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Life Cycles

All animals have life cycles but writers seem particularly keen on sunflowers, butterflies and frogs. We'll add other plants and animals as and when we find them.

Arabella Miller’s Tiny Caterpillar
by Clare Jarrrett
(Walker Books)
Clare Jarrett takes the ever popular rhyme Little Arabella Miller as the starting point for this narrative, rhyming information book. The caterpillar in question is that of the European Swallowtail and we discover, with Arabella, the mystery of its metamorphosis into that beautiful yellow, blue, black and red butterfly.
   The illustrations are a carefree collage of translucent pastel colours – gossamer-like, (tissue paper?) overlaid and simply outlined in black crayon. A strikingly effective means of imparting information, but for those who want more, there is a final double spread purely factual account of the life-cycle.
(reviewed by Jill Bennett)
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Big Yellow Sunflower
by Frances Barry
(Walker Books)
This is a really clever book that gradually unfolds page by page into a giant flower as the life cycle of a sunflower unfolds. The seed’s growth is watched by various small animals – a mouse, a mole, a worm, a snail, a bird, a frog, and several insects, as it sends out roots, shoot, bud and finally a glorious yellow sunflower to play host to the waiting bumblebee. It’s easy to read and lots of fun, both visually and verbally. Just the thing for early years children who will delight at the book’s format and the way it puts them in the know from the outset while at the same time the various small creatures ask their questions or make their observations in brief text.
The same design is used in Little Green Frogs by the same author/artist. In this one you can discover what happens to the frogspawn in the pond.
(reviewed by Jill Bennett)
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Buy Little Green Frogs from Amazon

Caterpillar Butterfly
by Vivian French, illustrated by Charlotte Voake
(Walker Books)
One of the Nature Storybooks series, this longish picture book tells how the author and her grandfather find some eggs on the stinging nettle leaves, eggs laid by a Peacock butterfly. From then on the young narrator revisits the nettle patch regularly, watching as the tiny caterpillars emerge, feed, grow, shed their skins and pupate until one finally emerges some four months later – a brand new Peacock butterfly. All the while, her Grandfather keeps her informed as to what is happening and answers her many questions.
   There is a lot more information in the notes around the watercolour painting which are so carefully executed that they are almost like botanical illustrations. The book also includes CD containing the story, a song, additional facts and a read-along version of the text,
(reviewed by Jill Bennett)
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Oscar and the Frog
by Geoff Waring
(Walker Books)
Good non-fiction for the very young needs to engage and inform but most important, to stimulate inquiry; the new Oscar books do all these things. Oscar is an endearing, large-eyed kitten who has that all-important questioning attitude to everything he sees around him.
It’s spring and Oscar kitten spots some creatures swimming in the water. Frog tells him they are tadpoles and that he himself was one once. Oscar cannot believe this so Frog proceeds to recount his own life-story from egg to frog. Oscar wants to know more about eggs: Frog obliges showing him some of the many animals that lay eggs.
Soon they are talking about plants and seeds and then where Oscar came from…
  Accurate observers (observation is another vital scientific skill to develop) can find more things to ask their own questions about in the uncluttered illustrations. These illustrations are simple and as clear and accurate as scientific diagrams but at the same time entertaining, and invite further exploration into topics not touched on directly in the text.
(reviewed by Jill Bennett)
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Growing Frogs
by Vivian French and Alison Bartlett
(Walker Books)
Vivian French turns her story telling prowess to narrative informational writing using a small girl narrator and her mum to convey the life-cycle of the frog from spawn to frogs. Bartlett's distinctive style works as well with natural subjects as with human characters. A highly enjoyable way to learn.
(reviewed by Jill Bennett)
Ages 3-7
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Ten Seeds
by Ruth Brown
(Andersen Press)
Minimal text and outstanding pictures tell the story of ten seeds planted in the ground. One by one, as they germinate and grow, they fall victim to problems ranging from pigeons to greenfly until finally the only plant left flowers and produces ten seeds to start the cycle again. A delightful book which introduces the life cycle of plants at the same time as practicing counting backwards from ten and subtracting one. Its thick, sturdy pages are excellent for tiny hands.
Ages 1-5 and older children with special needs
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Life Cycle of a Frog
Life Cycle of a Sunflower
Both by Angela Royston
(Heinemann Library)
In both these books, excellent colour photographs illustrate each stage of growth with the full cycle drawn along the bottom of each spread so you can easily see where that stage fits in the whole process. The text is designed to be accessible to weaker readers with clear, simple sentences, some useful repetition and good sized, well spaced print. But this is skillfully done without compromising on information. For instance, the book on frogs looks at gills and lungs as well as the changing eating habits of the tadpole while the one on sunflowers looks at the functions of the leaves and roots as well as describing the process of pollination. These attractive books are particularly suitable for children whose desire to learn about the world around them isn't matched by their ability to read.
Ages 7-12 and older weak readers.
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Buy Life Cycle of a Sunflower form Amazon

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