There's often a wide divide between what kids like to read and what their parents think they ought to read.
Think of the "Captain Underpants," "Goosebumps" and "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" franchises. Wildly popular with kids, these series make many adults shudder.
It's a similar situation with one of the most-read volumes in public and school libraries: the Guinness World Records book. Each edition of the Guinness book is chock-full of weird facts, outrageous photographs and crazy accomplishments, which is exactly why kids love them.
The latest edition, "Guinness World Records 2011" (Guinness World Records, $28.95), has just been published, and -- like the previous volumes -- it's a guaranteed kid-pleaser. In fact, lots of adults also will have fun paging through this book.
First off, the book attracts immediate interest with its shiny red and gold foil and "Guinness World Records 2011" logo. The subtitle, "Exploding With Thousands of New Records," is an irresistible invitation to kids to open up the book and check out just what amazing -- and frequently ridiculous -- records people have created.
How about this one: "Most balloons inflated by the nose in three minutes." That record is held by American Andrew Dahl, who, as the book tells us, "inflated 23 balloons using only his nose in three minutes" on March 18, 2010. And yes, there's a photo of Dahl, showing him blowing up a balloon with his nose.
Or this: "Most straws in the mouth." That record was made on Aug. 6, 2009, by Simon Elmore of Germany, who "held 400 straws in his mouth for a regulation 10 seconds." Kids will love the accompanying photograph of a bug-eyed Elmore with a mouthful of plastic straws.
Of course, there are the requisite pet entries. There's Boo Boo, a long-haired female Chihuahua who, at 4 inches tall, is the world's smallest dog. A Great Dane named Giant George, who measures 43 inches tall, is the world's tallest dog.
Other sections spotlight records involving all kinds of things: movies ("Harry Potter" actors Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson are the highest-earning movie stars); food (the largest cupcake, weighing 1,315 pounds, was created on Oct. 3, 2009); and endurance (Kanchana Ketkaew of Thailand set a record on April 11, 2009, by holding a living scorpion in her mouth for two minutes and 23 seconds).
Each page of "Guinness World Records 2011" is packed with facts like these, printed alongside eye-catching photos. It's easy to see why kids will readily spend hours pouring over this book. (Ages 8 up, although younger kids are sure to like the book as well even if they can only look at the photos.)
Equal in kid popularity to the "Guinness World Record" books are the "Ripley's Believe It or Not" volumes. The latest one, "Ripley's Believe It or Not: Special Edition 2011" (Scholastic, $16.99), will definitely grab kids' attention with its 3-D cover featuring a face that looks half animal and half human.
What fascinates kids about the "Ripley's" books can be summed up in the tagline printed on the back of the book: "Nothing Is Stranger Than the Truth." Just take a two-page spread headlined "All People Great and Small." One of those spotlighted is Zhao Liang, a 27-year-old Chinese man, who is almost 8 feet 1 inch tall, weighs 341 pounds and wears pants that are the same height as his 5-foot-6 mother.
Or how about "Tofu Tossing," an annual event at a Chinese festival? Or the tiny bicycle (just 7-3/4 inches high and 3 inches long) with which an adult male named Bobby Hunt can actually pop a no-handed wheelie?
Some of the things highlighted in the latest "Ripley's Believe It or Not" are pretty gross, such as the photos of a 10-pound hairball removed from the stomach of an American teen (who admitted to eating her hair) or the huge tangle of giant roundworms removed from the intestine of a Kenyan child. But such grossness will only convince many kids to keep reading. (Ages 8 up.)
Two other new books, both published by Time For Kids, capitalize on many kids' obsession with interesting facts and figures. In "That's Awesome!" ($19.95), there's plenty of intriguing information to absorb, such as nine things you can do with bamboo, the number of active volcanoes on Earth (more than 1,500) and an entire chapter on "awesome collections."
Young readers also will enjoy the "Big Book of Why" ($19.95), which is filled with answers for all kinds of questions, from "Why is Mount Everest so tall?" to "Why can eating candy make people hyper?" (Both books, ages 7-12.)
(Karen MacPherson, the children's/teen librarian at the Takoma Park, Md., Library, can be reached at Kam.Macpherson(at)gmail.com.)
Copyright 2010 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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