The defining feature of any book from Flying Eye Books is that they are made to be treasured, none more so than Smart About Sharks by Owen Davey. The disposable, fleeting nature of modern consumption, with products devoured on the hoof and slung thoughtlessly in the trash, is countered the moment you hold Davey’s book in your hands. Like art, it is something to be gazed upon; something to be absorbed and assimilated in the mind and the soul, not grabbed, ripped at and stuffed in the gullet.
Davey’s illustrations are something else; they deserve a wide audience and much acclaim. I first discovered his work when drawn to the cover of the wonderful Knight Night, a delightful picture book, perfect for fearless four year olds who love to swish a sword and battle to the death, or at least until a toe is stubbed, the tears flow and a cuddle is needed. It’s full of stylised images often using a palette based around one bold colour (orange dominates in Knight Night, next to browns and muted yellows). Continue reading
Science. The very word on my school timetable would induce a shudder. I can still remember her name. I shall call her Mrs H, the biology teacher from hell. Such was her genius, she managed – for each 45 minute lesson – to remove from the study of life itself, anything and everything even vaguely resembling fascination, awe or wonder. It was replaced with stodge. Dog-eared text books. Eye-fluttering irritation whenever a question was asked or a concept not immediately grasped. I hated it and, as a result, hated science.
Only as an adult have I begun to discover what science should be about – curiosity, speculation, boldness. As a teacher, I have gained some insight into the dismal limits of my knowledge – learning alongside the children I’ve taught (I hope, in desperation, that my lessons have led to a mild smattering of awe and wonder – at least more than those taught by the dreaded Mrs H).
If only, all those years ago, I’d had a teacher who’d shoved Rebel Science into my hands – a fabulous book written by Dan Green and illustrated by David Lyttleton (why oh why aren’t the names of non-fiction authors and illustrators placed on the cover?). Continue reading
After reading so much amazing fiction in the last few months, it makes a nice break to review some non-fiction. It’s almost like a literary bank holiday – a time to refresh and wonder at the extraordinary world we are in, before returning invigorated to the made up worlds of others.
Questions and Answers by Catherine Chambers and Chris Oxlade (why do the writers of non-fiction not have their names on the cover?) fits the bill nicely. At nearly 400 pages long, there’s a chunkiness to the book and the range of content guarantees longevity. The subjects have been chosen wisely with sections on Space, Weather, Pirates, Inventions and lots of history, including Ancient Egypt, Rome and the Vikings.
Questions and Answers about Space breaks new ground for this blog – it’s my first review of a non-fiction book. All credit must go to @andyseedauthor for pushing the non-fiction cause – he twisted an arm or two to get information books sent out to book bloggers, mine included.
This is a good a place to start as any – the ‘Question and Answer’ series is top quality and deserving of a prominent place in book corners and school libraries. I wasn’t easily won over – ‘lift-the-flap’ books normally get quite short shrift from me. They are usually the first books to perish; the flaps don’t just get lifted – even in the hands of book-loving children, they are soon pulled, twisted, bent and broken.
But the Usborne books are made of sturdier stuff. The cover is as chunky as a hard cover can be, and the pages are thick, almost board-like. Each page has almost a dozen fact boxes, hidden beneath solid folds of card. Hard to break, made to be handled and to be read again and again. Continue reading