Book reviews, Comments, Culture, In Focus

Timely books for children 

Two of these books urge young readers to be outside their homes, discovering and enjoying the natural world around them. The other two celebrate self-esteem and black history.


Sean Sheehan


“I ate Sunshine for breakfast” (7-14 year-olds) justifies its glorious title by bringing botany alive. Informative text and graphic illustrations work together to celebrate the power and importance of plants.

The book is divided into four thematic parts but readers can open it at any page and learn something new.

The DIY sections outline practical projects, like making a wild weed bottle garden, learning about maize and cornflour and, with the help of the kitchen freezer, the difference between deciduous and evergreen trees.

“Let’s play outdoors” is aimed at younger children (4-8) and each spread of two pages is devoted to a different activity that involves being out of the house.

The activities are imaginative ones, like looking at clouds for their shapes and motions or making up group stories around a campfire.

Others are investigative – searching the ground for insects, identifying trees – and some are pure fun, like tree climbing and outdoor cooking.

Adults, not mentioned in the clear instructions, are assumed to be there in the background.

Today’s children will probably be adults before black history is given its rightful place in the UK school curriculum so home education must take its place.

One way to begin is with “The story of the Windrush” and its account of hundreds of thousands of Caribbean people who responded to advertisements – like the one from 1948 reproduced in the book – inviting them to Britain.

Readers, aged 7 and above, learn about the voyage from the Caribbean, settling into a new life and facing racial discrimination.

Adults will need to provide the epilogue about how, after 2012, some who came as children were sent to detention centres to face deportation because they couldn’t prove how they reached the UK.

Children from the age of around 8 will be able to read “We are the change”  and younger children will respond to the illustrations in their own ways.

The book pairs the artwork of a range of illustrators with quotations each of them has chosen on the theme of human rights and their statements about what the quotations mean to them. Though aimed primarily at an American readership, the text and the pictures speak to everyone – as in this one about children from a poem by Khalil Gibran:

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,

For they have their own thoughts.

You may house their bodies but not their souls,

For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,

which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.

“I ate sunshine for breakfast”by Michael Holland and Phillip Giordano, is  published by Flying Eye Books

“Let’s play outdoors”, by Carla McRae and Catherine Ard, is published by Gestalten

We are the change” is published by Chronicle Books

“The story of the Windrush”, by K. N. Chimbiri, is published by Golden Destiny.





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