Ten Picture Books about Observation and Perspective by Katey Howes
As a scientist, as a clinician, as an author, and as a parent, observation is one of my most important skills. The tools and perspective we use to observe the world shape our thinking – and in turn shape our actions. Hand a kid a kaleidoscope, binoculars, a magnifying glass – everything changes. A new perspective can make the distant familiar, the universe small, the possibilities endless. Here are 10 picture books that encourage readers to observe the world in new and different ways.
They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel was one of the most talked about picture books of 2016. In a concept both simple and ingenious, each page spread shows us a cat – but from the perspective of a different creature. An eye-catching, mind-opening introduction to the idea that what is seen depends on who – or what – is doing the looking.
The Looking Closely series by Frank Serafini takes readers on an unusual journey into different ecosystems (garden, desert, forest, shore, rain forest, and pond) through the use of close-up photography. Pages alternate between a magnified picture of part of a natural object followed by a zoomed-out look at the object in its habitat.
Small Wonders – Jean Henri Fabre and His World of Insects by Matthew Clark Smith illustrated Giuliano Ferri is an engaging nonfiction biography of French entomologist Fabre, who from childhood was enchanted by insects. His story will inspire readers to look closely at the world around them, discovering that wonders hide just out of sight.
A Hundred Billion Trillion Stars by Seth Fishman, illustrated by Isabel Greenberg makes the immensity of the universe a little easier to comprehend. A Hundred billion trillion may seem too ridiculously large a number for children to even contemplate, but Fishman and Greenberg put this number – and many others – into new perspectives with clever and bright illustrations that break down what they mean, how they look, and what you can do with concepts so grand. If a microscope gets you to look at the very small in a new light, this book will do the same for the very large.
Flashlight by Lizi Boyd is a playful, thought-provoking, wordless picture book. A child in a tent shines a light into the world – and sees only what is illuminated by its triangular beam. Readers will enjoy discussing what they see – and also what they do not. Flashlight gets readers thinking about what we see – and what we miss – when observing the world around us through a narrow beam.
Infinity and Me by Kate Hosford, illustrated by Gabi Swiatkowska, grabs the reader’s imagination. A young girl named Uma wonders about the meaning of infinity – and discovers it in a number of physical examples around her, from the stars in the sky to a noodle cut again and again. Infinity begins to feel overwhelming and intimidating, until she discovers it again in the love of her family. A beautiful book to encourage thinking on a grand scale and perspective in the vastness of the universe.
Flotsam by David Wiesner. Honestly, I could include any David Wiesner book on this list. His genius lies in the unexpected – whether it be frogs on flying lily pads as in TUESDAY or, as in FLOTSAM, a series of photographs recovered from a camera dredged up from the bottom of the sea. Wiesner’s books encourage readers to drop their preconceived notions of what is possible, and to closely observe the details of his illustrations – and the ways the details might trick you. When you’re done pouring over the books, check out his amazing app, SPOT. Users zoom in and out of pictures, finding with each change in size, a new world within a world within a world. Fascinating.
Kaleidoscope by Salina Yoon is a die cut board book with a special lens embedded in the cover. Turn the lens over each page and see patterns and colors swirl and change. The book explores seasons, nature, and other topics, but the true joy lies in creating geometric beauty with the use of the kaleidoscopic lens.
The Girl Who Thought in Pictures: The Story of Dr. Temple Grandin by Julia Finley Mosca, illustrated by Daniel Rieley is a picture book biography in verse. Over the course of her life, we learn that Dr. Grandin’s intelligence and success in spite of obstacles is due, in large part, to her excellent observational skills and visual memory. I also include it on this list because it lets readers consider that our perspective isn’t only based on how we see things with our eyes – but also, how we organize them in our minds.
You Are (Not) Small by Anna Kang, Illustrated by Christopher Weyant. With few words, but lots of energy and color, You Are (Not) Small introduces the concepts of relativity, similarities and differences. A bear who is big to one creature, may be very small indeed to another. An excellent book to build the vocabulary of comparisons and to demonstrate the difference between objective and subjective measurement.
Katey Howes is the author of picture books GRANDMOTHER THORN and MAGNOLIA MUDD AND THE SUPER JUMPTASTIC LAUNCHER DELUXE. She is a team member at All the Wonders and one of the founders of Picture the Books, a website introducing debut picture book authors and illustrators. Katey contributes posts to sites such as STEAMpowered Family and Multi-Cultural Parenting. Prior to her writing career, Katey was a physical therapist specializing in brain injury rehabilitation. You can connect with Katey at kateyhowes.com, on Twitter @kateywrites, or on IG @kidlitlove.