It assists us in speaking. For sensing bitter, sweet, salty, sour and umami (savory), it is essential. It has between 3,000 to 10, 000 taste buds. Without it food consumption is difficult; it is necessary for chewing and swallowing. Some people stick it out when concentrating. Others use it to blow a raspberry or give someone a raspberry. There are even people who can touch their nose with the tip of it. The human tongue is unique to each individual, like fingerprints.
In the animal kingdom, the tongue is even more versatile. Author Maria Gianferrari in collaboration with illustrator Jia Liu presents Terrific Tongues! (Boyds Mills Press, an imprint of Highlights, April 3, 2018). You'll be fascinated by the facts and entertained by the narrative assistant.
It's a sword.
It's a straw.
It's a nose.
It's a mop.
It's a . . . TONGUE.
STICK OUT YOUR TONGUE!
If your tongue is truly as sharp as a sword, the narrator pauses and reveals you might be a red-bellied woodpecker. Their tongues pierce beetle larvae beneath bark. Did you know there's an insect with a long tongue like a tube? They use it to drink nectar from flowers. You won't believe what they do with this tongue when it's not in use.
Do you remember the last time you attended a party? There's an animal with a tongue like a party blower horn. Insects need to be wary in its presence.
Some tongues are long enough to act as a washcloth for the animals' ears and eyes. Acting like a whip, the anteater uses its tongue to flick in and out of insect homes. An anteater can flick 160 times in a single minute.
Replicating the action of a windshield wiper, the suction on the tip of a toy arrow, or the circulation of an air conditioner, tongues clean, feed and cool the animals they serve. The lengths of tongues, no matter the size of the animal, are astounding. One is so long; this insect is the only one on this planet that can pollinate the star-shaped comet orchid. Tongues are indeed TERRIFIC.
Readers' curiosity is piqued as soon as tongues are referred to as different implements and even another body part. Author Maria Gianferrari knows her audience. A narrative rhythm is created when she states:
If you had a tongue like a ________ you might be a . . .
for the description of each animal's tongue. After the disclosure of the correct animal, Maria continues with a short paragraph supplying further information about that particular tongue. Using humans' tongues as the final tongue to discuss involves readers more deeply in the book. Like a poet Maria finishes with rhyming descriptive verbs to review the previous text. Knowing child readers and listeners, this will probably generate approval in the form of laughter and applause. Here is a passage.
If you had a tongue like a mop,
you might be a . . .
When the Pallas's long-tongued bat sticks
its tongue out for drinking, hairs on its
surface pop out to absorb the nectar, like
the fibers on a string mop.
Using an F & G generously supplied by the publisher, the digital artwork of Jia Liu, as seen on the front of the dust jacket and matching book case, has the appearance of collage. Each element is carefully placed, adding texture, dimension and realism to each image. Meticulous attention has been given to depicting each animal in their natural setting. To the back, on the left, the same backgroud is used to show a bat and a gecko in action, tongues extended.
A pale green covers the opening and closing endpapers. The frog seen on the front of the dust jacket makes a reappearance on the title page on a canvas of white. On the first page we are introduced to the narrative assistant, a monkey. Readers will share in the range of emotions he experiences as a variety of tongues emerge from his mouth. They will enjoy, as he does, the tongue like a party blower horn but they will be equally horrified at the nose emerging from his mouth.
Jia Liu tucks the monkey into each of the scenes showcasing the animals in their habitats. Most of the pictures span a single page with the exception of two double-page pictures. Sometimes a portion of an item in a visual will cross the gutter. Depending on the animal, the monkey's point of view shifts as does his size. He swims underwater with a snorkel when the frog is highlighted. He stays hidden with his hands over his mouth as the snake slithers past him. Like an explorer he's positioned on his belly in the grass with binoculars spying on the anteater. This playful fellow adds the right amount of humor to the illustrations.
One of my many favorite illustrations is for the Darwin hawkmoth. On a dark background darker leaves are placed. At the top of the page on a large leaf one of the moths is at rest, a blend of pink and brown on green. Peering up from the bottom of the page, larger than life, is the top of the monkey's head and his eyes raised to the top. Above his head is a white orchid leaning from a cluster of leaves. Across the gutter a Darwin hawkmoth has extended its tongue to suck the nectar from the flower.
The next time you speak, eat or focus your attention, you're certain to be more mindful of your own tongue after reading Terrific Tongues! written by Maria Gianferrari with illustrations by Jia Liu. It's a wonderful work of nonfiction designed to actively engage readers in the text and pictures. They will be eagerly looking for the monkey and wondering what new facts they will learn about each animal. At the close of the book, Maria Gianferrari includes more captivating information about each animal as well as other fun tongues on a final page.
To learn more about Maria Gianferrari and Jia Liu, please visit their websites by following the links attached to their names. This title is highlighted at Kid Lit Frenzy hosted by educator Alyson Beecher with an interview with Maria Gianferrari. Jia Liu is the featured illustrator at author, reviewer and blogger Julie Danielson's Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, at KidLit411 and at young adult and children's author Joanna Marple at Miss Marple's Musings.
Be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy hosted by educator Alyson Beecher to view the other titles selected this week by those individuals participating in the 2018 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge.