What is a Virus?

Authored by Katie Daynes
Illustrated by Kirsti Beautyman
Published by Usborne

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What is a Virus? is a timely book that tackles questions that children may have in response to the pandemic. Usborne’s Lift-the-Flap format is well established and this book has a sturdy and durable feel. This is an important factor when considering whether to add a book to a class library. I like this format because information can be conveyed so that the pages are not overcrowded with text. Each spread has a question that is answered in a sentence or two and the rest of the spread has follow-up questions with the answers under the flaps. The information is written in a very clear and accessible way. The explanations are simple without talking down to the audience or oversimplifying.

One very good example is the answer to the question:

How can a tiny virus be so POWERFUL?

The text explaining this is accompanied by an illustration that works well to clarify the information. It’s so important that illustrations add value to the text in a non-fiction text and this book does this successfully. Speech bubbles are used effectively to clarify and provide examples.

Young children’s experiences and understanding of COVID 19 will have varied considerably and it is important that they can access trustworthy information. What is a Virus? is a book that will support teachers to build scientific knowledge and understanding around all viruses, not just Covid 19. It is written in a reassuring way and will answer children’s questions without creating additional anxiety. It would be a useful book to have in the class collection for children to dip in and out of and read together as well as one to share with an adult. I’d recommend it to parents who want to be able to inform their children in an engaging way. I did notice that the book states that there is not a vaccine for COVID 19 yet but this is a sign of just how fast-moving the vaccination development has been. This could be used as a teaching point as information can go out of date quickly. A reprint with up to date vaccination information will be available in September¬†2021

This is a book which is aimed at 4+. The scientific concepts and information would be of interest to older readers too. Indeed I found What is a Virus? to be informative and helpful as an adult reader.