Kids Corner: South America Picture Books

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Raisin and I finished our gentle trip around the world last week with some picture books about South America! I really enjoyed our brief study this time because I got to learn about the Amazon area, which fascinates me. Most of the picture we read were about rain forests.We also did another “Famous Places Race” that I made.

Rain Forests by Nancy Smiler Levinson is an early reader just perfect for my young son. There were illustrated tropical animals illustrated and labeled on each page, and it covered rain forests around the world. Yet, there was not too much text on each page, and it moved quickly enough that it kept his attention. It discussed the different layers of a rain forest and the animals on each layer. It also touched on temperate rain forests and the people who lived in rain forests around the world. All in all, a wonderfully informative and interesting book for a young reader.

Nature’s Green Umbrella: Tropical Rain Forests by Gail Gibbons is one I really liked, but it is a few steps above the Levinson early reader. In Gail Gibbons  trademark way, it had detailed text and illustrations covers even more details about rain forests. Like the other book, it shows the animals of the rain forest and it covers the different layers that make it so complex. But she takes it a step further by discussing the science of the rain forest: how trees grow, how photosynthesis works, and why it’s important that we don’t completely destroy the rainforest. Although it was too hard for my son to pay attention to in full, we read it in pieces and I personally found the science quite informative. (Okay, so that says something about my understanding of science!)

The Rainforest Grew All Around by Susan K. Mitchell and illustrated by Connie McLennan is a rythmic story much like “the house that Jack built”: Each line builds on the previous one, and we quickly see how a rainforest throbs with life, from the tiny seed in the ground to the cat, snake, vines, sloths, frogs, and so forth. Sidebars on each page provide scientific facts about the various animals discussed in the rhyme, and the illustrations are richly detailed.

Looking Closely in the Rain Forest by Frank Serafini changes things up a little bit. Using his own photographs of the rain forest flora and fauna, Mr Serafini has created an “I Spy” picture book that my son loved reading. By showing just a portion of the picture, we’d guess what item he really had photographed, then we’d turn the page to find out what it was, and learn a little about the animal or plant. This was a creative and fun approach to a nonfiction subject.

The fiction favorite this time around was The Umbrella by Jan Brett. Carlos, who lives in Costa Rican rain forest, walks to the nearby rainforest to spy on the animals. He places his umbrella on the ground and climbs a tree to get a look. While he is unable to see anything up high in the tree, the animals all clamor onto the umbrella for a surprising adventure together. From the toucan and baby leopard to the shy baby tapir and precious tree frog, the animals are exquisitely detailed in Jan Brett’s wonderful style. Another nice touch is that the animals speak to each other with a few Spanish words mixed in with their English dialogue. I loved the contrast between Carlos in the tree, not having any luck spying animals, and all the animals down below enjoying the umbrella adventure.

And then for the littlest ones:

Since my daughter Strawberry is quite little but happens to sit in on our reading times, I was delighted to see a picture that somewhat related to rain forests at her level! Good morning, Toucan (Dwell Studios, Blue Apple Books 2011) is a lift-the-flap board book for the littlest readers. On each page, Toucan says hello to a different rain forest animal: sloth, chameleon, monkeys, tree frogs, and so forth. The bright-colored animals and irresistable flaps made this fun for little Strawberry as well as her big brother.

I’ve really enjoyed going through the continents with picture books (some more than others). You’ll notice I didn’t touch on North America: that’s our item of business for the next year, my son’s K4 school year, so you’ll hear plenty more about American history over the next few months. Wish us luck in the homeschooling adventure we’re now beginning in earnest!



Reviewed on September 4, 2012

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

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