A path through the jungle

12th March 2004 at 00:00
Anne Robertson looks at a series of books about natural habitats for children aged five to eight

First Discovery Close-ups series

By Caroline Allaire Illustrated by Pierre de Hugo

Moonlight Publishing pound;6.99 each

This series of five books aims to help five to eight-year-olds learn more about life in different habitats such as jungle, garden, seashore, hedge and pond.

The illustrations are clear and attractive. The insertion of illustrated plastic pages in front of black pages adds an interesting dimension to the series and may motivate many children. Each book has a card "torch" or "magnifying glass" for these plastic pages to help children observe details they may otherwise miss.

Children may benefit from discussing the differences between these card features and actual torches and magnifying glasses, and this discussion can be turned into a useful learning point. Each book has a simple, clear explanation of how to use these features on the first page and a useful storage slot for the cards at the back. The second page in all the books except The Jungle simply highlights the creatures in each book. This attractive way of displaying the contents could be used to demonstrate the purpose of contents pages in general.

Let's Look At I the Garden; the Seashore; the Hedge and the Pond all follow the same structure. The first two double-page spreads show pictures of the habitat in question accompanied by a short introductory paragraph. These are followed by six spreads, each concentrating on one creature. Each book then concludes with two further spreads illustrating other animals that can be found in that habitat but have not been detailed in the book. The sections on one creature have three short informative paragraphs on the left with small pictures, and one of the illustrated plastic pages on the right.

The Jungle follows a slightly different format. There is no contents page. The pages highlight the layers within the jungle and illustrate and list some of the animals found there, but they do not give information about the animals. The last two pages illustrate some of the animals in detail and encourage children to use the "torch" to find them. This book may inspire young children to learn more about jungle animals.

Each book offers a limited amount of information using a few technical words, such as omnivorous, predator and victim. The hard cover and spiral binding make these books easy for young children to use.

This series would be particularly useful in any key stage 1 classroom. Unfortunately, there are several spelling and punctuation mistakes.

Anne Robertson works at the Institute of Education

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