Spend any time in the online world and you’ll soon come across an infographic or two.
According to Wikipedia, “infographics are graphic visual representations of information, data or knowledge intended to present complex information quickly and clearly“, and they are much loved in this day an age where increasingly we lap up quick, visual blasts from the various devices we’re plugged in to.
As a word, a Google ngram reveals the use of “infographics” as suddenly taking off in the late 1980s, having barely been seen before the 1970s. But now infographics are everywhere…
And why not? They can be great fun, with massive eyeball appeal and (at best) content which provides an instant, virtually effortless hit. Here’s an infographic all about infographics and here are various infographics I’ve enjoyed which might be of interest to you as a fellow book lover:
But do these quick hits which work as blog posts, tweets or FB updates work well in printed book form?
The World in Infographics: Animal Kingdom by Jon Richards and Ed Simkins would suggest so: it has been shortlisted for the Blue Peter Best Book with Facts this year.
Then there’s the intriguing situation that a book with almost the same title, and virtually identical subject matter (but from a different publisher) is due to hit our shelves later this spring: Infographics: Animal Kingdom by Nicholas Blechman, researched by Simon Rogers is out in April.
Clearly Wayland (Hachette) and Big Picture Press (Templar) believe they’re on to something here (not least because both books are part of a series of infographics-based non-fiction from each publisher). So, in an attempt to be hip and zeitgeisty I thought I’d try comparing and reviewing these two books in the format of an infographic…
Hmm? Did my infographic-as-review work for you? In preparing it I came up against the same issues I have with the books; in trying to make things very short and snappy, accuracy and reflection can be lost. I felt caught between dumbing down and having some fun.
Now… If a book inspires my kids to get up and do something with it then I generally label it a winner, whatever other thoughts I might personally have about the book. In the case of these two infographic books they took M’s imagination and made it fly; she lapped up their contents with delight and enthusiasm and almost instantly wanted to put their contents to good use.
M has recently taken to playing Trivial Pursuit and her delight in that game was the inspiration behind her desire to create her own animal themed version, using these two infographics books as her source material for questions. The nature of these books lends themselves to this very naturally: bare facts presented as short statements (appear to) exude authority and can be relatively easily converted into questions.
Guided by the different tabs in Infographics: Animal Kingdom M came up with questions on themed topics. Once we had our questions we created cards for them, making sure they were colour coded to match the topic and colours on the board, and laminated to make them more robust for playing with.
Using lots of clip art – something M loves anyway, but which also in its simplicity mimics the graphic design feel of infographics – we made a games board in an image editor. We like to use Inkscape (an open source vector graphics software) for this sort of activity.
Once complete we printed the board off in 4 parts and stuck it to foam boards, using magic tape to make the boards foldable.
We had great fun choosing charms to be the equivalent of wedgies (we love this charm shop on Etsy); our charms matched the clip art we chose, to represent the different categories of questions we were going to have.
Small plastic glasses (shot glasses from Poundland) served as our counters for moving round the board and collecting charms, and everything was finally packaged up in a decorated shirt box (we got ours from Rymans).
I’ll be the first to admit this was a massively involved response to a book, which took us several days to bring together, but the effort was definitely worth it. M not only got a great sense of achievement, she learned a lot about using computers and about what makes a good question, as well as plenty of facts about animals! Plus, as a family we’ve had an enjoyable and harmonious time playing this game together, not least because the girls’ team always wins; having written the questions, they know the answers!
Creating a board game like this could work brilliantly as a class project, with each table or child contributing a few questions each. To save time, you could use blank board game templates (like these, or the ones pinned here).
Whilst making our game we listened to:
Here’s a tutorial for the dance routine!
Other activities which would work well with reading either of these infographics books includes:
Now don’t get me wrong: there’s definitely a place for books like these, which are essentially lists of facts packaged beautifully. They’ll appeal to all sorts of readers in different moods, but especially to reluctant readers.
Are infographics part of the culture which doesn’t encourage sustained reading but rather instant access? Whilst I personally generally prefer children’s non-fiction which has a strong narrative element (such as this book), or interactivity (such as this book) I’d definitely want books like Infographics: Animal Kingdom and The World in Infographics: Animal Kingdom to form part of a child’s reading banquet.
Disclosure: I received free review copies of both books in today’s post.
Want more reviews of non-fiction books? Then head on over to the Nonfiction Monday blog.