The Way Things Work', 'Castle' and 'The Way We Work', are other excellent examples in this genre. My recent post 'Making Reading Exciting for Boys' covers some of this wonderful material. But why do they work?
There is something about a good cross section or diagram that got my brain whirring as a child (and still does). And the same thing seems to happen for many boys. Why? I think there are a bunch of reasons:
Cross sections and diagrams offer a better sense of size, quantity and significance - You can read about the famous crossing of the Indian Ocean by Chinese Admiral Zheng He in 1405-1407, but understanding the shear scale of his 'Treasure Fleet' becomes a jaw dropper when Biesty's fold out drawing of the largest fleet ever sailed by a single commander is revealed. Seeing 62 nine-masted treasure ships, 47 eight-masted horse ships, 48 seven-masted supply ships, 60 five-masted cannon carrying warships, 40 patrol boats and 20 water tankers helps you to visualize the shear scale and wonder of this phenomenon.
Cross sections stir the imagination - They encourage boys (and girls) to come up with their own ideas and to represent the learning that has been stimulated in new ways. As soon as Jacob finished reading the book with me he raced off to find some cardboard to make up his own board game of the Hillary & Norgay ascent of Everest. We then had to play it and 'relive' the journey through the game. It had many novel elements. For example, if you failed to land on the spot where you received a critical rope you were doomed not to make the descent safely. Spontaneous child-initiated activities of this type enrich the experience of the book, stimulate the imagination and reinforce learning.
Books that incorporate diagrams, cross-sections and maps have special interest for boys as readers and learners. They encourage them to read and use visual material to reinforce and enrich learning as well as stimulating their imagination and creativity. I would love to hear your recommendations for similar books.
Short video introduction to Stephen Biesty's book 'Stowaway'
For a full description of Stephen Biesty's work visit his website HERE