Children’s Book Review: Look up! by Jen Thorpe/ Lauren Nel

Jen Thorpe wrote the book “LOOK UP”. Jen Thorpe is a South African researcher and a feminist writer. She has worked with international and local organizations on gender equality issues. Look Up is one of her children’s books that is insightful and attention-grabbing, a book intended for the younger reader. The design and illustrations of the book are lustrous and colorful, making it an adventure to read with every turn of a page. This and the pictures that are realistic and relatable bring out the principal theme of ‘flying objects’, making it easy for a child to take it out of the book and apply it in the outside everyday life. Because the realistic aspect is there, it does not take away the fun and light-hearted nature of a children’s book. A child can identify the living organisms such as mammals, birds, and insects that fly and their characteristics. The book also portrays that there are technologies that allow people to fly, such as the airplane. The author therefore adequately portrays the theme of flight to a child on a large spectrum. These characteristics of the book give room for adult–child / reader-listener interactions in scenarios whereby the book is being read out to a child. For example:

Wow, look up!

What do you see?

Using interjections, exclamations, and questions in the book, as evidenced by the above sentences, unlock the imaginative traits of an immature mind through opening up channels for participation during the reading venture.

  Putting myself in the shoes of a child that is still learning time and phase orientation, I can safely say that “LOOK UP” offers the experience of time identification as day phases: morning, afternoon, and evening. The book shows that there are certain beauty and qualities associated with different times of the day that we can appreciate. Various animals are depicted in the book, and it shows a reader that some animals are more active at night, such as the bats that are said to be:

“…eating insects for their dinner’’.

From this, a child learns the food that some birds eat … The book also informs on animal habitats, for example, bees and hives.

The recurring theme of flight and flying is hard to ignore as the writer efficiently points it out through discoursing the different birds, such as sugarbirds, geese, sunbirds, yellow-billed kites, and owls. One also gets to see the flying insects depicted in the book, such as bees and butterflies. The book also shows the non-breathing things that can fly, as evidenced by the airplane and the shooting stars in the book.

LOOK UP is a beautifully written book with rhyming words and a hint of assonance that makes the reading and listening experience pleasurable:

‘’Bees buzzing …’’

‘’Soaring high in the sky’’

‘’A flutter of butterflies over flowers’’

It showed the theme of flight through the diction in the book. The action and sounds that the birds and insects make when in flight mode, such as buzzing, soaring, and fluttering. All this seeks to support the argument that the author adequately portrays the theme of flight in the book.

The book, though, is too short. That is not necessarily a bad thing, since most young children have a shorter attention span. However, since the book is an opportunity to unlock creativity and offer children room to learn, a few more pages would have been more ideal.

Using constricted or shortened forms of words and phrases can confuse someone that is still learning to read and write. In the following sentence, a child can find the phrase ‘’we’re ‘’ somewhat hard to grasp, especially when the child is still being introduced to phonetics and word forms.

Even when we’re dreaming, there is so much to see!

As an overall assessment and rating of the book, I would give it 8 out of 10. That is a thumbs-up. I recommend it, especially for younger children: 5-year-olds and below. 

Review by Charlotte Chitambo

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