Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Five Picture Books to Celebrate Patterns in Nature

Bees, Snails, & Peacock Tails
Bees, Snails, & Peacock TailsPatterns & Shapes-- Naturally
by Betsy Franco
illustrations by Steve Jenkins

Author of Curious Collection of Cats and Dazzling Display of Dogs, Betsy Franco, has written over two dozen books for children, among other things. Plus, the kids and I are huge fans of Steve Jenkins. So, when we found this book in the library by two wonderfully creative and talented people, we had to bring it home to savor at our leisure.

In the day and the night,
on land and in flight,
tucked in hollows of trees,
in the tide pools and seas,
you'll find patterns and shapes--
from the snakes to the bees!

Thus starts this book which has Jenkins' trademark cut paper collage complementing the lyrical text.

We learn about Moth's kaleidoscopic shapes, spider's delicate tapestries, peacock's patterned train, and even the beautiful spirals on topshell snails. The text is elegant in its simplicity, highlighting the very aspect that is distinct and discernible in each creature.

Study a beehive and you will see
the mathematical genius of the bee.
The hexagons you'll find inside
fit side by side by side.
This math is passed mysteriously
from worker bee to worker bee!

Each page is a work of art, inspiring and stunning. Kids particularly liked the pufferfish page! The pages with ants marching diligently and the sea stars in a tidepool cannot be read in a rush.

Swirl by SwirlSwirl by Swirl
Spirals in Nature
by Joyce Sidman
illustrated by Beth Krommes

From coiled up snake that is ready to spring, to chambered nautilus that grows bigger and bigger; from rolled up lady fern leaves ready to unfurl, to spiny sea horse's coiled tail that grabs on tight to seaweed so as not to drift away; and all the way to spiral galaxy, we are treated to the many aspects of spirals we see in nature.

A spiral is a snuggling shape.
It fits neatly in small places.
Coiled tight, warm and safe, it awaits...
For a chance to expand.

Full page scratchboard illustrations with just a hint of color from watercolor washes are gorgeous. Each example shows the many aspects of spiral shape that makes it unique and useful. With minimal text, the book conveys the idea gracefully - that no matter how we look at it, be it rolled up and full of potential or fully expanded infinite in the universe, spirals can be powerful and elegant.

Growing Patterns
Fibonacci Numbers in Nature
Growing Patternsand
Mysterious Patterns
Finding Fractals in Nature
By Sarah C. Campbell

With photographic illustrations, Growing Patterns introduces Fibonacci numbers in nature - starting with the number of petals in Lyle-leaved Sage and Calla Lily to Crown of Thorns to Trillium to Vinca to Cosmos.

The back of the book has  More About Fibonacci Numbers where we learn about Fibonacci, the man, as well as the fact that this series of numbers was known to ancient Indian scholars even before Fibonacci spread the word about it. Glossary explains the golden ratio and the golden rectangle.

From Pinecones and Pineapple to Sunflower Centers and Nautilus we see the beauty of Fibonacci numbers. But the book also ends with the note that not all numbers in nature are Fibonacci numbers, and encourages us to look for spirals, Fibonacci numbers, and other patterns.

We know spheres (oranges, tomatoes) and cones (icicles and traffic cones), even cylinders (pencils and cucumbers). But what do we call the shape of broccoli or branch of fern leaves? We didn't have a name for them until 1975, when Benoit Mandelbrot noticed patterns in these natural shapes.

Mysterious PatternsMysterious Patterns is all about fractals. Using a drawing of a tree - starting with the bare trunk, add a 'V' branch, then add a 'V' branch to each arm of the first 'V' branch, and so on till we get the shape of a typical tree, or broccoli - we learn about identifying the smallest unit/pattern which when repeated, gives the complex shape for which we don't have a single precise name, but call them fractals.

Leaves' veins and flower heads of Queen Anne's Lace are simple examples of this repetitive pattern that makes up some of the natural shapes in nature. The pattern of small rivers and streams that feed into one larger river, the lightning bolt, human veins,even human lungs are fractals.

The book ends by showing what patterns are not fractals - even though they are repetitive - like skin marking on swallowtail caterpillar or the outside of the pineapple.

Make Your Own Fractal section at the back of the book was a big hit with both the nine and seven year old. The Afterword suggests that Harry Potter's Invisibility Cloak would have been made of fractals!

Echoes for the Eye
Poems to Celebrate Patterns in Nature
Echoes for the Eyeby Barbara Juster Esbensen
illustrated by Helen K. Davie

Organized in five sections titled Spirals, Branches, Polygons, Meanders, and Circles, the book presents examples of natural geometry and repetition of shapes in nature in the most unexpected places.

Tornado and spirals? From cochlea to bighorn sheep's horns, we see some examples of spirals in nature. Snowflakes and turtle shells show us polygons in nature. Meanders talks about the winding curving esses in nature like the slithering snake and sliding glaciers.

Like a frozen white river
locked in time
the glacier
inch by heavy
a heavy unfolding
ribbon of snow and ice.

Some knowledge of basic shapes and geometry is required to appreciate this book. The shapes are not explained, but the illustrations complement the poems to help the young readers get the idea.

[image source:]

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Great source for books. Browsing through your posts realized you have been writing consistently. We, at ReadMyStori, have created a platform for kids and YA readers in India. Would love to hear your views on the books on our Mobile App (Android / iOS).

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