Science and history can be a fun subject for kids. However, it always seems that people hit on the same historical event or scientific areas. Therefore, I am interested when I find books that do not cover the “same old same old,” or find a fresh take on an old favorite. While both books are available, I read them via online reader copies.
When I saw Jumper: A Day in the Life of a Backyard Jumping Spider, My first thought was, “Oh a spider.” My second, “OH! A jumping spider?” and finally, “How can I freak out my sister with this book?” (As she does not like spiders. And I’m that kind of big sister!) This book by Jessica Lanan, is about a spider. Not the species, or all spiders, but one particular spider and the things that she does and happens to her throughout the day. She tries to catch prey, she hides from predators, she hears and feels things with her elbows, the hairs on her body and so much more. It is informative, without being “just the facts.” The illustrations of Lanan are both realistic, but have a bit of a dreamy look to them. I am assuming that they are some type of watercolors. This is reflected by the colors and style of the images. The details are busy, as you are in the garden and seeing all the things of it. However, the best (and worst) image is when you see the perspective of Jumper herself. Spider view can make humans go “Phew!” The underwater effect is not for the weak of the tummy! And while it is realistic with what and how spiders eat, it is not gratuitous.
I have never heard of The Day the River Caught Fire: How the Cuyahoga River Exploded and Ignited the Earth Day Movement. Which I probably should have as it helped start the movement that would become Earth Day. Barry Wittenstein’s picture book is not “action” or hits on “just the facts” of Earth Day, but is not a traditional story and more of a conversion. The artwork of Jessie Hartland is a bit surreal and sometimes feels “messy” and older than what a picture book age would normally be. They are not for everyone, but they do bring a certain tone and that works for the idea. The idea of this book is in the title. One day sparks from a passing train flew into the river. Normally, the spark would fizzle out. However, the pollution was so bad, the river ignited and burned. Thankfully things were quickly taken care of, but they had not been so lucky in the past. And this, and other events of the time, made the people mad and to some being “Ho-hum, that’s how it is.” While not “preachy” there is no question that the author has a point and wants to drive it home.