The Street Beneath My Feet is a book that I would have eaten up as a child. It takes its readers on a long journey – from a city (London, perhaps) down into the ground all the way to the center of the Earth, and back up at a different angle to return to the surface in the [presumably English] countryside. The foldout nature of this exploration makes this book both a physical activity – you can’t read it sitting on the couch – and a lesson in traveling a large distance – one can gain a good sense of the depths of certain characteristics of the Earth’s innards (even if the foldout is not to scale with the real Earth). People can simply go about their day without giving much thought to the world of the underground: from city works that maintain our utilities (water, electricity, etc.) to a variety of life that spend their entire lives in the soil or among the city works (microorganisms, bugs, rodents, etc.), and human bones and antiquities that pay witness to civilizations past to deep-down mining operations that extract natural materials that more recent civilizations, including current ones, have used to power their progress.* All this, and more, encompasses the reader’s journey down – a somewhat quick ride through humanity’s presence on the planet – into the crust. This trip down then makes it to the mantle, outer core, and finally inner core of the planet.
On the reader’s return trip, it’s more a tour of geology and paleontology, learning about minerals, rock formation, prehistoric life, the homes of burrowing animals, roots of trees and other plants, and animals that live in the topsoil. Upon returning to the surface in a natural setting, we are surrounded by birds and bugs and flowers going about their day among the sunshine. There is a lot to take in throughout this journey, for sure. But that’s the great thing about books – readers can return to them again and again.
Yuval Zommer’s eye-catching, colorful illustrations complement the straightforward text that Charlotte Guillain provides. I can envision this book being used by teachers when out on a walk with their students – stopping at different spots along the walk and discussing what they might think is happening, or did happen, below the street beneath their feet.
* As a historian myself, it should be said that this progress has often come at the expense of other groups of people on the planet; but, this is not in the scope of this children’s book.
Title: The Street Beneath My Feet
Author: Charlotte Guillain
Illustrator: Yuval Zommer
Published by: word & pictures/The Quarto Group, 2017
Pages: 20 (foldout)
Suggested Age: Preschool, Elementary (Lower)
Recognition: A 2018 Outstanding Science Trade Book for Students: K-12 from the National Science Teachers Association and the Children’s Book Council