalice War. Other skits include a group of students in detention who learn how to dance, a modern retelling of The Nightingale by Hans Christian Andersen, and a story about a huge, angry boulder called the Dollop intent on killing off the developers who have destroyed its environment. On with the show!

Subject: General knowledge

Everything You Need To Know: An Encyclopedia for Inquiring Young Minds

Kingfisher Publications, 2007

For ages: 4-8

This colorful one-volume encyclopedia gives early elementary-school students a delightful introduction to the world of knowledge. The book is divided into 10 thematic chapters that cover broad topics ranging from history and geography to dinosaurs, plants and machines. Short articles within each chapter offer easy-to-read information about specific topics, with special boxes that highlight useful vocabulary words, interesting facts, commonly asked questions and stories or myths relating to the topic. Some articles even have a "creative corner" offering a craft or activity to go along with the article. All two-page spreads offer Internet links to age-appropriate websites that give more information about the topic. If you enjoy this, you might also like Everything You Need To Know About Science, also from Kingfisher Publications.

Claire Abraham is a children's librarian at the Fort Worth Public Library. These books are available at most library branches.