Fun ways to Check Those Book Bingo Boxes!

September 2023

By Kindergarten and 2nd Grade Parent Emy

Book Bingo is due next week, and my son has not completed his card yet. Not because he’s not into reading, but because his reading is driven by a love of facts. Those boxes on the card for “Science,” “History,” and “Sports”? All checked. Those for “Poetry” and “Mystery,” not so much!

If your child is like mine, always eager to “know things,” here is a list of some of his and my favorite books in the Pre-K to 4th grade range. And if this doesn’t sound at all like your child, who instead quickly checked off the “Classic,” “Myth,” or “Friendship” boxes in the Book Bingo card but is not at all interested in nonfiction, keep reading this post, as several of these books use clever ways (Listicles! Lift-the-flap! Beautiful illustrations!) to make facts look fun.

Listified!: Britannica’s 300 Lists that Will Blow Your Mind, by Andrew Pettie (available through Greenlight Bookstore)

My son got this book as a birthday present from a friend a year ago; I still see it open at least once a week on the dining table or the couch. It’s the perfect book for kids who ask things like “Which is the oldest country in the world?,” “What was the name of the first person ever?,” and “What is the middle-est fastest animal in the world?”. While Listified does not have answers to all of these specific questions (I’m still trying to figure out how to answer the last one), it’s right down that alley, with lists like The 11 Types of Lightning; 10 Prehistoric Plants and Fungi That Are Still Alive Today; 10 of the Smallest Machines Ever Made; and The Odds of 15 Improbable Things Ever Happening To You, including “Being Injured By a Toilet”. This book does not have to be read in any order, though the lists are organized into chapters such as Space, Dinosaur Time, Being Human, and Inventions. 

Flags of the World, by Silvie Bednar (in the ISB book catalog)

My son checked this book out from the ISB library today, I think for the third or fourth time over the last two years. The concept of this book is straightforward: each spread presents a couple of country flags and explains the meaning or history behind them. For example, the book notes that the flags of Ecuador, Colombia, and Venezuela all have yellow, blue, and red stripes because they descend from the same flag, and briefly explains the meaning behind the colors and the crest on the Ecuadorian flag. Did you know that the flags of Monaco and Indonesia look the same, with a red stripe on top and a white one on the bottom with no other details? Before this book, I didn’t either.

Lift-the-Flap Periodic Table, by Alice James (available through Greenlight Bookstore)

Never would I have thought that a book about the Periodic Table of Elements would be that absorbing for a child – or anyone, for that matter – but this book was read and re-read hundreds of times in our living room and in the car, and launched a year-long interest in elements.

Soccer School: Where Soccer Rules the World, by Alex Bellos and Ben Lyttleton (in the ISB book catalog in English and Spanish

This one is for the many soccer-obsessed kids out here. My son’s interest in sports is fairly recent, but it is not surprising to me that a large part of that interest has manifested itself as a desire to know all the history and statistics about soccer. Enter Soccer School, an illustrated book that introduces readers to the rules of the game through funny anecdotes, explanations of soccer jargon, and tidbits of soccer-related trivia. 

If You Lived Here, by Giles Laroche (in the ISB book catalog)

Using 12 examples of houses from different parts of the world, this book introduces children to the idea that, through tradition, material availability, weather, and several other forces, people live in homes that look quite different around the world. 

Hello World: A Celebration of Languages and Curiosities, by Jonathan Litton (available through Greenlight Bookstore)

This is a lovely lift-the-flap book with a simple idea: showing children how people say “hello” in different languages around the world. Both of my kids have been enchanted by this book for years, going back to it as they learned about a new country, learned how to read, or wanted to revisit parts of the world. While the book does have some limits through how it simplifies things, such as assigning English as the language spoken for the United States on the map, it also has boxes on the sides noting other languages, including several indigenous ones spoken in different countries.

Your Place in the Universe, by Jason Chin (in the ISB book catalog in French and Spanish)

This is one of my favorite picture books, in large part because I learned from it. I suppose I had vaguely wondered how far the International Space Station is from the moon’s orbit, or how high airplanes fly relative to the earth’s atmosphere (What does a 33,000-feet cruising altitude even look like, in the grand scheme of things?), though not enough to ever stop and look it up. But that’s what this book shows through its lovely illustrations, starting from how tall are its target audience and giraffes, relative to the height of the book; and how tall are sycamore trees relative to skyscrapers and the world’s highest mountains; until it moves onto an amazing illustration, showing where treetops, skyscrapers, mountains, flight paths, the atmosphere, the stratosphere, and the orbits of satellites and the International Space Station are relative to each other. The vastness then continues through the universe. 

If the World Were 100 People: A Visual Guide to Our Global Village, by Jackie McCann (available through Greenlight Bookstore)

I have considered sharing this book with my college students, as it offers a mix of introduction to statistics – mainly percentages – and gives readers a sense of both diversity and inequality in the world.