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February 15, 2018 BOOKLIST
Find more Biomes in Series Nonfiction
Making Biomes Lively: Key Series Components
From the mountains to the oceans and the deserts to the tundra, each of these biomes has distinct features. Despite these differences, series about biomes share key components. The most noticeable are the vivid photographs that highlight the beauty of each biome. In many cases, such as the Oceans (2018) title in Jump!’s Ecosystems series, dramatic, full-page photographs of scuba divers exploring ocean caves, sea turtles swimming among coral, and a humpback whale diving deep into the water depict an ocean biome better than the simple text. This volume and others, like ABDO’s Biomes series, also use thumbnail scenes in an appended picture glossary to extend understanding of important terms.
Though the books discuss common biome characteristics, some show biome extremes to convey more of their glory. For instance, Bellwether’s Life on a Mountain (2016), from its Biomes Alive! series, offers breathtaking images of Nepal’s Himalayas and Switzerland’s Bernese Alps. It also concludes with a visual profile of Mount Everest. Titles in Lerner’s Lightning Bolt Books: Biome Explorers series end with a list of “Biome Extremes,” such as the coldest tundra town and the tundra town with the longest summer day. In addition to photographs, several series provide maps, charts, graphs, and other visuals. Capstone’s Focus on Climate Zones series has some of the most. Its Polar Climates (2017) title, for example, depicts a temperature and rainfall chart of an Arctic town in Russia, a map of indigenous peoples living in the Arctic, a diagram of sea-ice loss, and more.
The true distinctions among these series, however, lie in their focus, and three main categories dominate the ways in which biomes are presented: basic overviews, characteristic flora and fauna, and conservation/ecology.
Scoping Out Biomes
The biggest way that these series differ is through their scope. One approach that many series take is giving a well-rounded overview of each biome, including where the biomes are located around the world, their typical climate and physical environment, and representative plants and animals. Though some series generalize each biome, others differentiate within them. Forest Biomes (2017), in ABDO’s Biomes series, explains three main forest biomes (temperate, boreal, and rain) and how the temperature and precipitation vary in each throughout the seasons. Volumes in Creative Company’s Seedlings series also differentiate within a biome but in a visual manner. Deserts (2017), for instance, concludes with two side-by-side, high-quality photographs, one of the Sahara Desert and the other of the Sonoran Desert. Their labeled features make it easy to spot the differences.
A second area of concentration focuses on the animals that call each biome home. The books in Rosen’s A Home in the Biome series use double-page spreads to profile an animal. At Home in Rivers and Lakes (2016) looks at a range of animals, from diving beetles and crayfish to giant otters and hippos, and describes their physical characteristics, adaptations, prey and predators, care of their young, where they make their homes, and other facts. Black Rabbit’s Fast Track: Who Lives Here? series also profiles animals. Its briefer descriptions for younger readers emphasize adjectives and verbs with big, boldface words, such as in Rain Forests (2017), where a tarsier uses its huge eyes to hunt at night, and flying frogs spread their webbed feet to glide between trees.
More series center on animals in specific ways. Each volume in Rosen’s Creatures of the Forest Habitat series is dedicated to an individual animal: bobcats, foxes, opossums, porcupines, skunks, and wild boars. Books in the Bearport series Nature’s Neighborhoods: All about Ecosystems use guided questions to help students make connections among animals in a biome. After a discussion of seaweed and how it clings to rocks and the seabed in Welcome to the Seashore (2016), the text asks, “What else do you think is clinging to the rocks in a tide pool?” Readers turn the page to discover mussels and limpets. The Who Eats What? series from Jump! offers still another variation. Approaching the biome through the concept of food chains, it relates producers, consumers, predators, and decomposers. Each volume presents multiple food chains in a variety of formats, including narrative descriptions, charts, and photos. Although not the primary focus in other series, some, such as Biomes Alive! and Nature’s Neighborhoods: All About Ecosystems, have appended food-web diagrams.
A third way to present biomes is through their natural resources. Titles in the Focus on Climate Zones series explain how plants, animals, and people have adapted to the climate in a biome and produce natural resources. Tropical Climates (2017), for instance, tells how water from monsoon rains can now be turned into hydroelectric power. This series also uncovers threats to these natural resources, particularly climate change and human impact, and offers suggestions on how these biomes can be saved and protected. Instead of straightforward text, the books in Crabtree’s Ecosystems Research Journal series resemble a researcher’s field journal. The biome’s climate, native species, and environmental changes are recorded in an attractive format that blends photos, maps, charts, research notes, status reports, and more. The emphasis is on how human impact and other factors affect the biome’s health. For example, Arctic Research Journal (2017) describes how climate change has made it difficult for the Inuit to find and hunt caribou. Following its animal profiles, Rosen’s A Home in the Biome series also concludes with a section on threats to the animals in the biome and current conservation initiatives.
Biomes That Inspire
Most children adore animals, so learning about them and the biomes they live in is a natural fit, even when it is a required study. And when young readers can imagine the chill of snow-covered peaks, the heat and grit of sandy deserts, and the brilliant colors of color reefs, the experience is even more enjoyable. Kids already know that hiking in a forest, skipping a rock across a lake, or picking up seashells at the ocean are fun activities, but with the help of these series, they will also begin to think about their own impact on biomes and how they can care for and protect them.
Angela Leeper is the director of the Curriculum Materials Center at the University of Richmond (Va.).
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