9th March '16
The Lonely Planet Kids Let's Explore Jungle is a good educational activity book for 5 years plus. It contains a surprising amount of information, but it is delivered in short bite - sized paragraphs, which are carefully limited and presented on the page so that they don't overwhelm the child and are easily accessible to young readers.
The book is nicely organised so that the activities are varied and interesting throughout the book. There are sticker jungle scenes to populate, jungle themed finding and spotting activities, jungle animal drawing tuition's, spot the differences, coloring in, logic exercises, jungle animal spellings and word searches, color by numbers, mazes, Q & A matching, and dot to dots to complete. So you can be sure there is something in there that every child will enjoy.
It's difficult to tie the book to an age range. My 4 (nearly 5) year old really enjoyed the sticker scenes and the spotting and maze activities - but a large amount of the book was too difficult for him in terms of the logic puzzles, word searches and dot to dot (1 to 84).
I thought that it would suit my seven year old better but he found the early pages and information a bit too simple. The short paragraphs didn't grab his interest like other books have done.
Some of the pages can be a bit assumptive of previous knowledge about the jungle. My seven year old didn't know that ants could deliver a sting that is the most painful in the world and lasts 24 hours, or that a frog could be poisonous enough to kill ten men - and sure - it could be argued that this is great because by matching the fact with the wrong animal - he learnt that information.
However, for any child that hates being wrong, or having to look up the correct answer in the back of the book, or a child who will just move on because they don't know the answer or are embarrassed they don't know - it isn't a great way of encouraging knowledge confidence. It would have been good if Lonely Planet had covered these facts somewhere earlier in the book, so the child had already had some background on these questions and could take delight in matching the fact and animal with confidence.
I felt the same with the Night Fright page where children were asked to fill in the name blanks of the creatures pictured in the scene. My son had no previous knowledge of what an Ocelot was - and the book had not introduced an Ocelot up to this point. However, suddenly my son was trying to guess what the animal was and how it's name was spelt - and he got frustrated because the drawing looked like a leopard to him but he couldn't understand why the name started with an O. It might have been good if Lonely Planet has featured a short story or fact file about an Ocelot or an Armadillo in the previous pages, which would have empowered my son to learn and be able to answer the task set in this activity.
I just found too many niggly things like this - and if you are using it while you are travelling, and a child gets frustrated or stuck on something like this then it's not practical to be able to help them or explain easily, and we had to skip these and complete when we arrived home. The child can of course look at the answer page at the back of the book, but he hates doing that because it feels like cheating. At the top of the answer page it also says "Check all your answers here....but no cheating" so my son felt even worse because there was nowhere else he could find the correct answer - except here. Like reading comprehension at school, it would be better if the book was set out with some text containing or hinting at the answers earlier in the book or at the top of the page - and then questions/tasks to test knowledge and reading comprehension.
My seven year old loves natural history and science and has just read Science Quest 'Amazon Adventure'. I would say that this book doesn't quite live up to what is delivered by the similar Amazon Adventure. My son was absolutely glued to Amazon Adventure, but he doesn't pick this book up with the same relish. That doesn't mean that this book isn't good - because it does have it's own worthy merits and is interactive. However, if you are looking for a fun book to teach your 7+ year old about jungles and Rainforests, then I would say 'Amazon Adventure' Science Quest does a better job.
But as we know, children are all different and although this was a medium hit with my son because of the colourful and varied activities, it might really engage other children. It will be interesting to see what other reviewers children make of it.