Bookshelf Information

A Million Dots

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Starting with a single tree, ‘A Million Dots’ introduces the number one. Simple and uncluttered, it stands proudly alone, but turning the page sees this doubled to two trees. Next, four red apples stand out against their green leaves. As the trees turn brown, eight red apples lie on the ground. On each spread, the numbers double until the reader sees 1,048,576 dots in the final six page pull-out.

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On the left hand page, the number in digits is clearly written whilst at the top of the opposite page the answer is written in words above its dotted representation. This is itself offers much potential for discussion about how we record numbers (both in digits and words), number patterns, doubling, repeated addition, etc, but the simple graphic illustration which accompanies each number offers so much more.

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Children are fascinated by big numbers and when I presented them with this book, they instantly wanted to check that the sum was correct - and then count the number of dots! With the lower numbers, this was easy, but it soon led to conversations about finding shortcuts and using what they know about number to help them. The pictures where the majority of dots are arranged into rectangles allowed them to count columns and rows whereas the scattered pictures produced different challenges. Were there 2,048 stars reflected in the ocean the boat sails on? Was the moon-and its reflection- included in the total count? The quality of mathematical language and thinking, however, was amazing to listen to. There were, of course, those who just wanted to believe all the dots were there and just enjoy the concept and artwork!

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The choice of image also provoked discussion. Are the 64 dots Smarties tumbling from a tube? Confetti from a party popper? Is that the pink tail of the mouse curled round the edge of the page opposite? How many pages would a picture containing 2,097,152 dots need? How small would those dots need to be? The effect of the dots as they got smaller and closer together also led to discussions about pointillism and the work of artists like Georges Seurat.

Simple, yet stunning, ‘A Million Dots’ is a great book for exploring and discussing numbers wherever you are!

A Million Dots Sven Völker

Cicada Books ISBN: 978-1908714664

Hummingbird

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Beautifully balancing fact and fiction, ‘Hummingbird’ focuses on the ruby-throated hummingbird. The story starts with a grandmother and her granddaughter waiting in their garden for the ‘Tz-unun’ or ‘zun-zun’ (the name for hummingbirds in several Central and South American countries) to arrive and feed. Like the little girl, Granny says they will soon be flying north. The reader then follows these incredible little birds on their migration until they arrive in New York where the little girl finds part of their egg shell. She then completes the cycle by sending this to her grandmother with a cutting from the newspaper about hummingbirds nesting in Central Park for the first time.

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Produced in association with the RSPB, the story is supplemented with factual notes about various aspects of the ruby-throated hummingbird’s life. An index is included to enable readers to locate this information with ease and a bibliography of further reading is also suggested. Additional notes about these incredible creatures at the beginning and end of the book offer information about how scientists study them. It is truly fascinating!

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The story also reminds us all of the importance of nature as the beauty of these birds captures the attention and interest of many on their journey, spreading the joy of nature as they go. A student forgets his work for a moment as he shares the beauty of the hummingbird with his mother; a family forget the normal distractions of daily life as they share the joy of hummingbirds visiting their homemade feeder. The story offers a sense of love - of human to human as well as for nature.

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Jane Ray’s illustrations are as beautiful as ever. Rich colours and delicate detail bring each scene to life, celebrating the beauty of these birds and the world we live in. She also captures those human relationships- the grandmother and her granddaughter nestled together, the sisters enjoying a special memory, an elderly man and his younger companion sharing a walk in the park with a dog- each of these relationships speaks volumes through her beautiful paintings.

A stunning book about these fascinating birds, ‘Hummingbird’ is a treasure of a book which has great potential for using in school as well as being enjoyed by those wanting to discover more. Just beautiful.

Hummingbird Nicola Davies, illustrated by Jane Ray

Walker Books ISBN: 978-1406379273

The Big Book of Birds

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The fourth in the ‘Big Book of…’ series, ‘The Big Book of Birds’ is every bit as fascinating as the others. The large format makes it perfect for sharing and each spread is presented in Yuval’s playful style. A brilliant family book, younger children can spot the eggs hidden on each page ( a guide to locating them is included at the end) whilst older ones can enjoy the information. Everyone will love the illustrations!

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A clear index shows ‘who’s inside’ the book and each section starts by posing a question which is then answered in the text. There are spreads focusing on particular birds and others on more general subjects, such as eggs. Advice for the potential bird spotter makes it clear that patience is needed to spot birds and that nests and eggs should not be touched. A comprehensive index at the end makes it easy to locate information.

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The pages on flamingos explain their pink colouring, how they eat, try to impress a mate, cool themselves down and stand on one leg to sleep. There is enough information here to entertain or to act as a starting point for further investigation. Other spreads look at the hummingbird, kingfishers and hoopoes. Each is full of fascinating facts abut their appearance, feeding habits and nests.

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In school, children could present further research in Yuval’s style, using his artwork for inspiration and carefully choosing snippets of information best suited to their design. The pages about giving garden birds a home might provide a starting point for looking after birds in the school grounds. Designed to capture interest and feed the intellect, ‘The Big Book of Birds’ is perfect for the budding ornithologist, birdwatcher or nature lover.

The Big Book of Birds Yuval Zommer

Thames and Hudson ISBN: 978-0500651513

You can read our review of ‘The Big Book of Bugs’ (shortlisted for our Information Category in 2017) here.

You can read our review of ‘The Big Book of the Blue’ here.