With J’s current fish obsession we’re on the look out for books about fish at the moment. One Smart Fish by Chris Wormell was a chance find when we were visiting the Natural History Museum a few weeks back – it’s not a book I had previously heard of – but it’s now definitely one of J’s favourites so far this year.
One Smart Fish tells the story of a crucial evolutionary step – how many millions of years ago some fish left the sea and began life on land. It’s a big topic but through the use of stunning illustrations and perfectly pitched text, liberally sprinkled with humour, Wormell has written the ideal book for introducing the idea of evolution to young children.
Many pages are densely packed with a range of fish of all shapes, sizes, colours and texture, whilst the penultimate double page spread has a hugely detailed expanse of creatures surging out across the land showing the evolution from fish to – eventually – human beings. Like the earlier pictures of fish we can’t help pouring over the illustrations and playing “I spy” – just like we do when reading some other much enjoyed books of ours – Anno’s Journey or The History Puzzle.
One Smart Fish doesn’t attempt to deal with the science or evidence for evolution but it does introduce the concept of evolution exceptionally well. Both M and J find it funny yet brilliant that they are evolved from fish – this idea has really caught their imagination and M in particular has wanted to find out more. That Wormell’s book has so engaged my two kids and got them asking lots of questions is a testament to its brilliance.
Inspired by the range of beautiful and colourful fish in Wormell’s book we set about creating our own ocean full of fish. First I cut out lots of fish shapes from clear plastic containers I’ve been saving (strawberry punnets, for example). The girls used permanent markers (sharpies) to colour in and decorate the fish.
Next they had a lot of fun cleaning out an old fish tank that had been languishing amongst my pots at the back of the garden.
To make the fish appear to be swimming in the tank we attached two threads to each fish. One thread had a bead or a button attached at one end – the girls had an absolutely wonderful time investigating which of their beads and buttons would sink – an activity we have done again since as they enjoyed it so much. The other thread was attached to a small strip of bubble wrap to give the impression of bubbles coming out of the fishes mouths when they were in the water.
The fish tank was filled with water and then we added some sand – this made the water look a little dirty, but the idea was to make it seem more like the ocean than a sterile fish tank.
A few shells and some other marine life (ocotopi and sea horses) were added to complete our land beneath the waves.
We all had a great deal of fun creating this seascape – if you are inspired to do something similar, we’d love to hear about it
One Smart Fish: *** (3 stars)
Some fishy music to create by:
For more songs with an evolutionary theme you could take a look at Songs about Darwin and Evolution from Cells in Culture or Evolution Songs: Celebrating Charles Darwin’s 200th Birthday from Gigwise.
And some more fish activities that might work well alongside this book:
Having read One Smart Fish – the text of which is simple enough for J, at 2, to enjoy and easily follow, I then read the more complex How Whales Walked Into the Sea by Faith McNulty, Ted Rand, and Ted Lewin with M. If you can get hold of it I would urge you do do so as I cannot imagine a better follow-up read to One Smart Fish – it deals with the evolutionary step taken by one branch of mammals that returned to the sea, eventually resulting in whales. I first came across this book thanks to a review over at In need of Chocolate, where you can find a great series of posts about books for kids on evolution and prehistory. If you wanted a book for adults that would go really well with One Smart Fish and How Whales Walked Into the Sea, At the water’s edge by Carl Zimmer comes highly recommended by my wonderful husband!
Now what about you? Do you have any favourite picture books about fish? Or about evolution?