Population Picture Books: *If the World Were 100 People and We Are a Garden

Two high-concept picture books present stories of people and movements in a way even small children can grasp.

*If the World Were 100 People: A Visual to Our Global Village by Jackie McCann, illustrated by Aaron Cushley. Crown, 2021, 26 pages

Reading Level: Picture Book, ages 0-4

Recommended for: all ages

“It’s tricky to picture 800 billion people, so instead let’s imagine the whole planet as a village where 100 people live . . . If we focus on 100 people, it’s easier to see the things we have in common and the things that make us different.”

In our imaginary village, it may be no surprise that half of us are female and half are male—though it’s a rather pleasant surprise these days that this obvious fact is presented as, well, obvious. What about hair color? Most of us would guess that black the most common, but you might be surprised at just how many of us have black hair. And what’s the least common eye color? How many of us are Asian by geographic location, as compared to North American? The good news is that the vast majority in our village have adequate shelter, enough to eat, and access to electricity. But potential problems pose questions we’ll need to answer, like, how will we take care of our growing elder population? How will we distribute food adequately among a shifting population? And how can we be sure everyone has resources and the power to use them?

The village idea is a beautifully simply way to help even preschoolers think about their place in the world. The tone is optimistic and hopeful, with—amazingly!—no preachiness or finger-pointing.

Overall Rating: 4.5 (out of 5)

Worldview/moral value: 4.5Artistic/literary value: 4.5

We Are a Garden: A Story of How Diversity Took Root in America by Lisa Westberg Peter, illustrated by Victoria Tentler-Krylov. Schwartz & Wade, 2021, 38 pages.

Reading Level: Picture Book, ages 4-8

Recommended for: ages 6-10

This is not a story, but many stories reaching far back to a prehistoric past. At some unknown date, people from northern Asia probably crossed a land bridge into North America. “Cave people” became indigenous people, building lodges and tipis. Then came Europeans—first a few, then hundreds and thousands. They first bought Africans from traders, then imported them in slave ships. More Europeans came seeking refuge, freedom, or simply a decent living. From China they came to build railroads, from Mexico and Central America to work on farms.

Some people leave rocky soil and hard times behind in their homelands. Others find rocky soil and hard times in the new land. But people, like seeds, take root.

Yes, the history is often problematic, but America remains the most diverse nation in the world. The book ends on a hopeful note, as the last two pages picture diverse neighborhoods of people in harmony, facing the future together.

Overall Rating: 4

Worldview/moral value: 3.5Artistic/literary value: 4.5

Read more about our ratings here.

Also at Redeemed Reader:

Reviews: In the spirit of using 100 people to help kids visualize 8 billion, check out these picture books about really big numbers (and populations): How Many Jelly Beans?, Millions, Billions, and Trillions, and Everybody Counts.

Review: How about the growth of a really big city? See Manhattan: Mapping the Story of an Island

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