Nurturing a healthy curiosity

1st October 2004 at 01:00
Andrew Peck recommends science books that foster the spirit of enquiry

WHAT'S UNDER THE BED? By Mick Manning and Brita Granstrom. Franklin Watts pound;5.99

EDDIE'S GARDEN AND HOW TO MAKE THINGS GROW. By Sarah Garland. Frances Lincoln Children's Books pound;10.99

WHERE WILLY WENT: The Big Story of a Little Sperm. Nicholas Allan. Hutchinson pound;9.99

THE TOPPERS SERIES: Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter. By Nicola Baxter and illustrated by Kim Woolley. Franklin Watts pound;4.99 each

Curiosity is at the natural heart of science, with young children endlessly wishing to explore the world around them. Under the premise of a single query, Whats Under the Bed? encourages enquiry, using the persistent questioning style of young children to explore the subterranean world, from under our beds right to the centre of the Earth.

Part of the Wonderwise collection, the joy of this book is its different ability levels. The central story can be enjoyed in its own right, enriching it with additional detail, and scientific explanation is left open.

A highly engaging text is accompanied by pleasingly detailed illustrations.

An excellent additional feature of this series is the inclusion of suggested curricular links and activities for teachers, and supportive guidance for parents in developing their children's reading.

Books that can take classroom science and extend its links with children's experiences at home are always welcome, especially when they are as well conceived as Eddie's Garden and How to Make Things Grow. This endearing and wonderfully illustrated story (pictured here) follows Eddie from sowing to harvest, gently passing on knowledge and advice about successful gardening and showing that young children can be real gardeners too.

As such, the book provides excellent opportunities to accompany work on seed germination and plant growth (it also introduces elements of garden habitats), not only by reinforcing the processes of simple plant life, but by allowing children to develop their fascination with growing and life processes with real purpose outside school. The book is supplemented with a clear "How to..." section with tips and advice for readers inspired to emulate Eddie's success.

Where Willy Went: The Big Story of a Little Sperm, Nicholas Allan's new title, is an original and humorous book, informative and accessible for five to seven-year-olds whose curiosity will not be put off.

The story covers Willy's training as a sperm, and prepares him for the rigours of conception. Where do I come from? can be a tricky question to answer appropriately for younger children and Nicholas Allan's approach achieves a good balance between accuracy, sensitivity and interest.

However, the use of this book in schools for key stage 1 could be sensitive and would best merit prior discussion and an agreed consensus before its use.

The Toppers series appears understated and could be easily overlooked. This would be unfortunate, for they are a great find. The books - Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter - explore the key events and features of each season. Their strength lies in the combined use of engaging text and vivid photographs and illustrations, which not only inform, but also invite discussion.

As such, these books are well suited to guided reading. Each title also contains "Now try this" sections with well thought-out activities that encourage young readers to reflect upon, and interact with, the natural world around them.

Andrew Peck is science co-ordinator at George Spicer Primary School, Middlesex

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