This Week’s Word Is “Genius.”
Back to DK books this week with a new book called General Knowledge Genius. Subtitled, “A quiz encyclopedia to boost your brain,” it’s essentially a technicolor revision* guide to just about everything.
*Note: The British (that includes me!) use “to revise” to mean to study for exams, rather than to edit things. So revision is to study something not change it! Though, of course, because life is never simple, we do sometimes use it to mean “edit” too. Further note: In the US, the book is just called Knowledge Genius. Somebody clearly revised the title!
What is General Knowledge Genius?
In essence, it’s an encyclopedia with test questions. DK produces many great information books about a variety of subjects and this is a great way of slicing and dicing their back catalog to deliver something fresh. It’s Monday night dinner, made from Sunday lunch leftovers for knowledge geeks.
General Knowledge Genius is filled with facts and pictures, as you might expect, for a DK book, but the text is a little different from your average encyclopedia. On many of the pages, there is a “Test Yourself Quiz,” which essentially has the answers to the question “What is X?” Where X is one of the encyclopedia entries on the page.
So, for example, on the “Planets” page there is are pictures of several planets form the Solar System. Down one edge of the page are the answers, split into three categories. “Starter,” which includes Earth and Jupiter, “Challenger,” Venus and Mercury, and “Genius!,” Titan and Io.
The idea is, you identify which picture goes with which answer. To help (and inform), each picture comes with a little sidebar of text. So for Earth, we have “The third planet from the sun, this is the only place in the Universe where life is known to exist.” and for Titan we have a) a picture of a moon alongside Saturn and b) the text, “Second largest in the Solar System, this moon is bigger than the planet Mercury.” This gives you a flavor of how the book gives information whilst managing to keep its quiz feel.
Somewhat predictably, as you’ll know if you read my Word Wednesday column regularly, the book is broken down into several (5) color-coded sections. It’s the DK way!
1. Science Geek:
Planets, rockets, elements (complete with gorgeous element pictures), and the body are all here. As are Math(s), Shapes, and Transport.
2. Nature Know-it-all.
Not sure I like the title of this section. “Know-it-all” is never used as a positive observation. Leaving that aside, from the natural world, we face questions about all sorts of flora and fauna. Dinosaurs, mammals, and fish. Insects, spiders, birds, and reptiles, including an amazing “Eye Spy” page where you have to identify animals by a host of vivid photographs of various eyes from the animal kingdom.
3. Geography Genius.
Here we have fun with flags and capital cities! There are sections on the Earth’s composition, rivers and mountains, and natural wonders of the world. Test yourself on the silhouettes of countries and giant skyscraping constructions. Travel geeks will love identifying cities by their skylines. This section closes out with the weather, clouds, and rocks and minerals.
4. History Buff.
Ancient civilizations, lost cities, and mythology open the history section. Then, castles and forts, leaders, and weapons and armor.
5. Culture Vulture.
Questions of sports, arts, and music. There’s a fab section on languages, which, as well as the serious stuff includes emojis, Klingon, Na’vi, Lapine, and Quenya! (Full geek marks if you know where those last four come from.) The book clearly isn’t a proper quiz book as the sports questions aren’t all about 1930s teams and players you’ve never heard of.
Why Read General Knowledge Genius?
This book looks to have been written specifically with 10-year-old me in mind. Space, elements, capitals, flags, weather, and the clouds were all things I was fascinated by as a child. Perhaps that’s why I find this book so awesome. The design layout of the book is, as ever for DK, first class. Backed up by its usual excellent choice of photos that draw the eye and invite the reader to find out more.
The book did make me a little sad. Thinking back to my childhood and the things I read about and investigated, I can’t help feel that ready entertainment is too easily obtained for my children. Real-world and virtual entertainment seem to be forever battling it out in our house, with the virtual winning ground in the war, year after year. One has to be careful of invoking rose-tinted nostalgia, but there was something to be said for the power of boredom and a good encyclopedia.
Books like General Knowledge Genius may well help redress the balance. The pictures, in particular, are engaging and the quiz format suddenly makes gleaning the information a challenge. Can I beat my previous score? or more likely in our house, can I beat my brother and prove I am more awesome than he is? Arguably, the book is little more than an encyclopedia, but the slight about-turn in the way the information is delivered definitely makes General Knowledge Genius worth a look. If your child has a competitive streak or is turned off by more traditional, read from left to right, top to bottom, textbooks, then give them a try with this.
General Knowledge Genius is a great riff on the standard information book. Packaged and presented with typical DK aplomb. If you fancy spurring your kids on with a bit of healthy competition, then this book is for you.
If you’d like to pick up a copy of General Knowledge Genius, you can do so here, in the US and here, in the UK.
If you enjoyed this review, do check out my other Word Wednesday posts.
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in order to write this review.