CM . . . . Volume XVI Number 33. . . .April 30, 2010.
Earth and Sky: A Lift-the-Flap Guide to Our World and Solar System.
Pascale Hédelin. Illustrated by Laurent Richard. Translated by Terri Bjorgan.
Toronto, ON: Owlkids Books, 2009.
38 pp., hardcover, $27.95.
Solar system-Juvenile literature.
Kindergarten-grade 2 / Ages 5-7.
Review by Dave Jenkinson.
Day and Night
The Earth spins like a top. That is why we have day and night. Each time the Earth spins around, it makes one whole day. Look! On Sunday night it is dark where Lily lives because it is nighttime. On Monday night it is dark again. But what happens in between?
Lift the flap to find out...
Despite the title’s wording, Earth and Sky calls for its young readers to do more than just “lift-the-flap[s]” as they progress through the book’s thick, spiral bound pages. They can also pull tabs, spin wheels, open foldout pages, touch tactile surfaces, and unfold foldups. For kinesthetic learners, Earth and Sky may be especially appealing as they can become more actively involved in the book’s contents.
Content-wise, Earth and Sky begins with our home planet, its moon, the other planets in our solar system and some of their moons, before moving on to stars, galaxies, space travel and its future. Given the book’s brevity and its wide scope, each of the topic areas is usually treated via a pair of facing pages containing very brief paragraphs that are accompanied by illustrations. For example, “The Sky” pages include four subtopics, including Blue Skies, with its accompanying text: “The colors in the Sun’s rays reach the Earth’s atmosphere and are scattered around. Blue light is scattered more than all the other colors. So that is what we can see. That’s why the sky is blue!” A cartoon illustration of a boy flying a kite against a blue background provides the visual representation of this information.
According to the publisher’s promotional materials accompanying the book, the intended audience level of the book is “Ages 5+,” and therein lies the challenge for the author who must write about complex topics in a way that is accessible to beginning readers. And, while some of the book’s text would actually be more suitable for an older audience, the book’s board-like format gives it a very “juvenile” appearance, one that might deter older readers from picking it up.
The content appears to be current, and, for instance, Pluto has been excluded from the list of planets. Hédelin sometimes, however, does not go far enough in her explanations. Readers are told that “Earth travels through space three times faster than a rocket.” While that statement does give youngsters some “feel” for Earth’s speed, not all rockets travel at the same rate of travel. Readers are also told that “It takes one month for the Moon to make one circle around the earth.” However, to be accurate, that statement needs to include a qualifying term or phrase as the period is actually less than a month (and, of course, not all months are of equal length). Hédelin informs readers that “People are six times lighter on the Moon than they are on Earth” but she does not explain why this is so. Given recent space travel decisions in the United States, the author’s “prediction” that, “Soon space shuttles will travel all the way to the Moon,” now seems invalid.
And while Earth and Sky does not teach children how to find the North Star, it does include a sky map of some of the constellations, including the Big and Little Dippers. Unfortunately, these two constellations are not properly aligned in that the Big Dipper’s two “pointer” stars do not lead to the North Star
Though the idea of physically involving learners in their learning is a good instructional approach, movement just for the sake of movement can actually be counterproductive, and there are places in the book where better “movement” decisions might have enhanced learning. For example, the “movement” of constellations is “demonstrated” by having the reader open four sets of folding windows (labeled 10 o’clock at night, midnight, 2 o’clock in the morning & four o’clock in the morning) and seeing how the sky position of Orion has changed. Because each of the four windows is opened separately and independently, the time lapse idea really doesn’t work.
Given the book’s manipulable nature, Earth and Sky is more likely to be a home, as opposed to a library, purchase.
Recommended with reservations.
Dave Jenkinson, CM’s editor, lives in Winnipeg, MB.
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