By Karen Patkau
Karen Patkau’s Who Needs a Prairie? is part of a six-book series on ecosystems. The series, in its entirety, covers an impressive variety of habitats: Patkau covers jungles, deserts, swamps, icebergs, and reefs in the collection.
In this book, Patkau aims to teach kids about prairies, including how grasslands become prairie, what animals and plants thrive in this ecosystem, how these animals and plants depend on each other, how weather affects the prairie, and how fires restore the land. Similar to her other two books that I have read and reviewed for Washington FAMILY Magazine, Who Needs a Reef? and Who Needs a Desert?, I find this book to be a fine introduction to a prairie, but left me wanting more information and details.
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 prairies, or to learn more about the history of prairies in the United States.
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 looking at the pictures, but skipping over any actual reading because the text is dry.
Unfortunately, it seems to me that Who Needs a Prairie? 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 ecosystems 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 one animal and help kids connect to just one tiny part of a prairie. Yet this book is neither, and I think that decreases its value.
The illustrations in Who Needs a Prairie?, just like the illustrations in the other books that I’ve seen, are interesting. Each page holds an enormous, vividly colored illustration that is both captivating and inviting. Patkau excels through her art. In this book, her digital art is a good format for showing how animals can become camouflaged within nature to hide from predators. I also appreciate the index of animals and plants at the end of the book. I wish information was sprinkled throughout the book so that we understood what a vole, for example, looked like as we read about his underground activities.
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 is the target, 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 prairies.
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.