Monday, July 14, 2008

Coffee Table Science

When it comes to nurturing my own kid’s interest in the natural world, Ive realized that large format photography books — though published primarily for an adult audience — can be a great resource. We have a number of these books at home, most acquired as reference for some writing project. They are wonderfully photographed and produced. Many of the images in these books are astounding (and astoundingly beautiful), and looking at them with a child can give us a renewed sense of what an amazing place the world can be.

Unlike reading the linear narrative in a childrens nonfiction book, looking at a book of photos can be a free-form experience, allowing us to skip around as one image or another catches our eye. And since it's not an ‘I read, you listen scenario, there are lot of opportunities for conversation about the images.

Here are a few a few favorite titles from our bookshelf (or coffee table):

The Deep
The Extraordinary Creatures of the Abyss
By Claire Nouvian

More than two hundred photos of deep-sea creatures, many of which I guarantee you've never seen before.






































Evolution
by Jean-Baptiste de Panafieu (Author), Patrick Gries (Photographer)

Dramatic black and white photos of animal skeletons ancient and contemporary. The power and beauty of the theory of evolution become apparent as one sees the relationship between the skeletons of modern animals and those of their extinct relatives.































Earth from Above
by Yann Arthus-Bertrand

There is a whole series of these books. All of them include some surprising images. These books can make a fun guessing game, as a child tries to figure out what is being shown — some scenes become quite abstract when viewed from above.







































Life - A Journey Through Time
by Frans Lanting (Author), Christine Eckstrom (Editor)

A visual, poetic survey of the evolution of life on earth.















Jungles

by Frans Lanting (Author),
Christine Eckstrom (Editor)

Another gorgeous book by the team that created Life.














These books are expensive, but they’re keepers. Some are available in paperback, or perhaps at the library. This is just a partial list — there are many other large format books of this quality, about a wide range of subjects.