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Book reviews from 4—7 years: Growing

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By Helen BarnesYear 2 teacher and former guest editor

Helen Barnes and children at Edenham C of E Primary School review a selection of books that will really ‘grow’ on you!

Growing Things

Growing Things by Carolyn Scrace (Circle of Life series, Franklin Watts, ISBN 9780749644277)

Bright and bold illustrations full of detail make this a book to be pored over again and again. The time lapse progression as we turn the pages takes children through every stage of a bean plant’s life, and would link perfectly with a class project on growing plants.

The book has all the features of a non-fiction genre, with contents page, index, headings, labels and captions. The text is simple but very informative, and the print size is ideal for early readers. The split pages are an added fascination and are great for class discussion. And since the whole ‘story’ is presented from the seed’s ‘eye view’ (we are given just a glimpse of the hands and feet of the person responsible for starting the seed’s journey), there is huge potential for creative writing. My class loved it!

Humans and Other Animals: Growing

Growing: Humans and Other Animals by David and Penny Glover (Franklin Watts, ISBN 9780749669607)

Children often find the concept that we are ‘animals’ a difficult one to understand. Growing explains clearly, with the help of bright and appealing photographs, why this is so. Each double page is headed by the sort of questions children want answers to, and gives some lovely ideas for activities to try after reading the book. For example, finding baby clothes and comparing their size with clothes worn now, and looking at family photographs to identify any similarities in physical features.

The book’s pages are bursting with interesting facts (which many adults would also find fascinating), and I particularly liked the idea of a quiz that encourages readers to use the index to find the answers. My children wanted to use other information books to set their own quizzes, so this book proved a stimulating launch into becoming non-fiction detectives!

Giants

Giants by Mij Kelly and Nick Maland (Hodder Children’s Books, ISBN 9780340893302)

There are two stories in one running through this delightful tale of giants, as we accompany Sweet Pea and Boogaloo through the forest. Sweet Pea seems aware that they may not be alone as she asks Boogaloo all about giants, and he tells her all he ‘knows’ about them despite never having met one.

The suspense builds in the story as we watch the giant advancing nearer and nearer and witness his increasing dismay as he listens to Boogaloo’s prejudices and misunderstandings. This is a great book to address the issue of prejudice and how we can all be the same and different in so many ways. And children will love the repetitive, rhythmic text and cross-hatched illustrations in muted tones, reminiscent of Where the Wild Things Are. Thought provoking and with a twist at the end, this was a charming story to read aloud.

What's This?

What’s This? A Seed’s Story by Caroline Mockford (Barefoot Books, ISBN 9781846860706)

I always love to start off science topics with a story – and this book fits the job perfectly! The gorgeously distinctive illustrations made this book one that all the children wanted to dive into. And with an opening sentence that reminded me of The Hungry Caterpillar, we were all eager to learn what happened next! As the seed is tended from spring into summer, patience and nurturing are rewarded as shoots appear, and eventually a sunflower opens its petals. The circle of life continues as the autumn seeds are then taken to school to be grown by the class the following spring.

The picture of the school children planting their seeds could have been lifted from any infant classroom – and this is the success of the tale, because young children can readily relate to it. For teachers, there is also a useful page of factual information giving straightforward teaching points that link to a sunflower growing topic.

My Body Book

My Body Book by Mick Manning and Brita Granström (Franklin Watts, ISBN 9780749682620)

The blurb promises that ‘this book is full of visual surprises that will delight and fascinate’. It isn’t wrong! From the lively and colourful contents page to the list of body facts towards the back, My Body Book is bursting with information about how our bodies work – and my class couldn’t get enough of it! The clever split pages that show X-ray views and inner workings made the children reflect on just how much their bodies really do.

The wealth of information is given in simple ways that children understand (such as a brain weighs about the same as a pet rabbit), making some very complex biology easy to access and leaving the children eager to find out more. To have packed so much information inside two dozen pages is not short of miraculous – much like our bodies, come to think of it!

Harris Find His Feet

Harris Finds His Feet by Catherine Rayner (Little Tiger Press, ISBN 9781845065898)

‘Harris was a very small hare with very big feet.’ So we learn on the first page, and from then on it’s difficult not to fall in love with him. The story unfolds as the wisdom of old age is imparted to the young Harris via his grandad. The close relationship between them is subtly told in both words and pictures, as Harris learns that having big feet can have many advantages.

The contrast between youth and old age, and the idea of learning to stand on our own two feet, is sensitively conveyed. The story ends full of optimism, as Harris branches out ‘to the end of the world… and back home again.’ It was delightful to talk to the class about their relationships with grandparents, what we can learn from older people, and how the world can be an exciting and adventurous place – once we’re ready to explore!

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