How the world works…

posted in: Beverley Young, Christiane Dorion | 11

In my mini series reviewing the books shortlisted for the Royal Society Young People’s Book Prize 2011 next up is How The World Works by Christiane Dorion and Beverley Young

A pop-up book covering a wealth of ground, How The World Works is a tremendous introduction to topics as diverse as the solar system, evolution, plate tectonics, the water cycle, weather systems, photosynthesis and food chains.

Each double page spread covers one theme and explores it using exciting illustrations, illuminating paper engineering and and array of both key and intriguing facts presented in inviting, bite-sized portions. The illustrations have the rich colours and boldness you often see with Barefoot Books (though this is actually published by Templar). The short sections of text make this an undaunting book for young independent readers.

As well of plenty of flaps and tabs, there are lots of instances where the paper engineering really adds to your understanding of the topic under discussion. For example the big bang explosion is a brilliantly executed bit of fold out paper – simple, but very effective as it mimics an explosion. How the continents have drifted over time is beautifully illustrated with a flip book – by flipping the pages we can actually see the continents drifting from the supercontinent Pangaea about 200 million years ago to their current location.

Again, the paper engineering is put to exceptional use to illustrate what happens at different types of plate boundary; Andy Mansfield, the brains behind the pop-up aspect of this book, has created paper tricks that are not only great fun but, but informative and meaningful.

This book contains a subtle but consistent message about how we as humans are having an impact on the earth and what the consequences of our actions will be. In the section on carbon there are tips about how we can reduce our carbon footprint, whilst the pages devoted to how plants work draw attention to the problems caused by deforestation. In the discussion of ocean currents and tides we’re introduced to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, “an area of plastic rubbish twice the size of Texas” floating in the Pacific ocean, whilst when exploring the the planets, the large quantity of space junk orbiting the earth is highlighted. Not only does this book tell us how the world works, it also makes us think about how it’s beginning to break down.

Click image to go to original full scale image
Inspired by the flip book showing the movements of the continents over time we set about creating our own flip book to illustrate an aspect of our world. We thought about drawing a life cycle, but pretty soon discovered that none of us were able to draw all the different stages effectively ie with just the tiniest bit of difference. So then we settled on a flip book showing moon phases. By using these photos of the moon we removed the need to draw images.

We printed out the image twice (for flip books to work easily and effectively it seemed from reading around on the web you need a good number of pages in your book) and then cut out the moons.

We pasted our cut-out moons into the top right hand corner of index cards we had painted black and then we used gold and silver markers to fill the surrounding sky with sparkling stars.

Finally we bound our book using a crocodile clip (we tried an elastic band but didn’t have one which was strong and big enough to really hold the pages in place) and started flicking.

I haven’t got the facility to make videos so here’s an animation of the moon phases (in the Northern hemisphere)

Click the image to be taken to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's super moon animation

What I learned in the process of making this flip book is that is is really important to number your images so you can be sure you stick them in the right order (I did this by – before cutting out the individual moons – holding my printed image up to the light at a window and simply pencilling on the back of each image the number in sequence). It was also helpful to number the index cards corresponding to the stage in the moon’s cycle so that assembly of the book was straightforward.

Older children may of course be able to draw enough images each with small enough changes to illustrate their own flip books, but by using prepared photos making a flip book became possible even for my three year old.

Whilst we made our flip book we listened to:

  • The Moon Song by Dogs on Fleas (you can listen for free here at their website)
  • A Lunar Tune by Tom Gray – this instrumental piece is part of the stage show version of Polly Dunbar’s Penguin.
  • Moon Phases by Strollin’ Jeff Wolin and the Blue Cricket Band

  • Other activities which would work well alongside reading How The World Works include:

  • Making a 3-D model of a volcano – here’s a template and here are some images to inspire you – I particularly like the tissue paper eruptions.
  • Investigating the water cycle with this mini weather system on your windowsill
  • Playing some online foodchain games. Here’s one from the BBC, and here’s another from EcoKids.

  • Have you ever made flip books with your kids? What sort of images did you find worked well? Of the two books nominated for the RS prize I’ve so far reviewed, which do you like the sound of best? The Darwin biography or this one?

    This book is one of six books shortlisted for the Royal Society Young People’s Book Prize 2011, an award that celebrates the best recent books that communicate science to young people. The winner will be announced on December 1st.

    Disclosure: I received my copy of this book from the publisher. This review, however, reflect my own and honest opinion.

    11 Responses

    1. se7en

      Can see why this book is shortlisted. It looks totally fabulous. – It has a bits and pieces of everything in it!!! Wonderful projects – and you know how we love projects!!! Great review, so much to look at!!!

    2. Zoe

      Thanks Se7en, I definitely think this is a book your family would enjoy reading and be inspired by. For me it’s been a case of being so glad I blog about books – it’s one of those books I’m so glad to have for my kids.

      • Zoe

        I can’t recommend this book enough – we really are so pleased to have a copy in our home!

        I was really please with how the flip book worked out Emma – the girls really wanted to create one but coming up with one that they could do themselves required some thought as the drawing bit was just a little too frustrating for them. The moon phases worked perfectly.

    3. Ali B

      Another wonderful idea. Flip books are so much fun to make; I’ve made them with a Y4 class to show shadows appearing to move. They loved it! Both these books look fantastic.

    4. Zoe

      Hi Ali, yes I think M at 6 is about the youngest to really manage creating a flip book – you need quite strong hands to make it flip properly. J does try, but only manages a few pages.

      • Zoe

        Thankyou Good Books! I was pleased I was able to find a way for my young kids to create it for themselves. Do give it a try yourself!

      • Zoe

        Yes, Isil I think they are the same but I will check with the publishers and get back to you.

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