Likewise, there are lots of picturebooks that encourage dialogue about Maths: Burningham’s The Shopping Basket; Scieszka and Smith’s Math Curse; Allen’s Who Sank the Boat?; Pappas’ The Adventures of Penrose the Mathematical Cat; Gravett’s The Rabbit Problem; Hutchins’ Clocks, Clocks and More Clocks; Fox and Denton’s Night Noises and so on. There is a huge selection of books for examining the concepts of number, counting, addition, subtraction, shape, space, money/shopping, time, seasons, months etc.

Science and nature

Books like Wallace and Bostok’s Think of an Eel teach concepts like lifecycles; expand vocabulary and present a complete aesthetic experience. Marc Martin’s The River, and books by authors such as Jeannie Baker help children explore their world. Pringle and Lamme (2005) say that children must be given a multitude of opportunities to probe, poke, and peek into their own backyards or galaxies far away. These opportunities, they add, can be supported by the wealth of information available in science picture books.

Picture books about animals, when scientifically accurate, have the advantage of presenting children with close up pictures. A picture book can do a lot that cannot be accomplished in a classroom. The pictures freeze time, so a reader can pore over the details in a way that would never happen if the animal were moving... (Pringle and Lamme 2005 p 2).

Young’s Seven Blind Mice can lead to huge discussion about the importance of diligent investigation and accurate research – a must for all scientific endeavours. Banyai’s Zoom shows the importance of close looking. Nothing is what it seems to be and this book is fantastic for prediction. Frazee’s Roller Coaster examines motion and forces in a delightful way. Barrett’s Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs offers a zany introduction to a discussion on the study of weather; likewise Wiesner’s Sector 7 kept a group of my 9 year olds engaged in discussion for over an hour and led to a project on clouds. Wenzel’s They all Saw a Cat shows children how different our perspectives on the world can be.

History and Social Studies

There are countless picturebooks available that provide rich opportunities to discuss aspects of history and social studies syllabi at all levels of school.

Prior to introducing my pupils to the their

first study of ancient civilisations, we examined and explored what ‘a civilization’ or ‘culture’ meant by reading and discussing Fleischman and Hawkes’ Weslandia. This book lends itself hugely to further cross-curricular work. Vocabulary can be expanded by learning

4 Books for Keeps No.226 September 2017

the meaning of words such as staple crop, tuber, morale, scornful, civilisation; all the facets of culture can be explored – language, clothing, food, music, art, writing system, counting system, currency and so on; the botany of plants and the science of seed dispersal is there for exploration, as are binary and deanery maths and Wesley’s new mathematical system. Music and musical instruments can be examined, as can studying the constellations, and then there is the philosophical area of how people in early civilizations began to make sense of their existence and purpose on the earth.

Fleischman has also written the text for a wonderful book called

The Matchbox Diary. Illustrated by Ibatoulline, this book would provide a rich stepping stone for beginning to understand what history is really about. It could provide a springboard to discussion on immigration and provide a way to develop empathy and tolerance of immigrants. Tan’s The Arrival would make a good partner for this book as would Sanna’s The Journey; Milner’s My Name is Not Refugee, and Hest and Lynch’s When Jessie Came Across the Sea. William’s Archie’s War uses the hand-drawn pictures of a fictionalised ten year old Archie Albright to tell the story of living in England during the period of the First World War.

History is often about how one small event triggers a tsunami of other events. Flora’s The Day the Cow Sneezed is a great way to introduce this idea, as are: Aardema, Leo and Dillon’s Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears, Chaconas and Hellenbrand’s Don’t Slam the Door and Crummel and Donohoe’s All in One Hour. Elsie Piddock Skips in her Sleep by Farjeon and Voake is a recent addition to my picturebooks collection. The story was first published in 1937 and provides us with a wonderful vignette of village life in Sussex at the turn of the 20th century.

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