A look at my daughters’ bookshelves might tell you what I value in a book for children. Beautiful illustrations, clear writing, a funny or goofy story, and words that don’t talk down to them. I don’t go in for the saccharine stories and poems or the moral stories and I like books that teach them something about the world beyond themselves.
A recent purchase for Pearl’s birthday was this beautiful illustrated book by Millie Marotta. Marotta details 43 animals around the world that are endangered. Each animal is given a full page illustration and write-up, explaining their unique features and why they are in trouble. The book is divided up by region (eg. desert, freshwater, ocean). Much of the language is far beyond Pearl and I would say the actual age range would probably be 8-12. But reading it together we’re able to talk about each animal. What makes them special, what other animal do they remind us of, and how does our behaviour affect the world around us? A mention of a penguin in danger because of trawl fishing reminded us of our book Alpha Bravo Charlies which describes why trawl fishing makes people angry and launched us into a discussion of the canned tuna we eat. Yes, it’s all a little beyond Pearl but I believe it’s not too early to make her aware of some of these issues. I’d rather put a book in my child’s hands that pushes them beyond their current limits, both in reading level and understanding. Because we read it together, we can take it slow and she can ask questions as we go.
The gorgeous illustrations are engaging even for one as young as Rose and lovely for the oldest reader to look at too. This book makes a great introduction to protecting the natural world around us for readers of all ages.