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Ant The weaver ant twists leaves and twigs together with silk thread to make a home. Spider This wasp spider spins a web in tall grass, where it rests and catches its food.
Premise/plot: A nonfiction concept book for young(er) children. Readers are introduced to a wide variety of animals and learn where they live. The book is full of photographs of animals and their homes. The book is quite simple in concept, yet, oddly fascinating at the same time. Some animals may prove familiar (polar bear, ant, bee) others may seem more exotic (Fennec fox, eel, village weaver).
My thoughts: I liked this one. I did. I loved looking at the photographs. As I said, I wasn't expecting to find the book fascinating. (Board books, well, they rarely fascinate me. They can make me smile now and then. And now and then even sing.) If you're looking for a nature-themed concept book, this one is worth your time.
The Octopus Scientists: Exploring the Mind of a Mollusk
(Scientists in the Field series)
by Sy Montgomery
photographs by Keith Ellenbogen
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015
Grades 5 and up
The reviewer borrowed a copy of the book from her local library.
Sy Montgomery has a gift for crafting nonfiction texts that transport readers into the world of scientists on location. In
Written by Juliette MacIver
Illustrated by Cat Chapman
Candlewick Press 6/09/2015
32 pages Age 4—8
“Yak and Gnu are friends dear and true. Yak has a kayak, Gnu a canoe. Down the river they go, singing:
“No one else But you and me Can float a boat Or sail the sea.”
But wait! What’s that? A goat in a boat, a calf on a raft, and a whole flotilla of gorillas! Now their song is all wrong. With so many other friends afloat, can Yak and Gnu still sing their sea song for two?”[inside jacket]
Best friends Yak and Gnu love to sail the seas. Yak rows a black kayak, while Gnu rows a blue canoe. Together, they row and sing their favorite song. But then, much to Yak and Gnu’s surprise, a goat in a boat yells hello. Yak and Gnu are no longer the only two who sail the seas. The happy-go-lucky pair of friends—best of friends—recover nicely, rationalizing that with the goat in a boat, Yak in his kayak, and Gnu in her canoe, there are only three who can sail the seas. They adjust their song:
“Yippee-ai, Yak! Who-hoo, Gnu! There’s nobody else Like me and you. (Well, only goat.)”
But then, there on a raft is a laughing calf and in that sail boat is a snail. What is going on? Yak and Gnu find more and more animals who can sail the seas, be it in a sailboat, a raft, an outrigger, cruiser, kayak, or canoe. Each new discovery causes Yak and Gnu to reevaluate and adjust their song. Finally, with the seas afloat with dozens and dozens of sea-worthy animals and their vessels, Yak and Gnu must come to terms with the fact that they are not the only ones who can sail the seas. But what about their wonderful song? What happens to that? You must read Yak and Gnu to find out.
Yak and Gnu is hilarious. Young children will love all the animals and the way each sails the seas. Along with Yak and Gnu, children can count the number of animals, helping Yak and Gnu adjust their song. The repetitive song will also help young children as they begin to read and phonetically sound out words. Soon, kids will be singing the song, without the book. More likely, kids will be asking for Yak and Gnu at bedtime, story-time, and most every-time it is time to read. The illustrations are beautifully rendered in watercolor and ink. The rhyming text has that sing-song quality that makes reading a picture book a joy. Yak and Gnu was authored by Juliette MacIver who loves to make young children laugh. Her previous book is entitled, The Frog Who Lost His Underpants (also illustrated by Cat Chapman). That title makes me want to read the book. Yak and Gnu is no different. This hilarious tale celebrates the simple friendships of childhood and the joy of laughter.
Full Disclosure: Sam & Dave Dig a Hole, by Juliette MacIver & Cat Chapman, and received from Candlewick Press and Walker Books, Australia, is in exchange NOT for a positive review, but for an HONEST review. The opinions expressed are my own and no one else’s. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
If You Were a Dog Written by Jamie A. Swenson Illustrated by Chris Raschka Farrar Straus Giroux BYR 9/30/2014 978-0-373-33530-4 40 pages Age 3—6
“If you could be any kind of animal, what would you be? Would you be a sod that goes ARRRROOOOOOO? Or maybe you would be a sharp-toothed dinosaur that can CHOMP, STOMP, ROAR! Perhaps you might want to be a hopping frog that goes BOING, BOING, RIBBET! But maybe you would want to be the best kind of animal of all. Can you guess what that is?”[inside jacket]
Review Using sparse text, including exuberant onomatopœia, and characteristics specific to the animal on the spread, Swenson asks young children how they would act if they were a dog, a cat, a bird, a bug, a frog, and a dinosaur. Each two-spread animal begins its question with a recognizable formula:
“If you were a . . . would you be a . . . ?”
For example, the first animal is the dog.
“If you were a dog, would you be a speedy-quick, lickety-sloppy, scavenge-the-garbage, frisbee-catching, hot-dog-stealing, pillow-hogging, best-friend-ever sort of dog?”
The following spread always asks one final question:
“Would you howl at the moon? Some dogs do.”
Youngsters will love the questions, especially each of the activity-type characteristics in If You Were a Dog. While not written in rhyme, the text flows nicely. The individual characteristics are ordered such that the similar suffixes following each other. Raschka’s illustrations are child-like in form, yet lively, and capture the text and the reader’s (listener’s), imagination. Young children will not only contemplate how they would act based on the given charactersitics, but are bound to come up with their own. I like anything that activates and stretches a child’s imagination and If You Were a Dog fits that bill nicely.
The final three spreads in If You Were a Dog acknowledge that we cannot become any animal we want, but we can imitate those around us. Besides, kids are told, the best animal to be is yourself.
IF YOU WERE A DOG. Text copyright (C) 2014 by Jamie A. Swenson. Illustrations copyright (C) 2014 by Chris Raschka. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers—an imprint of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group, New York, NY.
Full Disclosure: If You Were a Dog, by Jamie A. Swenson & Chris Raschka, and received from Farrar Strauss Giroux BYR, (an imprint of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group), is in exchange NOT for a positive review, but for an HONEST review. The opinions expressed are my own and no one else’s. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Get your glad rags on, pull out your dancing shoes and join me At the Animal Ball by Ella Bailey! A delightful, playful action-packed flap book mixing costume design and dance moves in such a fun way, this is a board book with a difference.
Bailey’s illustrations are fantastic, using great colour combinations and lovely details. Her use of texture adds a vintage touch, reminding me of the collection of dolls’ in national costumes I had as a child. Fans of of Marc Boutavant‘s work will not be disappointed; Bailey’s cute (but not cutesy) funky animals seem to me to be Mouk‘s friendly cousins, dressed in a wide range of get-ups inspired by national costumes around the world, from kilts to grass skirts, sarongs and even leather jackets.
Each page is split into three so readers can mix and match heads, tops and bottoms, creating their own bespoke tailoring. Each flap also comes with its own dance moves, from fluttering a fan to shaking a rattle, stamping your feet and wiggling your hips: By combining any three flaps, you could choreograph your own dance!
The charming animals and the beautiful clothes combined with the great excuse to boogie make this a winner of a book – and not just for kids who can’t sit still whilst they’re being read to. It’s fun, pretty and robust – this larger-than-average board book utilises a little bit of simple engineering to make sure the satisfyingly chunky pages of At the Animal Ball can put up with lots of to-ing and fro-ing.
Lovely, lively and full of flaps – an glorious read for anyone with young kids!
Inspired by the fabulous illustrations and this video…
…we made some masks (there’s nothing like a masked ball, is there?)….
…and had lots of fun dressing up in all sorts of finery and breaking out some moves… This video of our antics makes us laugh a lot!
Whilst dressing up we danced to these toe-tapping tunes (but unfortunately couldn’t include them in our video because of copyright issues):
Written by Marianne Berkes, illustrated by Cathy Morrison, published by Dawn Publishing
Ok, it's not a birthday image, (our inspirational word for June is Birthday) but it's the cover for a book I have coming out Spring 2016. Artwork for this book is complete and I'm working away on a second book that will be released the same date. I'll post more about this book and others on my Studio With A View Blog soon.
Title: National Geographic Kids ALMANAC 2015 Published by: National Geographic Themes/Topics: Science, nature, gales, culture, history, going green, geography Suitable for ages: 8-13 Paperback, 352 pages, nonfiction, Three Snippets: Page 112 has a monthly sky calendar saying what is happening in the skies … Continue reading →
I was delighted to receive this new edition in the mail from the publisher Dawn Publications. What a joy to see that children all over the world are reading and learning about alligators and other swamp creatures in The Swamp Where Gator Hides written by Marianne Berkes. This book is available on Amazon.
While everyone worked, I painted the shed in gouache, just a quick impression. The challenge was that it was a dry day with low humidity, and the sun was beating right down on the paint. The paint dried practically as it left the brush, so I had to work fast.
More than 30 years ago, I tried painting in gouache on a hot, dry day in Death Valley, California, and it was insane how quickly it dried. You can combat the problem somewhat by squeezing the paint out on a damp paper towel and spraying the palette with a mist of water once in a while.
Gouache Week starts June 22 on the blog and on my YouTube channel, with the release of the new video "Gouache in the Wild."
The DVD of "Tyrannosaurs: Behind the Art" is now retail ready.
The DVD version has the 40-minute production about the making of the paintings I did for Scientific American. But it also has a slide show and a special 13-minute bonus feature, where I pose the question: "What can we learn about dinosaurs by sketching a chicken?" The abbreviated YouTube video above gives you a sample of that feature. (Link to YouTube)
The full 13-minute chicken feature on the DVD also considers:
• Differences between chickens and theropods • Feathers on dinosaurs in Dinotopia • Function of feathers in chickens • What's the purpose of the comb and wattles? • More chicken sketches • Feather groupings on a bird's body • Can we make a dinosaur from chicken DNA? Should we? • How are bird tails different in ground-loving birds?
Sir Edwin Landseer, Study of a Lion, 1862, oil, 914 x 1378 mm, Tate
British animal painter Sir Edwin Landseer (1802-1873) developed remarkable skills of speed and dexterity.
According to one one account, "It was Landseer's custom to place a clean canvas, or panel, upon his easel and leave it there untouched for several days, or until he had completely thought out the subject that he was to paint. This done, he would take up his palette and brushes and set to work, and in an astonishingly short space of time the picture would be finished."
There are many stories of him painting large oil studies of animals in less than an hour. He painted the portrait of the spaniel and the wounded rabbit in two-and-a-half hours.
One houseguest recalled leaving for church on a Sunday morning as Landseer set a blank canvas on his easel. Landseer skipped church that day, and when the guest returned from the service, the painting was finished.
Another story of his prodigious ability comes from a dinner party in London. A lady remarked that it would be impossible for someone to draw two things at once. "Oh, I can do that," Landseer said quietly; "give me two pencils and I will show you."
Landseer took a pencil in each hand, and then "drew simultaneously and unhesitatingly the profile of a stag's antlered head with one hand, and with the other the perfect outline of the head of a horse. Both drawings were strong and vigorous; that drawn with the left hand in no way inferior to its companion sketch."
One amazingly interesting creature is the octopus; this cephalopod can twist and turn its body into many shapes, suction to all types of surfaces, and use a cloud of ink to distract predators. This week, researchers uncovered the California two-spot octopus’s ability to sense light through its skin.
When the scientist shone a beam of light on the skin of an octopus the chromatophores (pigmented structures in the skin) expanded and the skin changed color. When the light was turned off, the chromatophores contracted again and the octopus was back to its original color. Why does this happen? Scientists determined that the octopus’ skin has proteins called opsins that work with the chromatophores for this reaction to occur.
Changing colors is nothing new in the octopus species; they can become red with anger, or transparent in sunlight. The more tools the creature has to camouflage itself the better chance for survival in the wild depths of the ocean where predators are abundant.
To learn more about the octopus or how other animals use light in the depths of the ocean here is a short underwater reading list!
Octavia and her Purple Ink Cloud
Octavia Octopus and her sea-animal friends love playing camouflage games to practice how they would hide from a “big, hungry creature.” Octavia, however, just cannot seem to get her colors right when she tries to shoot her purple ink cloud. What happens when the big, hungry shark shows up looking for his dinner? This creative book introduces basic colors along with the camouflage techniques of various sea animals; a great introduction to marine biology!
A Day in the Deep
Travel deep into the ocean way below the surface and you’ll encounter some creatures you never knew existed! This book takes you on a journey through the dark depths of the sea towards the ocean floor. Most ecosystems need sunlight, but deep in the ocean where the sun doesn’t shine animals have adapted some very interesting ways to see, protect themselves, and eat. Discover the unique habitats, adaptations, and food chains of these deep -sea creatures.
Ocean Hide and Seek
The sea is a place of mystery, where animals big and small play hide and seek! Can you imagine a shark hiding in the light? What about a clownfish in plain sight? Don’t believe it? Then, sink into the deep blue sea with Jennifer Evans Kramer and Ocean Hide and Seek! Surround yourself with the vibrant ocean illustrations of Gary R. Phillips. The ocean is an old, old place, and the exotic animals in the depths have learned to adapt to their surroundings to survive. Can you find the creatures hidden on every page? Or will you, too, be fooled by an ancient, underwater disguise?
Our theme this month is animals, so my thoughts immediately went to some fascinating details I like share with students when I do a school visit relating to my book The Many Faces of George Washington.
George Washington trained his own horses and was considered to be an expert horseman. During the American Revolution, General Washington rode one of two horses. One was a brown horse named Nelson. The other was a white horse named Blueskin. During battle (yes, Washington actually fought in battle) he rode Nelson because the noise and chaos didn’t bother the calm horse. But when Washington was just going about everyday life, he rode Blueskin.
In portraits painted during the 18th century that depict Washington during the Revolution, he is shown with one of these two horses. If the scene depicts a scene following a battle, Nelson is pictured. But when the painting is not a battle scene, Blueskin is with him.
General George Washington at Trenton by John Trumbull
After turning in artwork for If You Love Honey, Nature's Connections I got a look at Patty Arnold's design and layout for the book. I'm posting a few spreads here to give you a sneak peek. This is my second book illustrated by Martha Sullivan and third book for Dawn Publishing. It comes out this fall. After doing a lot of research for the illustrations I'm now a true honey bee fanatic, not to mention a Martha Sullivan fan!
And I wanted to say "Thanks!" to William Porter at the Denver Post for including me in his Mother's Day article. It's always great to give a shout out to our moms, especially our moms who spent a lot of time reading to us.
Series: When I Grow Up Written and illustrated by WIGU Publishing WIGU Publishing 12/08/2014 978-1-93997314-6 56 pages Age 7—12 . . “Sofia wants to care for all the animals in the world. But Mom does not think Sofia is ready for the responsibility of even one pet. Ready or not, when a hungry and sick-looking cat appears at the family’s back doorstep, Sofia takes action. When Sofia is found feeding the cat, Mom gives in and agrees that a trip to the vet will tell them if the cat is healthy and not someone’s lost pet. As the veterinarian introduces Sofia and readers to the important and wide-ranging work of animal doctors, Sofia learns how she might help all kinds of animals, including a little stray cat!” [back cover]
Review Like every kid, at some time in his or her life, Sofia desperately wants a pet. Mom sternly responds, “No,” after every plea. I suspect many kids will relate to this situation. Dad tells Sofia gets her love of animals from Mom, which made mom’s stern and resolute rejections surprising to me,
“. . . the answer was always ‘No. And I mean it, Sofia!’ . . . and she meant it.”
Mom’s reluctance must be due to something she went through as she has some definite opinions about caring for pets. While looking outside at the soaking wet cat, mom says:
“People should be more responsible about animals.” “There are too many unwanted animals running around.”
Veterinarian does not delve into the reasons behind the above statements; instead letting Sofia remark that she cannot believe any pet could be unwanted. I agree with Mom and Sofia. Bringing a pet into the family is a big decision, and includes much more than housing and feeding. But Veterinarian is about the career, not the social issues. Continuing with the story, mom finally tells Sofia her reasons for saying no: she does not think the family is ready for a pet. But then it rained.
“It rained cats and dogs.”
That night it really did rain cats . . . one little, hungry, “sorry-looking,” water-soaked cat. To Sofia’s amazement, her mother was also upset and concerned about the cat. With dad taking the lead, mom agrees to take the cat—now called Samantha—to Dr. Helen, a veterinarian.
Dr. Helen looks for a microchip, listens to Samantha’s heart, weighs her, and then tells Sofia, there are an estimated 10 million different kinds of animal species on Earth . . . that we know of. Much of our planet is unexplored—mostly underwater—and there are animals we have not seen, and some we never will. I did not know this, which is why I love the WIGU series—I learn something with each edition.
Dr. Helen gives a short history of cats and dogs. Cats first became household “pets” 3,000 years ago in Egypt, where they were worship (cats kept rodents out of the grain and hunted dangerous snakes, including cobras). Dogs, as pets, began roughly 33,000 years ago. Dogs were valued for their companionship and keen senses—hearing, sight, smell—that helped protect humans. Dr. Helen told Sofia cats are the most popular pet (2:1 dogs), yet veterinarians treat more dogs than they do cats. No explanations are given.
As with the other When I Grow Up editions, Veterinarian is loaded with useful information kids will enjoy reading, can use as a reference, or when exploring possible careers. Teachers can use this series as adjunct texts. In Veterinarian, Dr. Helen describes many areas of specialization and the road to becoming a veterinarian. The illustrations are a combination of actual photographs and digital images. On the cover, I adore Samantha’s contented look on her face as Sofia hugs her.
In the end, Sofia decides she wants to become a veterinarian. The family decides to keep Samantha, even with the funny, unexpected twist. Veterinarian’s tone is positive and it highlights the best about being a vet. This is my favorite edition thus far. Wigu Publishing is planning to explore more careers for the When I Grow Up series and is working on Spanish versions. Every school should have this series, keeping room for new editions. The When I Grow Up series might go on forever.
H. Septimus Power (1877-1951) was a New-Zealand-born Australian artist who was always fascinated with horses.
H. Septimus Power, Horse Cart, Watercolor
He got an early job painting animal heads on butchers' delivery vans, and later worked for a veterinarian.
He studied at the Académie Julian in Paris and then moved to London, exhibiting at the Royal Academy. Arthur Streeton said of him: "One is impressed first by a tremendous display of colour and a dauntless feeling of optimism … He displays remarkable knowledge and vigour in his paintings of animals."
H. Septimus Power, Bringing Up the Guns
In World War I he worked as a war artist, specializing in scenes with horses. The biplane is almost a ghost in the distance.
I recommend the museum to artists who want to sketch. Nearly everything is on display. They welcome artists, and they even provide comfortable wood chairs.
Harvard biologist Stephen Jay Gould wrote about the wonder of the 19th century cabinets of curiosity, and the different assumptions they present about imparting natural history knowledge:
"The display of organisms in these museums rests upon concepts strikingly different from modern practice, but fully consonant with Victorian concerns: Today we tend to exhibit one or two key specimens, surrounded by an odd mixture of extraneous glitz and useful explanation, all in an effort to teach (if the intent be maximally honorable) or simply to dazzle (nothing wrong with that either). The Victorians, who viewed their museums as microcosms for national goals of territorial expansion and faith in progress fueled by increasing knowledge, tried to stuff every last specimen into their gloriously crowded cabinets — in order to show the full range of global diversity. . . . You can put one beetle in a cabinet (usually an enlarged model, and not a real specimen), surround it with fancy computer graphics and pushbutton wwhatzits, and then state that no other group maintains such diversity. Or you can fill the same cabinet with real beetles from each of a thousand different species — all of differing colors, shapes, and sizes — and then state that you have tried to display each kind in the country."