Friday, March 22, 2013

Safe and Curious

It is harder than one might think to accomplish what Jerry Pallotta and Shennen Bersani do in Butterfly Colors and Counting. They take a very simple concept--counting and butterflies--and help toddlers feel both safe and curious.

They start with a narrow topic that youngest children can identify readily and feel comfortable with immediately--butterflies. They show colors that children know and actual butterflies that exist in nature, but of an exotic variety that they likely won't have been exposed to yet. (A list of the butterflies' names appears on the back cover, to encourage further inquiry.) The number of butterflies on the page correlates to both the numeral and the number spelled out: "4 four purple" (the butterflies pictured are amethyst hairstreak). By pairing the familiar with the unfamiliar, author and artist invite the child to feel both safe (among butterflies) and curious (What kind of butterfly is that? Where do they live? Why haven't I seen these before?). 

It's a very hard balance to strike and one not often accomplished in books for children this young. Busy Birdies by John Schindel, photos by Steven Holt, and the other board books by Schindel in that series also springs to mind. These are information books that build on what a child knows already and that stretch them to want to learn more.

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