Welcome to nonfiction month! I have to say that nonfiction for kids these days is just so cool and there is so much out there that isn’t your basic Eyewitness or textbook style nonfiction. Not that there isn’t a place for these image filled books, but there is so much more out there that is exciting and experimental and just a different way of telling some of the most interesting stories.
Ever since working at the bookstore I have become enamoured with the works of Steve Jenkins. Once upon a time Steve Jenkins was a designer, which explains why his his books have such a sleek and stylized look to them. They appeal to all the senses with clear illustration against stark background. Jenkins, in each of his books, visually presents readers with the bare facts in such an attractive way and then pairs the images with intriguing facts and some amusing phrasing (see below).
While the text is secondary it is quite enjoyable with constant play on words employed for interest i.e. “Need a Hand?” or “Head Case” in clear white font, very legible and clean – perfect for information. The imagery is really front and centre, and probably the best thing about Jenkins’ books is that he simply shows kids the real and simple facts. Some might be put off by bones and skeletons smacked so clearly on the page, but consider the mind of a child encountering this mystery in such an unfettered manner – really, it’s wonderful and I can’t help but appreciate it’s boldness. Jenkins’ collage style images neatly show a comparison between mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish (well, most of them). The books is roughly organized by body parts from the extremities inward, there are always interesting tidbits of information the help to show the similarities in vertebrate skeletons with comparative sizes and a scale given on most pages. There are some fold out pages that help to show the larger bone structures like spines (“Got Your Back”) or the entire set of the human body’s 206 bones disassembled and reassembled for the readers marvelling pleasure.
Bones, like many others of Jenkins’ works, offers an afterward that goes into more information and interesting facts which is greatly appreciated because the reader is sure to want to learn more after this read. And, that, perhaps is the one failing of this book. There are is no table of contents, there are no page numbers and it doesn’t offer any references or “further readings” – and in this way, it’s hard to say if this book was meant to purely for pleasure or for learning. With the afterward and the factoids throughout I can’t help but think that Jenkins is attempting a sort of hybrid between the Picturebook and information book – why can’t one be the other and the other be the one (tongue twister, I know)? From the stark imagery to leaving further research up to the reader the one thing that Jenkins does not do is underestimate his reader, and that’s what is most appealing about his books.
Check them out! They are fascinating and all on different subject (I just happen to like the “in your face” quality of Bones here).
Look forward to more fun posts about unusual, entertaining and just plain interesting information books as the month goes on!