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Reference books that entertain

By Diane ManuelSpecial to The Christian Science Monitor / November 30, 1987



Reference books may not be high on most youngsters' preferred reading lists, but several new titles pack a lot of information into fairly entertaining formats. The Physical World, by Tony Seddon and Jill Bailey (Doubleday, $12.95, ages 10 and up), is one good example. As they explore the formation of the earth's crust, its lakes, seas, and atmosphere, the authors ask their readers questions (answered at the end of the book) and suggest experiments to prove the points under discussion. The text is broken up into readable chunks. There are plenty of color photos and graphics, a glossary, index, and suggested additional reading.

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Why Do the Seasons Change?, by Philip Whitfield and Joyce Pope (Viking Kestrel, $15.95, ages 10 and up), is a follow-up to last year's successful ``Do Animals Dream?'' which was named an Outstanding Science Trade Book for Children by the Children's Book Council. Here the knowledgeable staff of London's Natural History Museum field 113 of the questions they're most frequently asked by visitors - questions such as Why do bees buzz? Why are flowers so pretty?

One of the best new collections of reference works for readers aged 12 and up is a four-volume set produced by Facts on File, New York, with each 152-page book priced at $24.95. The Encyclopedia of Animal Ecology, edited by Peter D. Moore, looks at the diversity of life on earth and shows principles of ecology at work in specific environments. The Encyclopedia of Animal Behavior, edited by Peter J.B. Slater, examines such phenomena as the relative tameness of wild species living on uninhabited islands and the predator-prey relationships that are suspended from time to time among coral reef-dwelling fish. In The Encyclopedia of Animal Evolution, edited by R.J. Berry and A. Hallam, the reader is taken on a trip through time, from the formation of the earth through the theories of Aristotle and Charles Darwin. Finally, there's The Encyclopedia of Animal Biology, edited by R. McNeill Alexander, which discusses the main groups of animals, their structures, and ways of life. The color photography in all four books is outstanding.