Simon, Seymour. 2006. Weather (Smithsonian). New York: HarperCollins Publishers. ISBN 9780060884390.
Plot Summary -
Aimed at an audience ages 5-9, Simon explains the Earth's weather, what causes it, what affects it, and how weather affects our daily lives. In this introduction to weather, he gives a detailed yet direct explanation of the subject matter. Besides the text, Simon includes life-like photographs and graphic artwork to enhance the understanding of weather in this informational book for children.
Critical Analysis -
Simon creates an excellent informational resource for the topic of weather in this photo essay book. He is extremely knowledgeable on the subject and has won awards for other children's science books that he has written. The fact that the Smithsonian has lent its name to this work demonstrates its accuracy on the subject matter. In this nonfiction work, Simon carefully distinguishes between fact and theory. On page six, he fully elaborates the facts on the impact of global temperature change by explaining that just a few degrees cooler could cause another Ice Age and a few degrees warmer could melt polar glaciers causing coastal flooding. Later on page 30, he goes on to say, "Some scientists think..." when talking about global heating as being man-made. This introductory phrase clearly lets the reader know that this aspect is a theory and not fact. Although this is a well researched book, Simon does not include a bibliography which leaves room for improvement as a research tool.
With his young reader in mind, Simon crafts this intriguing nonfiction book. A clear connection between various weather elements is always established, so the reader can build his/her knowledge from one page to the next. Also, Simon includes a glossary of terms for unfamiliar words and an index for quickly finding specific facts. Moreover, he includes a "Read About It More" section that suggests websites and books for further study. Additionally, he defines challenging vocabulary parenthetically within the text, so the read does not have to stop to look up the word. Still with his young reader in mind, Simon uses a large font and mostly simple sentences for easy reading. Furthermore, his introduction immediately engages the reader by inviting the reader's curiosity to find out how all weather could be possible at the same time. Likewise, the conclusion brings it all together by stating the relevance of weather to everyone's daily life. He takes a complex subject and make it easy for a child to understand.
Probably even more inviting than the text for young readers are the illustrations. For the most part, Simon uses photographs, but also includes some graphic artwork by Ann Neumann. The photographs are mostly serene scenic pictures of places that someone would love to be. These alluring pictures show the weather element being discussed in the text adding to the information presented on the page. One of the most astounding photos is the NASA photograph of a person in space on page 17. It stirs the natural curiosity to wonder what it must be like to be in outer space and witness the weather below on Earth. The graphic artwork illustrations are very simple, so the young reader can easily see what is discussed. The one illustration that seems difficult to grasp is on page 27. It is a picture of frost on a window. While the window frame is clearly seen, the picture of the frost does not resemble what is seen by the eyes. While children may know what frost looks like, they will not recognize it in this photograph; however, with this exception, the illustrations help bring weather to life for the reader. Through a meticulous presentation of weather facts and intriguing illustrations, Simon has created a valuable informational book on weather that children will enjoy.
Review Excerpts -
Kirkus reviews - "Simon may have done more than any other living author to help us understand and appreciate the beauty of our planet and our universe."
School Library Journal - "...this book is a perfect marriage of words and pictures."
Children's Literature - "Using a simple but well researched text, the author gives a concise explanation of the forces in nature which creates various weather conditions."
Booklist - "Solid, useful, and accessible, this is a very valuable 40 pages."
*Use to introduce research skills to children especially younger children.
*For older children, compare/contrast other books about weather by creating a chart to list facts about weather from each one:
- The Weather Identification Handbook: The Ultimate Guide for Weather Watchers by Storm Dunlop - ISBN 9781585748570
- Weather (Eye Wonder by DK Publishing - ISBN 9780756603236
- Weather (Eye Witness) by Brian Cosgrove - ISBN 9780756630065
- Oh, Say Can You Say What's the Weather Today?: All About Weather (Cat in the Hat's Learning Library) by Aristides Ruiz - ISBN 9780375822766
- Weather Words and What Do They Mean by Gail Gibbons - ISBN 9780823409525 - (This book is in comic book format.)