National Geographic offers a muddled take on opposites for little ones.
In bright photos and with simple captions, various animals, people and objects demonstrate such concepts as big/little, soft/hard and black/white. A big orca and a little goldfish is the first example, and on the next spread, readers are invited to identify big and little polar bears in a snowy field. Subsequent pages follow the same pattern, introducing the concept and then inviting readers to identify opposites within a scene. These scenes include “Guess What?” bubbles that share related facts and vary from the age-appropriate (“A baby sheep is called a ‘lamb’ ”) to too abstract for toddlers (“The world’s biggest pillow fight had 3,706 people”). The final tableau shows a family enjoying a marshmallow roast in the snow, and youngsters are asked to review all the concepts they have encountered on previous pages. Some of the photos are quite inviting to peruse, but more than a few look jarringly altered and out of proportion. Given National Geographic’s rich catalog of eye-catching photos, it is puzzling that they would need to doctor any. Companion Shapes! suffers from proportion issues and a couple of inaccuracies.
This overly didactic book may confuse rather than enlighten young learners. (Board book. 2-4)