Follow these cycles;Reviews;Primary;Books

1st January 1999 at 00:00
READ AROUND LIFECYLES SERIES. Have You Ever Picked a Dandelion? Have You Ever Seen a Chick Hatch? Zero to Ten pound;6.99 each.

LIFECYCLES SERIES. From Seed to Sunflower From Caterpillar to Butterfly. From Tadpole to Frog. Watts pound;8.99 each.

BUDDIES SERIES. Tell Me Why Planes Have Wings. Tell Me Why Rain Is Wet. Wayland pound;7.99 each. SAM'S SCIENCE SERIES. I know How We Fight Germs. I Know Where My Food Goes. Walker Books pound;6.99 each.

Science information books for young children have to maintain a difficult balance. They must be based firmly within children's experience - and they should open children's eyes so that they see things in a different way.

Two new series on life cycles perform this balancing act well. The Read Around books on the life cycles of the hen and the dandelion are designed for early years pupils. With laminated card pages, straightforward words and attractive illustrations, they will encourage children to dip inside. The added bonus comes from the spiral binding and the circular text, both of which encourage you to go round the life cycle time after time, starting from any point you like. The excellent Watts Lifecycles series is aimed at a slightly older age group. Its carefully constructed text is neither condescending nor over-ambitious. Science terms are introduced only when needed and a quick glance at the labels on the accompanying illustrations will support any child meeting the terms for the first time. However, it is the stunning illustrations that make these books so special. Familiar, but exciting; they achieve a perfect balance.

The Buddies and Sam's Science series are slightly less sure-footed. Buddies tackles changes of state of water including the water cycle, and the forces involved in various types of flight. These science ideas link, in the main, to key stage 2, although, in the case of the second book, the notion that we get lift from the way air travels over and under the aeroplane's wing is beyond the specified curriculum.

The illustrations are lively and full of fun, but watch out for the potentially misleading equation in one picture which reads "evaporation + condensation = a cloud".Sam's Science looks at the human body's digestive and defence systems. In these books, Sam and his mum chat away about what goes on inside Sam's body. The conversational style is quite readable and provides openings for humorous asides, both in the text and in the engaging pictures.

However, many of the science ideas, such as the functions of different cells in the blood or the role of the small intestine in digestion, come from key stage 3; so, although these things are described in fairly simple terms, teachers may think twice before putting them in primary school libraries.

Both Sam's Science and Buddies might suit more able children; however, by skimming at speed over complex science ideas, they run the risk of rushing and possibly confusing pupils.

Anne Goldsworthy is chair of the primary committee of the Association for Science Education

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