Sunday, November 25, 2012

Four Books on Natural History

We love stories. Who doesn't? There are stories all around us. Some old, some ancient, and some older than man himself! The tale of how it all began makes for an interesting story.

Here are four blast-from-the-past books.

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A Gift from the Sea
Written by Kate Banks
Illustrated by Georg Hallensleben
Farrar, Straus and Giroux (originally published in French)
Ages 4-6

A little boy finds a stone. Little does he know that the stone was once spewed from a fiery volcano. The author takes us on a journey tracing the history of the rock, and in the process we travel through the ages. We go right from the era of the dinosaurs, the ice age, the time of cave men, to an ancient civilization, a rural setting, and a present-day seaside town. The book was a good start in gaining an understanding of our place in the world and its permanence. The paintings and poetic prose work together, leaving one with a sense of peace.

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One Smart Fish
By Chris Wormell
Random House Children's Books
Ages 4+

Did you notice I’ve put in an age recommendation of 4+, not 4-n?! I was blown away by this perfect picture book with its brilliant idea, gentle humour and beautiful visuals.

Chris Wormell deals with a weighty theme like evolution in a delightful way, in this engaging story of how you and I got here.

How, you ask? It all began with one smart fish - a fish who wasn't satisfied in the sea and had bigger aspirations. A fish who wanted to walk on land! From fish to amphibians, mammals, apes and humans... we tend to forget how interconnected and important we all are to one another, and the book reminds us of this. In one master stroke, the author brilliantly explains evolution, while inspiring kids to dream, think big, be true to oneself and persevere.

Illustrations show different species - eels, long-nosed gar, pipefish, stingrays and sharks were some that we identified. And, just like people come in all shapes and sizes, there are different kinds of fish - big fish, small fish, fat fish, thin fish, long fish, short fish... The then-four year-old had fun spotting them as I read aloud the text.

Every time we read the book, I was asked why the board read 'Danger Shallow Water'!

The page with the smart fish playing chess with all the rest of the fish in the ocean as opponents is one both of us love. So is the last page with all the species and creatures on earth branching out, from one smart fish!

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What's older than a giant tortoise?
By Robert E. Wells
Albert Whitman & Company
Ages 5-7

Travel with a giant tortoise to appreciate the beauty and timelessness of earth. What is older than a giant tortoise? Giant Sequoia trees, the pyramids of Giza, meteor craters... We get to know the what-where-when of each on this magical ride. We see mammoth and dinosaur fossils - remains of creatures that lumbered on earth long before man existed.

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How Big Were the Dinosaurs?
By Bernard Most
Voyager Books
Ages 4-6

While there are dino books aplenty, this is one of our favourites, for the relatibility and fun quotient.

The book familiarizes kids to a dino in each double page spread, along with fun facts that make it relatable and retainable. I was surprised by the sheer number of dinosaurs introduced - all twenty of them are revisited in one handy double-page spread. Yellow, orange, brown, blue, green, violet - they are shown in all colours, we don't really know what colour dinos were!

Shantungosaurus - about fifty ducks long, the biggest duck-billed dinos ever found.

Supersaurus is longer than a supermarket aisle, a gigantic plant eater that would have no trouble finding the vegetable section - Most would like to have called it Supermarketsaurus!

With analogies like these, how can one forget?


Subhashini said...

Oh Arundhati, you never cease to amaze me. What lovely picks...
Any library in Bangalore, where one can find such books?

Arundhati said...

Thanks Subhashini! Hippocampus in Bangalore is probably your best bet, but I'd say go book-hunting too. #1 was found in the Bangalore book fair last year, paid all of thirty rupees for it. #4 - bought at a used book sale. #3 - flipkarted. #2 bought on amazon (after reading Chox's recommendation in one of her posts) and delivered by visiting family

Choxbox said...

Sound like amazing picks Arundhati! Wish your kid was older than my oldest - then could have got so much gyaan from you!

LOL@ the shallow water sign - that is the EXACT question asked here too!

Arundhati said...

Thanks Chox, I'm flattered :) I'm glad P is younger than your youngest... and most ST kids!

Sheela said...

Love your picks, Arundhati!! #2 is quite intriguing, must check it out.

Quite impressed with Is The Blue Whale The Biggest Thing There Is? we've explored other Robert E. Wells' books as well - What's Smaller Than A Pygmy Shrew was a favorite.

Playing by the book said...

Lovely selection of books

Choxbox said...

@Zoe: You are the original pointer-outer of One Smart Fish! Thanks again - it is still being enjoyed by us :)

Arundhati said...

Thanks Sheela, and we've loved so many of yours! Good to know you enjoyed the Wells series. I'm absolutely certain you'll love 'One Smart Fish' :)

Zoe - thank you, and looks like I owe you a BIG thanks for suggesting One Smart Fish in the first place!

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