Nerdy Babies is a new picture book series on earthly and interstellar topics from artist, writer, and teacher Emmy Kastner.
I have to admit — factoids on animals (especially my son’s current fascination with the extinct ones) can bore the tears out of me. But these non-fiction books manage to do exactly the opposite and capture the attention of even the youngest of readers from the very first page:
“Do you ever wonder about the ocean?” writes Kastner. And: “Do you ever wonder about space?”
You probably do.
Ocean and Space are at once informative and accessible — they’re playfully illustrated with personified animals and elements of nature (think, a happy, waving sun), complete with bright colors and contemporary brush-strokes with a nod to a vintage, timeless illustration style. Little is assumed of our young readers, and why should it be? An illustration of a sphere that is blue, green, and white is not an intuitive representation of our planet. Kastner connects the dots by drawing arrows to identify the “blue stuff” (the ocean) and the “green stuff” (land).
Even though these books are intended for the smallest of readers (ages 0-3), the great surprise is that both my pre-schooler and first-grader delighted in them, partly because they took such pleasure in the babies’ adorable exclamations and cutie-pie moves:
“Why are we floating?” asks one baby in space. In Oceans, another takes a nap on Pier 39 next to the snoozing seals.
As an almost-40 year old, I even learned a thing or two. Case in point: “Jupiter has 79 moons!” Even for the child who cannot yet grasp the concept of our solar system (let’s be honest, I still have trouble envisioning the scope of our universe), there is something to grab hold to, even if is as simple as a flash of recognition that 79 is an almost-impossible number: “I can’t count that high yet,” says one of the nerdy babies.
These books work as conversation starters, door-openers, and sparks for our youngest readers: “we learn more about our solar system and the whole universe every day!” writes Kastner. And: “there are many species that haven’t been discovered yet.”
My kids’ eyes are wide as they take this in— the depth and magnitude of our oceans; the unbelievable expanse of outer-space.
But it doesn’t last long, because soon enough they’re cracking up at the sight of a make-believe creature skirting the ocean floor, captioned with an arrow to text that reads: “Maybe this exists?”
Now they’re in on the joke — they have a leg up on those nerdy babies who actually think that a pink unicorn puff-ball with rainbow light-up tentacles might actually live in deep ocean waters.
“It can’t possibly!” They say.
And then a pause.
Nerdy Babies series by Emmy Kastner, published by Roaring Brook Press (2019)
Find these titles in your local independent bookshop.
A note about this review: I received free advance reader copies of these books from Macmillan. I am under no obligation to review these books and all opinions are my own.