/ Childrens book recommendation on "origins"

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jonny taylor on 22 Jul 2014
My 6 year old niece is very curious and intelligent and at the moment is interested in the "origins of stuff", big bang, evolution etc was what was suggested. Does anyone have any recommendations for a book that might be suitable for her? I think the ideal would be something that, without leaving her completely out of her depth, is a little bit challenging and stimulating of further questions.

I am honestly not sure what to look for for a child of that age, but I'm hoping to find something that is not just a "childrens story" but can stimulate wonder and fascination in a way that is accessible to a 6 year old. I'm thinking the big bang/universe is a better bet - evolution was also suggested but it's not obvious to me what to look for and I suspect that most would either be "dinosaur books" or response-to-creationism... as a child I read masses about the universe but can't recall coming across any equivalent books about "life".

p.s. although she lives in the southern US I am assured that this is NOT because they aren't going to be taught it at school!
wintertree - on 22 Jul 2014
In reply to jonny taylor:

You could try and get a copy of Arthur Mee's Children's Encyclopaedia - it has wonder picture stories illustrating where all sorts of everyday items come form (or came from in the 1930....) as all as lots of activities and stories etc. It's a bit behind the times on cosmology and particle physics, but it does talk about Men on Mars, and has an awful lot of incredibly prophetic insights, for example that the day will come when a "Web of Wires Connects Mankind Around The World".



Gordonbp - on 22 Jul 2014
In reply to jonny taylor:

The Children's Encyclopaedia is horribly horribly dated!
I would start looking at Usborne Books or Dorling Kindersley....
Tim Chappell - on 22 Jul 2014
In reply to jonny taylor:

Bill Bryson, A Short History of Nearly Everything.
Blue Straggler - on 22 Jul 2014
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> Bill Bryson, A Short History of Nearly Everything.

I have not read it. Is it suitable for a 6-year-old?
wintertree - on 22 Jul 2014
In reply to Gordonbp:
> The Children's Encyclopaedia is horribly horribly dated!

I think that's its charm - especially with the picture stories and heavy photographic content. I would say it has aged very well and remains highly accessible, and many of the complicated concepts it breaks down into stages remain relevant and informative. Much of the origins work in it with regard to, for example, geography, materials, food or astronomy is accurate to the level presented, and it always sets out to make you think. It also surprises me how technologically advanced the 20s and 30s were; I had no idea that pictures could be faxed around the world back then, for example.

Some of the practical guides might be viewed with horror by modern, safety conscious parents...

The natural progression from picture stories and little short tales - in big words - for younger readers, on to more complicated concepts and discussions for older children, taking in morality, history, fantasy, geography, politics, war, discovery, invention, science, religion (on the world scale), art and music all in one great package, is something that is indeed dated - these days, nobody seems to think children are half way smart enough to take to such a monumental collection. Which is a desperate shame.
Post edited at 11:23
Gordon Stainforth - on 22 Jul 2014
In reply to Blue Straggler:

> I have not read it. Is it suitable for a 6-year-old?

No, not remotely.
maisie - on 22 Jul 2014
In reply to jonny taylor:

A bible?

The Natural History Museum has a wealth of resources, games and kits for kids of all ages. There's usually a certain rigour to the material, too - they put a lot of effort into it.

Martin
jonny taylor on 22 Jul 2014
In reply to wintertree:

Just spotted that that reply is from you. Is that the book that you've shown me in the past? Fun, but the fact that it's partly interesting as a historical artefact means I'm not convinced it's quite what we need here.

Everyone else: thanks for the suggestions, Usborne, DK and NH museum sound like good options to look into. If anyone has any specific suggestions of books to look at that would be great too.
wintertree - on 22 Jul 2014
In reply to jonny taylor:
> Just spotted that that reply is from you. Is that the book that you've shown me in the past? Fun, but the fact that it's partly interesting as a historical artefact means I'm not convinced it's quite what we need here.

That's the one. It is rather OTT, and I could imagine shipping the full 10 volume hard back set to the USA could cost quite a lot. There's nothing wrong with historical knowledge.... I think it's delving into things a child can really understand (cotton, from the bush to clothes, for example) as opposed to things even most adults - certainly myself - don't really understand (the big bang) is well worth following, as it encourages and satisfies inquisitiveness in a way that hand waving explanations of cosmic origins fails to do.

Afraid I've got no idea about modern books, I'm sure there must be some good ones out there, even if they don't smell right and the colours are to bright and garish...

As for evolution, perhaps you could design a "Home Evolution Kit" with some E-coli, some petri dishes and a USB microscope? What can possibly go wrong?
Post edited at 11:42
Wendy Watthews - on 22 Jul 2014
In reply to jonny taylor:

Maybe when she's a little older Sophie's world
hokkyokusei - on 22 Jul 2014
whenry on 22 Jul 2014
In reply to jonny taylor: http://goo.gl/KvdCh4 - the new Dorling Kindersley children's encyclopaedia. Had the original when I was a child and enjoyed it.
Tim Chappell - on 22 Jul 2014
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

> No, not remotely.

Really? I would have read it and enjoyed it when I was six.
winhill - on 22 Jul 2014
In reply to jonny taylor:

George's Secret Key to the Universe by Lucy and Stephen Hawking is the best kids book on the universe but possibly a bit much for a 6 year old, 8 year old, definitely.

A big colour book of space would be enough for a 6 year old, I would've thought, or the gobsmacking galaxy was always popular but a bit dated now.

Depends if you're reading them to her or if she's reading it herself.
captain paranoia - on 22 Jul 2014
In reply to Tim Chappell:

My, you must have been clever...
Tim Chappell - on 22 Jul 2014
In reply to captain paranoia:
My point was that there's nothing hard about it. I don't really believe in age guidelines for books--'try it and see how you do' is always my advice if the kids ask me whether a book will suit them.

(PS The first books I read that I wanted to, not because I had to, were The Tale of Mr Tod and Alice in Wonderland. I was about 5.)
Post edited at 19:17
Morty - on 22 Jul 2014
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> My point was that there's nothing hard about it. I don't really believe in age guidelines for books--'try it and see how you do' is always my advice if the kids ask me whether a book will suit them.



You still sounded like a massive tit though. A six year old?
Morty - on 22 Jul 2014
In reply to Tim Chappell:

I've just completed a readability test on an extract from this book (a short extract - from a long book) and the results were that it was suitable for a 13 - 14 year old.

This was the extract:
"If you imagine the 4,500-bilion-odd years of Earth's history compressed into a normal earthly day, then life begins very early, about 4 A.M., with the rise of the first simple, single-celled organisms, but then advances no further for the next sixteen hours. Not until almost 8:30 in the evening, with the day five-sixths over, has Earth anything to show the universe but a restless skin of microbes. Then, finally, the first sea plants appear, followed twenty minutes later by the first jellyfish and the enigmatic Ediacaran fauna first seen by Reginald Sprigg in Australia. At 9:04 P.M. trilobites swim onto the scene, followed more or less immediately by the shapely creatures of the Burgess Shale. Just before 10 P.M. plants begin to pop up on the land. Soon after, with less than two hours left in the day, the first land creatures follow. 

Thanks to ten minutes or so of balmy weather, by 10:24 the Earth is covered in the great carboniferous forests whose residues give us all our coal, and the first winged insects are evident. Dinosaurs plod onto the scene just before 11 P.M. and hold sway for about three-quarters of an hour. At twenty-one minutes to midnight they vanish and the age of mammals begins. Humans emerge one minute and seventeen seconds before midnight. The whole of our recorded history, on this scale, would be no more than a few seconds, a single human lifetime barely an instant. Throughout this greatly speeded-up day continents slide about and bang together at a clip that seems positively reckless. Mountains rise and melt away, ocean basins come and go, ice sheets advance and withdraw. And throughout the whole, about three times every minute, somewhere on the planet there is a flash-bulb pop of light marking the impact of a Manson-sized meteor or one even larger. It's a wonder that anything at all can survive in such a pummeled and unsettled environment. In fact, not many things do for long."

Bill Bryson, A Short History


Gordon Stainforth - on 22 Jul 2014
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> Really? I would have read it and enjoyed it when I was six.

Please don't take the piss. I was quite an early reader but, even if I'd managed to read about 70 per cent of the words in Bill B's book at the age of 6, most of the concepts would have meant vitually nothing to me. Therefore I would not have understood it. Therefore I wouldn't have tried reading it further after about two paragraphs.

At about the age of 5/6 I was reading things like Winnie the Pooh, then, 7-8, Biggles. You may laugh, but that's the truth. I also started writing my first very small books at the age of 8. Still have all of them. When I say books, we (John and I) actually bound them with needle and thread into books.

First 'adult' book was probably Dickens' Christmas Carol at c. age 8.
Gordon Stainforth - on 22 Jul 2014
In reply to Tim Chappell:

Just to flesh out what I mean. From the 2 short paras that Monty quotes, what six year old would understand any of the following terms?:

billion
organism
microbes
enigmatic
fauna
trilobites
the Burgess Shale
balmy
carboniferous
residues
evident
hold sway
positively reckless
Mountains rise and melt away
a Manson-sized meteor
pummeled
unsettled environment

psaunders - on 22 Jul 2014
In reply to jonny taylor:

One of my university supervisors wrote a book for just such an audience! It's call "It's true! We came from slime" by Ken McNamara. I must admit I have not seen it myself so can't provide a review.
Blue Straggler - on 23 Jul 2014
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

> Please don't take the piss.

Don't question Tim! He's a professor!
felt - on 23 Jul 2014
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

> Just to flesh out what I mean. From the 2 short paras that Monty quotes, what six year old would understand any of the following terms?:

Who's to say that Tim, like another philo, was not "a notably precocious child".

"Mill describes his education in his autobiography. At the age of three he was taught Greek. By the age of eight he had read Aesop's Fables, Xenophon's Anabasis, and the whole of Herodotus, and was acquainted with Lucian, Diogenes Laërtius, Isocrates and six dialogues of Plato. He had also read a great deal of history in English and had been taught arithmetic, physics and astronomy."

Christ, you guys have no ambition. Next you'll be arguing that Mozart didn't write KVs 1a, 1b and 1c at the age of four.
lummox - on 23 Jul 2014
In reply to felt:

I reckon Tim was inspired by God to read so well at such an early age..
ChrisBrooke - on 23 Jul 2014
In reply to jonny taylor:

The Magic of Reality by Dawkins might cover a lot of interesting ground for her.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Magic_of_Reality

Some of it will be a bit advanced but other sections, when read with an adult, look suitable.
Tim Chappell - on 23 Jul 2014
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:
>

> billion

> organism

> microbes

> enigmatic

> fauna

> trilobites

> the Burgess Shale

> balmy

> carboniferous

> residues

> evident

> hold sway

> positively reckless

> Mountains rise and melt away

> a Manson-sized meteor

> pummeled

> unsettled environment


Hmm. At six I would have understood about half of those words-- and pretended I understood the other half. I have a habit of getting to know things by pretending I already know them, and seeing what happens next :-)

I started on The Hobbit and The Lord Of The Rings not long after I first read Alice. At first sight I had no idea what Sindarin, Numenor, Elvenholme, or Morgoth meant, and Tolkien deliberately didn't explain, but part of the fun was just going with it and working it out from context.

Actually there's a lot in Alice too that encourages this approach. It's all about a child coping in an adult world that she doesn't really get-- but she manages somehow, indeed often better than the adults.
Post edited at 10:39
Clarence - on 23 Jul 2014
In reply to Tim Chappell:

I think there is a lot to be said for giving already bright children aspirational books with which to grow up. I am certainly glad that my father argued until I got an adult ticket at the library (with supervision of course) when I was still aged seven. There were books I understood and some that I didn't but still enjoyed working out what they meant. I am just grateful that I had the choice to do so rather than being confined to the children's section.
Tim Chappell - on 23 Jul 2014
In reply to Clarence:
I pinched a school exercise book when I was nine and decided to write down in it every truth I knew. In the correct order--this is the challenging bit-- from the foundations of the universe upwards all the way to rice pudding and income tax.

Then I was wandering around Bolton Municipal Library one dreary Saturday morning (Bolton specialises in dreary Saturday mornings) and there on a shelf, all on its own and away from all the other books, was a dog-eared, broken-spined copy of Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica. I had a thumb through it and I was furious: some Italian bloke from eight centuries before had beaten me to it :-)
Post edited at 11:08
jonny taylor on 23 Jul 2014
In reply to ChrisBrooke:

> The Magic of Reality by Dawkins might cover a lot of interesting ground for her.

That sounds like it could be a nice book for a year or two's time. I remember enjoying Dawkins' The Blind Watchmaker as an adult. Haven't read any of his recent stuff, but based on media coverage I get the impression he's got rather more aggressively militant since then.

Do you know to what extent The Magic of Reality is a "wondering at nature" thing and how much it's what you might call an atheist manifesto? (I thought the wikipedia page had a couple of potentially ominous remarks in it...). I'm with Dawkins on all that, but that's not really what I want to be giving e.g. an 8 year old to read.
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Tim Chappell - on 23 Jul 2014
In reply to jonny taylor:

Agreed--Dawkins is much better when he sticks to biology/ zoology. On that, he's actually good. Always helps to know what one is talking about...
winhill - on 23 Jul 2014
In reply to Tim Chappell:

> Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica. I had a thumb through it and I was furious: some Italian bloke from eight centuries before had beaten me to it :-)

Death for Apostates?
Tim Chappell - on 23 Jul 2014
In reply to winhill:

No, that's the Qu'ran.
winhill - on 23 Jul 2014
In reply to Tim Chappell:

"“But the church seeks with mercy to turn back those who go astray, and condemns them not immediately but only after a first or second warning. If, however, a heretic remains stubborn, the church, despairing of his conversion, takes care of the salvation of others, separates the heretic from the church with a sentence of excommunication and delivers him to the secular courts to be removed from the world by death.”"

T. Aquinas, Summa Theologica

probably following on from

Deuteronomy 17:2-5 King James Version (KJV)

2 If there be found among you, within any of thy gates which the Lord thy God giveth thee, man or woman, that hath wrought wickedness in the sight of the Lord thy God, in transgressing his covenant,

3 And hath gone and served other gods, and worshipped them, either the sun, or moon, or any of the host of heaven, which I have not commanded;

4 And it be told thee, and thou hast heard of it, and enquired diligently, and, behold, it be true, and the thing certain, that such abomination is wrought in Israel:

5 Then shalt thou bring forth that man or that woman, which have committed that wicked thing, unto thy gates, even that man or that woman, and shalt stone them with stones, till they die.
chris687 - on 23 Jul 2014
In reply to jonny taylor:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Little-History-World-E-Gombrich-ebook/dp/B004YKSXYW/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&q...

Maybe; I don't really know how 6 year olds read, but this is a much easier version of Bill Bryson's "A short history of nearly everything".
knthrak1982 on 24 Jul 2014
In reply to winhill:

> T. Aquinas, Summa Theologica
> probably following on from
> Deuteronomy 17:2-5 King James Version (KJV)

The citations Aquinas actually gives (to support his argument) are:
Titus 3:10,11 - which says avoid heretics, not kill.
Gal 5:9 - Which is a nice metaphor but the rest of the chapter is more about drunken orgies than heretics.

So yeah "Death to heretics" seems to be very much an Aquinas opinion with a very weak argument.
stp - on 25 Jul 2014
In reply to jonny taylor:

Glenn Murphy is a children's science author with a humorous approach that kids like. Books entitled 'Why is Snot Green?' and 'Will Farts destroy the Planet?' and a bunch of others. Not sure if they're quite suitable for a 6 year old but if she's smart...? certainly OK for 8 and up.

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