Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Behind the Books: Just the Right Word, Part 4

Meaningful comparisons enrich text by associating something that is unfamiliar with something that they know well. Similies and metaphors are powerful because they can help a reader envision a place or understand a challenging concept with ease.

Here’s an example from my book The Eyes Have It! The Secrets of Eyes and Seeing.


Imagine being able to grab one of your eyeballs and pop it out of your head. How would it feel? How large would it be? Would the world look any different without it?

To find out what an eyeball feels like, peel the skin off a grape. Close your eyes and gently pinch it. Then roll it around in your hand. Your eyeball feels just like that grape—soft and a little bit squishy.

But your eyeball is bigger than a grape. It’s about the size of a SuperBall. Packed inside, more than two million parts work together to peek, peer, and probe your surroundings.

Here are some other books that make superlative use of comparative techniques.

If You Hopped Like a Frog by David Schwartz contain text like this:

If you swallowed like a snake . . .
you could gulp a hot dog thicker than a telephone pole.

If you scurried like a spider . . .
you could charge down an entire football field in just two seconds.

Comparisons like this really help kids get a sense of how the animals all around us experience the world, and how thye have amazing adaptations to help them survive in their habitats.

I especially like Actual Size (and its companion Prehistoric Actual Size) by Steve Jenkins because it's full of visual comparisons. Kids can compare the size of their hands to a gorilla's hand. They can see just how large an alligator's head really is. Kids will probbaly never get up close and personal with the animals in these books, so here's their chance to really get a sense of the each creature's true size and scale.

Can you think of other examples? If so, please list them in the comments section for everyone to see.

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