Quote of the Month

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

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

And Nothing But The . . .

There are two things which happen when readers are hooked on a series.  The first is a growing excitement for the next installment.  It builds until we hold the next volume in our hands.  The second thought ever present in our minds is we don't want this to end.  We enjoy it completely and without reservation.

If laughter as an element figures in our appreciation for a collection of titles, this collection becomes more firmly cemented in our desire for it to continue endlessly.  On February 27, 2018 two titles were released which not only inform readers but entertain us and promote further research as well.  These books, The Truth About Bears (Seriously Funny Facts About Your Favorite Animals) (A Neal Porter Book, Roaring Brook Press) and The Truth About Hippos (Seriously Funny Facts About Your Favorite Animals) (A Neal Porter Book, Roaring Brook Press) written and illustrated by Maxwell Eaton III are seriously fantastic.

This is a bear.
I'm Pete.

In tandem with each stated fact, more than one on most pages, bears are commentators declaring obvious details but also providing comedic responses.  Other animal characters you might find in the appropriate region chime in with their insights.  Additional information appears as captions or in signs.

We quickly learn standing polar bears are eight feet tall, actual bear claws are several inches long and the three most common bears are American black bear, brown bear and the polar bear.  Koalas, residents of Australia, are not bears.  Bears have voracious appetites.  Did you know they can eat thousands of berries in one day?

Bear newborns are so small they weigh less than a guinea pig, but a full-grown bear can rival a small car in weight.  Hibernation, the value of fur and bears under threat are discussed.  Hints about safety around bears are given.  Here is an example of the blend of facts and dialogue on two pages.

Polar bears eat seals.  They smell them
through the seals' breathing holes
in the ice and snow.

Sometimes they smash the ice and grab them.

You should probably turn the page. (polar bear)
Please don't. (seal held in polar bear paw)

This is a hippopotamus.



Did you know there are two kinds of hippos; common hippos and pygmy hippos?  Their weights are compared to four cows versus one pig.  That's a huge difference.  They both live in Africa but tend to enjoy other areas; water and grasslands contrasted to mud along rivers and lakes close to the cover of dense forests.

Pygmy diets are more varied.  Common hippos have long, long teeth and mouths that can lay almost flat when open.  And you don't want to be near them when they relieve themselves of their waste.  YUCK!  Did you know hippos can't swim?  How do you think they move in the water?

One of the hippos prefers resting in groups, the other alone in the shade.  Night is when hippos are on the move.  The daylight hours are for taking it easy.  Both, common and pygmy, hippos need protection from hunters and habitat destruction.  Here is a factual and dialogue passage; some in narrative, some placed on signs and speech balloons.

Common hippos and pygmy hippos
both spend their days resting.


Common hippos stay in the 
water in large groups.

Has anyone see
this calf's mom?

She has


Happily, for readers of the series a third title was released on May 8, 2018.  The Truth About Dolphins (Seriously Funny Facts About Your Favorite Animals) (A Neal Porter Book, Roaring Brook Press) with artwork and words by Maxwell Eaton III will have readers captivated as soon as they see the cover.  By the first page, they'll be reading as fast as they can.

This is a dolphin.

Hello. (dolphin)

Yikes! (girl seated in inner tube in water)

<---common i="">
dolphin (arrow points to dolphin)

For the first several pages comparisons are made between dolphins and fish.  Did you know one swims by moving their bodies from left to right and the other moves their tails up and down?  Dolphins are mammals; traits in support of this are disclosed.

There are more than forty species of dolphins with one of them weighing 12,000 pounds.  You can go almost any place on our planet and find dolphins.  They are skilled hunters working together in groups.

They are one of few animals employing the use of echolocation.  Their communication techniques are masterful so is their desire to play.  Both help them to avoid enemies like sharks.  Their worst enemies are us.  Here is one of the humorous combinations of text and conversations.

Dolphins eat mostly fish and squid.

spotted dolphin

That was close. (arrow points to hiding squid)

They hunt in groups, called pods, by
using their eyes, ears, and one
very special ability . . .

Left, right,
left, right, left,
right, left, right,
left, right, left,
right, left! (says a group of six fleeing fish)

When The Truth About Elephants (Seriously Funny Facts About Your Favorite Animals) (A Neal Porter Book, Roaring Brook Press, November 27, 2018) written by Maxwell Eaton III was released this autumn, readers wondered what would be revealed.  What factual items would this author illustrator include in this book?  What would the elephants and other animals say in response?

Here comes an elephant.

Boom Boom Boom
Boom Boom Boom Boom

I'm a
human. (says a little girl who doesn't see what is behind her)

With the first declaration about elephants being the largest land animals, all types of comments are made along with supporting documentation.  A white rhinoceros and a common hippopotamus (who we've already met) are not too happy.  A blue whale peeks through a circle in the page to add elephants are not the largest in water.

We learn of the development of elephants, their current relatives and the types of elephants.  The Asian and African elephants are shown side by side with their differences noted.  The finer points of trunk use are disclosed.

Their tusks and molars come in handy for an array of activities.  Did you know these herbivores spend about eighteen hours a day in the act of looking and consuming food?  Family hierarchy, communication, and herd defense work is explained with examples.  Here is one of many blends of truth and playfulness.

Elephants' teeth are also unique.  Long
tusks are used to dig for roots, scrape bark
from trees, and defend against predators.

tried to
eat me. (baby elephant now on mother's back)

right? (alligator trapped beneath mother's tusks)


As an illustrator Maxwell Eaton III begins his pictorial interpretations immediately on the matching dust jackets and book cases of all four books.  His word play is evident in the opening comment on the front of each.  The images with verbal comments, text or sound effects on the back make reference to the hilarity or theme found within the body of the book; car driving bears, bicycle riding hippos, dolphins and diving with scuba gear and elephants and jazz music.

The opening and closing endpapers are bright solid colors.  On the initial title page each specific animal makes a factual or funny statement.  This is expanded on the formal title page, a double-page picture, with results certain to cause readers to smile or burst out laughing.

Maxwell Eaton III alters his illustration sizes in order to heighten and complement his narrative, captions and conversations.  They range from double-page visuals, single-page images, or several pictures gathered together on one or two pages.  Elements from one illustration often overlap another image.

The facial expressions on all the animals convey exactly what they are thinking or saying.  These add to the truth and prevalent comedy.  At the close of each book spread across two pages is an open file labeled on the tab with the animal name.  It contains habitat facts, tracks, field notes, size, a territory map or other pertinent pieces of information like elephant toenails and further research opportunities for children and adults.  This is followed with a final one-page image guaranteed to generate giggles and grins.

There are many, many favorite illustrations in each book.  In the bear book when we are being informed about bears' food it mentions rodents.  A bear is not sure what a rodent is.  A squirrel points to a rock and says it's a rodent.  In the discussion about hippo waste elimination the backside of a hippo faces us.  A small bird on top of the hippo states this is why he is where he is.  When we are learning about dolphin communication two dolphins are shown at rest underwater.  One says a sound is like a particular third dolphin.  The second dolphin says this third dolphin still owns him three squid.  Being educated about four gigantic elephant molars in their mouths invites a small bird standing on a ladder and leaning toward the open elephant mouth to make a comment.  Holding a toothbrush, he knows a bigger one is needed.

The mix of factual and funny information, commentary and illustrations is a huge invitation for readers of all ages to read The Truth About Bears, The Truth About Hippos, The Truth About Dolphins and The Truth About Elephants all part of the Seriously Funny Facts About Your Favorite Animals series written and illustrated by Maxwell Eaton III.  These will be great and welcome nonfiction read-aloud selections and research titles.  You will need multiple copies of each volume. I highly recommend these for your personal and professional collections.  It appears a fifth and sixth book are coming in the spring and fall of this year.  Fans of crocodiles and hawks will be happy.

To discover more about Maxwell Eaton III and his other work, please follow the link attached to his name to access his website.  Maxwell Eaton III maintains an account on Instagram and Twitter.  You can view interior images from Bears, Hippos, Dolphins and Elephants at the publisher's website. There is a wonderful, older interview with Maxwell at author, reviewer and blogger Julie Danielson's Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.  Maxwell Eaton III is featured in the Lake Placid News about his books.

Remember to visit Kid Lit Frenzy hosted by educator Alyson Beecher to note the other titles chosen this week by participants in the 2019 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge.

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