Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

Parents' Choice Awards : Books : Non-Fiction
Under Water, Under Earth

Under Water, Under Earth

Spring 2017 Non-Fiction
Ages: 7 - 9 yrs.
Author: Daniel Mizielinski
Illustrator: Aleksandra Mizielinska
Publisher: Candlewick Press
ISBN: 9780763689223
Hardcover Price: $35.00

Bigger isn't always better, but this huge-format kids' book (opened, its 22 inches tall by 14 inches wide) about "Whole Worlds to Explore Just Below the Surface" of the Earth and the ocean, may be better. That's because the oversized format with two front covers (one is the Earth; the other is the ocean) allures kids to take a deep plunge into its 112 pages that overflow with quirky, cartoonish, detailed, images of largely unseen critters, creatures, insects and microorganisms, plant root systems, buried archeology, plumbing, fossils, aquatic life, sunken ships, reefs—anything that exists or operates beneath the surface of our planet.

The book opens vertically, from bottom up, so pages must be flipped up. Half of the book's pages, when read from one side, are dedicated to what's beneath the Earth's surface; the other half starting from the other side explore what's beneath the ocean's surface. So, for instance, go a couple pages into the Earth side and you get a giant-sized rendering of an ant hill, with simple text explaining the many different chambers inside an ant colony. Next page is burrowing animals, from warthogs and weasels to meerkats and field mice. Dive in again and you get edible roots, from rutabagas and horseradish to ginseng and sugar beets. All images come with a simple, brief, informational blurbs. Now turn the book over and start from the Under Water side and you get pages on diving, Blue Whales, underwater chimneys, deep-sea dwellers, and more.

Under Water, Under Earth, by the wife-and-husband writer-illustrators Aleksandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizielinski, is jacked with factual text accompanying the images, hundreds of them. It's easy to read. And while a page-by-page informational overload, these busy spreads use every trick in the visual learning book, including cutaway and cross-section images, whacky labelling, progressive sequenced images, etc.

Kids (and their parents) will pour over these playfully educational pages, and return to them again and again.

Don Oldenburg   ©2017 Parents' Choice
A former feature writer and consumer columnist at The Washington Post for 22 years, Don Oldenburg is the Director of Publications and Editor of the National Italian American Foundation, in Washington, D.C. He regularly reviews books for USA Today and is the coauthor of "The Washington DC-Baltimore Dog Lovers Companion" (Avalon Travel). The proud father of three sons, he lives with his journalist-author wife, Ann Oldenburg, in McLean, VA.

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