Fact Finder: A Treasure Trove of Knowledge for 8 to 12 year-olds

Author: Helen Lewis
Publisher: Metz Press
ISBN: 978-1-920268-72-5
Reviewed by Fiona de Villiers

Books based on the National Curriculum Statements should always be seriously considered by librarians, teachers or parents, as a way to reinforce key learning concepts. Schools and families should most certainly add Fact Finder: A Treasure Trove of Knowledge for 8- to 12-yearolds to their collections. Lovingly compiled by Helen Lewis, it’s all that a compendium should be.

Some compendiums fail to impress: Fact Finder is top of the class

Such resources can easily fail to impress – many authors’ ambitions are simply too grand, the result being a chaotic jumble of poorly laid-out facts and figures. In other cases I’ve seen, the visual design – so key in children’s books – is simply boring. In still others, material is outdated. One has to bear in mind that this age group – 8 to 12-year-olds – are the really digitally savvy learners, able to absorb, process and apply large chunks of brand new data, with the right assistance.

In the case of Fact Finder, it’s easy to see that Lewis cares both about children and what they read. She’s even taken the time to acknowledge special images contained in the book – a nice touch. A foreword by a Cape Town-based primary school Principal is another. The ‘trove’ – and what an apt description that is – is carefully organised according to the learning areas contained in the curriculum. So we begin with Science and the human body. It must have been difficult to limit each explanation – I thought Lewis had done a fine job in presenting not too little, and not too much.

All that’s expected and more

From Science, Lewis moves onto Maths – and this is really the litmus test of the book. As she does throughout, here she presents not only a variety of fascinating snippets from a wide range of local and global sources (did you know that the ancient Greeks used a clepsydra, or water clock?), but also an invigorating array of different kinds of pictures. I especially liked that fact the Lewis spent time dwelling on what she calls ‘Maths Magic’ – inviting children to explore patterns. If more teachers adopted such an approach, more children would, I believe, enjoy Maths.

The Social Sciences section is full of all the requisite facts about diversity, and then some. I loved that Lewis included, for example, a little bit about Great Zimbabwe. Too often textbooks omit information about our neighbouring countries impressive histories. Historical roots and diversity issues also form part of the section on language, one of my favourites in this book. There is no way that I can possibly share with you everything in this fantastic read, although I’m sorely tempted to do so. Unless you get your hands on Fact Finder, you’ll never know what wonders await in the Arts and Culture, Economics, Life Orientation and Technology sections. And you’ll never have the chance, if asked the question, “Are you smarter than a sixth grader?” to give the resounding yet simple answer, “Yes!”

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Category: Book Reviews, Winter 2011

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