Monday, January 19, 2009

Book Review: Swords

Swords: An Artist's Devotion by Ben Boos. (Grades 4+ and younger kids might love it for the illustrations.)

Know a kid that likes weaponry? Know a kid that's fascinated with knights or ninjas? Know somebody of any age who doesn't (yet) know they like swords? Hand them this book.

Ben Boos has created a book filled with hundreds of pictures of all kinds of swords. They are gorgeous.

I really had no interest in swords per se, but I couldn't put this book down. Boos's intricate drawings and lush, full-color (computer generated? Or partially computer generated?) paintings had Caldecott bells going off in my ears. (Is there any stipulation in the Caldecott criteria about computer-generated art? It appears not:

The only limitation to graphic form is that the form must be one which may be used in a picture book. The book must be a self-contained entity, not dependent on other media (i.e., sound or film equipment) for its enjoyment. Caldecott Terms & Criteria.)

The book's organized into short sections that show different weaponry from particular time periods and for particular warriors. He includes information about which fighters might use which weapons and how sword design affected the type of fighting the weapon is used for. He covers fighters from berserkers to knights to samurai to ninjas and lots of others. He also provides information on the development of swords and how inventions like stirrups or steel affected weaponry and fighting.

This is a book that kids and adults alike will want to pore over. If I had one wish it would be for a lengthy author's note or afterword detailing all of Mr. Boos's research (as I'm sure a ton of research went into this book). He does provide a short author's note introducing the book and a fairly lengthy bibliography, so that's awesome. Also of note is that Mr. Boos previously worked for Blizzard Entertainment, which may explain why my first reaction upon opening this book was a pang for World of Warcraft. ;)

Check out Ben Boos's blog, read an interview with him at Omnivoracious, and read another review at Guys Lit Wire. Swords is a Cybils finalist in the Middle Grade/YA Non-Fiction category.

Happy Non-Fiction Monday! (And Happy MLK Day, too!) The roundup for NFM is over at Simply Science today, so go check out what the kidlitosphere is reading this week!