I’m always looking for non-animal focused, non-narrative texts for students to read. Having always been a fan of his adult “how it works” books, I’ve been curious about Macaulay’s “how it works” series of books for children. Alas, I am disappointed. See my notes below – these might be helpful when you are considering nonfiction for your own classroom or library…
Toilet: How It Works (My Readers Series – Level 4, Macaulay, 2013)
- NOT ENOUGH INFO-READER MIGHT BE CONFUSED. On page 5, Macaulay mentions “bacteria” as being in the waste our bodies make and then he makes reference to bacteria multiple other times in the book. His intro to bacteria is in this sentence on page 5 – “Bacteria produce useful nutrients. But if they get on our hands or back inside our bodies, they can make us sick.” This is the first time he discusses bacteria and it’s confusing – the student has to infer that when bacteria is IN your body, it’s okay. (Nutrients is a vague term- what are they? why are they a good thing?) Later he mentions bacteria in the aeration tank and there the “water is checked to make sure there is enough bacteria” – but there’s no explanation why bacteria are helpful. UGH. I just think if “bacteria” is going to be a thread, it needs more explanation.
- SEQUENCE STRUCTURE HAS GAPS. On page 10, Macaulay begins explaining what happens when you flush the toilet. The last line is “And keep your eye on that plastic float in the tank,” but when you turn the page, he doesn’t mention it again. On page 14, he returns to the float when he writes “As the float pulls down on the lever, fresh water enters the tank.” This is hard, folks. A student has to know that the “float” sinks as the water in the tank sinks. And then he writes, “Slowly the water rises, and so does the float. When the float stops pulling on the lever, the water shuts off.” It’s very hard to figure out from the image how the float is pulling the lever.
- NOT ENOUGH INFO – READER HAS TO INFER TOO MUCH FOR THIS DEVELOPMENTAL LEVEL. On p. 19, Macaulay writes about how when water from the septic tank seeps into the surrounding soil, it has nutrients that produce “hungry bacteria” (what does that mean?) and then he says “See the happy, green grass?” There’s just not enough info. Plus – aren’t septic tanks a bad thing? My town is subsidizing the cost of people getting rid of septic tanks because they actually poison the ground water??? (I need to do some research.)
- I could go on. MOSTLY – I think there’s some missing information and for the audience this is intended for, the gaps in info might leave the reader confused.
Eye: How It Works (My Readers Series – Level 4, Macaulay, 2013)
I liked this one better. Still some gripes, though…
- LABELS ARE PRETTY GOOD, BUT on page 7, the eye “socket” is not labeled and this is Macaulay’s intro to how the body protects the eye – “good thing each eye is protected by its own socket. “Fat” in the next sentence and “sclera” and “muscles” in the following sentences are labeled.
- LAYOUT AND DESIGN MIGHT BE CONFUSING. On page 10, the text refers to the image on the right hand side of the two-page spread (p. 11) and then the image on the left hand side of the two page spread (on page 10). So the reader has to move from Right-to-Left to use the visual images to support understanding of the running text (which is placed on the left). FOR me, this is a big no no.
- “LET’S GO OVER THE GAME SO FAR” on page 18 – Macaulay starts to review what he has discussed about the parts of the eye and how the eyes process light, BUT in the middle of the “let’s go over the game so far,” he introduces completely new information. UGH. AND in his review, he doesn’t review the terms “cones and rods” which he had explained in “the game so far.”
Okay…hope this helps.