By Jason Chin
Roaring Brook Pres (Macmillan)
In Stores April 29, 2014
Pet peeve time. Often when people talk about low-level nonfiction, they don’t mean really low. Sorry K-1 crowd. Although the field is getting better all the time, it can still be difficult to find stuff for this young audience that truly stands out. With Gravity, Jason Chin (author of 2012 favorite Island) gets low to help explain a force that effects us all.
What is gravity? What does it do? What would happen if it didn’t exist? Big, bold statements (in all caps) are set to images that skillfully illuminate the text. The perspective shifts from the effects of gravity on earth to the heavens – how it keeps planets orbiting the sun and keeps the moon from floating away – before coming back to earth, finishing the book as it began.
I tell ya – one smart decision after another here. The spare text is expertly placed (and sized), drawing the reader’s eye in ways that encourage understanding. And Chin could have used any old objects to illustrate how gravity works, but he chose items familiar to a child – sand toys, a rocket ship, an action figure, and (meta alert) a picture book about gravity. Back matter includes a section with additional facts and a bibliography.
The illustrations are full of cinematic appeal (I should mention here the strange coincidence of this book arriving less than a year after the Oscar-nominated film by the same name). The short and wide trim size adds to the widescreen effect, as Chin uses pools of outer-space black in contrast with the fiery sun and blue earth across numerous two-page spreads.
It’s a book that will really work for the lower elementary set – no small feat. It isn’t often I say this often, but with a topic is so universal, and a treatment so beautifully efficient it’s just a fact: this book should be in every library collection.
Review copy from the publisher.