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Sunday, May 20, 2012

How? The Most Awesome Question and Answer Book about Nature, Animals, People, Places - and YOU! Written by Catherine Ripley and illustrated by Scot Ritchie. Owlkids Books, 2012. $19.95 ages 3 and up

"Like all microbes, germs are always trying to multiply, or make more of themselves, to keep living. When germs move into your body and start multiplying - FAST - your body fights back. You run a fever, which helps fight off the germs. But it sure makes you feel yucky.

Sniffle! Cough! Ah-choo!"

This is the first page I read this morning, as I fight the annoying and aching feelings of a summer cold. Bah! Humbug!

The worst of it is that I am visiting with a wonderful, caring friend who thinks that she needs to coddle me, and make sure I take care of myself. Since I have a touch of laryngitis, it is hampering our visit to an extent. My kids would say it is a lucky reprieve for Lorna; but, neither of us is feeling that way!

It doesn't even really help to know all this book has to say about germs. It won't help the cold, as the germs have taken over and it will just have to work itself out. Alas, woe is me!

Kids will love this book filled with nearly 80 questions asked by Jake and Lizzie of their Oma. Off they go together to a variety of venues and each inspires questions that include why, who, does, what happens when, and where. The places shared in the course of the visit are a birthday party, the library, a pet show, Jake's sick bed, a trip to the beach and an airport farewell. So much to learn and remember!

The questions are common ones asked of older and more knowledgeable people by young, inquisitive children and readers will find they have lots to learn about the world. The Owl website includes this information about the process that ensures a wide audience:

"When asked if she's always conscious of the children's voices, Ripley responded, "Kids are so engaging and they're so honest, and they come at things so differently than I do as an adult." She added, "It really pays to go back into the classroom again and again. You get taken aback by the wonderful world we live in, as seen through a child's eyes."

Ripley works closely with artist Scot Ritchie on the illustrations and the layout. As an example of how they collaborate to make sure the words and pictures work together, she pointed to a nine-step explanation for "How are roads built?" It could have come across as complicated, but flows very logically for readers if they simply follow the road itself, like a pathway through the numbered steps. An advantage to conceiving of How? as a complete book from its inception was that Ritchie could feature a single family throughout." 

The collaboration pays off in fun, cartoon-like artwork by Scot Ritchie that will capture the attention of the target audience. He gives personality to each of the main characters, and takes us on a journey that will help kids remember much of what they are learning.

This book is an exceptional and welcome companion to last year's Why?.

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