This book, The Green Kingdom, Volume 6 in the 1992 edition of the Childcraft series from World Book, was recommended on another homeschool blog, and something about it just called out to me.
For some reason, I immediately thought "aha!" and bought the book (used, cheap) right away. Like within minutes of her posting.
When it arrived, I was honestly amazed. And I read, and read about, a LOT of kids’ books.
We are just starting plant biology now and this is hands-down the best (no, scratch that, the ONLY) book I have seen that approaches plants from a "story-telling" perspective instead of a dull, dry, "just-facts" perspective. It truly is a plants book you can curl up with, showing and telling about the lives of plants.
Without the distracting “factoids” of most contemporary books, this book (this 1992 edition, anyway) features well-laid-out text, many nicely-drawn simple illustrations and photographs.
Our Living Learning Science curriculum for this week had us read one page about leaves from the plants-unit “spine,” the Usborne Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Natural World. Just that one page left my head spinning. (see the page, at right – cram-jammed with over-our-heads factoids)
Well, then we opened The Green Kingdom. It starts with a poem about the seasons – yay, poetry! It shows how plants work through all the different seasons. It shows how plants are living things – that a buttercup is not all that different from a butterfly. How very, VERY sweet. The next section we will read is about plant habitats – which ought to mesh perfectly with next year’s Elemental Science, which begins with animal habitats.
Here are two sample page layouts. Lots of green, lots of happy, but good, solid blocks of text. Notice the squinty print size in the Usborne book above? I wonder why publishers think that by cramming in MORE TEXT, they are automatically making their book BETTER.
The Green Kingdom’s explanations and metaphors are straightforward and, despite the simplicity of the layout, not at all childish. And look at all that gorgeous whitespace. Take that, Usborne, Dorling-Kindersley, and anybody else who believes that serious living books went out with reading primers. ;-P
There is definitely enough science in here for a Grade 1-2 level, along with the straight-through readability and clear fonts that make this a science book you can curl up with. It even includes chapters on weird plants, like meat eaters and fungi (it classifies fungi as a plant, and I always thought they were a separate kingdom, but never mind).
I took biology in university AND I'm an avid gardener and I am still learning TONS from this old-fashioned little book. Plant biology has always made me yawn – but this is a book I actually read cover to cover on my own before starting it with the kids. If anything’s going to turn my KIDS into avid plantspeople, it’s books like these.
There have been many editions of this book, some vintage and kind of expensive, but most used booksellers online have copies for just a couple of dollars plus shipping (admittedly, a bit expensive to Canada, but the book price is so low it’s okay – in my opinion). We have the 1992 edition, and the ISBN inside the book cover is 0-7166-0191-5. Be careful – there are a lot of editions, and even though the book is Volume 6 in the 1992 edition, the volume numbering changed from edition to edition, so listings can be confusing. Here’s a complete listing of this edition, though the covers look different from mine – like I said, confusing! I’m sure all the editions are quite good, though.
I’ve seen reports around the Web of people finding these volumes in thrift shops for next to nothing, though, of course, the odds of turning up this particular volume are probably quite low.
Although Melissa, the blogger who originally inspired me, says The Green Kingdom is by far the best volume in the set, I have ordered 3 more titles: About Animals, About Us, and a bit of a wildcard, Make and Do, the “arts & crafts how-to” volume. I’ll be sure to update you when these ones arrive!