Book Beat
Picturing Our World

by Jessica Lane

Children are naturally curious about the world, as parents discover when we field barrages of questions that pour from preschoolers.

With help from some good non-fiction picture books, though, you can become an expert on just about anything.

For a general overview of life on Earth, My Very First Encyclopedia With Winnie the Pooh and Friends: Earth (Disney, $19.99) is a fun place to begin.

Using the abundance of colorful nature photographs at its disposal, Disney covers the planet, from forest canopy to the depths of the sea. Cur-ious children will get a lot of mileage out of this encyclopedia, which is great fun to page through.

For fans of our reptilian friends, My First Book About Reptiles (Random House, $7.99), by Kama Einhorn and illustrated by Christopher Moroney, is the book to read.

Furry pal Grover, with a little help from Elmo, leads the way through the reptilian world as colorful photographs give snapshots of creatures from giant tortoises to golden eyelash vipers.

The Sesame Street gang, always focused on education, point out ways for children to learn more: looking for turtle eggs; trying to slither like a snake; and cool science activities such as soaking a hard boiled egg in vinegar to soften the shell so children can understand what a real reptile egg feels like.

Speaking of Eggs…
While on the subject of eggs, check out An Egg Is Quiet (Chronicle Books, $16.95) by Dianna Aston, illustrated by Sylvia Long. Old-fashioned handwritten script accompanies neatly labeled illustrations, telling everything there is to know about eggs.

Here eggs are lovingly, carefully, pictured and named. The book even includes a thoughtful label whenever the egg is shown in other than the actual size. This is a fascinating look inside and outside eggs.

Every hatchling needs a place to live, and some need places that seem pretty inhospitable, such as the desert. In About Habitats: Deserts by Cathryn Sill, illustrated by John Sill (Peachtree Pub-lish-ers, $16.95), pristine illustrations cause the ex-treme desert heat and cold to nearly radiate off the pages. A glossary, bibliography, and list of educational websites make this a good first refer-ence for little naturalists.

The Sills don’t stop with deserts. Their “About” series includes amphibi-ans, arachnids, birds, crustaceans, fish, insects, mammals, marsupials and reptiles.

African Journey
Looking for a continent to explore? Take an amazing journey with African Beginnings by James Haskins and Kathleen Benson, illustrated by Floyd Cooper (Harper-Collins, $7.99). Between these pages, civilizations rise and fall, great leaders bring their people together and nations are ripped apart. African Beginnings leaves readers wanting to know more about this huge continent and its rich, vibrant history. A map, timeline, bibliography and index are included.

Did you know the average North American uses 143 gallons of water per day, while the average Ethiopian uses a mere 2.6 gallons? One Well: The Story of Water on Earth by Rochelle Strauss, illustrated by Rosemary Woods (Kids Can Press, $17.95), is a well-researched way to begin learning about the vital importance of water and its impact on humanity.

Use your children’s questions as an opportunity to get them hooked on learning and reading. There is a book for every topic under the sun. You just need to know where to look.

Jessica Lane is a freelance writer.