Information Books for Children
The Current Scene
Volume 16 Number 3
The 1987 year emerged with a vast array of information books for children -- everything from Parliament, natural science, unions, and money to AIDS.
Using well-known scientists as authors is becoming a successful practice. David Suzuki, UBC genetics professor, continues his "Looking at. . ." series with Looking at the Body. Similar to the other series titles in structure, it contains many of the features so popular with readers-clearly delineated sections, something-to-do activities, amazing facts and impossible tricks. It is unfortunate that the same standards of quality for illustrations and format, particularly the placement of diagrams and print density, are not in evidence. Suzuki has also combined his expertise with others to respond to teenagers' concern about the frightening epidemic of AIDS. In David Suzuki Talks About AIDS, Suzuki, Thalenberg and Knudtson explain the background of the disease with a sense of rational frankness and clarity of factual detail.
Dr. Hugh Danks, an entomologist at the National Museum of Natural Sciences in Ottawa, has published The Bug Book: How to Catch, Identify and Care for Creepy Crawlies and Other Bugs. Encased in a plastic bug bottle with holes in the top is a terse but intriguing guide to twenty-four insects. The clever packaging has tremendous visual appeal, and as a result, bookstores report being sold out of their entire shipment in only one day! It is understandable that The Bug Book has become one of the most popular titles for the publisher.
Natural science books continue to emerge as a dominant theme in Canada's information books for children. All you ever wanted to know about an apple is presented in Paulette Bourgeois's The Amazing Apple Book. Simply illustrated, the pages are filled with entertaining facts, fiction, recipes, experiments and activities with and about this popular fruit.
The facts concerning the changing of the seasons are told in story form in Dorothy Joan Harris's Four Seasons for Toby. Remarkably detailed and dramatic illustrations portray a young turtle's journey around a farm to discover spring, summer autumn and winter. The view of the world from the turtle s perspective is an aesthetic delight.
Outer space provides a constant topic of interest to young people, and Terence Dickinson shows great creativity and originality of concept in his Exploring the Night Sky: The Equinox Astronomy Guide for Beginners. A clever cosmic voyage takes the reader light-years away from the earth. John Bianchi's dramatic illustrations provide focus and visually help to overcome the density and small size of print on each page. Each two-page spread is designed as a single concept and is bound to appeal to young people.
Information books now deal with topics not usually perceived to be of interest to young people. Claire Mackay provides a unique insight into the history and value of unions in her Pay Cheques & Picket Lines: An About Unions in Canada. It is a feast of trivia of union information, yet the author also astutely provides a history of unions in Canada. The book designer, Michael Solomon, is a master at creating an appealing montage of crisp writing, amusing cartoons, significant historical photographs, clear topic organization, brief biographies and capsulized commentaries.
At long last, an appealing book about our holidays and celebrations has come out! Let's Celebrate! Canada's Special Days by Caroline Parry provides a composite view of the multicultural heritage of our country in brief, amusingly illustrated commentaries on many of the special days of the year. Arranged by calendar entry beginning with the winter season, the book contains information on the Mexican Posada, Iroquois Midwinter Festival, Holi Hana Baisakhi, Toonik Tyme, May Day as well as the Canadian Ploughing Championships, Fiddlehead Festival and a host of other events. The author's engaging style, highlighted by numerous regional Canadian references and amusing side comments, will appeal to child and adult alike.
In Canadian publishing for children and young people information books continue to emerge with excellence dramatically improving in both quality and appeal. Many recent titles will command respect both at home and abroad.
Bourgeois, Paulette. The Amazing Apple Book. Illustrated by Linda Hendry. Kids Can Press, 1987.
Dickinson, Terence. Exploring the Night Sky: The Equinox Astronomy Guide for Beginners. Illustrated by John Bianchi. Camden House, 1987.
Danks, Hugh. The Bug Book. Illustrated by Joe Weissmann. General, 1987.
Harris, Dorothy Joan. Four Seasons for Toby. Illustrated by Vlasta van Kampen. North Winds Press, 1987.
Mackay, Claire. Pay Cheques & Picket Lines: All About Unions in Canada. Illustrated by Eric Parker. Kids Can Press, 1987.
Parry, Caroline. Let's Celebrate! Canada's Special Days. Kids Can Press, 1987.
Suzuki, David with Eileen Thalenberg and Peter Knudtson. David Suzuki Talks About AIDS. General, 1987.
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