I am a big fan of nonfiction for KS1. So, when they come along, my interest instantly piques. You Are 25% Banana – a great title with an equally catchy cover – is one such book accessible to younger readers. You may have already guessed this is a book about genetics. The title poses a talking point which hooks us into finding out how exactly a quarter of my genetic makeup is the same as a banana’s. And jokes aside, it’s something which is very puzzling.
Genes, the book explains, are ‘recipes’ which all living things share to varying degrees. Recipes which tell our bodies ‘how to work and grow’ and how we inherit these from our parents. I really like some of the wording, like ‘magic mix’ and how some gene recipes are ‘bossier than others’. Technical vocabulary is important, but most of the time understanding a concept or process is more important than scientific terms like ‘dominant’ and ‘recessive’. These can come later.
There are some fascinating facts and figures. For instance, did you know that a grain of rice has 36,000 genes compared to a human’s 25,000? But ‘more genes’, the book explains ‘isn’t always more useful’ as some recipes are repeated again and again. You may have heard that fact before, but did you know we share singing genes with birds? Tooth-growing genes with sharks, or brainy genes with dolphins?
The last section of the book shows us which animals share the most genes with us. From a fruit fly (60%) to chimpanzees (99%). So how are we so different? Well, it’s explained (brilliantly) that each recipe which is different ‘contains thousands of instructions that make you less of a chimp’, cow, lion, fruit fly, etc. This leads to a lovely message about inclusivity and equality. We are 99.9% identical to everyone else in the world. The accompanying spread is a beautiful representation of this, but also celebrates our individual uniqueness.
What books like these do is try to make a complicated subject interesting to the youngest readers. You Are 25% Banana does this by using examples of fruits and animals. Include colourful and engaging illustrations and minimal plain-speaking text, and it’s going to work. However, this was not my first thought. On the first reading I thought perhaps it might make readers more confused. I do think I was wrong though. I wasn’t reading it from the point of view as a very young reader.
All books basically use the same recipe: paper, pages, covers, pictures, words, but it’s the uniqueness of individuals which make books a magical mix of those that came before. This is an interesting alternative to a storybook for readers from Early Years to KS2.
Shortlisted for the Week Junior Book Awards 2023 STEM Category
Copyright: Just Imagine Story Centre Ltd 2012-2023. All rights reserved.