Caterpillar and Bean: A First Science Storybook
“The book aims to be truly helpful, including an index of topics, and a recipe for growing your own bean plant.”
This very handsome first science book is part of a welcome trend in publishing toward nonfiction for the earliest readers. Written by Martin Jenkins, a conservation biologist in England with simple, clear prose that explains how a bean plant grows from a “small, and hard and purple brown—crack in the ground,” to maturity. It is nourished by “the rain splashing down,” and we watch it evolve, learn how the skin spits and “there’s something white poking out: a root.”
Someone has overseen a book with just the right touch in the illustrations by Hannah Tolson, an English artist. They’re well designed, graphic, colorful, understandable and pleasing, and work beautifully with the text. It’s a world we feel good to be in, good to be learning about.
Then, there’s another development.“Something’s been busy. I wonder what.” It turns out the growing bean plant has a visitor. A caterpillar who easts the leaves! “There’s hardly a leaf left on the poor plant. Do you think it’s going to be OK?” Naturally, we follow the development of the caterpillar into a chrysalis and then the cycle reinvents itself when the butterfly lays her eggs, maybe on another bean plant. The book aims to be truly helpful, including an index of topics, and a recipe for growing your own bean plant.
There are follow-up questions, too.
The front matter guides parents and teachers to the concepts in the book and offers some expansion of what’s discussed in the text for curious children. The book has intrinsic value but this is no dry, academic look at the natural world. It is bound to reach some children and even turn their heads toward perhaps considering science as something to pursue in their own lives.