Walking past the glassed doors leading out to my deck and backyard Wednesday evening, I was greeted by an unexpected sight. Lying as peaceful as milk cows in a grassy meadow were two large deer. The closer of the two seemed to be in charge, eyes and ears alert. The smaller deer was positioned in one of my raised gardens as if it was its own personal resting place. I imagine all the plants there have been consumed for a snack. The entire yard is surrounded by a chain link fence. When they leap over it, they seem to float.
The beauty of how animals move within our communities and in their natural habitats is a constant source of amazement. In their newest collaboration Steve Jenkins and Robin Page share seven forms of locomotion used by animals. Flying Frogs And Walking Fish (Leaping Lemurs, Tumbling Toads, Jet-Propelled Jellyfish, and More Surprising Ways That Animals Move) (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, May 3, 2016) is a study of travel.
Animals walk, leap, climb, and swim. Some roll or turn flips. Others fly or glide, and a few are even jet-propelled.
If you could peer along the floor of the ocean you might see an octopus using only two of its eight legs, taking a stroll. Six other fellow creatures use legs, wings, fins, and a tail to go from place to place. If you want to add speed a leap would be handy.
You would be a super hero if you could go fifty times as high as your own body length. That's what a jumping spider can do. Seeing a Japanese red-crowned crane spring into the air and gently fall to the ground must be breathtaking. To move through water a trunk becomes a snorkel. We all know how painfully slow a three-toed sloth meanders but when in the water, it's a different story.
Wouldn't you like to see a canine climb or a bird with clawed wings seek safety in a tree? All sorts of animals can glide with ease and fly freely. Look out for that snake! Look out for that ant? Did a lizard just float by?
Gymnasts in the critter realm can somersault to freedom like the mantis shrimp, curl and roll like a hedgehog or bite its tail turning in a circle like the armadillo lizard. Even faster than the leapers are those zipping along as if launched from a canon. All of those noted reside in water. They use it as a force like the nautilus pushing water from its shell. In many places on all our continents these animals go up, down and all around.
Robin Page and Steve Jenkins have pieced together a fascinating narrative. This team understands which particular facts will be the most interesting to readers. Single sentences are used for each animal; a variety of descriptive verbs creating images of their movements. Seven lengthier paragraphs give an overview at the beginning of each section. You want to wander in the worlds their words create. Here is a sample passage and a couple of their sentences.
Rivers, lakes, and oceans can be challenging environments for animals adapted to life on land or in the air. But swimming, even awkwardly, helps many creatures cool off, find food, or escape danger.
A young baboon dives in and paddles around just for fun.
A sleek cormorant plunges deep into the sea as it pursues a school of fish.
Steven Jenkins unmistakable style of illustration, torn-and cut-paper collage is noticeable immediately on the matching dust jacket and book case. The canvas of bright sky blue on both the front and the back, to the left each feature an animal in green, the flying frog and the red-lipped batfish. The white and black text provides a stunning contrast. On the back is an assortment of action verbs used within the body of the book. (These are great to read aloud.) The opening and closing endpapers are a swirl of hues of red; patterns of looped-leaf-like shapes. The two creatures on the jacket and case make an appearance again on the title page.
The realistic intricacies Jenkins achieves in his collages are astounding; the circular suction cups on the octopus, the hundreds of legs on the millipede, the fur on the ring-tailed lemur, the texture on the elephant's skin, the feathery lightness of the leaves on trees, and the armor on the pangolin. For each animal with eyes he captures the spark of light seen in each of them. Their body stances and the lines defining them are brimming with motion. The introductory animal spans two pages and the remainder are grouped on the following two pages.
One of my favorite illustrations is of the hedgehog. It's shaped into a circle with a multitude of spines, brown flecked with white and gray. A small gray face looks at the reader, brown eyes curious and nose ready to work.
Flying Frogs And Walking Fish written and illustrated by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page is a winning title sure to increase and satisfy curiosity simultaneously. For the sections, walking, leaping, swimming, climbing, flying, rolling and jetting, thumbnails with more information about each animal is provided at the end. A bibliography is included on the closing endpapers with the publication information.
This educator's guide with several of Steve Jenkins' titles includes this most recent title. To follow the process used in making this particular title please follow the link attached to Steve Jenkins's name.
Please visit educator Alyson Beecher's blog, Kid Lit Frenzy, to read about the other titles selected by bloggers participating in the 2016 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge.