Author: Michael Erb
Publisher: Tumblehome, Inc.
Suggested age range: 9-12
This beautifully illustrated children’s book is full of fantastic facts about weather, climate and the world around us. It would be a wonderful gift for primary school aged children, with plenty of engaging pictures to keep infants interested as well as lots of interesting facts and trivia to interest junior children. The author, Camilla de la Bedoyere, has written more than 200 books for children and adults, many of which explore the natural world. Cinyee Chiu, the illustrator, believes in a sustainable lifestyle and is interested in projects about environmental/climate issues.
Covering a wide range of subjects, the author and illustrator take us on a tour to discover: ‘what is weather?’ and ‘how does the weather change?’, including how forecasts and charts are made. The book also tells us about Earth’s past climate, wild weather, extremes and climate change. It covers an amazingly large range of topics and both children and adults will likely learn plenty of new information about weather and climate from reading this book together.
As you would expect, the book starts with a gentle introduction to the atmosphere, the Sun and the wind, but it soon goes beyond the more basic kids’ weather books as it shows examples of how wind is measured with the Beaufort Scale. The water cycle and formation of clouds is shown with accurate representations of the different types of cloud. In the section on how the weather changes, it starts with a selection of nature’s weather warnings, where I learnt a new and interesting fact about how crickets chirrup faster and louder as the temperature rises! This is nicely followed by an overview of how storms develop and how we forecast the weather. The only thing that is missing from this section is some time spent in the book talking about supercomputers and the importance of number crunching, which is somewhat glossed over. However, unlike other children’s books about weather, it is nice that this book includes information about weather charts and weather records. There is a large section on world weather, which spans from Earth’s past climate (both hot and cold) to climates and seasons, making links to migrations and the impacts of weather and climate on people. A weather book would not be complete without sections on wild weather, from hurricanes and tornadoes to extreme and strange weather, which is covered very well by this author and illustrator. Finally, climate change has a prominent place in this excellent book, with a focus on renewable energy and how it is generated.
The illustrations in this book are beautiful and the content very engaging and interesting, giving the perfect combination to keep children and adults interested from front to back cover. Dr Sylvia Knight (RMetS) was consulted during the writing of the book, so we can feel confident that the content is accurate. I would definitely recommend this book for primary age school children – a great gift and lovely to read with them as an adult too!
The Society has been given the chance to review three new climate change books aimed at a very similar audience:
Climate Crisis for Beginners
Andy Prentice and Eddie Reynolds
Usborne Publishing Ltd, 2020
Summary: a very comprehensive, engaging and current book for upper primary/ lower secondary aged students
“How important is this crisis? Not everyone agrees about this. This book is here to help you make up your own mind.”
With bright, simple illustrations and a cartoon-like style, it is aimed at young people – the recommended age range is 10+. I suspect that it will appeal most to the 10-14 age range, and then again to slightly older people who will not feel patronised by the style but will have interest in the content. My 14 year-old daughter was put off both by ‘for beginners’ and the appearance of the book. Being much older than that, I struggled a bit with the style – I didn’t know which bit to read next.
Andy Prentice and Eddie Reynolds are authors and editors at Usborne and have consulted with Steve Smith (University of Oxford) and Ajay Ghambir (Imperial College, London) in writing this book. Ed Hawkins (University of Reading) and Richard Betts (University of Exeter) also contributed. There are 5 chapters – The Basics; How sure are we? What do we do? What’s stopping us? And What can I do?
The book manages to walk the tightrope of accuracy v. oversimplification very well. Of course, that balance will never be perfect – for me, for example, it’s missing a discussion of water vapour in the section about greenhouse gases. However, it introduces an impressively broad range of concepts and vocabulary associated with climate science and climate change more generally.
Climate Crisis for Beginners conveys the significance of climate change together with the many and various political and social issues as well as the viewpoints and priorities of individuals. However, for me, the strength of this book lies in the weight it puts on the solutions and opportunities already available. It is not all doom and gloom.
One concern that I do have is just how quickly the book will become out of date – in one or two places it already has.
I asked my 11 year-old daughter to read it – here are some of her thoughts (I have corrected the spelling): “When I first looked at this book, it looked colourful and full of interesting ideas and visions of the future. The information is presented in a fun way with lots of subtitles and boxes so that you can find what you need easily. I like all the different points of view and the reasoning behind the different answers to questions.”
The book concludes “Now that you’ve read this book, you’ve got the tools to imagine the future that you want and an idea of how to start your journey towards it.”
Climate Action: The Future is in our Hands
Illustrator Katie Rewse
Little Tiger Press, 2021
Summary: A bright, positive reference book for upper primary aged children, focussing on climate change impacts, mitigation and action
“In this book, we share the facts, but we also share hope.
Learn about the causes of climate change and how it is affecting our world.
Explore the human impact and what it means to have a carbon footprint.
Read about creative ideas for tackling the climate crisis.
Be inspired by positive stories from young changemakers around the globe.
Get tips on how to take action and reduce your carbon footprint.”
The recommended age range for this book is 7-12 and the bright, colourful and relatively simple design and illustrations are geared towards the younger end of that age range. Having said that, my daughters, aged 11 and 14 both really enjoyed it, particularly liking the embossed cover. This is a book which is nice to hold – possibly justifying its price which includes the cost of planting a tree. The layout is as a reference book, making extensive use of subtitles, with each double page spread covering one topic, such as greenhouse gases, tropical storms or our clothes. The ratio of text to images is appealing and the text and images are appropriate to the literacy and numeracy skills of the intended age group.
Georgina Stevens is a sustainability writer, advisor and campaigner. In each topic she features a ‘what can we do’ section with small, achievable changes that young people and their families could make. The book also features a number of ‘changemakers’ and ‘groundbreakers’ – young people from around the world who have already developed sustainability initiatives or got involved in the climate change movement. What the book is missing, though, is the big, complex, economic, social and political developments that could have a really significant global impact on greenhouse gas emissions.
I think that the book probably does have a nice balance of science, technology and positivity for the upper primary age range. The science parts of the book aren’t completely accurate – I cringed when the greenhouse effect was described as a reflection of heat, and water vapour is missing from the discussion of greenhouse gases, but it’s probably appropriate for this age range.
My 11-year old sagely pointed out that the focus of the book is on now – to this age group, the past may feel slightly irrelevant and the future too unknown and intimidating.
Palm Trees at the North Pole, The Hot Truth about Climate Change
Marc ter Horst
Illustrated by Wendy Panders
Greystone Kids, 2021
Summary: a science book best suited to early secondary school aged students who like reading. Don’t be put off by the title.
“Once upon a time, there were palm trees at the North Pole. Can you picture that? The most tropical of trees in a place where now there is only snow and ice. In the future, they might reappear. Because the climate is constantly changing.”
Firstly, the title. My 11 year-old daughter’s first comment was about the fact that there isn’t any land at the North Pole. Although the book does touch on continental drift, the author never really explains ‘palm trees at the North Pole’ nor justifies the extension to the future and, for anyone inclined to be sceptical about climate science, this is a very easy target. However, the book does merit passing this first hurdle.
The author, Marc ter Horst, has written several other non-fiction titles for young people. His interests in geology and evolution are apparent in the book, a large section of which focusses on the past. This is a book which is designed to be read from cover to cover rather than dipped in to. It is made up of double page case studies linked together in a fairly simple, frequently light-hearted story-telling style which will appeal to some readers, particularly those who don’t much like reference book style facts and figures. Inevitably the style means that some processes are over-simplified. However, explaining, say, the Milankovitch cycles in story form is an impressive achievement.
The story starts with the early evolution of the Earth and, passing through Keeling curves and hockey sticks progresses to the impacts of climate change. Adaptation and mitigation strategies don’t really start being mentioned until p. 138 and its only after that – if the reader has got that far – that positive opportunities for preventing climate change start being introduced. This is not a book that will help much with the rise of eco-anxiety in young people.
A unique feature is that the book finishes with ‘climate bingo’ and the instruction to cross off events as they happen – with events covering a questionable choice of climate change impacts and mitigation and adaptation strategies.
My daughter thought the illustrations, which are simple and sometimes add to the text but are mostly just decorative, were her favourite part. Aimed at readers aged 8-12, it is quite text heavy and I think most 8 year-olds would struggle with it.
In this teachers’ guide and the accompanying online teaching resources, we aim to give UK geography teachers all that they need to deliver relevant, engaging and thorough weather and climate lessons to 11–14+ year old students. They are not linked to any specific curriculum but should be easily adaptable to all.
The book is accompanied by high quality online background information/professional development resources for teachers.
The Royal Meteorological Society believes that:
To this end, we have embedded a climate change thread throughout the online resources, showing its relevance to both weather and climate. An understanding of weather and climate is fundamental to an understanding of climate change.
There is a progression of knowledge through the topics, supported by review and assessment activities. The resources also progressively develop key geographical skills such as data, mapwork, GIS, fieldwork and critical thinking.
In this guide, we include common misconceptions which should be challenged in the classroom.
There are 20 topics or chapters. Across these, there are three threads or paths which can be taken through the online resources, depending on the teaching time available:
Basic weather: Weather in our lives, weather measurements, weather and climate, global atmospheric circulation, global climate zones, air masses, pressure and wind and water in the atmosphere
Climate: Weather and climate, global atmospheric circulation, global climate zones, past climate change, polar climate, hot deserts, changing global climate, UK climate, changing UK climate, the climate crisis
Extending weather: Anticyclones, depressions, microclimates, urban weather, tropical cyclones.
Many of the online teaching resources are available with standard or easier versions, as well as extension or alternative activities.
Find the scheme of work, teaching resources, background information for teachers, as well as the Teachers’ Guide (copies of which may be printed on request), here.
All the online resources will be updated and revised regularly.
Weather in 30s
Author: Dr. Jen Green consultant Prof Adam Scaife
Publisher: Ivy Kids
Suggested age range: KS2/3 (7-14)
A lovely short book, with short, accurate explanations eg, ideas for simple experiments eg and calculations to demonstrate atmospheric processes and helpful illustrations. It was a great idea to put a glossary at the start of each section.
The book is divided into 6 sections: Earth’s weather, climate and seasons, all kinds of weather, extreme weather, predicting the weather and climate change. I have slight reservations about some of the statements in the climate change section, but would otherwise definitely recommend this book.
This book could easily be used by KS3 geography teachers in the classroom.
Some comments from students at the lower end of the recommended age range:
Annabel and Grace: “I really like this book because it is really colourful and creative. The illustrations are very good and quite funny. The best book ever!”
Sophie and Pippa: “In this book you will learn everything from earth’s weather and predicting the weather to climate change. The book looks very interesting because every page is a different colour. There are lots of interesting facts in this book and I don’t know which of them is my favourite so I am going to choose all of them.”
A review by Hannah, at the upper end of the recommended range:
‘Weather in 30s’ is exactly what its title suggests – a concise collection of weather related topics explained fully and clearly in this interesting, educational volume. The summaries at the end of each page help the reader quickly understand the topic on the page, and the 3 minute missions at the ends of some of the pages help you to understand further the science of it, in a fun way. There is a glossary at the start of each chapter which gives a simple, clear explanation of some of the harder words. Also, the fantastic illustrations contribute to the text, helping to give a clear picture. The actual worded content is also great- it is easy to understand and concise. The book successfully taught me about the covered topics; I understood them well. I’d definitely recommend it!
How the Weather Works
Author: Christiane Dorion and Beverley Young
Suggested age range: KS2/3 (7-14)
If you are interested in the weather or have a question about the wind, rain or clouds then this book is for you. How the weather works is a hands-on book with flaps to open, tabs to pull, wheels to turn, and a giant pop-up of a hurricane. It is packed with illustrations along with interesting facts and is packed full of information. There some experiments to try out yourself and things to make so you can take your own weather observations. You could read this book from front to back or find out one or two facts. Younger children aged 5-7 may enjoy the pop-ups and interactive pictures but to get the most from this book I suggest the reader needs to be 9-11 years old. I really enjoyed it.
By Amber Bentley (Aged 11)
In just 16 pages, this wonderful book covers the structure of the atmosphere, solar radiation, the water cycle, clouds, fronts, convection, air pressure, air masses, the global atmospheric circulation, making weather observations, forecasting, synoptic charts, hurricanes, regional climate, palaeoclimates and anthropogenic climate change. With so much information in a very small space, it avoids being dry by using a huge variety of presentation styles, including many diagrams, pop-up models, tabs to pull and wheels to turn. The book covers concepts and uses vocabulary that would usually only be introduced in science and geography lessons at secondary school, but the style makes it accessible to much younger children.
However, my main recommendation about this book is that, unlike some other books aimed at a similar age range, I can’t find a single mistake or oversimplification in it. My one concern is about how long it would last, if small children or a lot of children were using it. The book’s companion, “How the World Works”, won the Royal Society Young People’s Book Prize in 2011.
The Book of Clouds
Author: Juris Kronbergs
Publisher: The Emma Press
Suggested age range: 8+
Price: £9.25 rrp (hardback)
In this delightful, whimsical and charmingly illustrated book, Juris Kronbergs explores the appearance and ephemeral nature of clouds in 26 poems. My favourites include one in which a cloud has a nightmare about evaporating, and one where real cloud names morph into descriptive ones and then into imagined ones. At the end of the book, the author gives ideas about how to write or illustrate a poem. The annotated illustrations are great fun and complement the poems, making the book one that you can look at for much longer than it takes to read the words.
This isn’t a book which will leave you knowing more about the weather – except maybe a few cloud names. However, it will encourage readers to look up at the sky and develop a deeper appreciation of our atmosphere. I was very impressed by the translation – these poems were originally written in Latvian, but the translated rhymes don’t feel contrived.
The Book of Clouds (not to be confused with John Day’s guide of the same name, or Chloe Aridjis’ novel) is officially aimed at 8+ and to some extent, the look of the book is right for an upper primary student. At the younger end of that range, children will find poems and illustrations that make them smile – and teachers will welcome the links with the water cycle. Older readers will appreciate the word play, references and ideas in some of the poems. This is a book that adults, particularly those who appreciate both clouds and poems, will also enjoy.
30 Second Meteorology: The 50 Most Significant Events and Phenomena, each explained in Half a Minute
Editor: Adam Scaife
Publisher: Ivy Press
Suggested age range: 16+
This is a beautiful and tactile coffee table book, whilst being a handier size than most coffee table books. It consists of seven sections (The elements, The global atmosphere, the Sun, Weather watching and forecasting, can we change the weather, weather cycles and extreme weather), each with a glossary, a handful of topics and profiles of historical leaders in their fields such as Milankovitch, Rossby, Walker and Richardson. The text has been contributed by 9 leading meteorologists from the UK and beyond with each topic consisting of a short description/ explanation, even shorter summaries and a related illustration on the facing page. Good cross referencing and a consistent layout throughout make it a very easy book to dip in to.
Its lack of equations, charts and graphs make it an unintimidating book, although it does occasionally slip into jargon.
This brings us on to the interesting question of who this book is best suited to. I showed it to a group of geography teachers, who thought it was perfect for people like them who ‘ought to know but maybe don’t’. I think maybe this could be extended to include people who ‘would like to know’.
30 Second Climate: The 50 Most Topical Features, Measurements and Phenonema, each explained in Half a Minute
Editor: Joanna D. Haigh
Publisher: Ivy Press
Suggested age range: 16+
This is a beautiful and tactile guide to the climate system; a companion to ‘30 –Second Meteorology’ which came out in 2016. It consists of seven sections (‘The Earth’s Climate System’, ‘Heating and Cooling’, ‘Water’, ‘Life and Biogeochemical Cycles’, ‘Observations and Modelling’, ‘Changing Climate’ and ‘The Future’) each with a glossary, a handful of topics and profiles of historical leaders in their fields such as Köppen, Tyndall, Keeling and Calendar. In her introduction, Joanna Haigh writes “understanding how the climate works is both hugely challenging and endlessly fascinating”- the book looks at what the climate is, how it works, ways in which it can be observed and how it might change in the future.
The text has been contributed by 19 leading meteorologists from the UK and beyond. Each topic consists of a short description/ explanation, accompanied by even shorter summaries and related biographies. Each topic has an illustration on the facing page – not a chart or graph, but an artist’s impression of the subject, created by combining photos with other artwork. The first six sections of 30-Second Climate focus on the historical study and underlying scientific understanding and processes of climate.
However, unsurprisingly, by the time you reach the final, ‘Future’, section the information becomes much more current and I suspect that it will therefore feel quite dated in just a few years.
Comparing it to a similar recent publication – Mark Maslin’s ‘Climate, A very short introduction’, the first thing that stands out is that 30-Second Climate is something to enjoy looking at in odd moments, rather than to put into a pocket or bag to read on the train. Whereas Maslin’s book is designed to be read from beginning to end, 30-Second climate is a very easy book to dip in to – helped by good cross referencing and a consistent layout throughout.
Its lack of equations, charts and graphs make it an unintimidating book, although it does occasionally slip into technical language. It’s not a textbook but would appeal to anyone with basic scientific literacy with an interest in finding out more about the climate system. Susan Solomon’s foreword concludes “It deserves wide readership among those fascinated by the natural environment and our role in preserving it”.
The Cloudspotter’s Guide
Author: Gavin Pretor-Pinney
Suggested age range: 16+
Weather: a concise introduction
Author: Hakim & Patoux
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Suggested age range: 16+