Saturday, December 30, 2006

What we have been reading

We took a limited selection of books on holiday. I thought I'd briefly run through them.
  • The Flanimals series: by Ricky Gervais of The Office fame, these books describe hypothetical and interesting wildlife. The first, Flanimals, is descriptive running through each animal in turn while the second, More Flanimals, does the same but with more discussion of behaviour. Flanimals of the Deep as a vague storyline. (Click here for a video preview). Anyhow, the shocking thing is how much the children learn from these and get into it. It is extremely amusing for adults although reading the names out load can be a pain. I am sure we will be seeing Flying Flanimals and Prehistoric Flanimals in due course.
  • Wild Fibonacci: Nature's Secret Code Revealed by Joy Hulme is a good maths oriented picture book for children. It is all about the Fibonacci sequence -- that is, 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, and so on -- that is obtained by adding the last pair of numbers in the sequence. It has a geometrical spiral structure that is found in nature and the book focuses on that. At the very least you get to teach them a new party trick.
  • Anno's Mysterious Multiplying Jar by Mitsumasa Anno: this is also a maths related picture book, this time about factorials. It is beautifully illustrated and conceptually wonderful.
  • Uno's Garden by Graeme Base is the newest maths oriented book; this time about growth and decline and the power of compounding. It is great in terms of teaching squares. As usual with Base the illustrations are superb and like the Gervais books is all about hypothetical animals and their environmental threats. They are easier to pronounce and children with have fun searching for the Snortlepig which is there, dies out and then comes back in big numbers.
  • Elephant Elements by Francisco Pittau and Bernadette Gervais is a book I picked up because I thought it was by Ricky Gervais and it could have fooled me had I not looked it up. It is different and very quirky. It is a book of opposites based around elephants. There is the usual large and small, etc., but very quickly gets into things like 'corked/uncorked,' 'intelligent/stupid,' 'closed/open' and 'lucky/unlucky' -- this last one depicting one elephant with lots of peanuts and another one with just one. It ends on 'living/dead' which is somewhat morbid. Probably not for everyone but all three of my children love it.
Finally, my 8 year old daughter devours the Captain Underpants series. I wasn't sure what the fuss was about until I read the beginning of the 8th novel Captain Underpants and the Preposterous Plight of the Purple Potty People. Here is an extract from Chapter 2, "Those Wacky Grown-Ups":
It's been said that adults spend the first two years of their children's lives trying to make them walk and talk ...

... and the next sixteen years trying to get them to sit down and shut up.

It's the same way with potty training: Most adults spend the first few years of a child's life cheerfully discussing pee and poopies, and how important it is to learn to put your pee-pee and poo-poo in the potty like big people do.

But once children have mastered the art of toilet training, they are immediately forbidden to ever talk about poop, pee, toilets, and other bathroom-related subjects again. Such things are suddenly considered rude and vulgar, and are no longer rewarded with praise and cookies and juice boxes.

One day you're a superstar because you pooped in the toilet like a big boy, and the next day you're sitting in the principal's office because you said the word "poopy" in American History class (which, if you ask me, is the perfect place to say that word).

You're probably wondering, "Why would adults do that? Why would they encourage something one day and discourage it the next?"

The only answer I can think of is that adults are totally bonkers and should probably be avoided at all times.
You know, it is hard to fault that advice.

If you want to know where to find any of the books mentioned in this post, just click here to go to their links on