Finding books about animals, which we studied for most of the school year, was no problem; library shelves are stuffed with all sorts of good titles. However, finding such interesting, colorful, and well-written books about plants, our science topic of study for the past three weeks or so, has been a challenge. I guess a pine tree isn’t as cute as, say, a penguin or a frog. I even put out a plea on the homeschooling message board I frequent for some suggested titles for a spine, or a book to serve as the basis for our studies. Several people on the forum recommended Incredible Plants, so we have added it to our collection. Although the graphics (mostly diagrams) in this book are fabulous, much of it is still over the heads of my first grader and kindergartener (which is what I’ve taken to calling Louise nowadays). I love having picture books that don’t dumb down the subject, but that are still age-appropriate for your elementary aged children. Here are a few that we’ve enjoyed in the past few weeks:
The Reason for a Flower, written and illustrated by Ruth Heller, is a book I had on our school room library shelf after purchasing it at some used book sale that I don’t even remember. If I had to pick one book of all the ones I’m reviewing today to own and use for a study of plants, this one is it. The reason I like it so much is because it is written like a rhyming story so that it’s possible to read it and forget that you’re even studying science. However, the science is all there–from words like nectar, pollen, carnivorous (yes, flowers!), and angiosperm, made prominent in all capital letters, to the kernel of fact that is at the book’s heart:
manufacture. . .
that have a cover
of one kind or another.
The only thing that might make this book better is if it were illustrated with actual photographs; then again, I’m sort of partial to Ruth Heller‘s drawings, too. Maybe, just maybe, reading a book illustrated like this would encourage someone to keep his or her own nature journal. I give this one a Highly Recommended.
The Big Tree, written and illustrated by Bruce Hiscock, is a book that follows the life cycle of a sugar maple tree, from its beginning in Revolutionary America as a tiny seed, to its existence as a stately shade tree in its prime some two hundred years later, sheltering picnickers at a community Fourth of July celebration. What I love about this book is that it combines good science with a compelling story, one that my girls identify with and want to read more of, given their love of history. Bruce Hiscock‘s illustrations are lovely, and the scientific ones (as opposed to the historical ones, which are also there in abundance) are detailed enough that there is plenty of material to discuss, just looking at the illustrations. This one is worth seeking out, I think. It’s extra fun for us because we have a maple tree in our backyard.
Ancient Ones: The World of the Old-Growth Douglas Fir by Barbara Bash is very similar to The Big Tree, but this time the subject matter is not a maple tree but a Douglas fir. Another difference is that Ancient Ones doesn’t focus at all on the history that transpires during the tree’s lifetime; instead, the focus is on the minutest details of the life cycle of the tree, including all the other creatures and conditions that help carry out its life cycle. The illustrations are lovely and detailed; often there are animal hidden in the pictures and mentioned in the text, and my girls and I had a good time looking for them. It reminds me a little bit of One Small Place in a Tree, a book I mentioned here. Of the two tree books I’m reviewing today, The Big Tree gives more detail about the individual tree’s life cycle, while Ancient Ones deals more with the entire ecosystem. Both books are great.
Living Sunlight: How Plants Bring The Earth To Life by Molly Bang and Penny Chisholm is a very colorful and poetic look at photosynthesis. Written from the point of view of the sun, this book covers the major details of photosynthesis and emphasizes the interconnectedness of all living things. I’ll admit I find this a little weird, probably because I think it’s odd to read about a scientific process from the point of view of the sun, but I think it might work for kids. The illustrations in this book are extremely bright and vivid, and again, I’m not sure if this is good or bad. I guess it depends on the person reading it (or having it read to him); what might be a distraction to some children could be inspirational or interesting to another. I bought this book new and really thought my girls would love it; as it turns out, they haven’t requested that I read it again (and in fact, I had to find it to even write this review). However, I do think it’s worth mentioning because it is the only title I’ve found on photosynthesis that doesn’t overdo the chemical aspect of it for the youngest students. An added bonus is that there are four pages of author notes at the back, so students who are extremely interested in photosynthesis and up to more of a challenge can be satisfied.
Do you have any favorite titles to recommend for a study of plants? Please, share your recommendations in the comments! And as always, link up your Read Aloud Thursday posts in the comments. If you haven’t done so, please take a moment and read the Read Aloud Thurday Guidelines I posted last week, too. Check back tomorrow for a list of links from today’s post.
Have a terrific Read Aloud Thursday!