We are on an exploration of evolution and prehistory these days (check out our felt timeline!), and I was pleasantly surprised to find so many beautifully written and illustrated children's books on the subject. In fact, these are just five of many books that we played with this week.
Our Family Tree is the lightest and simplest of the three picture books here. A family is shown on the beach drawing their family tree in the sand, starting with the appearance of bacteria and moving through to current times. The pages are filled edge to edge with beautiful illustrations in deep, rich colors, some of the family on the beach, others of the periods of the past. The story is that of the earth and its creatures, told in one or two flowing sentences of poetic language on each page. At the end of the book is a timeline noting the periods of the illustrations and giving brief details about each. This one is truly a picture book, and it presents the history of the earth and its creatures very calmly and pleasantly.
Life on Earth: The Story of Evolution begins with a general overview of the earth's timeline presented in short one paragraph descriptions of the periods with illustrations to boot. Following this is a more detailed telling of our current age and the development of evolution as a science. The book touches on evolution, natural selection and survival of the fittest, variation and mutation, speciation, and extinction. Illustrations made of torn paper images give a texture to the pages and bring extinct creatures to life. They are also expertly used to demonstrate concepts, such as mutations/variations and natural selection. Together, the illustrations and the clean writing present serious information in an understandable and enjoyable manner.
Virginia Lee Burton's presentation of evolution is filled with the illustrations and soft, flowing words we've come to expect from her. Life Story is a detailed but non-technical account of the story of the Earth, and it does not touch at all on evolution—in fact, I don't think it even uses the word once—but it roughly presents the concept through the idea of ancestors and changing life. I can't tell if that's a relic of its age, or of the author. But the real bone to pick here is with the obvious ethno-centric view point come modern man. Prehistoric man is mentioned, then the development of society, and then there is "the discovery of the New World", after which the book basically becomes the story of the evolution of American suburbia. For all that, though, I am enjoying this one with Calvin.
Bang! The Universe Verse and It's Alive! The Universe Verse Book 2 are both graphic novels and are a truly unique look at the history of life, the universe, and everything. These books present basic concepts (like partical physics and stoichiometry???), entirely in rhyme and illustrations like those found in any good graphic novel. Because they are written in rhyme, some of the language can be a bit convoluted, but also because of the rhyme they are enjoyable to read and listen to. They are most definintely too much information for Calvin right now, but he enjoyed listening to them and had a great time re-reading them himself several times already, and that means he's hearing the words and understanding that those concepts are out there, and I count that in the win-win category. These books will be lots of fun for some, but are definitely not for everyone.
And on my shelf...I finished The Help and I Never Promised You a Rose Garden, along with another book I read in order to review it for Book List, the ALA's book review magazine. Reviewing is a new job for me, and I'll have to see how it effects my after hours reading.