August 29, 2013
Biggest, Strongest, Fastest by Steve Jenkins
Biggest, Strongest, Fastest
by Steve Jenkins
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
If you’ve ever dealt with a preschooler, you know they are all about superlatives. Who is smartest . . . fastest . . . loudest . . . the list goes on and on. Biggest, Strongest, Fastest was born of this fascination.
What animal is the biggest? On land, it is the African elephant. In the water, the blue whale. In fact, no land animal, including the biggest dinosaur has ever been bigger than the blue whale.
But details of size and speed can be lost if your reader doesn’t fully grasp what you are saying. To solve this problem, Jenkins compares the various animals to people. In addition to the main illustration, there is a silhouette on each page comparing the animal in question to a person. The African elephant is clearly taller than a man, the Etruscan shrew is about the size of a person’s thumb, and the bird spider is somewhat larger than a hand spread wide open.
Known for his collage illustrations, Jenkins doesn’t disappoint. From the color to the texture to the multiple layers needed to capture just the right effect, all of the animals from the tall giraffe to the teeny, tiny flea is depicted in astonishing detail. Occasional found object, such as a feather, are incorporated into the illustrations.
Although the book is designed, for the most part using two page spreads (facing pages devoted to a single illustration and the accompanying text), this pattern is occasionally broken when a tiny animal, such as a bee hummingbird, is a given only one page while the following animal, in this case the sun jellyfish, begins on the facing page and is continued after the page turn.
In addition to the animals themselves, this book would make an excellent jumping off point for discussions on superlatives and other words used to compare one thing to another.
As always, Jenkins’ book pulls in a wealth of variety and detail. Not only does he discuss size but also speed, strength and means of acquiring food. The animals themselves vary greatly including land and aquatic animals as well as creatures from all over the world.
If you aren’t familiar with Jenkins work, pick up one of his books today. You won’t regret it.