July 6, 2018

Who Am I? An Animal Guessing Game by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 1:08 am by suebe2

Who Am I? An Animal Guessing Game
by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

As soon as I saw this book on a recommended reading list, I requested it from my library.  Even when I was a young reader, I was a sucker for the photo quizzes that show the reader a close-up of an animal and challenge the reader to figure out what it is.

In Who Am I?  one two page spread provides readers with the clues in the form of text and images.  For example, one pair of pages says, “I have . . . a sticky, flicky tongue . . . bumpy green skin . . . two bulging eyeballs  . . . ten webbed toes . . . a floating lily pad . . . and a fly for lunch! Who am I?”   Each written clue is paired with an close-up view of a long pink tongue, green skin, etc.

Readers turn the page to find a frog.  Seven different animals are featured in this way.  Then at the end of the book is a section with mor eon each animal including how big it is, what it eats, where it lives, an interesting fact, and more.

In only seven animals they have descent variety including an amphibian, two birds, an insect, and a crustacean.  Some of the animals are pretty straightforward (frog) but some are a bit more exotic (crab and flamingo).  Then again, if you live in the right part of the country a flamingo might not be particularly exotic.

Page and Jenkins work together on the writing. The illustrations are created by Jenkins in torn and cut-paper collage.  I have to admit that I’m a fan of their work.  I love the simplicity of the text paired with the gorgeous textures of the paper and the details portrayed in the illustrations.

This book will not take long to read but expect sharing the book to take some time.  After reading the book, your young reader will most likely want to look for the image clues in the larger illustration of each animal.  You might also want to have a variety of papers on hand, including scrap and recycled, to encourage your young learned to try creating their own animal themed collages.



January 13, 2017

Squirrels Leap, Squirrels Sleep by April Pulley Sayre, illustrated by Steve Jenkins

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 8:02 pm by suebe2

squirrels-leapSquirrels Leap, Squirrels Sleep
by April Pulley Sayre
illustrated by Steve Jenkins

Squirrels wrestle.
Squirrels leap.
Squirrels climb.
Squirrels sleep.

Squirrels certainly are busy little creatures, scampering and jumping, barking and hiding food.  Author April Pulley Sayre’s gives a poetic look at an animal most of us know relatively little about.

First Sayre introduces readers to the most common types of US squirrels — the red squirrel, the grey squirrel, the fox squirrel and the flying squirrel. She then focuses on the fox squirrel showing us what it does from down to dusk. Readers learn common behaviors including what they eat and how their food-storing habit affects their environment. An author’s note following the main text discusses the squirrel’s life cycle as compared to that of the trees they inhabit as well as giving more information on how they impact their habitat.

As with many of Sayre’s books, Squirrels Leap would make an excellent read-aloud.  The rhyming text is short and straight forward while simultaneously presenting the reader with a great deal of information. The text is short enough to be read quickly which would give a class or other group time to discuss squirrels, habitat, animal movement and more.

Complimenting Sayre’s text are Jenkins illustrations. Jenkins is well-known for his combination of cut- and torn-paper collage and the illustrations in this book do not disappoint.  A wide variety of papers lend the illustrations a host of textures including making the squirrels look fuzzy as they scamper among crisp, shiny leaves.

This book is an excellent introduction to squirrels or the topic of how animals interact with and impact their environments.  A must for the classroom and the library.


June 9, 2016

Flying Frogs and Walking Fish by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 6:09 pm by suebe2

Flying Frogs and Walking Fish
by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page
illustrated by Steve Jenkins
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

We all have some idea about how animals get from one place to another.  They fly and walk and jet-propel.  That’s right. Animals in water can squirt water to blast themselves away from a predator.

Jenkins and Page discuss these concepts using a variety of animals.  Some like sloths and kangaroos are familiar.  Others, including pangolin and hoatzin, are much less so.  But even familiar sloths can move about in unfamiliar ways (sloth swim!).

The authors lead young readers through these concepts by focusing on one type of movement at a time.  For example, first they highlight walking, staring with an octopus walking across the ocean floor on two legs.  Then, with the turn of a page, young readers get to see more animals that use walking to move around.  While kangaroos and vampire bats are familiar, we don’t think of them as walkers although that’s what they are doing in the book.  Then there are the animals, like the red-lipped batfish that I had simply never heard of before.

If you aren’t familiar with Jenkins and Page’s books, check this one out.  The simple text is brought to life with detailed cut paper collage of each animal.  In all truth, I think my favorite is the octopus.  The image may be static, but in my mind I can picture the arms moving sinuously.  Jenkins just does that good of a job.

Backmatter goes through the types of motion and animals one more time, giving additional detail that can be used by parents and teachers to expand on the lessons in the book.

Pick this one up to share with your class or your own young reader.  But do expect a bit of walking, jumping and tumbling as your listeners strive to act out the various forms of motion.


April 20, 2015

Eat Like a Bear by April Pulley Sayre, illustrated by Steve Jenkins

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 1:22 am by suebe2

Eat Like a Bear
by April Pulley Sayre
illustrated by Steve Jenkins
Henry Holt and Company

I have to admit that I’m a huge fan of both April Pulley Sayre and Steve Jenkins.  When I saw both their names on the cover of a book, I snatched it up.

“Can you eat like a bear?”

Immediately, Sayre poses a challenge to her reader.  Can you do it?  Huh, can you?  If you’re reading this at story time, you’ll probably get more than a few answers and a roar or two.  But before readers really know if they can eat like a bear, they need to know what that means.

A bear breakfast begins in April when bears emerge from their dens.  There’s still snow on the ground but the bear hasn’t eaten for four months.  Four months with no food!  Still, not much is available and the bear has to make do with a long drink from the stream and some horsetail shoots.

Yes, the bear is eating shoots.  I knew that bears are omnivores eating whatever and whenever but I didn’t really understand what that meant for a bear who has emerged when very little has started growing.

Sayre follows the bear through the year commenting as it eats a variety of plants, insects and a bite of game here and there.  Honestly, it was surprising that the bear could bulk up on what, to me, looks like a meager diet.  But bulk up the bear does although some scientists argue about whether or not it truly hibernates as discussed in Sayre’s author’s note.

As much as my discussion focuses on Sayre’s contributions to the book, don’t discount Jenkins work.  His cut and torn paper collage bring the bear and her environment to life.  I loved the way the torn edges revealed the fibers of the brown bear paper, yielding a furry look for the beast. For the most part, Jenkins backgrounds are sparse but that helps the reader to focus on the bear and all the information in Sayre’s text.

Share this one with young nature lovers or someone with a favorite teddy bear.  Readers young and old are almost certain to learn a little something about that bear out there.



January 15, 2015

Eye to Eye: How Animals See the World by Steve Jenkins

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , at 1:58 am by suebe2

Eye to Eye:
How Animals See the World
by Steve Jenkins
Houghton Mifflin

If you have a young reader who is animal crazy, pick this book up!   Not only will your critter enthusiast meet a wide variety of animals, ranging from ghost crabs and gharial to tuatara to tarsier, she will also learn something about the science of vision.

Jenkins doesn’t cover the differences between how predators and prey see the world, he starts out with eyespots and the fact that they tell only the difference between darkness and light.  He explains how pinhole eyes work and the fact that seawater flows freely in and out of the creature’s eye but also the difference between a primitive lens eye and a camera eye.

Different types of eyes evolved because different animals need to see different things and Jenkins goes into this in detail.

He accomplishes the vast majority of this by profiling individual animals.  In the profile of the blue mountain swallowtail butterfly, readers learn about the insect’s ability to see ultraviolet colors invisible to humans as well as the benefits of a compound eye.  The green pit viper reveals the benefits of the pits that allow it to “see” body heat and much, much more.

As always, Jenkins has illustrated his book with collages that combine both cut and torn paper using individual pieces to create everything from the tentacles of the nautilus to the whiskers on a fluffy housecat.

The backmatter for the book gives detailed information on the different types of eyes as well as the 24 animals depicted in the book.  There is also an age-appropriate bibiography for young readers who want more information on the topic.

Although a preschool reader might not be interested in the details about how different eyes work, they would be hooked by the illustrations and the wide range of animals.  Older readers would take this in as well as the science of the eye.

Share this book with your class or your animal-engaged reader and don’t be surprised if you have to read the book multiple times.



March 31, 2014

Mama Built a Little Nest by Jennifer Ward, illustrated by Steve Jenkins

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , at 1:51 am by suebe2

MAMA BUILT A LITTLE NEST by Jennifer WardMama Built a Little Nest
by Jennifer Ward
illustrated by Steve Jenkins
Beach Lane Books

Ask your young readers to draw a bird’s nest and chances are that they will draw a classic nest, a cup of twigs small enough to hold in the palms of your hands.  While that may be the first thing we think of, it certainly isn’t the last word in nests as author Jennifer Ward shows us in this simple rhyming text.

“Mama built a little nest
inside a sturdy trunk.
She used her beak to tap-tap-tap
the perfect place to bunk.”

The books opens with the tree-hole nest of the woodpecker and continues to introduce one unique structure after another.  The material selections range from spider silk to a grouping of stones while the ecosystems span forest, shore and desert.

The main text is styled in a simple rhyme but each facing page has a sidebar insert that goes into more detail including the type of nest (scrape, burrow, etc.) as well as the name of the bird itself.

Steve Jenkins cut paper collage illustrations are a perfect match for this text, bringing visual detail and texture together.  No, they aren’t photographs but young readers would definitely be able to tell one bird from another based on these graphics.

This book is suitable for a wide variety of readers.  At story time with younger children, focus on the main text.  The rhymes are brief, tight and fast-moving for a fun read-aloud experience.  For older children, or to help answer younger children’s questions, include the sidebars.  If you are studying birds and/or nest, this is an excellent source for young readers.  This isn’t a roudy book and ends by tying the nest back into the young readers world — home and bed — making this book excellent for bedtime or cuddle time.

Add this one to your bookshelf for both learning and fun as winter turns into spring.


August 29, 2013

Biggest, Strongest, Fastest by Steve Jenkins

Posted in Uncategorized tagged at 1:03 am by suebe2

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.


May 7, 2012

Vulture View by April Pulley Sayre, illustrated by Steve Jenkins

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 1:56 am by suebe2

Vulture View
by April Pulley Sayre,
illustrated by Steve Jenkins
Henry Holt
AR 1.1

I have to admit it — I’m disgustingly fascinated by turkey vultures.  I love to watch them circle in the sky, rocking back and forth gently in the air currents.  As much as I love to watch them in the air, that’s where my interest stops.  I know what they eat and that’s enough for me.

Still, April Pulley Sayre is one of my favorite nonfiction picture book authors and Steve Jenkins is an amazing illustrator so I picked this up to see what they could do with this topic.

The book covers a vulture day from sun up one day to  sun up the next.  It describes how they soar on the air currents (hurrah!) and drink in the various smells on the search for food (apprehension rising).  Not to worry, the book is accurate while being sensitive of the fact that not all readers will be ready for an up-close-and-personal look at vultures dining.

Jenkin’s collage illustrations depict everything from vultures flying to their actual food but do so in a way that isn’t overly detailed or gory.  The book couldn’t be honest and deliver this in any way that would be more gentle.

Hurrah to Jenkins and Sayre for accurately depicting the web of life and showing young readers a bit about an animal that few people know much about.

My favorite illustrations are the silhouettes of roosting vultures against a red evening sky although Jenkins ability to depict fluffy white clouds amazes me.

This is probably more of a boy book than a girl book but it is definitely a worthy ready for any youngster who loves nature.  With a 1.1 AR level it would also be suitable for newly independent readers who still love highly illustrated texts.


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