Samantha Grover (text), Camille Heisler (illus.) Exploring Soils: a hidden world underground, CSIRO Publishing, June 2017 32pp., $24.95 (hbk) ISBN 9781486305001
This narrative information book follows young James as he digs, gardens, builds sandcastles and makes pottery, exploring and investigating different types of soils as he goes. Despite the opening sentence where he says, “I work on soils”, (which sounds more like an adult speaking rather than a child), the story and illustrations show him doing normal activities like digging holes with his dog, planting sunflower seeds, playing at the beach and doing science and art activities at school.
Along the way, he explains the different types of soil, how it forms, the importance of microbes, insects and animals such as worms and the uses to which soil can be put. These include throwing pots, growing vegetables and making ochres and other paints in traditional Aboriginal ways.
The attractive illustrations in pencil and watercolour are a mix of full-page or double-page spreads, although there are some smaller vignettes to emphasise certain points. The arrangement of the text on the page sometimes follows the illustrations in curvy lines and the more scientifically accurate pictures contain labels.
Soil scientist Samantha Grover has written a child-friendly book imparting lots of information about an interesting topic whilst not being in the slightest way didactic.
Reviewed by Lynne Babbage