The Case of the Story Rock
The Case of the Story Rock
“Now let’s pause and have a mindful moment,” begins Scout. “Every rock tells a story. The next time you pick up a rock, notice the size, shape and color. Notice the texture. How does it feel in your hands? Some rocks are rough, and some rocks are smooth.”
“This rock is smooth, and I can see different colors and layers inside,” says Daisy. “It’s a beautiful rock.”
The books in “A Gumboot Kids Nature Mystery” series are based on episodes from the award-winning CBC Kids program The Gumboot Kids (https://gumbootkids.com). According to the show’s website, “filmmakers Eric Hogan and Tara Hungerford [who are also husband and wife] set out to make the kind of TV show they'd want their children to watch. They combined their love of nature with the yearning they felt to slow down and connect with each other and the natural world in a more meaningful, heart-centered way.”
In the books, the Gumboot Kids are a pair of rubber boot-wearing anthropomorphic mice, friends Scout and Daisy. In each of the titles, one of the friends poses a nature-based mystery that needs to be solved, with that mystery being expressed by the book’s title. One of the mice pair presents the other one with three clues which are to be used in solving the mystery. When the duo put the clues together and come up with what they believe to be the correct solution, they confirm their conclusion by consulting, and quoting from, a library book on the appropriate subject. The two then pause for “a mindful moment” in which they reflect on their experience and, to some degree, generalize their learning. The story portion of the books concludes with one of the Gumboot Kids saying a temporary goodbye to the books’ readers. The final four text pages are evenly divided between “Field Notes” and “Nature Craft”, with the former containing a glossary and/or factual information appropriate to the book’s subject matter. The three-step “Nature Craft” also connects to the book’s subject matter.
As the TV show is a combination of stop-motion and live-action, the full-colour illustrations in the books are most likely stills from the stop-motion created portions of the show. As such, they are full of details to be examined, and the posed rodent friends do have an appearance of life to them. The three mystery clues are presented not only via the text, but also visually through closeups of sketches one of the friends has made in a field notebook. A strong hint to the mystery’s solution is presented on the books’ cover via an object under a magnifying glass and the caption “LEARN ABOUT”.
While on an expedition in the desert, Scout finds a rock which he claims can tell a story about dinosaurs. When Daisy questions how that is possible, she is presented with three clues in The Case of the Story Rock. The clues are: the information that Scout found the rock in a valley between two hills; “To find a story rock you’ll need this shovel, a little patience and a lot of luck” and the image of a spiral. Daisy definitely needs the assistance of a library book to solve this mystery. The “Field Notes” two pages are devoted to explaining, via visuals and text, how fossils are formed. The “Nature Craft” invites readers to make rubbings of various textured objects from nature. Content-wise, The Case of the Story Rock is the most demanding of the first four books in the series.
Instead of just passively providing youngsters with science facts, the books in “A Gumboot Kids Nature Mystery” actively engage readers in their learning. Overall, this series is an excellent age-appropriate introduction to a number of science-related topics.
Dave Jenkinson, CM’s editor, lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba.