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Nonfiction Monday: How Things Work in the Yard by Lisa Campbell Ernst

How Things Work in the Yard
By Lisa Campbell Ernst
Blue Apple Books (Chronicle)
ISBN: 9781609050092
Grades 1-3
In Stores

Some nonfiction thinks big, covering iconic figures from history, complex concepts, and the world’s greatest, best, and most amazing. With her picture book How Things Work in the Yard, Lisa Campbell Ernst (Round Like a Ball) balances the scale in the other direction by thinking small, shedding light on a world many children see every day. The result is easy on the eyes and informative – isn’t that the goal?

Dirt, butterflies, dandelions, birds – How Things Work in the Yard covers 20 things kids might encounter in their own yards. Each two page spread is devoted to a different topic, with the exception of a couple closely-related pairs (hose and sprinkler, for example) that share a spread. Short bursts of text keep things lively as diagrams point out important facts. The explanations of each topic are clear and simple. This will work well for most readers, but the truly detail-oriented child may need to seek out additional information.

The beautifully rich cut paper illustrations are a sight to see. Ernst’s take on things – even something as common as a dandelion – had me examining the page up close.

Everything is set against a graph paper background, lending a scientific tone.

Well suited for pleasure reading, kids with a thing for the natural world will be glad they picked this book up.

Review copy from publisher

Check out the Nonfiction Monday roundup at Apples with Many Seeds.

Find this book at your local library with WorldCat.

About Travis Jonker

Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at scopenotes@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.


  1. Can’t wait to see this in person. It certainly is different that most of her illustrations. Nice to see that she is branching out.

  2. This does sound good. I guessing this is most appropriate for the primary level (gr.1-3)?
    Thanks for the recommendation.

  3. Yep, 1st-3rd seems to be the zone for this one.

  4. This looks like a lot of fun–I like that it isn’t just bugs, or plants, or tools, but all the things one might find and how they work. Things like hoses and sprinklers are the kind of thing that parents might not be able to verbalize why/how they work as well as a nice diagram/book. I’m going to have to order this one! Thanks for the review!

  5. Lisa Campbell Ernst says

    Travis, Thanks for the recommendation. I had SO much fun creating this book!