Jenny's Library

National Geographic’s Picture the Seasons

Posted on: September 22, 2012

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If there is one thing that is lacking among books for younger children, it’s good, quality, readable non-fiction.  (Aside from more diversity.  But that is sadly a given for all kinds of literature.) Especially books that have modern and understandable graphics.  There’s plenty of non-fiction, and there are plenty of readable titles.  There just aren’t many titles that do both – and most of those that do are decades old and show it.

Which is why I was so excited to stumble across the series I’m writing about today.  A loose collection of books about nature and people, National Geographic’s Picture the Seasons presents factual information about trees, spring, pilgrims and much more.  It does so at a level that is sparse and simple enough to be understandable to younger children, yet manages to never be stilted and disconnected, as non-fiction for early learners often are.

Not only are the photographs frequently stunning and the information up-to-date and accurate, the text flows well enough that I can read it aloud during story times. “Spring welcomes new arrivals” and is a time of the year when “warm breezes make tulips take a bow.” During winter, “open spaces sparkle in the sun and glitter purple-blue under the stars.”  And pumpkins don’t just come in many sizes, there are “wee ones, inches wide, or GIANT ones you can sit inside.”

The words and pictures expertly complement each other as well, which means I don’t always have to stop and and try to explain unfamiliar ideas using a lot of equally confusing terms – I can just point out the image that illustrates the concept.  It also allows for more descriptive and imaginative language.  Four year olds that might not otherwise understand what it means for spring to “drag a grey blanket across the sky” can see for themselves that the darkening clouds above a hillside do indeed look like a grey blanket.

There are a few mis-steps, such as when the book on apples decides that Johnny Appleseed warrants a mention, but overall the series is solid and enjoyable – and I wish there were more non-fiction books for younger children like them.

Bernard, Robin. (1999). A Tree for All Seasons. Washington, DC: National Geographic Society.

Esbaum, Jill. (2009). Apples for Everyone. Washington, DC: National Geographic Society.

Esbaum, Jill. (2009). Seed, Sprout, Pumpkin, Pie. Washington, DC: National Geographic Society.

Esbaum, Jill. (2010). Winter Wonderland. Washington, DC: National Geographic Society.

Esbaum, Jill. (2010). Everything Spring. Washington, DC: National Geographic Society.

Esbaum, Jill. (2012). Cherry Blossoms Say Spring. Washington, DC: National Geographic Society.

Goodman, Susan E. (1999). Pilgrims for Plymouth. Washington, DC: National Geographic Society.

Best for Ages: 3 to 7

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