Under Your Feet (Review)
Updated: Nov 21, 2020
Interest Level: Kindergarten to Grade 3
Author: Jackie Stroud and Marc Redmile-Gordon
Illustrator: Wenjia Tang
Publisher: DK Publishing, 2020
Reading Level: Lexile IG850L
Retail: $14.99, Hardcover
Summary: An illustrated exploration of things found in the ground, both living and non-living. It includes some information about the effects of global warming and human activities on healthy soil.
Under My Feet caught my eye because it is billed as a collaborative effort between DK Publishing and the Royal Horticultural Society. Officially, its authors are Dr. Jackie Stroud (soil scientist) and Dr. Marc Redmile-Gordon (climate change scientist), however, they do not get front cover billing like the illustrator Wenjia Tang does. I appreciate non-fiction books that have subject matter experts as authors or consultants.
If you are used to DK Eyewitness books with photos against a white backdrop, this book will seem very different to you. While there are a few cutouts of animal photos added to some pages, the book consists of full color spreads intended to appeal to younger children. Each page has a large title, medium sized text summary, and small captions next to illustration elements. Mid-size text snakes across the page to highlight specific facts, some of which are quite odd ("Astronauts tasted moon dust!").
While I am not a biologist, soil scientist, or climatologist, I get the sense that the content of this book is generally accurate and up to date. However, the language is not consistent. In some places, the reader is given fairly technical information and jargon. In others, the voice changes to a colloquial tone.
The biggest problem with this book is the physical way information is presented. Pages are so full of text and images that the effect is overwhelming. Where to start? It took me a few minutes to figure out that the text only makes sense if you read it from large to small, ignoring the text/fact snakes until the end. Often the main summary paragraph is difficult to find.
Under Your Feet has many of the elements that are popular in the children's book industry right now: fun fonts, text arranged to follow the illustrations, multi-sized text, sideways spreads, photographs combined with drawn backgrounds, cute animals, playful endpapers, textured cover, spot lamination. Yet, this book fails at its intended purpose - to educate and inspire children. It is not cohesive and feels like the content has been forced into DK's template.
I can only assume that the authors had very little say in the final design of Under Your Feet. They clearly know their subject matter, but the book is simply over-produced.