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Designs on the readers;Reviews;Science

Geraldine Brennan talks to the judges of the Rhone-Poulenc junior prize for science information books.

After accuracy, good design is the key factor which links the science information books on the shortlist for the pound;10,000 Rhone-Poulenc junior prize.

Two of the seven titles are in the Watts Wonderwise series by Mick Manning and Brita Granstrom. Elizabeth Hammill, project manager for the Centre for the Children's Book and one of a panel of five judges chaired by Adam Hart-Davies, enjoyed tucking into Yum-Yum!, their book on the food chain. "With its narrative text, it works wonderfully as a picture book as well as an information book. It's a real page-turner, with the design drawing the reader in."

Of How Did I Begin?, Manning and Granstrom's introduction to the facts of life for five-year-olds upwards, she said: "The question-and-answer format, which sounds stilted in so many books, works here. It's matter-of-fact and comfortable with its subject."

Yikes! by Mike Janulewicz (Collins) presents a microscopic camera's in-depth view of the human body. "This is the one that I simply had to pick up," said Mrs Hammill. "It starts at a child's level with its jokes and terrible puns and, again, the design gets you involved."

Understanding Your Muscles and Bones by Rebecca Treays (Usborne Science for Beginners) also, she said, "starts where children are and doesn't take itself too seriously."

The Kingfisher Book of Oceans by David Lambert "has a more old-fashioned design but diagrams, captions and spreads all work together. It's also a very good read."

Big Bang by Heather Couper and Nigel Henbest (Dorling Kindersley), the story of the creation of the universe, has already won the TES senior information book award this year. Again, Mrs Hammill admired the contribution of the design to the whole.

* The Rhone-Poulenc junior prize goes to the book which has most helped under-14s to understand science. Young judges in 21 schools will vote on the winner, which will be announced next month

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