Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Children's Nonfiction Magazines: Part II

Children’s science magazines have evolved into well-designed, beautifully illustrated journals meant to entertain as well as inform. Animal-loving kids, especially, can revel in the options available.

The National Wildlife Foundation’s venerable RANGER RICK has been around since 1967. Ranger Rick (a raccoon) and his groups of animal pals have ongoing adventures in a comic strip. Photo essays highlight various animals, all with word and number puzzles and games, meant for ages 7 and up. YOUR BIG BACKYARD, NWF’s magazine written for ages 3-6, offers a similar format. Their third offering, WILD ANIMAL BABY, is printed on heavier stock in a smaller size and perfect for the 6 months-4 set. The website offers free monthly e-newsletters that feature activities, crafts, and special offers.

COUSTEAU KIDS focuses mostly on the ocean – the critters that live there, people who study them, as well as environmental issues and how children’s groups are working to solve them. Teacher’s guides are available from the website:

Carus Publications offers science magazines that go beyond animals. ASK (grades 2-4) and DIG (grade 4 and up) tend to focus on science with an archaeological or historical slant. CLICK (grades 1-2) and MUSE (grade 4 and up) venture forth into geography, physiology, technology, weather, and culture. Their website,, has a “For Kids” section which offers interactive activities tied to each issue of the magazines.

National Geographic’s website is the most elaborate. Video, audio, games, contests, and more relate to the various magazines they publish. A group of classroom magazines: YOUNG EXPLORER (grades K-1), EXPLORER (grades 2-4), and EXTREME EXPLORER, like the granddaddy National Geographic, encompass nature, culture, and history, as does the home subscription magazine, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC LITTLE KIDS, for preschoolers.

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC KIDS is the only magazine of all I reviewed that features ads – many pages of ads, mostly for video games. The ads are not limited to front or back sections, but are inserted throughout the issue, often with the same rather cluttered design as the stories. I would wager that kids might not be able to tell the difference between ads and articles. I was surprised and dismayed to see this departure from the other magazines.

As I suggested last month, magazines are a great market for nonfiction children’s authors to explore, since the issues keep rolling out month after month.
And magazines are such a treat for kids. I remember the thrill of getting something in the mail, with my name on it. A book generally offers a single story, but a magazine is a party bag of surprises – and a regularly scheduled treat.

Are there more nature and science magazines I’ve missed? Do tell. Since INK is establishing a nice archive of book reviews, I’d like to keep up to date with other print media as well – magazines and websites, and perhaps even DVDs. What do you think?


Anonymous said...

We've been enjoying NG Little Kids since my daughter was two years old. Now that she's five, we looked at NG Kids, but really disliked it--extremely commercial, lots of both editorial content and advertising for entertainment that neither she nor we are interested in. Fortunately she was given a subscription to My Big Backyard, which is a great step up from Little Kids.

And Highlights for Children has been a big hit! We just successfully made two craft projects from the newest issue.

Terry Doherty said...

Grandma bought our first grader Ask for her birthday ... at first she was just happy to have her own mail. Now, she grabs it, runs to her favorite spot, and devours it cover to cover. We all learn a lot.

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