Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Book Review - Looking Closely Around the Pond

I have always been a fan of the Games Magazine puzzles called "Eyeball Benders." These are a type of puzzle in which the reader must identify a common object pictured in a close-up and generally uncommon view. Here is an example from the July 2008 cover of the magazine.

Why do I mention these puzzles in a book review? Because books in the series Looking Closely from Kids Can Press uses this type of visual puzzle as an introduction to natural environments. Written and photographed by Frank Serafini, the books challenge readers to guess the identity of each close-up photo. The cropped images on the right hand page are framed in black. The small circle that is visible allows readers to focus on just one part of the larger image. The left hand page in each spread begins with "Look very closely. What do you see?" What appears next are two ideas designed to get readers thinking. The page ends with the words, "What could it be?" On the next page each object is shown in its habitat and accompanied by a description.

The first spread from Looking Closely Around the Pond is focused on the a portion of a turtle shell. The next page begins with the words "It's a Box Turtle." The text reads:

Box turtles are shy creatures. They creep slowly around the pond, eating snails, mushrooms and small berries. They stay close to shore because they are not very good swimmers. In winter, box turtles dig into the ground. There, they sleep, or hibernate, until spring.

The colorful designs on a box turtle's shell help it to blend in with grasses. When a box turtle gets scared, it pulls it legs and head inside its shell to protect itself.

Looking Closely Around the Pond highlights nine plants and animals that can be found in this environment. The last page features a double-page photograph of a pond. The book ends with the following photographer's note.

Photographers pay attention to things that most people overlook or take for granted. I can spend hours wandering along the shore, through the forest, across the desert or in my garden, looking for interesting things to photograph. My destination is not a place, but rather a new way of seeing.

It takes time to notice things. To be a photographer, you have to slow down and imagine in your "mind's eye" what the camera can capture. Ansel Adams said you could discover a whole life's worth of images in a six-square-foot patch of Earth. In order to do so, you have to look very closely.

By creating the images featured in this series of picture books, I hope to help people attend to nature, to things they might have normally passed by. I want people to pay attention to the world around them, to appreciated what nature has to offer, and to being to protect the fragile environment in which we live.

Dr. Serafini succeeds beautifully in getting readers to attend to the small details found in nature. His images will surely capture the imagination of children and adults alike. Readers will delight in the challenges provided by the close-up photographs and this welcome introduction to the pond environment. I know I did. Highly recommended.

Books: Looking Closely Around the Pond
Author/Illustrator: Frank Serafini
Kids Can Press
Publication Date:
40 pages
Source of Book: Review copy received from Raab Associates.

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