One-Minute Book Reviews

September 14, 2007

Do Children’s Books Need Pictures? Quote of the Day

Many people assume that books for young children need – or at least benefit from – pictures. But is it true? Canadian scholar Perry Nodelman writes that many parents and teachers think that children respond more readily to pictures than to words:

“Yet there is no irrefutable psychological or pedagogical reason that young children should be told the vast majority of their [stories] through combinations of words and pictures. Indeed, there is evidence that the presence of pictures in books may be pedagogically counterproductive; in a study of young children beginning to learn to read, the psychologist S. Jay Samuels confirmed his hypothesis ‘that when pictures and words are presented together, the pictures would function as distracting stimuli and interfere with the acquisition of reading responses’… and presumably, therefore, of the story information that texts convey. Given the opportunity, as were most children prior to the last century and as some modern children in developing countries still are, many young children find it possible to enjoy listening to or reading books without illustrations.”

Perry Nodelman in Words About Pictures: The Narrative Art of Children’s Picture Books (University of Georgia Press, 1988). Words About Pictures is an excellent reference book for critics, scholars and others and perhaps the best available study of the relationship between words and pictures in children’s picture books.

© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

June 5, 2007

Lorne Rubenstein’s ‘A Season in Dornoch: Golf and Life in the Scottish Highlands’

A memoir of playing on the best golf course you’ve never heard of

Sports books sell in inverse proportion to the size of the ball, publishing lore says. Golf books sell better than baseball books, which sell better football books. And apart from athletes’ memoirs, the best-selling golf-books tend to be instructional manuals (like Golf for Dummies) or coffee table–toppers (like the opulent Where Golf Is Great: The Finest Courses of Scotland and Ireland).

A Season in Dornoch: Golf and Life in the Scottish Highlands (Citadel, $14.95, paperback) transcends those categories. Globe and Mail golf columnist Lorne Rubenstein offers a beautifully written account of a summer that he spent living in the Scottish Highlands and playing golf at the Royal Dornoch Golf Club, a place with a cult following instead of the superstardom of spots like St. Andrews and Gleneagles.

But Rubenstein’s book is about more than the mystique of this remote and storied course. A Season in Dornoch is about Scottish history, Highland music and the allure of playing on links (“a landscape of blown sand created by the action of the wind on the seashore”). Sean Connery, the world’s best-known Scottish nationalist, wrote the foreword. And five-time British Open champion Tom Watson rightly says in a blurb: “Rubenstein gives the reader a feel for what makes the appeal of the Highlands so enduring. He brings the place and its people to life.”

© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

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