Book: Shells! Shells! Shells!
Author: Nancy Elizabeth Wallace
Age Range: 4-8
Shells! Shells! Shells!, written and illustrated by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace, is basically a lightly fictionalized information book about shells. Buddy the bear goes with his mother to the beach one spring morning. They spend the day collecting and investigating shells, with frequent food breaks thrown in. Buddy learns various facts about shells, some through observation and some via his mother. He also lightens the book by coming up with his own jokes about shells, like:
"What did the octopus have for breakfast?"
"Toast and butter with shelly!"
The jokes are certainly authentic, in that they feel like they were created by a pre-schooler. I suspect that this means that preschoolers will enjoy them, though I haven't yet been able to test this hypothesis.
What makes this book unique, however, is the format of the illustrations. The pictures are photographs of paper cutouts, mixed with real shells. Sand is conveyed using sandpaper, and I find this particularly visually appealing - tactile, but regular. Buddy and Mama are essentially jointed paper dolls - their medium brown fur cut from cardboard (or maybe paper bags), with lightly furred edges. The photographed shells show the imperfections that one would expect from real shells, making it easy for kids to match the shells in the book with shells picked up on their last beach trip. The front end papers show pictures of cold water shells, while the back end papers show warm water shells. I must say, though, that I think it would have added to the book to label the types of shells in those pictures (like in An Egg is Quiet and A Seed is Sleepy). Still, unlabeled they can be used for self-quizzes on the types of shells, so that's a plus.
There is not much of a story to this book. Buddy and Mama are mainly a vehicle for conveying facts about shells. However, I think that kids who like facts, especially facts about the ocean and sea shells, will enjoy it. The cut out illustrations are fun and eye-catching. I can imagine kids making their own cut-out figures, adding some real-world trinkets, and taking photographs, to make their own books. There is also a nice "do you know" page at the end with a summary of facts about shells, and another page describing how to make an "I Shell Return" bookmark. Overall, I think that this would be a good book to add to anyone's beach bag, or use to spark a day of book-making activities.
© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.