Grow: Secrets of Our DNA – written by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Emily Sutton


  Grow: Secrets of Our DNA – written by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Emily Sutton, Candlewick, 9781536212723, 2020 

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4

Format: Hardcover

What did you like about the book?  How to explain DNA to a young child when it’s an extremely complex piece of science and also so small that we can’t see it? Davies uses a conversational tone to show young scientists how they can see evidence of DNA all around them, especially when observing growth, a phenomenon kids get to see up close every day. The general information is always shown in large, clear sans serif type: why some things grow large and others stay small or what DNA looks like. Specific science trivia is shown in small, italic font: caterpillars turn into butterflies, 100 genes determine hair color and texture. Winsome watercolor illustrations, mostly focused on a little girl with brown skin and curly black hair as part of a mixed race family, are representational but playful. Complicated ideas are given a lot of support by these visual elements. A portrait gallery shows the girl growing from a child to a young woman, each in a different frame to denote the passage of time and the concept of how your body changes without you telling it what to do, following directions from your DNA.

Anything you didn’t like about it? No. It’s best suited to a library, where kids, families and teachers can borrow it to answer questions about genetics with a simple read aloud.

To whom would you recommend this book?  I think 4-8 would be the right age range for this book. Although there are some full page illustrations, a lot of the detail (both visual and scientific) would require study and discussion, so it’s best suited to individual or small group reading. This would be a good choice if children are beginning to ask scientific and existential questions about individuality, our relationship to other creatures, or why people have different abilities or characteristics.

Who should buy this book? Public libraries

Where would you shelve it? 572.8

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? If you need a picture book format about genetics, you should check this one out!

Reviewer: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA

Date of review: December 13, 2020

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