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posted: 9/9/2012 6:37 AM

Who knew learning could be this much fun?

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  • "Time for Kids Big Book of What?" (Time Home Entertainment, 2012), $19.95, 192 pages.

      "Time for Kids Big Book of What?" (Time Home Entertainment, 2012), $19.95, 192 pages.

  • "Sports Illustrated Kids Big Book of Why," (Time Home Entertainment, 2012), $17.95, 128 pages.

      "Sports Illustrated Kids Big Book of Why," (Time Home Entertainment, 2012), $17.95, 128 pages.

 
By Terri Schlichenmeyer

You've got a secret.

The secret is that you're excited about this school year. You plan on raising your hand a lot because you'll know the answers to the teacher's questions. You'll keep your homework neat, you'll stand up for kids who are bullied, you won't talk out of turn, and you won't be a disruption.

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Most of all, you plan to really impress everybody with your superior intelligence because, well, this is going to be the best year ever and they need to know you're a smart kid. And there's no better way to get smart(er) than by reading "Time for Kids Big Book of What?" and "Sports Illustrated Kids Big Book of Why."

All school year, you cram your brain with math, science, history, and other subjects. But do you know which creature is the deadliest on earth? Do you know which planet rotates on its side? Read these books and you will.

With the "Big Book of What?" and the "Big Book of Why," in fact, you'll know where the largest meteorite landed, where the hottest temperature was, the difference between a fruit and a vegetable and how long you could survive without either one, and how long you could survive in space without protection.

You'll learn which muscle in your body is the strongest (and a few runners-up), what it means to be double-jointed, and why it's not always a good idea to do a lot of stretching before you exercise or play sports.

With these books in your hands, you can impress your teacher by knowing what an orrery is. You could impress your mother with your knowledge of nutrition, cooking, eating bugs and worms and not eating things that are poisonous. You'll amaze your friends by knowing what Olympics sports are men-only, how to play Mancala, and when it's National Magic Week. You can impress your coach by knowing why they call that basketball team "The Lakers," why tennis balls are furry, why b-ballers wear arm sleeves, and why they call baseball's warm-up area a "bullpen."

And then you can ask him to take you Zorbing.

That is, if you're not busy reading these two awesome books.

As a parent, you want your children to be good scholars. You want them to learn, which is what will happen when you hand them "Time for Kids Big Book of What?" and "Sports Illustrated Big Book of Why." With these books, they'll learn a lot. They just won't feel like they are.

Delving into subjects that kids want to know, both these books give young readers just enough information to whet their appetites, in small bites that won't cause them to lose interest. There's a wide variety of topics and plenty of pictures to keep even the most non-bookish children reading, all in a kid-friendly, parent-happy format.

So give your 7- to 12-year-old a school jump-start with "Time for Kids Big Book of What?" and "Sports Illustrated Big Book of Why."

Just don't tell them they're learning. That's your little secret.

• Terri Schlichenmeyer, aka The Bookworm, has been reading since she was 3 years old and she never goes anywhere without a book. She lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 12,000 books.

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