In an effort to utilize my librarian background, I am embarking on a series of book reviews, to be published every Friday. These reviews will cover computer programming books aimed at children, as well as reality-based children’s books for a Montessori lifestyle.
Technically, we refer to this category as the “visual discrimination of form,” but that seemed awfully stuffy for a book review blog post. Essentially, it’s helping a child to visually notice the differences in objects, forms, etc. Later, we’ll add other ways to distinguish differences, such as by taste, touch and smell, but at this point we’re focusing on the visual sense.
As you can tell from the chart above, I’ve broken down the “visual sense” into the three main Montessori-defined categories (as I learned them in my AMS-training). For a review on how the Sensorial work fits into a Montessori 3-6 classroom, check out my post here. You can also find book reviews on color – for beginners and more advanced youngsters.
Ages 1.5 -3.5
Hoban, Tana. So Many Circles, So Many Squares. Greenwillow Books: New York, 1998.
As with most of Hoban’s books, this one features full-length, full-color photographs of various real-life items. Bicycles and car tires are used to express the shape of a circle, but no words are mentioned. Children (and their adults) will be the ones to seek out the shapes in this book. I don’t think this is the best book to introduce shapes, but it would work well if the Montessori metal insets or the geometric cabinet have already been presented. You will want to use this book as further reinforcement of the concept of shapes.
For Montessorians — Be wary of Hoban’s inclusion of oranges and grapes to represent circles. Use this book only with the very young (who aren’t ready to grasp solids) or once the difference between shapes and solids has been firmly established.
Ages 3 and up
Onyefulu, Ifeoma. A Triangle for Adaora: An African Book of Shapes. Dutton Children’s Books: New York, 2000.
The real-life photographs of the African people (living their daily lives) makes this book a worthy choice for sharing with your young child. Thankfully, Onyefulu’s story flows nicely and helps to reinforce the various shapes that can be found in any environment. Adaora’s cousin helps her to find a triangle so that she will resume eating the paw-paw fruit. She had stopped eating it because it was such a pretty star shape. As Adaora’s cousin helps her to see all sorts of shapes, the readers are introduced to everyday life in presumably, Nigeria (as that is where the author is from). There are a number of local foods mentioned which would provide a great opportunity to introduce the children to the continent of Africa and some of its specialties (paw-paw fruit, cassava roots and plantains). This is a beautiful book that is worth sharing.
My local library didn’t have the following book -and I have far exceeded my ILL requests for the year- but Shapes in Buildings looks as if it would blend in nicely to a reality-based way of learning.
Ages 4 and up
Emberley, Ed. The Wing on a Flea: A Book About Shapes. Little, Brown & Company: Boston, 2001.
Of all the artists to produce a book on shapes, no one knows better than Ed Emberley. His Go Away, Big, Green Monster book screams “shapes” without explicitly saying so and many of his instructional drawing books break down complicated objects in a collection of shapes. Therefore, his actual book on shapes starts with a supposition – “a triangle could be the wing on a flea or the beak on a bird; if you’ll just look and see.” His silly pictures continue to feature exaggerated shapes (an admiral’s hat, a piece of confetti, a map or eyes in the dark). Parents will note that the rectangle he mentions looks a lot like a square (which is technically a rectangle), but may confuse young children who are learning otherwise.
Though I didn’t have a chance to review it, the book A Cloak for the Dreamer might be a good fit for an elementary classroom read aloud. Along those same lines, the book Grandfather Tang’s Story tells a fictionalized story based on tangram shapes. It’s quite appropriate for five-year-olds as they extend their work with tangrams (and constructive triangles).
Ages 4 and up
Brocket, Jane. Circles, Stars, and Squares: looking for shapes. Millbrook Press: Minneapolis, MN, 2013.
Brocket’s brightly colored photographs make this a book you will want to share with young children. Her proof of concept is especially useful as she clearly makes the distinction between flat shapes and solid shapes. Obviously, this book should be accompanied by hands-on activities that encourage children to simultaneously create their own shapes and solids. Montessorians should take careful note as the second shape that Brocket introduces is an oval, which looks quite similar to a Montessori ellipse. So, do your research and make sure you aren’t confusing your kids (or yourself)!
Ages 4 and up
Hoban, Tana. Cubes, Cones, Cylinders and Spheres. Greenwillow Books: New York, 2000.
This book features brightly-colored photographs that showcase geometric solids that we see in our everyday world. Traffic cones, bubbles, drums, dice and a globe are just some of the subjects featured in this book. This book is a great resource to use after a presentation on select geometric solids. Allow the children to apply their own knowledge of solids and ask them to keep track of other “solids” that they see on their way home. This book contains no words, so the resulting “answer” will provide a great starting point for a circle time discussion.
Ages 4 and up
Bryant, Jen. Georgia’s Bones. Illustrated by Bethane Andersen. Eerdman’s Books for Young Readers: Grand Rapids, MI, 2005.
“As a child, shapes often drifted in and out of Georgia’s mind.” Our story begins as we are introduced to celebrated artist, Georgia O’Keefe’s way of viewing the world. She is pictured as a young teenager gathering everyday objects – sticks, flowers, stones, leaves – to bring home and gaze upon them because they bring her pleasure. The story follows O’Keefe as she grows up to become an artist who was interested in the beauty of everyday objects. The text is short and simple and the drawings are soft and lovely, but it is Georgia’s own story of seeing different perspectives that will draw children and adults alike. Of course, you could also use this book during an art discussion with older students when discussing the concept of different perspectives and the science of observation.