This quiet, contemplative picture book gives the youngest listeners their first glimpses of science.
In Bennett’s debut picture book, Harold the dog takes a walk. “He thinks the world around him is beautiful and wonderful.” After resting under a shady tree, Harold wants to learn more about it. He asks the bird what she knows about the tree. “This tree provides a safe place for me to live and to hatch my eggs,” she says. “See, I’ve built my nest in its branches. That’s all I know about this tree.” The squirrel knows that the tree gives him nuts to feed his family; the boy knows the tree as a place where he and his friends can climb and play. The narrative draws on the tale of the blind men and the elephant, that Indian folk tale in which men each describe the animal according to the small part they can touch—the tail, the ear, the skin, etc. It’s all about perspective. It’s too bad the blind men didn’t have someone on hand to synthesize what they were all seeing. Harold does, though, after he runs into professor Growgood (a clunker of a name in a book full of otherwise well-selected words). He answers Harold, “Why, knowing about trees and plants is my job!” He continues, “Trees are living things, but they don’t eat food like you and I do. They create their own food by using sunlight and carbon dioxide from the air.” With its simple explanation of photosynthesis, professor Growgood’s botanical explanation of trees and how they grow is suited to the interest level and vocabulary of preschoolers. Pleased with his encounter with professor Growgood, Harold trots home thinking, “I wonder how rain gets into clouds. Perhaps I’ll learn about that tomorrow”—hinting at what would be a welcome series. Bennett’s words are simple, sweet and carefully chosen. Together with the book’s soft-toned, colorful illustrations, they create a gentle world with just enough information for young children to absorb.
A friendly introduction to science and a worthy addition to preschool shelves.