Quote of the Month

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

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Significance Of Sound

When a sporting dog takes up residence in your home, if you weren't already, you become an astute observer of nature.  As you are outdoors in all kinds of weather, your meteorology skills heighten to avoid the unwelcome snow squall or lightning strike.  When out walking if your canine companion comes to a quick halt, you need to do the same.  Listen carefully.  If the bird song suddenly stops or increases to shrieks, danger is lurking.  Even though your sense of smell is far inferior, take a few moments every so often to breathe deeply.  An encounter with a skunk never ends well for you or your pooch pal.

Without realizing it your interest in animals, not only in your area, but all over the world grows.  You develop a need to know.  Can An Aardvark Bark? (Beach Lane Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division, June 13, 2017), written by esteemed science writer Melissa Stewart with illustrations by Caldecott Honor winner Steve Jenkins, explores sounds made by animals in a variety of habitats.

Can an aardvark bark?
No, but it can grunt.

If you happen to be standing in the African grasslands at night, you might hear one grunting as it looks for ants or termites.  An aardvark is not alone in using this sound.  Some animals grunt when they play or to greet another member of their group.  Unfortunately for the oyster toadfish when it grunts, all the care of staying hidden vanishes.

Speaking of barking, seals bark but don't squeal.  They do this to defend their territory.  Other animals bark in warning, to announce their presence, or to attract a mate.  Boars don't roar, but they squeal.  (Can you detect a clever pattern?)

Like a group of children on the playground, they and Abert's towhees squeal when excited.  The wily margay uses it to lure in a meal.  Whining, growling, bellowing and laughter are discussed in equal measure.

Baby animals like black bears and beavers whine for more than one reason. (Does this remind you of anyone?)  Can you guess which animal growls like a lion during mating season?  It's not even in the feline family.  You might be startled to hear the sound a giraffe makes when a little one is lost.  And exactly like humans a laughing kookaburra or a gorilla laughs when it wants to be noticed or is happy.  This is fascinating, factual and just plain fun.

For nineteen years author Melissa Stewart has been acquainting readers with the results of her passion for and meticulous research of all forms of science.  In this most recent publication her search for answers to a simple question about sound reveals to readers mysteries of the animal world.  The narrative beat she makes with the single sound word asked in one section and then answered in another elevates interest.  When she pauses that cadence we are more curious.  What will readers discover next?  For each sound, seven in total, she talks about five animals.  Here is another question with an answer followed by a single paragraph.

Can a dingo bellow?
No, but it can growl.

A coastal giant salamander may look like a peaceful creature, but it knows how to put up a fight.  The angry amphibian arches its back, growls at its rival, and lashes out with its poisonous tail.

Gather close readers to recognize the intricate care given to the details on each one of these animals by author, illustrator and artist Steve Jenkins.  Look at the layers and color variations in the skin/fur of the aardvark.  Can you see the tiny whiskers?  Even though his animals are frozen for the page, they look as if they can leap to life any second.  (Steve Jenkins usually adds what I like to call the spark of life in each of his animals, the tiny piece of white in the eyes.)  The body of the aardvark continues across the spine to the left on the back of the dust jacket.

Beneath the text on the title page the aardvark is featured in a circle.  This circle motif continues at the conclusion of the book as readers are asked if they can make all seven sounds.  Other animals appear in those circles.

Using crisp white backgrounds to draw our attention to the creatures, Steve Jenkins uses two pages for the first animal highlighted in the question and answer.  The following two pages are dedicated to four other individuals.  Many times he will have them placed within a portion of their habitat; water, mud, or a branch.  As pointed out previously, the texture readers see with the cut-and-torn-paper collage technique for the images will have them reaching out as if they can actually feel the fur or skin or pulling back as in the case of more dangerous animals.

One of my favorite of several illustrations is the two pages given to the wild boar.  It is leaping from the left side, across the gutter and to the right side as if running off the page.  All four legs are extended with the tail raised.  Its mouth is open showing us the tusks.  The fur is thick and curled.  I can almost hear it racing toward its destination.

It can be safely said readers world-wide may have laughed in delight when they saw the names for the collaboration to complete this title.  Melissa Stewart and Steve Jenkins are well-known in the nonfiction children's literature world.  Can An Aardvark Bark?  will inform and inspire further research.  At the close of the book Selected Sources and For Further Reading sections are shown.  Melissa Stewart designed a Storytime Guide.

To learn more about Melissa Stewart and Steve Jenkins and their other work please follow the links attached to their names to access their websites.  To view interior images follow this link to the publisher's website.  Melissa Stewart is featured or has written posts about nonfiction recently at Kirby Larson Friend Friday, Patricia Saunders, Two Writing Teachers, Cynsations, and the Nerdy Book Club.  The cover reveal and a blog post about this title are found at Kid Lit Frenzy.  Enjoy the book trailer.

With this link you can view me reading a portion of this title to students in Colby Sharp's third grade classroom.

Be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy hosted by educator Alyson Beecher to view the titles selected this week by other bloggers participating in the 2017 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge.

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