CM . . .
. Volume XIV Number 17 . . . . April 18, 2008
Designed to introduce very young students to the concept of living things, this eight-volume series could probably be reduced to a single volume (or perhaps, two) due to having the same information repeated several times and a lot of “filler.” The books, averaging 10 chapters each, provide very general information along with a table of contents, a short glossary and index combination. Text is printed in a large, simple font with plenty of white space around it to help young readers focus. Sentences are simple and brief. Illustrations consist of diagrams and bright, colour photographs, these being the highlight of the books. There are two examples of illustrations that should not be included in a non-fiction book: the first, in I Am a Living Thing, shows a newborn baby in a large bird’s nest with some eggs (the labeling beneath the photo states that the baby did not hatch from an egg)- this might be confusing to small children, despite the disclaimer in the description; the second, in Living Things in My Back Yard, shows two women dressed in long gowns and butterfly wings with the accompanying text, “If you saw these lady butterflies with your very own eyes, would it seem like a dream? Have a look. They are right here in this book!”
Animal Families discusses the differences between families in terms of caring for their offspring (wolves do, turtles don’t), shared parenting, nursing and nurturing, teaching the young to hunt, grooming, and the ways in which they protect their babies.
In Animals Grow and Change, there is a lot of repetition from the previously mentioned book. This title features live birth versus hatching from eggs and introduces the term “life cycle.” The life cycles of several animals - horses, birds, frogs and butterflies - are showcased.
Homes of Living Things focuses on various types of homes and habitats. Animal homes highlighted are dens in holes (in trees, logs or caves), burrows, hives, different kinds of nests and a lodge.
Topics included in I Am a Living Thing are living things’ needs for survival, some types of cells in the human body, breathing, sunlight, water, shelter and clothing. How plants use the sun’s energy to make food and the importance of belonging to a group or community are also discussed. The human life cycle is explained very briefly in this volume.
Is It a Living Thing? explains the differences between living and non-living things and vertebrates and invertebrates, the importance of water to living things, and the newt’s life cycle as an example of growth and change. Like the previous title, the book describes how plants use the sun’s energy to make food. Finally, the various ways in which living things breathe- through gills, lungs, skin, spiracles and stomata- are shown.
Living Things in My Back Yard showcases (more repetition) living versus non-living things and what living things require in order to survive. Frequent back yard visitors include squirrels, chipmunks, raccoons, skunks, mice, birds, insects, spiders and snails, while occasional visitors might be frogs, toads, garter snakes and turtles, depending on where one lives.
Topics included in Living Things Need Water are the importance of water, forms of water, how plants and animals take up water, salt and fresh water, and the various uses of water by both plants and animals. Disappointingly, this title does not mention the importance of conserving water.
Plants are Living Things again talks about what living things need but focuses on different types of plants, plant cells and parts, and the uses of plants (homes, food, clothing and paper). The life cycle of a bean, photosynthesis and how plants make oxygen are also described. There are examples of how plants reproduce - from seeds, bulbs, tubers and runners.
This series might be useful in a primary classroom, but purchasing only one or two of the titles would be sufficient.
Recommended with reservations.
Gail Hamilton is a teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.
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