Featured Series: Little Kids First Big Books

First Big Book of Space  First Big Book of Dinosaurs  First Big Book of Animals  Little Kids First Big Book of the Ocean

Little E turns four this summer, and suddenly we’re being peppered with questions that are not as easy to answer as they used to be. I can handle “How does a carrot grow?” and “Is Daddy a giant?” but suddenly it’s “Where does the wind come from?” and “Would this big dinosaur be able to eat that dinosaur?” We haven’t yet entered the world of “How many moons does Jupiter have?” yet, but I like to be prepared, and I really like these National Geographic Little Kids First Big Books. There are lots of them, covering everything from bugs to space to the ocean, and including The Little Kids Big Book of Why, which gives you somewhere to turn when children ask “How does dough become a cookie?” or “Why do I have a belly button?” and The Little Kids Big Book of Who, which introduces children to all kinds of people they might want to know about, from the Beatles to Malala Yousafzai.*

These books are just slightly too old for Little E, so I would recommend them more for the four-and-up crowd. They have enormous rereadability and make great references. When I was a kid, we had a junior encyclopedia that was fundamental to my school career and interests. But even in this age of ubiquitous technology, children need to know how to look things up in atlases and other reference books, how to use an index, and what a glossary is for. The Little Kids Big Books series lays a great foundation for those skills, while still being well written and packed with great photos and visuals.

Have you checked out these books? Does your family have some favourite reference books to recommend?

  • Any book of biographies is bound to be problematic for some people, because you can’t include everyone, but the Big Book of Who has made a valiant effort to include a diverse group of people and give decent coverage to women. A lot of people and groups are still left out, but as always, I think that makes for a good jumping-off point for talking about why underrepresented people are sometimes left out and how to find out about the people who don’t always make it into books.

Review: The Way Back Home

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Format: Board book or picture book
Age: 3-6
Author and illustrator: Oliver Jeffers
Publisher: Philomel (April 2008)
Pages: 32
ISBN-10: 0399250743
ISBN-13: 978-0399250743

Tidying his room one day, a boy finds an airplane. He takes it out for a spin, but runs out of gas on the moon. Coming from the other direction is a Martian, whose engine trouble lands him on the moon too. At first, the two are afraid of the noises they hear in the dark, but soon they discover that both boy and Martian just want the same thing: to go back home.

If you’ve discovered the singular Oliver Jeffers already, chances are you’ve ordered his entire oeuvre from the local library or bookstore. If not, you and the child(ren) in your life are in for quite a treat. Jeffers, from Northern Ireland, is a multi-talented artist, illustrator, designer, and writer whose paintings have been featured in galleries and museums across Europe and North America. His children’s books are sublimely whimsical, subtly philosophical, and wholly unforgettable. In The Way Back Home, a young boy discovers that he and an alien have more to bring them together than draw them apart. Children will love the engaging storyline and the ingenious pictures, and parents are unlikely to tire of re-reading — even the thirtieth time.