Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Contained Within

Seeing not one but seven robins gathered on the lawn last week was like discovering a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.  Their voices joining the calls of chickadees, cardinals, crows and geese are uplifting.  It's easy to start imagining where they will set up housekeeping in the shrubs and trees around the house.

Perhaps a nest will be near enough to observe the pale blue eggs carefully laid, warmed and watched, the hatching, and the babies' first flight.  Numerous lives in the animal kingdom begin within an egg.  Egg:  Nature's Perfect Package (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, March 3, 2015), written and illustrated by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page, examines aspects of eggs you may or may not have considered.

Butterflies, frogs, sharks, and humans all begin life as an egg.  So does almost every other animal.

This title focuses on those eggs laid.  It's fascinating to realize a banana slug and a sea urchin lay eggs.  The sizes of eggs vary from those so tiny a microscope is needed to see them to those the size of my two closed fists.  It's also surprising to realize the size of the animal does not determine the size of the egg.  Small animals can have eggs much larger than those of gigantic creatures.

Eggs can be carefully placed where no predators are safe or out in the open.  It's a tad creepy to know where the spider wasp lays a single egg.  There are less than stellar parents who deposit their eggs with other eggs to avoid duties of raising their young.

The number of eggs laid often determines the quality of care received.  The royal albatross lays a single egg.  It will be another two years before they lay another egg.  While I knew the green sea turtle buries their eggs in the sand, I had no idea the number of miles they may swim to find a particular beach.  

Creativity is key for those animals desiring eggs as food.  They may use a rock to crack a shell, throw one between their back legs in order to strike a hard object or make use of a long bill. Knowing this, animals take steps to protect their eggs.  A colored cluster may warn of poison, a dark ink may hide individual eggs or releasing a disgusting liquid may provide discouragement.

Least you think eggs are similar in shape, that is not always the case.  Creatures supply a structure resilient to the environment in which they are laid.  When camouflage or the container for eggs is not sufficient, the eggs are taken with the female or male until birth.  

The black-eyed squid clutches her jelly-like egg sac with sharp hooks on her tentacles.  The sac contains as many as 3,000 eggs, and she will hold on to it for months, going without food until the eggs hatch.  

It's incredible to realize how eggs are kept warm; the maelo buries her eggs, if she has to, in the ashes of a nearby volcano which is active. When babies break free of the eggs, it must be at the right time.  For the brine shrimp it can take up to fifty years.  It can be tricky when you think of how those shells were created to protect and furnish nourishment.  A corn snake has a special tooth to help it break free.  The speed of development, the packaging, size and protection maintained may differ from animal to animal but each egg is a natural marvel, as distinctive as the animal from which it comes. 

When Steve Jenkins and Robin Page combine their talents to write a narrative, we are assured of authenticity through painstaking research.  These two search for the most captivating items of information to present in simple conversational sentences to their audience.  A nice selection of insects, sea and pond creatures, reptiles, birds and land as well as extinct animals are represented to capture the interest of every reader.

Every two pages a new section begins with a short paragraph.  Extra explanatory sentences serve to clarify.  When a specific animal is featured their name is placed in bold type drawing your eyes to their entry.

You can guaranteed readers, even those new to the artwork of Steve Jenkins, will be attracted by the bold background hues on the matching front and back of the dust jacket and book case.  These selected colors serve as the ideal canvas to showcase his slightly cracked egg with a beak poking through the shell.  On the back a long-billed baby bird is emerging.  A bright golden yellow (yolk) covers both the opening and closing endpapers.  The egg seen on the front appears again beneath the title, open, in two pieces and empty.  

Other than the introduction whose text is in the shape of an egg (white on red-orange) and the opposite page in golden yellow with egg types in a row at the bottom, all the remaining pages are pristine white.  Using his masterful technique of

torn-and cut-paper collage

the highlighted eggs and corresponding animals are portrayed in almost photographic detail.  Jenkins' paper choices replicate texture and physical characteristics faithfully.  Layout and design establishes a pleasing flow from page to page.  We may see all or only a portion of an animal.

A couple of my favorite illustrations are of the black-spotted sticky frog and the gray partridge.  The former is shown peeking out of an orange carnivorous pitcher plant.  The tiny baby bird in the second sits among three other eggs in a nest.  The feathers look as soft as down.

From the title, Egg:  Nature's Perfect Package, and including every single page between the cover, authors Steve Jenkins and Robin Page and illustrator Steve Jenkins have given readers of all ages an absorbing look at the subject.  The quality we have come to expect in their words and illustrations is decidedly present in this book.  They continue to inspire us to increase our appreciation of the natural world.  You must be sure to find a place for this on your bookshelves.  It will captivate you every single time you read it.  At the close of the book a comparison of the growth cycle of a chicken and an alligator inside the egg is displayed.  Following this three pages show tiny thumbnails of the animals, their length and habitat.

At Steve Jenkins' website, which you can access by following the link attached to his name, the process used to create this book is outlined in a series of slides.  Three interior double page spreads are available for you to view.  By following this link you are taken to a document prepared by the publisher which includes teacher's guides for five Jenkins' books including this new volume.

Be sure to visit educator Alyson Beecher's blog, Kid Lit Frenzy, to see what other titles were featured by participating bloggers this week in the 2015 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge.


  1. Steve Jenkins can really do no wrong. I think this text looks phenomenal--I will need to get it from my library.

    1. I agree Kellee. Every single title teaches me something new.

  2. Perfect timing on this book from you and Aly - our kg is studying eggs next week. I'm going to send your post to our kg teachers! Elisabeth also mentioned An Egg is Quiet. I'll have to get that one too :)

    1. I am so happy the post will be of use to your teachers, Michele. An Egg Is Quiet is gorgeous. ☺ (All their books are beautiful.) But so are the Jenkins' books. It's a win for readers.