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Staff Picks: Grand Canyon

Children’s author and artist Jason Chin is best known for his innovative spins on nonfiction topics, and his newest project, “Grand Canyon”, does not disappoint. This engaging picture book highlights one of America’s most beloved landforms.

Cover Grand Canyon 1The text begins with the basics: “Rivers carve canyons. When they cut down into the earth, canyons grow deeper. As weathering and erosion break apart their walls, canyons grow wider. Over time, rivers wash all of the eroded material away. These processes have been at work for millions of years, relentlessly excavating the mighty gorge known as…GRAND CANYON.” Plenty of facts are shared, but as the rest of the book proves, the subject is “much more than just a big hole in the ground.” Grand Canyon’s geology, history, wildlife, and even vacation experience are brought to life through a lively mixture of text and image.

The illustrations extend the information in myriad ways. As a fictional girl and her father are shown backpacking, small holes in the book’s pages serve as literal and metaphorical windows to the past. For example, the girl sees each hole as a fossil, but when readers turn the page the image from each peephole becomes part of a larger illustration. These bigger pictures represent periods of history that the girl then experiences in surrealist fashion; she is transported to see her surroundings under the ocean, covered in mud, and accompanied by lizards and dragonflies (with 8-inch wingspans, no less).

Each main illustration is rectangular with a white line around it, resembling old Polaroid photographs and modern-day Instagram posts. These photo-like illustrations are surrounded by page borders that represent other elements you might see in a traditional field guide, such as ecological communities, fossil examples, and labeled plants and animals. As the characters gain elevation in their hike, they reach a lookout point at the book’s climax. Readers open a gatefold that doubles the length of the physical book and brings them right there, looking out at a realistic watercolor as if they are with the characters on the cliff’s edge.

The back of the book contains additional information as well as links to titles and websites readers can explore for further learning. All in all, this book is jam-packed with a little bit of everything; because it was made in capable hands, it succeeds in presenting everyone (no matter their literary learnings) with something to appreciate.

You can put “Grand Canyon” on hold through our catalog — and don’t forget to seek out Jason Chin’s other works as well!

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