My first encounter with Steve Jenkins was reading What Can You Do With A Tail Like This? to a kindergarten class. They were mesmerized. Then I had the fun of discovering all of his other nifty-animal books, like Actual Size. This new one is just as cool.
First of all, pictures. Layout. Fantastic. The Eyewitness white background inset picture with caption thing is here to stay, and it really works to focus kids' attention. The book alternates one page of introductory material about a facet of animal behavior, such as how do they get into those tough clam shells? At the bottom of each page, you get a glimpse of what animals they'll be talking about on the next page, which provides a perfect guessing-game format for read-alouds. It was great for reading with Ivy, too, as she chose a few bits to read on each page until her attention to the topic waned and we moved on to another.
Second of all, how many cool animal factoids can one (okay, two) people cram into one book!? Example: the Surinam toad lays its fertilized eggs into cavities on its own back, where they incubate, hatch and grow for several months before erupting. Can't you just hear the delighted squeals of Ewwww!? I really can't wait to share this book with my fourth graders, currently working on swamp animal research projects about predator-prey relationships.
Jenkins does a great job of making the book accessible to all levels of interest. Very young children can enjoy the cutouts with very little attention to the text. Slightly older kids can jump around from factoid to factoid with no need for any organizing schema. Older still, and they will appreciate the summaries at the beginning of each section, as well as the additional (and still interesting) material at the end.
Ivy really liked the dolphin bubble net, although she still insists the Polynesian megapode is really a ptarmigan.
Thanks, Jenkins & Page! I feel rather giddy... I sense a wave of nifty coming on.
Labels: elementary, nonfiction