Monday, 26 February 2018

A Picture Book with Science Facts Designed for Young Children

This afternoon, while I blog, there is the first flurry of snow flakes falling. This means something in a tenuous sense as I am writing a review of 'The Squirrels' Busy Year' by Martin Jenkins and Illustrated by Richard Jones and the theme is seasons and weather

The Squirrels' Busy Year' by Martin Jenkins and Illustrated by Richard Jones


This storybook allows a year long sympathetic window into the lives of two squirrels: starting with winter, then spring; summer; ending with autumn. 
Owl is keeping an eye on things over the icy landscape while the squirrels are in their nest for the best part. Winter moves into spring - Owl continues to keep an eye on things from the hole in the tree. The squirrels' are out and about and the frogs and the birds' are first mentioned in the spring section. It's summer, Owl is still there and the squirrels and the frogs are keeping cool. Autumn, and the birds' have flown, the frogs have disappeared from surface ground living but the squirrels are still out and about at times. 
Aside from the story, and the wonderful illustrations in earthy colours by Richard Jones, author Martin Jenkins has included a line or two, or short paragraph of seasonal related commentary and factual information which binds the scientific real world with the season led activities of the cute animal characters. 
Page 28 and the story is done, five science and nature questions follow and are designed to prompt the child to think about seasons and weather in context.


I like this book a lot, I question however, the age suitability being named as 5 - 7 years in the promotion. This is a Picture Storybook after all, so, arguably, better that it be read out loud by others to a little people audience in Nursery or a Reception class? Or one-on-one at a reading time session snug in an armchair? Or, as a bedtime story? So that participants can enjoy the pictures and respond to the questions in a pairing or a group. Better for children of early years in reality-if you get my meaning!

Because many children of the designated school age range given have some first science knowledge already, and an average/above average reading ability, therefore, would a picture book be a first choice as an independent read for such a child? Wouldn't an A5 sized easy read or a fun facts paperback be their preference? Perhaps not...I don't know.

In defence of the book I note that the word and sentence structure of it meets with the English reading level of a child falling in the stated age range quite fittingly. To independently read this book a child would need to get around paragraphs like this from the book and I quote 'The weather is often cool in autumn and it can be wet and windy. The birds that have flown off will come back in the spring. Many trees lose their leaves in autumn'. 

I acknowledge that it is very difficult to gauge whether or not the concept of making a pre-school favourite (a picture storybook format in other words), into a teaching aid for a child that is near ending his or her first grade education is a wise one. 

Thank you for reading. Comments welcome. 


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