Young children often feel a fascination towards human bodies and the living world around us – wanting to know all about life on the inside and the outside. From brains and bacteria to teeth and taxonomy, we’ve picked out 5 new biology-themed books for small children with big questions…
1. The Body Book
The Body Book aims to help children aged 4-7 to explore some of the incredible things that our bodies do. This is an engaging non-fiction board book containing see-through acetate pages, allowing an x-ray peek into the human anatomy.
Each page covers a different function of the human body, from breathing air and pumping blood to moving around and – yes – making waste. With labelled acetate diagrams of the muscular, skeletal, respiratory, circulatory, digestive, excretory and nervous systems, this is a superb first look at human anatomy for young children.
The smallest readers will enjoy running their fingers along the acetate diagrams, tracing blood vessels or touching the familiar outlines of the skeleton. Older KS1 children will find plenty of food for thought among the pockets of interesting information that outline the processes of each of the body’s major systems. You can see a preview of the first part of the book on the publisher’s website (but please note that this online preview is not able to not show the acetate sections). We loved this one so much that we have added it to our newly updated Recommended Reads for Reception booklist.
Publisher: Nosy Crow
Age Range: 4-7 (EYFS/KS1)
Publication date: April 2021
2. What is a Virus?
Katie Daynes & Kirsti Beautyman
From Usborne’s First Questions and Answers series that tackles big questions for smaller readers comes a book that aims to explain to the youngest children the basics of viruses. Over the past year, talk of viruses has become widespread and a frequent part of everyday conversations. Small children are used to hearing ‘because of the virus’ as an answer to questions about why we wash our hands or don’t hug our grandparents – in fact, some young children won’t remember a time before such things were common topics. But the frequency of virus talk doesn’t mean that young children have a good level of understanding of the what, why and how beyond the words.
The tone of this new book is informative and reassuring, and there’s plenty of scientific information without being overwhelming. The book tackles key questions about viruses in general – what IS a virus? How do viruses spread? Why should I wash my hands? How does a vaccine work? And what can we do to stay well?, providing invaluable information about viruses without causing unnecessary concern. The lift-the-flap Q&A format allows for an interactive reading experience and gives the message that no question in science is too big or small for which to seek an answer. Author Katie Daynes says in her blog post about the book, ”The pandemic might be even more frightening for children who can’t understand exactly why they are having to follow so many new rules, so I wanted to be able to help them engage with the science to hopefully lessen this fear of the unknown.”
COVID-19 is mentioned among the viruses covered but is by no means the main topic of the book, helping children to see the current pandemic in its wider scientific context. The book was clearly written before the vaccine roll-out, as it states that the COVID-19 vaccine development is in progress but not yet available – although a reprint of What is a Virus? with the vaccine info updated will be in shops by September. Reading this with young children could also allow for the fast-moving world of vaccine science and the impressive NHS efforts in the UK to be discussed.
A worthy addition to EYFS classrooms and home libraries, and one which parents and teachers will no doubt be glad to have on hand for little ones grappling with some of the big questions that adults have forgotten to answer.
Age Range: 3-5 (EYFS)
Publication date: March 2021
3. Your Body (Switch-a-Picture)
Harriet Evans & Lirios Bou
Super-fun for little hands, the Switch-a-Picture board books allow readers to pull a tab to switch the image from the outside of a human body to the inside view.
This is a book for very young children – ideal for ages 1-4 – and will allow readers to feel like they are operating a medical machine that scans the different systems of the human body. On one page, children running a sports-day race are shown, and when the tab is pulled you see how the air moves through the mouth and throat into the lungs to power the huffing-and-puffing boy in the lead of the race. On another page, a school lunch hall is shown and, as a girl is about to swirl a forkful of spaghetti into her mouth, a quick pull of the tab will reveal the different organs of the digestive system that the food will go through.
As well as revealing the hidden pictures, the tab-pull also provides extra information to read and reveals a missing word from the rhyming verses, which is perfect for little ones to guess before revealing. This is a fun first anatomy book that would make an excellent non-fiction choice for nursery or preschool settings.
Publisher: Little Tiger
Age Range: 0-5 (EYFS)
Publication date: May 2021
4. Book of the Brain and How it Works
Betina Ip & Mia Nilsson
We’re all a bit fascinated by our brains – after all, the brain is central to the way our bodies function, how we make decisions and how we think and feel in response to the world around us. Brains also look funny, and many children are just as amused as they are fascinated by the strange little organ inside our heads.
The Usborne Book of the Brain is a delightful non-fiction book that uses simple language and cartoon-style diagrams to describe how the brain works. Written by neuroscientist Betina Ip, the book takes curious young readers on a journey through the brain’s many functions, exploring how it operates, what it does, what is looks like and how it is connected to the rest of our body.
Aimed at children aged 5-8, the book uses age-appropriate and interesting examples to answer important questions (from How do I decide which ice cream to eat? to Why does it make me feel like smiling if I see another smiley face? ). There are many interesting facts for young readers to impress their friends and teachers with, like what the folds in your brain are for, what ant brains look like and – my personal favourite – that by the time you’re two years old, your brain has nearly as many neurons as there are stars in the galaxy. There are also sections about how to look after your brain and how neuroscientists conduct research to find out more about human brains.
With its appealing illustrations and fascinating facts, this book provides much fun and food for thought for inquisitive children in KS1 and Lower KS2. We’ve also added this to our list of 50 Recommended Reads for Year 2.
Age Range: 5-8 (KS1/LKS2)
Publication date: March 2021
5. That’s Life!
Mike Barfield & Lauren Humphrey
Following on from the enormously successful The Element in the Room (nominated for The Blue Peter Book Awards 2019, the Royal Society Young People’s Book Prize 2019 and the UKLA Book Awards 2020), comes an illustrated and informative guide to the science behind the natural world all around us in our everyday life.
Aimed at readers 8-11, this book delves into the mind-boggling variety of living things all around us, from microbes and meerkats to turnips and teachers. Beginning with the biological basics of cells, classification and the tree of life, the books then goes on to explore the taxonomy of living things one kingdom at a time. Starting with the single-celled lifeforms archaea, bacteria and protozoa, we discover the prominence and importance of microscopic organisms through a series of information boxes, diagrams and highly entertaining facts (did you know that some unlucky microbiologists have measured 100 billion bacteria- half of which were still alive- in a single gram of human poo?). The book then moves through to slightly more recognisable lifeforms, including fungi, plants and animals, the latter making up the longest section of the book. Dotted among the pages of information are comics showing the work of real-life scientists, at-home experiment ideas and lists of relevant places to look for signs of life in each section.
This is a fun and information-packed science book with a high visual appeal that will undoubtedly engage a wide range of readers in KS2, and especially those ready to go a step deeper with their knowledge of the natural world.
Publisher: Laurence King
Age Range: 8-11 (KS2)
Publication date: May 2021
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