Oversize Nonfiction: Math, Anatomy, and Classification

Do you see order, beauty, and relationships in the world around you? Three recent oversized picture books require special shelving, but offer a feast for the mind.

cover image of anatomicum

Anatomicum by Jennifer Z. Paxton. Big Picture Press, 2020.

The Welcome to the Museum series is extraordinary, and Anatomicum is no exception. An elegant introduction to the extraordinary design of the human body, the drawings portray the complex systems with dignity and grace. There is no mention of evolutionary origins or primate relatives, but parents of adolescent boys will want to be aware that there are a couple of pages that are anatomically correct.

The comparison of different kinds of joints is very helpful, and showing how facial muscles create expression is fascinating, among the many other systems that are explained both visually and in text. I plan to shelve this one separately from the rest of the collection and use it discerningly, but it is worth the effort to do so. A really beautiful volume.


cover image for the language of the universe

The Language of the Universe: A Visual Exploration of Mathematics by Colin Stuart and Ximo Abadia. Big Picture Press, 2020.

While I might take issue with comparing the importance of math to the value of Shakespeare (“Shakespeare had nothing on nature”), it is true that math is woven into the fabric of the universe. From fibonacci numbers, primes, symmetry, fractals, and tessellation to protozoa, chromosomes, the periodic table, and physical laws of the universe, math matters far beyond

Yes, there’s a page on natural selection and a few mentions of evolution. They fall far short of explaining how the vast complexity described in the rest of the book could have occurred by time and chance. Why does the application on the last page have to conclude that because of mathematical wonders we should be worried about climate change? Couldn’t we marvel a little longer and come to a posture of worship towards the one who designed the universe and takes pleasure in ordering it beautifully?

Children who are fascinated by math, as well as those who just enjoy making interesting connections about the world, will enjoy this one.


cover image of one of a kind

One of a Kind: A Story about Sorting and Classifying by Neil Packer. Candlewick Studio, 2020.

A simple story about a boy named Arvo, his cat, and going to a violin lesson leads to an exploration of the many ways people and things can be organized into categories and how we relate to those who have gone before. From a family genealogy to a timeline of houses, from varieties of cats to artistic styles, there is beauty in diversity and order in creativity. Whether you have a budding librarian, museum curator, or simply a child who likes to experiment with where things belong and how they might go together, this book celebrates both the many and the one. (Note: a couple of pages include evolution.)


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Megan Saben

Megan is Associate Editor for Redeemed Reader, and she loves nothing more than discovering Truth and Story in literature. She is the author of Something Better Coming, and is quite particular about which pottery mug is best suited to her favorite hot drinks throughout the day. Megan lives with her husband and five boys in Virginia.

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