Quote of the Month

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

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Insider Secrets

Last night the first big storm of the season left behind five inches of snow.  Looking up from shoveling my driveway as the sun was starting to set; I noticed two deer quietly walking down the sidewalk across the street, a doe and an eight-point buck.  We watched each other for several minutes as I moved in rows back and forth tossing snow.

In mere seconds on a turn around I was startled to see they had gone.  They had vanished without a sound.  Not for the first time I wondered about the ability to accomplish something marvelous demonstrated in the animal world.  In a title recently named to the Outstanding Science Trade Books for Students K-12:2016 (Books published in 2015) the wife and husband collaborative team of Robin Page and Steve Jenkins reveal fascinating instructions.  How To Swallow A Pig: Step-By-Step Advice From The Animal Kingdom (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, September 1, 2015) will increase your admiration and respect for these creatures.

So you want to learn how to swallow a pig.  You've come to the right place.  

If you want to ease into this particular bit of knowledge, it is suggested to start out slowly with the less dramatic tricks of the trade.  Seventeen unique techniques are disclosed before the final eighteenth feat.

Teamwork among blue whales, circular swimming and blowing of bubbles, makes for a tasty meal.  An aptly named tailorbird uses creative stitching skills to shape a nest.  You'll look at millipedes differently with the new awareness of their value in the insect-plentiful rainforest.  Although the capuchin monkeys approach might make you utter the word gross.

Bighorn sheep teach us how to woo, crows cleverly crack nuts and beavers engineer a new pond.  Diving into the depths we witness the masquerade of the octopus.  Legs, a beak and spread wings define the hunting prowess of the reddish egret.  Paper manufacturer, mathematical genius, and umbrella engineer might be words used to describe the nesting building skills of a paper wasp.

Do you know why a barn spider spins the same web twice?  Do you know how bowerbirds work like interior designers?  Do you know why velvet monkeys have more than one alarm call?  Do you know why leaf-cutter ants leave a chemical trail?

Camouflage like a member of the tree family if you want to snatch dinner from the water like a crocodile.  Never settle for only one line of defense if you want to survive like an armadillo.  If pit digging is your style follow the lead of an ant lion.

The western grebe could teach contestants on Dancing with the Stars a move or two.  You most definitely won't want to engage in a hugging competition with a python.  Nothing compares to learning from members of the animal community.

For each creature Robin Page and Steve Jenkins use the repetitive words

How to ...
like a ...

This is followed by a captivating descriptive paragraph inviting the readers, if they desire, to follow their numbered steps to accomplish the same results as the mentioned animal.  The matter-of-fact conversational suggestions will have you believing you might blow a bubble net, smash heads with a rival or enjoy a

fungus feast.

Here are some excerpts from the

How to
Spin a Web
Like a Spider

...Before you start, however, you'll need to find a protected place to build your web, and---this is the tricky part---you'll have to learn how to spin silk threads.

1 Cast a line.
Once you've found the right spot, cast a single silk thread into the air.  If you're lucky, the breeze will catch it and it will snag on a nearby branch or other object.
2 Make a loop.
Walk across the first thread and spin another that droops to form a U.

The python coiled around the title, author and illustrator text on the front of the matching dust jacket and book case is stunning.  The placement of the tail and head and using the patterned skin as a frame is a truly eye-catching design.  On the back, to the left, on a background of the same rusty red as found on the front are six white circles.  Each features a portion of a different illustration from the interior.  The title font hue covers the opening and closing endpapers.  On the title page the image from the front jacket and case is repeated with a noticeable change.  All that remains of the python is an "s" portion of the tail.  The reptile is on the move.

White space showcases the torn-and-cut-paper collage art of Steve Jenkins.  The tiny details and the play of light and shadow creating life-like eyes are astounding.  The set of instructions may be placed on a single page or span two pages.  For each number a separate image is shown.

One of my favorite series of illustrations is for the tailorbird.  As the bird selects a leaf we see him on a branch coming from the top of a page.  Then it has moved to work the two edges of the leaf together with spider silk.  As the holes are poked in the leaf edges and found material is used to sew them together the angle of the pictures changes.  The final visual is larger as the tailorbird flies gathering soft items to line the nest.

It's understandable in addition to being on the Outstanding Science Trade Books for Students K-12:2016 (Books published in 2015), How To Swallow A Pig: Step-by-Step Advice From The Animal Kingdom written and illustrated by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page is also one of the Commended Books on the 2016 AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize Finalists list.  At the close of the book several pages highlight more facts about each of the animals.  There is also a short bibliography.

If you desire to learn more about Robin Page and Steve Jenkins please visit their website by following the link attached to the first name.  Attached to the second name are pages dedicated to the making of this book. Don't miss the book, reading it aloud or chatting about the information found at their website.

Please stop by Kid Lit Frenzy hosted by Alyson Beecher to see the other titles selected by bloggers this week who are participating in the 2015 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge.

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