Grand Canyon

Book review by
Kyle Jackson, Common Sense Media
Grand Canyon Book Poster Image
Informative, imaginative, gorgeous intro to natural history.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

The explanations of geological concepts are straightforward and well-illustrated, making the book an ideal introduction to natural history. More text-heavy, scientific analysis is featured in the epilogue, offering curious readers more details about the processes depicted in the preceding pages. 

Positive Messages

The stated goal of the author is to inspire people to consider the history and significance of the landscapes they encounter. As he writes in an Author's Note, "It's imagination that makes both science and art possible."

Positive Role Models & Representations

It's always positive to see kids visiting national parks and getting a chance to learn and experience the outdoors. It's also nice see the warm mentoring relationship of the Asian-American dad and his curious, eager daughter.

Violence & Scariness
Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Jason Chin's Grand Canyon, which won a 2018 Caldecott Honor, is a highly educational, beautifully rendered introduction to the natural history and present ecology of one of North America's most spectacular wonders. Framed in an engaging story of a dad and daughter exploring the national park, it features detailed descriptions of the geological processes that formed the canyon, as well as imaginative depictions of what the region may have looked like millions of years ago. This scientific picture book is perfect for enthusiastic young hikers, campers, and observers of the natural world, especially for those planning a trip to the Southwest. 

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What's the story?

GRAND CANYON is the latest science-based picture book from award-winning author-illustrator Jason Chin, whose other educational works include Redwoods and Gravity. Following a father-daughter pair of hikers trekking from the North to the South Rim of the Southwest's most breathtaking monument, Grand Canyon explains and explores the incredible geological processes that took place over millions of years that shaped the rocks and cut out the gorge. As the duo descends into the different levels of the canyon, each biome is described and illustrated, including accompanying diagrams of the plants and wildlife found there. Additionally, as the budding naturalist struggles to envision the prehistoric landscape, the illustrator -- using fossil evidence as a scientist would -- provides hypothetical scenes that show what the area might have looked like in the past, including depictions of jellyfish floating around under the sea 515 million years ago, gigantic dragonflies that cruised the canyon 280 million years ago, and sharks and shellfish that swam back as the sea returned 270 million years ago. The wide range of climates and habitats that endure in the national park each reveal a hidden history, observable in nature and diligently exposed by the hard work of scientists since the mid-1800s. Detailed diagrams of geology basics are also included throughout, showing the different layers of rocks, the progression of tectonic uplift, and several other complex but essential concepts.

Is it any good?

Wonderfully written and gorgeously illustrated, this informative picture book does justice to the marvelous landscape and intricate natural history it sets out to present. The science in Grand Canyon is sound and straightforward, transforming decades of high-level research into easily-digestible explanations and illustrations. Even if some kids' eyes glaze over when they see scientific terms, the lively artwork, and especially the dozens of easily-recognizable plants and animals that border many of the pages, will keep them engaged and excited.

Because the book has so many things that can be seen and identified, it actually serves as an excellent field guide for anyone visiting the national park or the region in general, similar to what a professional botanist or ornithologist might use. If you're planning a trip to the Grand Canyon, Jason Chin's fact-filled picture book is a perfect companion to carry along. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the history of the rocks in the Grand Canyon. What sort of events in natural history shaped their formation?

  • Are there any plants or animals in the book that you recognize from your own observations in nature?

  • No matter where you live, the land around you has a story of it's own. What's the geologic story of your hometown? What types of rocks do you have, how old are they, and how did they get to their current shape and location? Can you think of a park nearby where you can go to observe?

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