By Karen Patkau
Karen Patkau’s Who Needs a Desert? is part of a six-book series on ecosystems. The series, in its entirety, covers an impressive variety of habitats. I’m happy to review this book about a hot, dry landscape; my bones, which seem to be forever frozen by the dreadful winter we had, are beginning to thaw. Just a little.
In this book, Patkau aims to teach kids about deserts: where deserts are located, how deserts are formed, what animals live in deserts, and why deserts are important. She does address all of those aspects, though her explanations seem to me to be all primary sentences within a paragraph without supporting details and information. On each page, I’m left with questions and wanting more. I want examples—and lots of them!
On a positive note, that means young readers might be motivated to find a book with more information on specific animals, or to find a more specific map to find deserts, or to learn more about the weather that forms deserts.
On a negative note, a young reader could easily realize on the first few pages that he or she is not going to learn much. I can easily see this young reader absorbing some information through the pictures, but skipping over any actual reading because the text, like the subject matter, is dry and not very informative.
Unfortunately, it seems to me that Who Needs a Desert? sits squarely between two very large groups of environmental books for children. On the one hand, there are books that offer a ton of fascinating, detailed, slightly esoteric data about deserts and the animal life within that satisfy the most curious reader. On the other hand, there are picture books that draw out a single vignette of this arid existence and help kids connect to just one tiny part of a desert. Yet this book is neither, and I think that decreases its value.
The illustrations in Who Needs a Desert?, just like the illustrations in the other books that I’ve seen, are noteworthy. Each page holds an enormous, vividly colored illustration both captivating and inviting. What I particularly like about the illustrations in this book are the morning, high noon, afternoon, and night illustrations that show how the desert animals adapt to the varying temperature in a single 24-hour period.
While I do not recommend adding this book to your shelf, I am confident there will be other kids, probably younger than the targeted age group (7 to 10 years, but I think 6-8 is more appropriate), who are similarly entranced by the illustrations. Hopefully they’ll be inspired to learn even more about our diverse earth, including its deserts.
Publisher: Tundra Books
Available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Books-a-Million!
MSRP: approximately $16
Ages: 7-10 years
Kept My Children’s Interest 3
Appealed to Advertised Age 3
I Would Purchase for My Child No
I Would Purchase as a Gift No
Overall Rating 3
All ratings on a scale of 1 (low) to 5 (high).
Meet the Reviewer!
Kate Schwarz is a full-time mom and wife living in Great Falls, VA. In addition to being a reader to her three small children, Kate is a writer, distance runner, Crossfitter, and blogger of raising kids with books at www.katesbookery.blogspot.com.