Discovering our World in Picture Books PART 5: You Are Stardust by Elin Kelsey

Did you know that not only are all things made of atoms but these same atoms once came from an exploding star? That’s right, that means that you, me, our pets and even our books have the universe inside them.

Everything is Connected

The more we think about this fact the more mind-blowing the thought becomes as the realisation emerges that everything on planet earth is a part of the whole universe. Think of yourself more like a cell within the body of the universe. You’re a small part of the body but essential to the mechanics of its entire function. So when you next feel detached from the world you live in, think bigger, put life into perspective and the infinite connections will become clear.

Book review on You are Stardust by author Elin Kelsey.

You Are Stardust

What’s it all about?

You Are Stardust draws comparisons between humans and the rest of the world. We like to think we’re the superior creatures on this planet but this beautiful children’s book gently shows us that all nature and living things are more alike than we care to recognise. We are all a part of the earth, just as the earth is a part of us; from what we are made of to what we do and how we feel and behave, the similarties may astound you.

Which age group is it aimed at?

The short and simple text suggests this book is aimed at 4-7 year olds but in practise it’s a thought-provoking book for any age.

Conclusion

It’s not often I feel a fondness for a book, but for this one I do. This book portrays a sense of modesty and oozes orginality.

Being a little longer than your average picture book, including fifteen double page spreads and illustrated with photographic artwork, it’s clearly a non-fiction book which is determined to break the picture book mould and stand out from the crowd. This empathic story of nature is an eye opener which reminds us of our connections to planet earth in an endearing but factual way.

Author: Elin Kelsey

Illustrator: Soyeon Kim

Publisher: Flying Eye Books, March 2016.

Our Rating: 5/5

CLICK TO BUY You are Stardust: Our Amazing Connections With Planet Earth

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Source: Own copy

Discovering our World in Picture Books PART 1: The Story of Life

Discovering our World in Picture Books PART 2: The Adventures of Water

Discovering our World in Picture Books PART 3: Tree: Seasons Come, Seasons Go

Discovering our World in Picture Books PART 4: Atomic Adventure

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Discovering our World in Picture Books PART 4: Atomic Adventure by Dr. Dominic Walliman & Ben Newman

In today’s digital time frame I find it’s so easy to become mesmerised by our phones, iPads or computers. As the internet sweeps us along a path of striving for what will be, might be, or ought to be, as it promises riches and tells us we should be inspiring others or accomplishing something incredible to prove our worth and reason for existing, as it entices us to become more and more tangled up in society’s urgency, it’s then that we forget to stop and take notice of the true wonder of what we are and what is happening right in front of our eyes at this very moment in time.

Atoms

When something so tiny can be so great the only mistake to be made is for it to be overlooked. Atoms are the foundations of life, of people and the universe yet without magnification atoms are invisible to the human eye. Understanding things we cannot see or perceive continues to baffle, confuse and intrigue many of us. Making sense of what appears to be one thing but is actually quite another seems illogical. Perhaps we should be feeling our way towards the answers instead of looking for material proof. Yet as humans we want to measure things and find reasons as we strive to agree on solid results. This next book wholly encompasses the allure behind physics and scientific explanations of our world.

Book Review on Professor Astro Cat’s Atomic Adventure by author/s Dr Dominic Walliman & Ben Newman.

Atomic Adventure

What’s it all about?

This fascinating children’s non-fiction picture book delves into the physics behind the energy forces that make up our world. It presents this complex topic in a remarkable way. We learn about light, sound, gravity, force, pressure, energy, magnetism, atoms, molecules and so much more. All the things we cannot see but know they are there. This book shows us a fun, knowledgeable and contemporary approach to physics and is bursting with mind blowing facts which are concisely explained through everyday events that children can easily relate to.

Which age group is it aimed at?

Due to the complex topic and the sheer volume of information to absorb I would rate this suitable for age 6 upwards. However it’s harder to put a maximum age limit on it as it’s an excellent reminder of basic physics at any time throughout school life.

Conclusion

The look and feel of this children’s book makes it an ideal gift for a curious mind, looking for answers and keen to learn about the invisible side to our world. This large hardback book is one to keep and to be used as a handy reference book.The humorous characters and attractive infographic style illustrations bring physics alive.

Author/s: Dr Dominic Walliman & Ben Newman

Illustrator: Ben Newman

Publisher: Flying Eye Books, March 2016.

Our Rating: 5/5

CLICK TO BUY Professor Astro Cats Atomic Adventure

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Source: Own copy

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Discovering our World in Picture Books PART 1: The Story of Life

Discovering our World in Picture Books PART 2: The Adventures of Water

Discovering our World in Picture Books PART 3: Tree: Seasons Come, Seasons Go

Discovering our World in Picture Books PART 3: Tree: Seasons Come, Seasons Go by Patricia Hegarty

When we go for a walk in the country, what do we see?  How does it make us feel?

Perhaps we admire the view like a picture of beauty held static in time and capture it on our iPhones as a keepsake. Or maybe we’re aware of the footprints in the soil,  the leaves falling to the ground or a bird chirping above us on a branch. Yet somehow life seems to slow down in the country. The air feels calmer and our hearts more serene as we march through the fields and weave among the trees at a purposeful pace. Suddenly it’s like the world around us is standing still as we rush across its living surface. A mere cursory glance could trick us into thinking that it’s only us who is changing, moving and interacting with our surroundings and nothing else …but then we look again.

The miracle is that everything around us is in a constant state of change. Everything is reacting and adapting to its surrounding environment. Everything is growing, developing and regenerating into something new. All living things are connected within this continuous cycle and nothing more clearly demonstrates this than our ever changing seasons.

Book Review on Tree: Seasons Come, Seasons Go by author Patricia Hegarty

Tree

What’s it all about?

A striking picture book which depicts the changing seasons through the life cycle of a tree. The concept is simple and brings the descriptions of each season to life with rhyming text. It starts in winter and follows the seasons full circle back to winter again. We learn about how the tree interacts and changes with the weather, animals and surrounding plants throughout each season.

Which age group is it aimed at?

This book would capture the interest of the younger end of the picture book market, age two to five years. Young children will find that the bright illustrations and rhythmic text clearly and simply demonstrate the changing seasons and make them fun and easy to recognise.

Conclusion

The look and feel of this book immediately draws you in with its vibrant pictures and cute little owl peeping out through the cut out hole. This is a book you would be proud to have on your bookshelf. Both informative and enchanting. Although I found the rhyme a little clunky in places, overall it added to the magical atmosphere created within the book.

Author: Patricia Hegarty

Illustrator: Britta Teckentrup

Publisher: Little Tiger Kids, Sept 2015

Our Rating: 5/5

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Source: Own copy

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Discovering our World in Picture Books PART 1: The Story of Life

Discovering our World in Picture Books PART 2: The Adventures of Water

Discovering our World in Picture Books PART 2: The Adventures of Water by Malcolm Rose

Most of us are well aware that we need water to stay alive but are we aware of the extent of the role that water plays in our lives and that of other organisms, animals and plants? Are we aware of how dependent we’ve become on water in daily activities and the effects we’re having on that water we drink to stay alive? Today in part two of my blog about discovering our world in picture books I explore the valuable role water plays here on earth and it’s natural continuous cycle.

“Water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink” Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

Approximately 71% of the Earth’s surface is covered in water.  Approx. 2.6% of which is fresh water found in lakes, rivers, icecaps and glaciers, or otherwise held as water vapour in the air, moisture in the ground or found within permeable rock, animals and ourselves; around 60% of the human body is made up of water. The other 97.4% of the water on Earth is salt water held in the oceans and is not drinkable.

However, just think how much of the 2.6% of fresh water is either difficult to obtain or has been contaminated by sewage, industrial and domestic waste, oil spillages and nuclear disasters. In practice less than 1% of the world’s water is considered suitable for drinking and that’s once it has travelled through a rigorous industrial cleansing process.

I once read that we need to teach our children to love and embrace nature and the outdoors if we stand a chance of saving it. It’s one thing for us as parents to nag our children about recycling and disposing of waste responsibly but quite another to explain why we do it. Helping our children understand the importance of water within ourselves and the universe is a huge step forward in this direction so they learn to understand the impact we have on nature and how protecting our world is protecting ourselves.

Book Review on The Adventures of Water by author Malcolm Rose.

The Adventures of Water

What’s it all about?

This colourful pop-up book follows the water cycle from water vapour to tidal seas. It includes interesting facts about the properties of water, the uses of water, the effects of water in the environment, water as a habitat and water in the body. With plenty of lift-up flaps and spin wheels to keep the little ones involved and keen to search for answers, this is a thorough introduction to the continuous journey of water, annotated with interesting facts alongside simple illustrations.

Which age group is it aimed at?

The Adventures of Water is another example of a non-fiction picture book which could appeal on different levels for those aged between five and ten years. I see it as a book which children can go back to time and again to re-explore its features and discover a different fact as they progress in age.

Conclusion

I love this book. The layout, the illustrations and engaging information work together perfectly. Every time I look at it with my children we find something new. However, whilst this book states that “about one-eighth of the world’s population does not have access to safe drinking water” I was disappointed that it didn’t mention anything about why and how it can be polluted and the devastating effects it can have. This is the only reason I rated this book 4 out of 5. The addition of one more double page spread for this purpose would have given this a 5 star rating from me. Otherwise I cannot fault it. This book would make an absorbing read for any child with a thirst for knowledge!

Author: Malcolm Rose

Illustrator: Sean Sims

Publisher: Red Shed, Aug 2015

Our Rating: 4/5

CLICK TO BUY The Adventures of Water

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Source: Own copy

All % figures quoted from the Adventures of Water.

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Discovering our World in Picture Books PART 1: The Story of Life

Discovering our World in Picture Books PART 1: The Story of Life by Catherine Barr and Steve Williams

I’m excited about these next books I’ve got lined up to review as this time I’ve chosen something a little different. I always say that variety is the best solution to maintain a little one’s interest in reading so I thought I’d take a look at some of the amazing non-fiction picture books currently on the market which help children to understand our natural world. So what better place to start than at the beginning with evolution.

Evolution

Sitting here at my writing desk, surrounded by objects, tools and inventions, a clutter of non living things, it’s hard to imagine where it all began. It feels like the real world has been displaced and thrown off wack somehow as floors, doors and walls detach me from true life. For me evolution is the miracle of how things change, how things progress, how each individual living cell effects another, how something small can become a part of something incredible and that all of us are an integral catalyst of this cycle on earth.

Book Review on The Story of Life by author/s Catherine Barr & Steve Williams.

The Story of Life

What’s it all about?

The Story of Life is a clear, structured book which depicts the stages of evolution amid a fun and lighthearted tone. We follow the timeline from basic cells to life as we know it today. It touches on how all living things are a part of the evolution process and that it’s the development of new behaviours, abilities and changes within the natural habitat which triggers the next cycle. At each stage this book discusses why or how animals died out in the past and ultimately what is causing extinction now? If your child is curious about life on earth this book gives a clear indication of the fascinating historical chain of events and the glossary of useful words at the back of this book supports their understanding.

Which age group is it aimed at?

I found this book to have a fairly wide age appeal. A child of five years could easily grasp the basics and enjoy the pictures whilst a ten year old would appreciate the greater detail and interesting facts presented as an easy to understand timeline of the events.

Conclusion

Remarkably, this book splits a complex topic into manageable bite sized chunks with complimentary illustrations for each factual piece of information. The illustrations feel fun and make you smile but still manage to convey the right tone for each era. An excellent book for triggering discussion although probably not intended to be read in one sitting as there’s a lot of information to absorb.

Author/s: Catherine Barr & Steve Williams

Illustrator: Amy Husband

Publisher: Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, Mar 2015

Our Rating: 5/5


CLICK TO BUY The Story of Life: A First Book about Evolution

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Source: Own copy

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Book Review: Oi Frog by Kes Gray

Oi Frog

Synopsis: Frog wants to find somewhere comfortable to sit but soon finds out he can only sit where he’s expected to sit and doing the “right” thing is what it’s all about. Would you question why?

Conclusion: How often do we do something just because that’s how we’ve been told we should do it and how it’s always been done? A super rhyming story with an unexpected ending. A perfect example of when the simplest of ideas are often the best.  My children love repeating the comical and quirky rhymes. Accompanied by bold and expressive illustrations this book gets you laughing at how absurd social etiquette can be at times when we don’t really know why we do it.

Book Genre: Picture Book

Recommended Age Range: 0-5 years.

Author: Kes Gray

Illustrator: Jim Field

Published: Hodder Children’s Books Feb 2015

Source: Own copy

Rating: 5/5

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Imagine an Illiterate Life

Asian Girl Reading a Book

Being illiterate must be like living a life without any written instruction manuals, those we fondly refer to as books, newspapers, magazines, leaflets, letters, posters, signs and computers which are all packed with opinions, ideas and influences. Perhaps if we were illiterate these would all become lifeless objects and reading would be replaced with personal experience through the people we meet and talk to, everyday events we come into contact with and what we feel as a consequence.

Perhaps we’d begin to see an object for what it is or what we think it is with no added story attached. For example a plastic bag without the warning comment, bottled water with no indication of its origin or a board game without instructions. We would instinctively give each object our own meaning. Hence why a cardboard box becomes a toy for a toddler, a small toy becomes something to eat and an avocado something they start to play with and squash in their hands.

Being unable to read wouldn’t prevent us from communicating. Before speech and language was created early man used pictorial images and actions to communicate. An illiterate world would remain as we see it and not as other people know it. Our views would not be marred by millions of other people’s interpretations and our perspectives would purely be gained from our own direct experiences. There would be no additional knowledge, alternative opinion or challenging perspective beyond that of our immediate environment. It almost sounds quite refreshing to live in a world without conflicting distractions; a world which encourages you to concentrate on what is happening around you and to focus on the present moment.

However our world is no longer like this, we are natural creators and technological advancements and inventions have changed our world. Our world has grown exponentially and continues to grow on a daily basis. As reading and writing developed, messages, knowledge and memories were shared. They were depicted on walls, slate then paper and passed on through the generations. Yet even up to this point communication was confined to the small space we lived in. Humans had no way of knowing what was happening on the other side of the world and even if there was another side to it. There was no means of getting any written communication across the seas until a means of travel was invented, then a worldwide postal system was put in place and more recently the internet was born.

Reading expands our lives. Reading brings everyone in our world closer together. It connects us with people we may never meet. It shows us that what we alone experience is never the whole story. It teases us with something different, it dangles the idea of infinite possibility in front of our eyes. Our universe just got bigger. Which life would you want to lead?

Despite such changes even today a significant percentage of our population in England are what we refer to as functionally literate adults. As parents we have the power to ensure that child is not ours.  If we encourage our children to read it’s like removing the limitations of where they were born or to whom they were born to and giving them the opportunity to become a part of something much bigger.

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