Wonder Earth (Zanni Louise & Tiff Bollhorn, illus by Sophy Louise Smith, Five Mile)
Wonder Earth is a slightly strange hybrid of science reference and imaginative meditation. The authors set out to help children connect with the Earth at both an emotional and a factual level, which at times works well. The ideas about the world are inspiring—the questions that invite curiosity; the characterisation of Earth’s layers as not just geology but stories; the invitations to trace connections between creatures, plants and landscapes—and the incorporated activity suggestions include simple, creative ways to interpret the facts introduced. The illustrations support the text: they are full of cheerful images of children connecting joyfully with the world around them (although more contrast might have brought more visual depth). However, the scientific concepts are, intentionally, heavily simplified and idealised in the interest of accessibility for the 3+ audience, which unfortunately sometimes diminishes the richness of the subject matter. As a result, we are presented with a slightly subdued world—though replete with exclamation marks—that seems to underestimate young readers. There are some fantastic text boxes at the end of the book, though, expanding the ideas to the next level of scientific detail, and it would have been great to incorporate more of this into the body of the text; the material is well pitched for adults to discuss with young children, and would not have detracted from the friendly, approachable tone of the rest of the book.
Anica Boulanger-Mashberg, an editor and writer, is a bookseller at The Hobart Bookshop.