Thinking left and right

Both my children go to dance classes, so learning left and right is underway, but it’s still a challenge.

To check which direction is which, my son (right-handed) will sometimes hold up his hands with the ends of the thumbs touching to see which one makes an L for left, but it takes a bit of thinking time to confirm. This method is a bit less help for my daughter (left-handed) as she has only just become familiar with letters.

I always considered myself lucky, as growing up I had a little mole at the bottom of my palm on my right hand, so I could check quickly anytime. After a while, I could sense left and right without looking at my hand, but for a long time after that “empty hand” meant left and “mole hand” meant right.

Coming across a book entirely devoted to Left and Right was a welcome surprise. Books of facts are something of an addiction for my son. He’ll read any volume packed with quirky details about the biggest/ tiniest/ longest/ oldest/ strongest until we make him switch off his bedside light. But, unlike many such books, Lorna Hendry’s Left and Right (Wild Dog) has a clear and meaningful focus, marshalling an impressive array information about these opposing directions in short punchy texts. The book’s content is incredibly rich and wide-ranging, including but not limited to: cultural perceptions of left-handedness; the position of organs inside the body; the direction of writing and reading in different languages; symmetry in nature; the left and right brain; the rules governing shipping, air travel and driving. Its distinct theme is complemented by a bold layout, the spacious double-page spreads thoughtfully designed to drive learning. 

Rather than just free-floating facts, Hendry presents many ideas which can be tried out using the book or observed in the world. For example, one spread invites you to discover how our vision is a combination of images from both our right eye and our left.

She includes tons of fascinating mini-revelations: who knew that you can be not just left-handed, but left-footed, left-eyed and left-eared? And that parrots use their left feet to pick up food?

Although sitting still and reading might not be the number one means of learning your left from your right, this book certainly gets readers thinking about what they and why they matter.

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