Books which rock!

Today’s Picture Book Month theme is NATURE and so we’ve been looking at books about rocks.

A Rock is Lively by Dianna Hutts Aston and Sylvia Long is a surprising book, which will change the way you look at the stones quite possibly for ever. Instead of being something inert, Aston and Long make a persuasive case that rocks are not only lively, but also helpful, inventive and creative.

Aston’s text take several bold statements, such as “A rock is lively” and then unpacks them, introducing lots of facts about geology, history, geography and art along the way. We see how the processes which have created rocks are indeed powerful, active and lively. We learn how rocks have been used by both humans and animals, and we are invited to look again at the landscape around us and realise how rocks link us back to times so long ago it’s hard to get our heads around them (right now you could walk out into your street and quite probably touch something that is more than 2 billion years old).

Aston’s ability to get us to think anew and with excitement about something we may have thought was rather humdrum is aided by Long’s colourful, rich illustrations, at their best when showing the amazing variety of textures and colours you can find in rocks. The use of painted illustrations rather than photographs helps give this book a lyrical feel; yes it is a non-fiction book but one which feels and looks more like a poem, an ode of praise. It achieves something quite special in leaving its readers, when they close the back cover, feeling like their eyes have been opened for the first time.

Inspired by A Rock is Lively and with the aid of Geology Crafts for Kids by Alan Anderson, Gwen Diehn and Terry Krautwurst we went about investigating the movement which effects the earth’s crust and causes so many rocks to be lively: We created a convection cell.

We filled a large bowl with cold water, and into that we placed a smaller covered container with hot, coloured water. The smaller container had a hole in its covering, allowing the hot water to escape into the cold water. Because the hot water was coloured we could see how it moved around, giving us an insight into convection and the process which brings explains how the hot centre of the earth and the cooler mantle surrounding it interact, causing the movement of rocks that create the earth’s crust.

A simple activity but very effective! Geology Crafts for Kids by Alan Anderson, Gwen Diehn and Terry Krautwurst contains lots of great experiments to try, all of which are backed up by plenty of explanation and background. Although this book is out of print now it’s definitely worth tracking down.

Whilst reassessing what we thought about rocks we listened to:

  • I Feel the Earth Move by Carole King
  • Studying Stones by Ani Difranco
  • Papa Was A Rolling Stone by The Temptations
  • Roll Away Your Stone by Mumford & Sons

  • Other activities which would go well alongside reading this book include:

  • Reading Rocks in His Head by Carol Otis Hurst, illustrated by James Stevenson – a picture book biography of a rock collector who went on to become the director of a science museum. We recently discovered this gentle and very lovely book about dreams, passion and rocks and can highly recommend it.
  • Visiting a geology or general science museums. I loved visiting the Earth section of the Natural History Museum as a kid and seeing all those precious stones on display. If you haven’t a museum nearby, perhaps visit a jewellers and look at all the rocks used in rings and necklaces.
  • Baking some geological cakes – perfect for showing layering. This one looks delicious, whilst these Earth cake balls look great fun to make as well as to eat.

  • What books about rocks would you recommend?

    Disclosure: I received a free copy of A Rock is Lively from the publisher, Chronicle Books. I was under no obligation to review the book and I received no money for this post.

    5 Responses

      • Zoe

        Hi Polly, yes this has a very similar feel to the other two in the series (Seed/Egg)

    1. Sam

      I must check this out for Holly, as she loves rocks and collects them. We found an interesting book at the Natural History Museum on Mary Anning: which has inspired us to plan a visit to Lyme Regis to check out the fossil trail. There is a good book about her life called The Fossil Girl: and it looks like there are others too.
      Sam recently posted..Review: Molly Moon Stops the World

      • Zoe

        Hi Sam, yes Mary Anning’s story is fabulous – there’s also a biography for grown ups by Tracey Chevalier too, thought I haven’t read it. Lyme has one of the best museums I’ve ever been in – a private fossil museum run by someone who defines the word “enthusiast” – very quirky but lots and lots of fun (much better than main Lyme museum in my opinion)

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