Monday, March 17, 2014

Lerner's What Is a Food Web? series, by Pal Fleisher

The area I live in is unique in that it is
Desert Food Webs
surrounded by
Forest Food Webs
so, when I had a chance to take a look at this series from Lerner, I chose these two titles, as areas I am most familiar with. Others in the series exlores grasslands, lakes and ponds, oceans, and tundra.
The stated age range for these is upper elementary. I had to look to see what age group was listed, because I couldn't tell by reading them. Some of the captions seem to have been written for primary or even preschool readers. Other parts of the text seemed to assume the reader had more background knowledge of terms and concepts than you would expect from the average 9-year-old. For example,
"When plants and animals die, they break down into chemicals. The chemicals become part of the soil."
Chemicals? Like the stuff in bottles under my kitchen sink? How do they become dirt? Food chains are mentioned but not explained. Some things are simplified too much to be accurate, especially for older kids - for example, yes, turkeys eat plants, but they will also eat insects, or even salamanders.
Both books do contain a great deal of information in short segments. A child who likes to move quickly from one idea to the next would probably enjoy this series, and would come away with a good basic understanding of each particular ecosystem. Those who find a specific aspect interesting could then hopefully find something more in depth.
The photographs are an excellent addition, well-placed and varied. As each of these ecosystems occurs throughout the world, it would be helpful to have the location included in the captions - so that readers don't assume all deserts include camels, and all forests have black bears.
Appropriate for upper elementary ages, good for basic information and overview reports.

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