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The self-explanatory entitled ‘See Inside Your Body’ is a lift-the-flaps book by Usborne. It’s a hardback with stiff cardboard pages that have thin card flaps. My three year old has owned this since Christmas. Like a lot of young children, she’s very interested in how the body works and what goes on inside it, so it seemed like a good present idea.
It has clear, meticulously drawn, colourful diagrams with lots of detail. There are 15 pages on which the body’s major functions are dealt with, ( the reproductive system is conspicuously absent). Some are double page spreads; the bones and muscles page is particularly striking, although, as might be expected, my little one claims to like the ‘eating and pooing’ page the best, (complete with lift the flap and see the poo feature).
A couple of the flaps have become torn at the edges due to overenthusiastic handling, but overall they have held up very well so far, they’re not too flimsy and slot back into place when the book is closed. There are around four flaps per page, over fifty in the book. Some of the pictures under flaps have been magnified for detail and these are identified, (logically), by a magnifying glass symbol.
Although there aren’t that many pages there is a lot of information in here. As well as the main diagrams, there are several mini-scenes used to demonstrate facts on each page. For example, on the ‘Pumping blood’ page, amongst several other characters, is a running man with sweat dripping off him who illustrates the point that; ‘In one day your blood travels an unbelievable 19,000km (12,000 miles).’
1. Your amazing body (an overview of what is to come) 2. Eating and excreting 4. Breathing air 6. Pumping blood 8. Bones and muscles 10. Brain power 12. The senses 14. Drinking and weeing 15. Body words (a re-explaining of some of the unusual words used throughout the book)
Background Photographs - The backdrops on each page are tinted photographs of parts of the body. This isn’t something that stands out at first glance, they are very much in the background, but it’s a thoughtful extra touch and something else for children to find interest in. On the photographs I’ve provided you may be able to make out villi in the background to the eating and excreting page, and muscle makes up the background to the bones and muscle page.
On the back page there is a website link given, (http://www.usborne-quicklinks.com, then type ‘See Inside Your Body’ into the search box), that leads to a list of links to websites that teach children about the body. I had a quick look at these and there are some interesting sites for children to look at more pictures, play games, quizzes etc, (again no sex organs to be found).
My daughter’s preferred way of reading this is to read it with an adult and go through each page lifting flaps, asking questions and having lots of it read to her. This takes a good hour at least which means that for me, it can be boring and time consuming to read with her, but at least it’s educational - I’ve learned a lot from it! Obviously, an older child who can read will interact differently with it, but for us, this book has become something we do together, my daughter rarely spends much time looking at it on her own.
Don't Mention the Unmentionables
From a commercial point of view I understand the reluctance of the publishers to include the reproductive system in this book. I understand some people would find this controversial but I think children take these things in their stride and it wouldn’t be an issue if it weren’t made into one by adults. Personally I would have no problem with discussing any body parts that my daughter was interested in, but I suppose there's the chance that she might read it with some other relatives who would be mortified at the thought of discussing certain body parts with her. Whilst I don’t see this absence as a big problem, I do wonder if it perhaps gives gives the message that some things are unmentionable. Actually, it has just occurred to me that the drinking and weeing page is modelled on a female body, so perhaps that might provoke anatomical questions from little boys.
I can’t think of any other major absences; there was no mention of the pancreas, and the spleen is seen on one diagram but with no explanation as to what it does. In general though, all the major body parts are covered. It may not be a comprehensive guide to the human body, but it’s a good starting point for a child.
Alveoli Ice Cream
Children put their own slant on things, for example my daughter thinks Alveoli, (air sacs in the lungs), look like ice cream so every time she lifts that flap she pretends to eat some ice cream. Whilst this could indicate that she is too young to fully understand it, it doesn't stop her enjoyment and sometimes she startles me with the level of understanding she shows.
I was right about it being a good present choice, it’s had plenty of use, my daughter loves it. I had wondered if it might be too old for her, but if she doesn’t know what something means she never tires of asking. She has surprised me by the level of questions she asks actually, I can’t always answer them, (“What happens to the germ after the white blood cell has gobbled it up?”). Maybe it will provide a good grounding for when she eventually comes to study biology at school. I think this is ideal for preschoolers who will come to it with a fresh mind and be interested. I would say it would also be fine for primary school children, but there is also the possibility that older children may find it too much like a school book. The little cartoon style pictures help in that respect to make it seem a little less like a text book.
This book will answer lots of the questions children ask about their body and may well teach grown-ups a thing or two as well. Having read this on several occasions now, I hope the knowledge imprinted on my brain will come in handy one day, ( Did you know you have 27 bones in each hand?). As a gift it could be used to complement other present choices such as a doctor’s kit or microscope, (this is what we did although it was accidental rather than planned).
Usborne are a major UK publishing company who have been around for nearly forty years now, and specialize in books for children of all ages. The credits on this book are to author Katie Daynes and illustrator Colin King, both of whom have worked on similarly styled non fiction Usborne books. Inside, credit is given to Laura Parker for design and ‘human body expert’ Dr Zoe Fritz MBBS MRCP. Technically excellent, I couldn’t argue with the accuracy of this book or improve on the design.
Details: Hardcover; 16 pages, Publisher; Usborne Publishing Ltd (28 Jan 2006), Product Dimensions; 27.8 x 22.4 x 1.8 cm, Cover price; £9.99, available at the time of writing for £5.99 from Amazon.co.uk
Pictures of See Inside Your Body - Katie Daynes, Colin King