The Solar System

Malloy, Christine Corning, et al. The Solar System. New York: Chronicle Books, 2003. Print.

Above image taken by C. Cournoyer

The Solar System by Christine Corning Malloy, Aaron Leighton, and the American Museum of Natural History is a wonderful compact little volume that manages to pack in some of the mystery of the solar system into just a few well-designed pages.

A fold-out book with facts about the planets in small tabs that open up into a frieze of the solar system, it includes graphics and information about our planets,  asteroids, comets, and various other objects (including Pluto!). Textboxes on each page describe the most interesting and essential facts about each object, surrounded by illustrations of each. When pulled out, the reader is able to see a graphic depiction of the solar system, and how each object fits into the whole. There is a small booklet attached to the back binding that has further information on the subject, including a great bibliography of open web resources.

The obvious feature of this lovely little book is the creative format; it reminds me of an artist book, and that’s not surprising, as Christine Corning Malloy is an art teacher. It works well in helping children visualize what each planet looks like as part of the solar system. The text is rather small, as it’s confined on small pages, and in small textboxes. But the main issue I find has to do with organization; the planets are not presented in sequential order from the sun, and this is somewhat confusing. For example, on the second and third pages, it presents Mercury, then the Earth’s Moon, and then Venus; Mars, Earth, and Jupiter follow on pages four and five. This might have to do with the way the book opens, but the presentation is problematic.

The third author on this book is the American Museum of Natural History in New York– a collaboration between science and art educators is usually a win-win, and this tiny book is no exception.

Wild Kratts Wild Sea Creatures: Sharks, Whales, and Dolphins!

Kratt, Chris and Martin Kratt. Wild Kratts Wild Sea Creatures: Sharks, Whales, and Dolphins! New York: Random House, 2014. Print.

Above image from http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/241079/wild-sea-creatures-sharks-whales-and-dolphins-wild-kratts-by-chris-kratt-and-martin-kratt/9780553499018/

Wild Kratts Wild Sea Creatures: Sharks, Whales, and Dolphins, an easy reader non-fiction title, offers an introduction to some of the more fascinating (and high-interest for children) creatures in the ocean.

The Wild Kratts, Chris and Martin Kratt, are brothers who have their own PBS television show, a combination of live action and cartoon adventure that teaches children about the animal world. The brothers are lively and engaging, and their approach to science education is creative and appeals to all ages. This book takes the Kratt brothers’ approach, using devices well-known to fans (like Creature Power suits) to bring children into the world of the creature they’re examining. While they are well-known educators for children, there is an acknowledgement of thanks to a retired curator of the New York Aquarium for his expertise in advising on the content of the book.

The text is reminiscent of the television show, and makes for excellent easy reader style: repetitious, short declaratory sentences full of interesting facts. New concepts are well-incorporated, offering enough context (along with the illustrations) to build on prior knowledge. Most words are sight words, or are either simple compounds or easy to sound out. Information is well organized; though there are no chapters, the scope of the content is narrow enough and the flow of information logical enough to be cohesive.

Familiar, too, is the written dialogue among brothers, which is natural and casual, and easy to follow. Text is large, with few words per line, and few lines per page. An issue for young readers might be the lack of contrast between the black text and the blue of the background of some of the pages.

Wild Kratts Wild Sea Creatures: Sharks, Whales, and Dolphins is a fun and action-oriented children’s information book that pulls readers into the ocean to discover its cool creatures right alongside the Kratt Brothers. It’s an easy read and engaging for fans of the television show and for newbies as well.