Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Flaps, rhymes, transparencies: Appealing fact books for young children

Finn has always been very much into books. He has an extensive and ever growing library of children's fiction and non-fiction books. While he loves stories, he also enjoys books about his favourite topics. He has been asking a lot of questions about various topics and one way to acknowledge his curiosity and respond to it has been to provide him with non-fiction books that specifically address his questionings.
We have been buying our fact books mainly from four children's books collections. Here is an overview of what we especially like about each series.
The "First discovery" books are published by Moonlight publishing in the UK, Gallimard Jeunesse in France, and Scholastic in the US. Follow this link to know more about the books.
These books are simple, short, and suitable for children aged 2.5+ I would say. The illustrations are beautiful and they have transparent pages that add to the appeal. The topics are quite varied: animals, buildings, sports, physics, biology... The simplicity of the information given is a great advantage of this series. The facts are well chosen to appeal to young children, with the last page linking the topic to something real in the child's life to extend the child's learning. We own quite a few of these books, and Finn uses them a lot. They are quite special to me as I had a few as a child.
"My first discoveries" also include Torchlight books. These include a white paper "torch" that you slide underneath a dark page to reveal what lives underground, for example. Extremely appealing to young children!

"Bears," My First Discoveries Books

Finn and I have fallen in love with The Cat in the Hat's learning library books. The well-known character of the Cat in the Hat is a reassuring, friendly figure for a young child, and of course the text rhymes! To me, the rhyming text is the main reason why we keep buying the books. It really flows and is a pleasure to the ears, while at the same time delivering fascinating facts. We have three of these books, "Inside your outside", "Fine Feathered Friends" and "Oh say, Can you say dinosaur". The first two are outstanding in originality and offer many little-known facts while being highly engaging. They are both written by Tish Rabe. "Oh say, can you say, dinosaur" is written by Bonnie Worth. I would say this particular book is not as high quality as the other two. The storyline is not as appealing and there are fewer facts. It's still one of Finn's favourites though!
"Oh say, can you say, dinosaur?" by The Cat in the Hat's Learning Library

Usborne books, in particular the series Look Inside and See Inside, are truly wonderful. Both series are "lift-the-flap" books, each aimed at a particular age group. Look Inside is for children aged 4+ while See Inside is for children aged 6+. With many topics to choose from, funny, honest illustrations, these fact-filled books are irresistible. We go from surprise to surprise with those books; a flap inside a flap, inside a flap? We borrowed "Look Inside your body" from a friend when Finn had an interest in skeletons a few months ago, but he loved it so much we had to buy our own copy. It was his bedtime book for weeks and he asked many questions about all body functions, not just skeletons, which were his original interest. Recently I found several "See inside" books at a charity shop. I bought them all regardless of topic, which has proved the right decision as Finn has been interested in all of them, even when he hadn't shown an interest in the topic before. Pirates, Houses Long ago, Underground, Atlas, The Ocean... The books are so appealing he couldn't resist! The Usborne website has plenty of information about the books available and even includes previews.

"Look Inside Your Body", Usborne
Finally, we turn to "Let's read and find out about Science" books when Finn has a specific question. The most recent example I have is when he asked "Can we make molecules?" I try not to give him definite answers but instead offer him the information he needs to figure it out for himself. The book "What is the world made of, all about solids, liquids and gases" has been perfect to give him an introduction to the facts he needs. Like the Usborne series, they come in two collections; Stage 1 is aimed at preschool children and Stage 2 is for primary age children. The book we have is a Stage 2 book and even though it was made for children a couple of years older than Finn, it seems quite suitable for a child like him who likes to know the details about everything. The book proposes experiments, which really grab Finn's attention and make the topic alive and relevant to him. The amount of subjects covered is mind blowing. They have six different books just about dinosaurs! Each focuses on a more specific topic relating to the dinosaurs. Talk about in-depth exploration!
"What is the world made of?" from the collection Let's Read and Find Out about Science

Which fact books do you like? Do you have any recommendations?


  1. Elsa! I don't know how I've missed that you've been posting again! We, too love the First Discovery books, but the rest of your recommendations are new to me. Will have to look for them - I've been on the lookout for good books to turn to when Elise has specific questions. We've been enjoying books by Ruth Heller - factual AND rhyming! A few of our faves are "Chickens Aren't the Only Ones, "The Reason for a Flower," and "Animals Born Alive and Well."

    1. Thanks for the recommendation! I realise how important it is to have just to right books at home when an interest suddenly appears on a sunday morning and the library is closed! It's really nice to have a little collection of factual books at home. I'll have a look for the Ruth Heller ones.

  2. Many of these are new to me too! I'm going to try and track down Look Inside Your Body - my little one would love it!!

    1. The Usborne ones are so great! Usborne are all the rage in the UK, and they even have a programme where mums can sell Usborne books independently for an income. How great is that! I don't mind buying and posting for you if you can't get it shipped to Australia, Kylie.


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