A big picture book about the tiniest of things

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I recently read an interesting quote from someone involved in science and technology communication. The presenter said that “…astronomy is a ‘gateway drug’ to get young people interested in science.” It’s true – almost all kids go through a space phase. Some even go beyond sticking glow-in-the-dark stars on their ceiling and start getting up at the crack of dawn for specific astronomical events (may or may not have been ten-year-old me).

I’d add microscopes to the ‘gateway’ list – who doesn’t want to look at their own spit under a microscope? Or grains of sand that appear as big as boulders? Or the complexities of a wing of a fly? Tiny by Nicola Davies and Emily Sutton introduces kids to the ‘invisible’ world of microbiology in a picture-book format.

The book is full of interesting and startling facts aimed at the youngest readers –

“Right now there are more microbes living on your skin than there are people on Earth, and there are ten or even a hundred times as many as that in your tummy.”

It’s excellent stuff, but never fear, Davies makes it clear that microbes are vital for life on earth, and do all sorts of things – from giving us a cold and making yoghurt to wearing down mountains and helping to make the air we breathe.

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Sutton’s illustrations are charming – a muted palette and a slightly retro feel makes even her drawing of the polio virus (one of the tiniest microbes) fascinating.

Importantly, Tiny will stretch kids concept of scale. The book begins –

“You know about big animals, and you know about small animals, but do you know that there are creatures so tiny that millions could fit on this ant’s antenna?”

A double-page spread filled will blue dots to represent microbes explains how they multiply… and multiply… and multiply. In fact, millions could fit on a single dot and when you’re looking at a page of Sutton’s carefully drawn blue dots, well it makes science pretty seductive stuff.

The facts, the illustrations and Davies’ simple but enticing explanations in Tiny set a new benchmark in non-fiction for children.

Find Tiny online at Book Depository, which delivers free to Australia.

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Katrina Whelen

Katrina studied planning and design, did the hard yards working in a big office building and then traded it all in for a relaxing (!) life at home with four children. She now fills her time with writing, completing a degree in genetics and taxiing her children around Melbourne to their various sporting commitments (not necessarily in that order).

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