Non-fiction Resource Books for the Middle Years Programme Areas of Interaction 

We hope that this list of books will be a useful resource for teachers and librarians for the Middle Years Programme Areas of Interaction of the International Baccalaureate. We have tried to choose books which do not have a narrow focus but which are trans-disciplinary in concept. Many of them have a global perspective and many fit into a number of Areas of Interaction. We have divided the list into the five areas of interaction and an indication of reading levels for each of the titles. Please contact us if you would like recommendations for books on specific subject areas, and at a particular age level. Recommended by Kate Shepherd and Mandy Clarke

Approaches to Learning

Think of a Number by Johnny Ball pb 9781405358026 $22.50
This is fascinating look at the world of numbers. Those students that love numbers will love it whereas others (like me) will get lost fairly quickly. However it covers a wide range of information about history of numbers, magic numbers, shapes and the world of maths in a very lively and inviting format and shows the amazing complexity of the world of numbers. There are many tricks and mazes and mathematical problems. (10 years up) KS

Blame My Brain: The Amazing Teenage Brain Revealed by Nicola Morgan pb 9781406346930 $14.95
New scientific research points to real biological reasons behind the behaviour of teenagers - their mood swings, their risk-taking and difficulties with learning. As the mother and teacher of teenagers and also a writer for teenagers, Nicola Morgan brings an extremely interesting mixture of scientific knowledge which she has related to the social context of teenage behaviour. During the teenage years, the brain undergoes great changes, especially to the cortex and it is these changes that scientists believe that produce much of the erratic behaviour that teenagers are renowned for. Nicola Morgan discusses these and she has many suggestions which will help teenagers deal with powerful changing emotions, erratic sleep patterns, difficulties with learning, depression and other problems. There are a number of quizzes about aspects of personality and a very interesting discussion of the differences between girls and boys. This is an extremely informative and entertaining book. At times it is very funny and I think teenagers, parents and teachers will all find it very useful to help them understand why teenagers can behave so erratically at times. (11 years up) KS 

Know Your Brain: Feel It, Test It, Stretch It pb 9781406304152 $17.95 
In this book Nicola Morgan continues talking in a very conversational tone about the amazing qualities of the human brain and how it differs from animal brains. She talks about things we can do to make our brains even more brilliant and lists things that can damage our brains. She discusses in detail the different types of intelligences, how we can recognise where our skills lie. She also gives examples of people who did not do well at school or did not fit in well but were great success later in life. (Dr Seuss apparently was voted the student least likely to succeed.) She includes a number of quizzes and tests to discover the strengths and weaknesses of our brains and also training in remembering facts and in how to concentrate. There are also tests to find out which learning style is best suited for each person and then activities to develop these further. The tone is always conversational, the subject matter is informative, interesting and often humorous. This book will be extremely helpful for students interested in understanding how their brains work and how they can improve its capacity and performance. (11 years up) KS 

What Goes on in my HEAD? How your Brain works and why you do what you do by Robert Winston pb 9781409348566 $16.99
Published in 2010, this is another very interesting book from DK about the most complicated and mysterious part of the human body. The book introduces the history of discoveries about the brain as well as discussing the various parts of the brain. There are sections on how the brain and the body work together, how we think and this includes consciousness and our unique personalities, on our feelings and emotions and on the power of the brain, especially relating to language and memory. The book has great design, thought-provoking text as well as some interesting tests and activities. (11 – 16 years) KS

Community and Service

Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson & David Oliver Relin pb 9780141034263 $26.95 
has been extremely popular and well known since it was first published some years ago. It is the remarkable story of a mountaineer who in 1993 after a disastrous attempt to climb K2, wandered exhausted and dehydrated into an impoverished village in Pakistan. There the villagers nursed Greg back to health and he was so moved by their kindness that he vowed to return and build a school for their children. That happened in 1993 and since then he has set up a fund and built over 60 schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The Young Readers’ Edition also called Three Cups of Tea pb 9780143304630 $19.95 has many photographs of children from the villages and also of his own family who have also become very involved with this endeavour. There are also maps and a question and answer section with Greg’s daughter Amira and a Timeline and a Glossary. Children will find it an inspiring story. (9 – 14 years) KS

Stones into Schools by Greg Mortenson with Mike Bryan pb 9780141047140 $26.95 
This is the sequel to Three Cups of Tea in that it follows chronologically from where that book ended and so it goes from 2003 to the end of 2009. In many ways I found this book even more fascinating because of the descriptions of the men who work with Greg and Pakistan and also in Afghanistan and how they achieve such amazing results. The logistics of getting schools built and then staffed in remote areas of Pakistan is difficult enough but in remote areas of Afghanistan the challenges are mind-boggling! The story of how a school was built in the extraordinarily remote area of Bozai Gumbaz in Wakhan Corridor in north eastern Afghanistan reads like a thriller as they race to get building materials by yak into the village across difficult snow covered mountain passes before the winter encroaches and the whole area is totally cut off for many months. (12 years up) KS

Tough Stuff: True Stories about Kids and Courage by Kirsty Murray pb 9781864489293 $15.95 
A fast paced and inviting collection of short stories about children who have done amazing things. It includes the story of Iqbal Masih the 12 year old bonded carpet maker from Pakistan who led a movement for children’s rights, as well as stories about exceptional children including those who saved lives, or were geniuses, earned a fortune or survived war and oppression. (9 - 14 years) KS 

I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb pb 9781780226583 $19.99 
This is the absorbing story of Malala, the courageous young girl who was shot by the Taliban. In this book she describes her own life and also gives us a very clear and fascinating account of the history of the beautiful Swat Valley where her family lived and which changed so dramatically when the Taliban increasingly gained control. She describes in detail her family and how her father felt so strongly about education, especially for girls, that he set up schools in the Swat Valley. This of course strongly influenced Malala’s own outspoken support for girls’ education which her family supported even in the face of growing threats by the Taliban. This is a well-written and fascinating story of a remarkable girl and her close and loving family and their fight for education, especially for girls. (12 – 17 years) KS

Human Ingenuity 

From Mud Huts to Skyscrapers: Architecture for Children
by Christine Paxmann & Anne Ibelings (illus) hb 9783791371139 $36 

This large format book with its clear detailed illustrations is an excellent introduction to the way architecture has developed and changed over many thousands of years. Beginning with the simplest of houses in caves or built of mud, it moves through the marvels of Egyptian, Greek and Roman buildings of Antiquity through the Middle Ages to Modern Times. There are 25 examples of buildings, mainly from Europe. A Timeline at the end of the book summarises the particular periods and what was happening in the world when each building was created. (10 – 15 years) KS

Through Time: London From Roman Capital to Olympic City by Richard Platt & Manuela Cappon (illus) hb 9780753417331 $19.99 pb 9780753431061 $14.99 
London is the vibrant hub of the English speaking world and this book shows how London gained that position and has maintained it for so many years. The Contents page is laid out as a Time line from Neolithic times in 3500 BCE when there was just a camp, through to the time of the Romans in 43 CE, to the Vikings and through other important events such as the age of print in 1476 CE, Shakespeare’s London in 1602 CE, the Great Fire and how London was rebuilt, the Industrial era, the Blitz of World War 2 and finally to the London of today. A double paged spread for each period shows through illustrations a very detailed scene from that time and Platt adds textual description. There are cross-sections of buildings etc showing us how buildings etc were constructed. There are maps as well as a Glossary and an Index. 
(8 – 14 years) KS
Also in a similar format by Richard Platt & Manuela Cappon (illus):

Through New York City hb 9780753419113 $19.99
Through Time Olympics From Ancient Greece to the Present Day hb 9780753430743 $29.99 

Slavery and Civil Rights (Documenting History series) by Philip Steele pb 9780750266697 $26.99
This is an excellent introduction to the slave trade since early times. It discusses what slavery involved, especially in the U.S, the eventual abolition of the trade and the corresponding rise of the civil rights movement around the world. A wealth of primary source material including extracts from letters, speeches, books and posters, provides very interesting insights into the subject. There are also many illustrations, photographs, a Glossary, Chronology and Index. (11 – 15 years) KS

The Book of Languages by Mick Webb pb 9781445134277 $19.99
This fascinating book looks at 21 of the world’s languages. It starts with a brief history of language and why it is important, and looks at language families, giving a breakdown of the main ones – Indo-European, Afro-Asiatic, Austronesian, etc. Then each double-page spread looks at a different language, providing a short history, pronunciation points, numbers, greetings and a few phrases, basic information on grammar and other matters, and a map showing where it is spoken in the world. Running down the side of the page is the alphabet of that language with a phonetic pronunciation of each letter in English. There is also a chapter about non-verbal languages such as smoke signals, drumming, sign language, semaphore and Morse code, and a brief look at how some animals communicate. You’ll find a Glossary and Index at the end of the book. (10 - 13 years) MC 

The Usborne Introduction to Archaeology: Internet-Linked by Abigail Wheatley & Struan Reid hb 9780746094976 $26.99 Published in 2004. 
This very interesting book looks at examples of famous archaeological excavations round the world by continent. It also describes how archaeologists work and some the difficulties they face when excavating sites, whether underground or underwater. It discusses some of the painstaking detective work necessary and also some of the latest technological advances in dating, conserving and reconstructing the past. 
(10 – 16 years) KS 

1,000 Inventions and Discoveries by Roger Bridgman DK in association with the Science Museum (UK) Published 2006 pb 9781409350705 $32.50
This book is so much more meaningful than I would have imagined because of the way Bridgman has organised this subject. The inventions and discoveries are arranged chronologically and so there is an explanation of how these discoveries have changed over time (from the Stone Age to very Modern Times) and it also becomes very clear how the speed of invention has accelerated greatly over the past fifty years or so. From time to time two additional pages explain in more detail some of the changes happening throughout the world for example in agriculture or in writing systems or monumental inventions such as the first printing press of the telephone. Inventions such as the magnetic compass, gunpowder and paper from China are also acknowledged. Many inventions are so much more interesting when we can see how they have developed over time. A quick reference time-line across the bottom of some pages gives an instant overview of events in the world at that time. There are many photos and paintings of examples of the 1,000 inventions and discoveries over the years. (9 – 16 years) KS

The Magic of Reality: How We Know What's Really True (Illustrated Edition) by Richard Dawkins & Dave McKean (illus) pb 9780857531940 $34.99
The main premise of the book is that reality as we experience it when explained by science is just as wonderful and satisfying as any religious or mythological explanation, and when you understand the basics of science and how the scientific method works, often more so. This book, however, is not just for younger people. Many adults who have perhaps baulked at Dawkins’ hefty and often dense tomes such as The Selfish Gene or The God Delusion, may find this book an easy-to-understand introduction to many of Dawkins’ ideas, both scientific and philosophical. Beautifully illustrated by Dave McKean (who has illustrated a number of Neil Gaiman’s picture books). (Suitable for 12+ year olds) MC

A Story of Natural Numbers by David Demant pb 9781742030289 $24.99 
This is an introduction to the history of the development of natural numbers of 1 – 9 (and also zero). David Demant takes us back to the time when numbers didn’t exist and describes the various symbols that have been used for numbers over thousands of years and in different countries throughout the world. The importance of zero is discussed at length and we are introduced to various people at different historical periods and in different parts of the world whose ideas had an impact on the use of numbers. It also explains the decimal system and the use of the abacus. This is a long and detailed book (134 pages) and some of the later explanations are not easy but it is very entertainingly written and well set out with bright illustrations maps, graphs and a number of amusing jokes. (12 years up) KS

Can you feel the Force? by Richard Hammond pb 9781405358064 $22.50
A dynamic and extremely interestingly presented book about Physics and the forces which make our world the way it is. Hammond has a lively and exciting way of talking about forces. He describes Newton’s laws by demonstrating what happens when you go for a ride on your bike. He gives some of the history behind efforts to understand the problem and gives examples demonstrating its use. Looks at the composition of Matter and also discusses Light and its many complexities and mysteries. 
(9 – 15 years) KS

The Way Things Work by David Macaulay with Neil Ardley published 2004 pb 9781405302388 $47.50 
It is wonderful to see this exceptional book back in print in a revised edition. The book is inspired because as well as detailed a detailed description of the working of hundreds of machines and the principles behind their technology, Macaulay also uses extremely funny illustrations and descriptions of mammoths from prehistoric times to give further examples of the various principles. It is most surprising to find a book which combines humour and science and especially with such flair. The machines described in the book are grouped according to the principles that make different machines work, rather than by their uses. There are sections on The Mechanics of Movement, Harnessing the Elements, Working with Waves, Electricity and Automation, The Digital Domain and The Invention of Machines. (9 – 15 years) KS 

3-Minute Einstein: Digesting his life, theories and influence in 3-minute morsels by Paul Parsons hb 9781743361443 $19.99 
This is an intriguing and inviting book. Parsons divides the book into bite-sized pieces so that each segment can be absorbed individually in sequence or by browsing. There are three parts to the book. The first chapter deals with Einstein’s fascinating life. The second chapter looks at Einstein’s theories of relativity and also his many less well known but major contributions to science. The third chapter describes the legacy of his many discoveries and how these discoveries have lead to further important discoveries. The book is very clearly structured and set out with a wealth of photos, diagrams and drawings. Short summaries on each page enhance our understanding and the lively text is made even interesting through the use of many witty sharp quotes from Einstein himself such as “To punish me for my contempt of authority, Fate has made me an authority myself.” (13 years up) KS

30-Second Theories: The 50 most thought-provoking theories in science, each explained in half a minute by Paul Parsons (ed) hb 9781742661803 $19.99 
This book is in a similar format and is even more challenging in that it aims to present the 50 most significant and intriguing scientific theories succinctly and using non-technical language and simple images. There are eight contributors, all expert in their fields and their challenge is to give to the reader some understanding of these complex theories in two pages (300 words and a picture.) The theories are organized into seven pillars of understanding: Macrocosm, Microcosm, Human Evolution, Mind and Body, Planet Earth, The Universe and Knowledge. Each theory is described in several paragraphs and additional thoughts such as its legacy or other implications are also given. There is also often a short biography of the major scientists involved as well as a full page, thought-provoking illustration which can shed further light on the theory. 
(13 years up) KS

Evolution Revolution: From Darwin to DNA by Robert Winston hb 9781405337199 $27.50
This book is extremely well set out and covers a huge range of information in an entertaining way. The book begins with creation stories and then with a discussion of theories that developed in the 1700s and 1800s as scientists questioned the belief that God had created all the species exactly as they appeared. There is detailed description of Darwin’s notes and research over 20 years, and the events that led to his publishing of his ideas on natural selection. The last two chapters look at the effect of the study of genetics on Darwin’s natural selection theory and a discussion of evolution in action over the millennia and how we can see it still evolving. There is a huge range of photos, diagrams, graphs and illustrations and also a comprehensive Index and Glossary. (9 – 14 years) KS

Picture This: How Pictures Work by Molly Bang pb 9781587170300 $23
In this book Molly Bang helps us understand how the structure of a pictures affects our emotional response. She uses simple cut-out shapes to tell the fairy story of Little Red Riding Hood as a visual example of how varying shapes, colour and composition of a picture make us feel differently about it. This is a truly original and fascinating book. (11 years up) KS

30,000 Years of Art by Thomas Craughwell pb 9781603762830 $29.99
This is an engaging and accessible chronological survey of movements, major artists and masterworks. Thomas Craughwell has written a beautifully succinct introduction, only one page in length, to the 250 pieces of fine art chosen to be included in this book (over 500 pages in length). The art works include well-known favourites and also lesser-known European, Asian, American and Islamic masterpieces. The full-page reproductions are of very good quality and for each work of art, Craughwell has written a page of informative and interesting description. He is not an art critic and uses no specialist art jargon. As he says in his introduction, the “objective of this book is to give viewers a way into the work of art, to help them understand not only why Giotto was such a big deal in his day, but also what Andy Warhol was thinking when he painted a giant can of Campbell’s Tomato Soup.” This book deserves to be read again and again. (15 years up) KS

Leonardo da Vinci for Kids : His Life and Ideas by Janis Herbert pb 9781556522987 $32 
This book describes in detail the life of Leonard da Vinci and his amazing inventions, his engineering designs, and his wonderful paintings and sculptures. There are descriptions of his interests in nature, in anatomy and in science and these are accompanied by extensive use of photos of many of Leonardo’s sketches, paintings and designs. There are also suggested activities related to Leonardo’s interests. 
(11 years up) KS 

Inspirations: Art Ideas for Primary and Middle Years by Ann MacArthur pack 9781863665865 $62.95 
This pack contains a marvelous range of images of contemporary, modern and traditional artworks from Asia. On the back of each image there is background information as well as suggestions for looking and making activities for students, for discussion and for cross-curricular activities. The specific arts activities have a variety of approaches designed to support different learning styles. Images include works from China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Persia, Philippines and Vietnam. (11 years up) KS 

The Art Book for Children Book One by Amanda Renshaw & Gilda Williams Ruggi hb 9780714845111 $24.95
The artworks of thirty very different artists, ranging from the Middle Ages to very modern times are shown. It asks children to think about the reasons why the artists chose to paint or create in that style. It explores the various ideas, meanings, roles and functions of art by looking at painting, sculpture, photography and prints and helps develop children’s understanding of colour, form, texture and pattern. A great introduction to the world of art for children. 

Art Book for Children Book Two text by Amanda Renshaw hb 9780714847054 $24.95 
With a similar format, this second book introduces artworks from another 30 artists from the Middle Ages to very modern times. The art works are striking and Amanda Renshaw makes comments and asks questions which encourage us to observe the works more closely and to think about why the artists chose to paint or create in that style. It is an excellent introduction to the world of art and it helps children to think creatively. (8 - 15 years) KS

Stitching Stories: The art of embroidery in Gujerat by Nina Sabnani pb 9788181469618 $22
This is the remarkable story of how two craftswomen have used their traditional needlework to tell stories about their lives while making beautiful narrative art. As Raniben says “Before I used to stitch just to make patterns. But now I think about what I want to say through my stitches.” Through photographs of her embroidered narrative panels, we can see the story of how she and her family left their village in Pakistan, crossing the harsh desert to live in the Kutch region in Gujerat. Meghiben describes how she and Raniben work together and exchange ideas while photographs show the beautiful work they make through embroidery and applique. The final four pages of the book describe through text and photographs many examples of embroidery work and some of the many styles from particular region. This is a beautiful book giving us an insight into a traditional art and the way it has been become narrative art and a new creative way to tell stories. (10 years up) KS

Look! Zoom in on Art! by Gillian Wolfe pb 9780711220218 $21.50
This is an exceptional book which encourages us to look carefully at paintings and makes us think about the different ways artists paint when they attempt to portray perspective, movement, emotion and many other complex ideas. (8 – 15 years) KS 


Look! Seeing the Light in Art pb 9781847800381 $24.50 
This fascinating book makes us think about how light is used in a variety of paintings under headings such as dramatic, cold and hot, dappled, reflected and patterns. At the end of the book there are brief background notes to each of the eighteen paintings.  

Look! Body Language in Art pb 9781845071141 $21.50 This book has a similar format the other two titles and looks at the way body language is expressed in seventeen famous paintings. 

Look! Drawing the Line in Art hb 9781845078249 $35 
Here the importance of line in drawing is emphasized, it shows how a line can be just a rough sketch, how it can be delicate or strong, can be symmetrical or show the structure of a building or can capture emotion. It looks at 18 pictures and discusses how artists use line in very different ways. 

Look! Really Smart Art pb 9781847804143 $17.95
In this book she focuses our attention on the very different clever effects that artists can create. There is the 3D trick that Escher used to create an unbelievably life-like pair of hands that look as though the hands are three dimensional against a flat surface and the art of perspective which makes David Hockney’s Going up Garroby Hill look as though the road curves down before going up the hill to disappear into the distance. There are also examples of digital computer art by Akiyoshi Kitaoka and the pop style art of Roy Lichtenstein and many others. 

You call it desert: We used to Live There byPat Lowe with Jimmy Pike pb 9781921248115 $39.95 
In a marvellous collaboration, Pat Lowe's photographs interact with Jimmy Pike's striking paintings to make us see the Australian desert landscape with new insight. Jimmy Pike was a well-loved Aboriginal artist who was brought up with his family in the Great Sandy Desert in north-western Australia. Pat Lowe describes with great clarity what Jimmy Pike has told her about the way his family and community used to live in the Great Sandy Desert. (10 years up) KS 

If the World were a Village: A book about the World’s People by David J Smith illustrated by Shelagh Armstrong hb 9781554535958 $34 
This is such an important book, especially for students trying to gain some comprehension of the huge numbers of people living on our planet. As of January 2005, there were 6 billion 400 million people. David Smith imagines the whole population of the world in just one village of 100 people. In this global village, each person represents 64 million people. He then takes us through this village showing us more about the people living there. In this global village, 61 are from Asia, 13 from Africa, 12 from Europe, 8 from South and Central America, 5 from Canada and the US and 1 from Oceania. He looks at the beliefs, languages and ages of these people as well as the food they eat. If the food they eat was divided equally, there would be no shortage of food in this global village but it isn’t and so 50 people are hungry some of the time and 20 are severely malnourished. He also looks at water, electricity, money and possessions and also how many people lived in this village in the past and will live there in the future. The text is very simply written and I am sure that it would spark spontaneous discussion. This is very much a book with an interdisciplinary world-view which links geography, environment and human rights. 
(9 - 14 years) KS

Sustainable Homes (Sustainable Futures series) published in 2009 pb 9780237539221 $20
Looks at sustainable homes round the world, including traditionally built houses using natural local materials and also homes using modern technology (some of which also use local natural materials.) The book also discusses the most efficient ways of heating and cooling homes in order to save energy and also the most efficient ways of using water. There is a section on reducing waste and pollution and on recycling. The last chapter discusses the importance of building sustainable communities, not just houses. The book also looks at the impact our houses have on the environment and on our quality of life. 
(10 – 15 years) KS

Other titles in the series:

Energy 9780237539207 
Healthy Seas 9780237539214
Waste, Recycling and Reuse 9780237539177 

Upside Down World Map pb 9781865001081 $9.95 Laminated $29.95 
Drawn from the perspective of those living in the southern hemisphere, this very simple Upside Down World Map is centred round the Pacific Ocean, thereby giving Asia and Australia a prominent position and relegating Europe to a small group of countries in the far top left hand corner of the map. It promotes some interesting discussion about the history of cartography and how this has affected our perspective of the world. (8 years up) KS 

Health and Social Education

The Way We Work: Explore the Human Body: Head to Toe! by David Macaulay with Richard Walker hb 9780618233786 $63 
This is a very detailed and also entertaining book which shows how our bodies work. Macaulay spent years in research attending anatomy classes and attending dissections in order to gain some understanding of the very complex processes involved. The result is an extremely detailed analysis both in text and also with illustrations. There is humour in many of the illustrations and many depict the body as though it is a machine and this often helps in our understanding of how it works but my overall impression was of the amazing complexity of the body and its functions! There are seven comprehensive sections showing how the various parts of the body work. It would be very helpful book to have in the library to provide additional information for students needing additional information about how the body works. 
(12 years up) KS

What Makes Me Me? By Robert Winston pb 9781465439055 $18
This book is a dynamic and different look at how our bodies work and what makes each of us a unique person. I t also looks at what our bodies are made of and discusses some of the complexities of how our brains work. There are fascinating sections on personality traits, multiple intelligences, body language, dreams and phobias. There are also a number of tests for genes, memory as well as verbal, spatial and numerical skills and for personality. (10 – 14 years) KS 

Body: An Amazing Tour of Human Anatomy by Robert Winston and Richard Walker hb (includes CD) 9781405310420 $37.50
I know there have been many books which try to reconstruct the human body and give an idea of its amazing complexity but this one I think does it extremely successfully. The book looks at the various body systems such as skeletal, muscular, nervous etc but then looks in more detail at the head, and upper and lower body sections. The illustrations are exceptional and enable us to visualise the amazing complexity of the body through reconstruction which has been made possible apparently through modern scanning machines and computing. (10 – 18 years) KS