Teaching Earth Science with Children’s Literature: Shadows and Reflections


As a child, were you ever fascinated by a shadow?  Shadows are always very exciting to watch as children, especially one’s own shadow.  However, there are many shadows that are more difficult to define.  Shadows are all around us, yet are highly overlooked in everyday life.  Tana Hoban clues children into this phenomena, creating a story, Shadows and Reflections, that explores the beauty of shadows.

Tana Hoban’s Shadows and Reflections, is a visual experience, that features a variety of photographs.  These photographs document shadows in daily life.  Even without the use of text, Shadows and Reflections is a very successful story, that is relative to many children.  Tana Hoban creates a book that is uniquely tied together in one theme, yet is open to the imagination- without the use of text, the reader can use the photographs to create his own story.  Shadows and Reflections urges children to use their imagination, that clues the reader in on how the world works.

Shadows and Reflections is exciting in large part to the large range of shadows displayed.  Hoban features both very obvious shadows and more difficult ones, capturing a large audience.   The book continuously has the reader asking, “What does this represent?”  She begins with a photograph of a street sweeper, showing his body from his legs down, yet also capturing his full form, in his shadow on the ground.  Other shadows include a bouquet of flowers and an iron chair, grass on a dune, the planks of a fence, hands playing Cat’s Cradle, a bicycle, sailboats in a marina, and many more!

Curriculum Connections
Shadows and Reflections
serves as a great introductory book for a lesson on shadows.  This book can easily be related to the study of the interrelationships between the earth and space systems.  Hoban provides a great foundation to teach children that shadows occur in nature when sunlight is blocked by an object (Virginia SOL K.7a).  Using the range of photographs, it would be great to have children compare the shape and sizes of the shadows.  During or after reading Shadows and Reflections, further questions for discussion may include: How does the size of an object affect the size of its shadow?  When can you see shadows?  How does the location of the sun affect the formation of shadows?  You can test students responses by tracing students shadows with chalk outside on a sunny day!  Connecting what children saw in Shadows and Reflections to a personal, live experience, will have children eager to learn more about shadows!

Additional Resources

  •  Check out this site for a lesson plan on shadows called, “Me and My Shadow.”  The lesson plan includes four days of activities investigating how the sun forms shadows throughout the day and how these shadows differentiate.
  • Are you looking for more books on shadows?  This site provides a list of books about shadows written in many different genres.
  • Use this shadow handout , “Shadow Watching,” with students as they record and observe their shadow!  The handout instructions students to draw a shadow as well as the location of the sun, to indicate the source of the shadow.

Book: Shadows and Reflections
Tana Hoban
Publisher: Greenwillow 
Publication Date:
32 pages

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