Reviews /

My Big Book of Questions about the World

Authored by Moira Butterfield
Illustrated by Cindy Wume
Published by Walker

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It’s easy to take for granted seemingly simple or obvious things about the world but they are only obvious because we learnt them too long ago to remember when they weren’t. Or, it’s knowledge we have contextualised through our own experience. My Big Book of Questions about the World written by Moira Butterfield and illustrated by Cindy Wume, makes us remember and realise, that knowledge is learnt. There are eight sections in total and they cover pretty much everything about the world around us.

What first grabbed me was that this is a non-fiction picture book for Early Years and up, not to be read by themselves, but to share alongside an older reader (adult or another child). Next, was the vocabulary and the economical text. When explaining things to young learners, the words we use can lead to further confusion. This book limits the technical words and only uses them when it really needs to. For example, ‘runny metal like gooey syrup’ when explaining about the inside layers of the Earth.

However, sometimes the explanations are too vague, such as in answer to the question: why do leaves change colour? The answer given is that ‘the ingredients inside them begin to change’. Other pages do use more scientific words such as, water, minerals and carbon dioxide.  Some answers get it just right. Where’s the biggest forest? is answered with:

‘It’s the boreal forest…it stretches for mile after mile, like a scarf of fir trees wrapped around the north of our planet’.

Butterfield uses easy to understand similes throughout that are useful. However, I wasn’t sure if the metaphorical phrases like ‘the heart of the world is glowing’ which I thought could add to the confusion the book is trying to eliminate. The illustrations by Cindy Wume are colourful without being too bright or overpowering. Children will love exploring them. Two pages bookend the main content telling children how we have questions that ‘pop’ into our heads and celebrating that now we have some answers.

It’s a delightful book to share and read together. It’s also big enough to do that by lying it on two laps side by side. I mentioned before that an older child could take the lead with a younger reader. The language used in this book would make this more possible than perhaps other non-fiction titles. It’s also a thrill for adults that there is some help explaining somewhat hard questions in a way that children as young as four will understand. A great book for the younger classrooms in schools, whether that’s for reference or class reading.