On World Book Day, share something great with your kids
Travel the world, learn about shapes, sea creatures and prehistoric beasts, all via our new children’s books
While some children’s books offer fantasy and escapism, others allow young readers to grasp the fascinating side of our ever-changing world. Consider the empty shell we might find on the beach; it may have served its biological purpose, but for the scientist and author Helen Scales, its usefulness as a canny teaching aid lives on. In her new book, What A Shell can Tell, Scales, an award-winning marine biologist, author and teacher at the University of Cambridge, uses the shells of creatures as a means to explore their lives and their role in our world.
What a Shell Can Tell
What a Shell Can Tell is a beautiful, lavishly illustrated, and fascinating introduction to the wonder of both seashells and shells found on land, through the art of observation. Employing a simple, question-and-answer style format, Scales explores the huge diversity of life living within these armoured coverings.
In this book, young readers can learn why some molluscs draw on their shells, which shells glow in the dark, and what kind of shells end up in treetops, rather than on the bottom of the ocean.
The images in this book are the work of the acclaimed Spanish illustrator Sonia Pulido (who lives in a pretty shell-y environment, in a seaside village, close to Barcelona), and well suited to six-to-nine year olds, whether reading independently, or with a parent. It’s great for augmenting academic interests, and is also well suited to the summer holidays, when kids will be able to prize deep knowledge from many pretty beach finds.
Book of Dinosaurs
Book of Dinosaurs occupies a similar position between play and pedagogy, with its descriptions of 10 record-breaking prehistoric animals. In this new title the Brooklyn author Gabrielle Balkan, better known for her bestselling Book of Bones, her accompanying title Whose Bones? and the acclaimed The 50 State atlas series, teams up with creative partner, the London-based illustrator Sam Brewster, to create this great guessing game in book form. Book of Dinosaurs poses questions around these superlative skeletons, enabling readers to guess which wild attribute belongs to which animal.
Aimed at children aged five to eight, this book combines bones, fact-finding and that perennial school kids’ favourite, dinosaurs, into one fun and informative book. Readers can learn which dinosaur had the toughest armour, which one had the strongest bite, and which one had the biggest belly. Fully researched and vetted by experts, these petrifying, prehistoric facts will charm kids into learning all about these astonishing, extinct beasts.
We Are Shapes
We Are Shapes is equally enlightening. Via jolly texts and simple language, Melinda Beck’s new board book helps preschoolers learn, understand and memorise simple shapes, such as squares, triangles and circles. Each of the shapes addresses the reader, in a fun, simple and entertaining way that comes naturally to Beck. You see, for 15 years she was an animator, illustrator and designer for Nickelodeon, the most popular children’s network in America, where her work was enjoyed daily by millions of viewers. A graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, she has taught and lectured at the Parsons School of Design, and knows how to educate and entertain.
With We Are Shapes, she draws inspiration from the little-known children’s books created by Russian Constructivists, managing to pack in knowledge about shapes alongside a little interpersonal development, via her adorable cast of shapely characters. By the end of this book kids will not only know that a triangle has three sides but that, in almost every situation, we are far stronger together than alone.
Finally, post-pandemic, perhaps it’s time to globetrot, at least in book form, with Our Seasons. This board book invites young readers (aged two to five) to identify and experience the Earth’s seasons, around the globe, via rhyming verse and luscious illustrations. In these pages they can see and understand the chilly winter, fragrant spring, hot summer, and colourful autumn.
Sue Lowell Gallion has composed both simple guide sentences for children, and deeper, secondary texts, which offers detailed curriculum-focused facts that encourage children to consider their own environments, making the experience both personal and anchored within a global backdrop.
Illustrator Lisk Feng, meanwhile, creates detailed, colourful imagery which remains geographically accurate, while providing children with enough material for them to mount their own imaginative leaps. And once it’s read, this carousel-format board book can be opened and folded back to create a freestanding globe using its integrated magnetic closure – just like its predecessor Our World: A First Book of Geography.
You can find out more about these books and others over in the children’s section of the Phaidon store.