Quote of the Month

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

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Oh, Those Amazing Animals 2

Their cleverness is astounding.  So is their adaptability.  These two, ingenuity and versatility, have been and continue to be the key to their survival in an ever-and-fast-changing environment.  Humans have failed repeatedly in their stewardship of our planet, but animals continue to prevail.  Their lives move to rhythms we don't fully comprehend.

The more we do understand, the more we appreciate the marvelous animals inhabiting this world.  In North & South: A Tale Of Two Hemispheres (Candlewick Press, July 6, 2021) written and illustrated by New Zealand author illustrator Sandra Morris, we journey through the months of the year.  Each month a special characteristic is examined and compared in the two hemispheres.  Let us begin this enlightening exploration.

Earth is divided into the Northern Hemisphere and the
Southern Hemisphere by an imaginary line called the equator.

One of the most important differences between the two hemispheres is the timing of

In the introduction we find that the four seasons, winter, spring, summer, and autumn as well as the dry season and wet season in each hemisphere are being affected by climate change.  This along with other human recklessness is putting animals in danger.  

It is estimated that sixty percent of mammal, bird, fish, and reptile populations have been wiped out since 1970.

We are further informed as to which months fall within each of the seasons.

Two pages are devoted to each month.  These sections are titled, and a single sentence defines those titles. Information about an animal in the northern and the southern hemisphere is placed in columns on the left and right sides.  Depending on where readers reside, the animals are familiar or new, but the facts are appealing, nonetheless.

Japanese macaques stay cozy by sitting in the local hot springs.  Their counterparts in Tanzania, Africa feed their chicks "red milk." Can you guess the kind of bird?  If those living in the northern hemisphere have never seen a dam built by an American beaver, make it a goal.  Hoatzins build nests over the water on platforms.  That must be a sight to see around the Amazon River.

Birds in both hemispheres dance to attract mates different times of the year.  Others have forms of armor for protection.  Who knew a kind of beetle and turtle shared something in common?  In September, we discover the truth about Portuguese man-of-war and springbok pronking.  Some animal residents on this planet are moving annually in order to survive in a more favorable climate or to travel to breeding grounds.  The thousands of miles they travel is astonishing.

In anticipation of a slowing down of life or possible shortages, animals in the north and south use skills to hibernate and act as vessels for food.  Honeypot ants, found in Central Asia, eat more than the average amount of nectar . . . 

their bellies swell up like balloons.

Animals around the world are usually on the move in their search for food.  Sometimes they move from high country to low country as the seasons change.  Did you know elephants will travel sixty miles in their search for food?  Animals, individually or as a collective whole, are remarkable, season to season, year after year.

Through the words of Sandra Morris, we move from north to south, above and below the equator, across countries and continents learning about the range of animals residing there.  After her enriching introduction, each month supplies us with knowledge about birds, mammals, reptiles, insects, and fish.  Fascinating physical characteristics, eating habits, homes, breeding, and the care and raising of the young are presented.  Every page turn will leave readers amazed.  Here is a title, the companion sentence, a statement about an animal in the southern hemisphere, and a portion of the longer discussion.

Many creatures require tough exoskeletons, shells, or carapaces to protect
them from predators, battles with rivals, or even their environment.

Female leatherback turtles come ashore
on special nights to lay their eggs on
sandy beaches in Papua New Guinea, the
Solomon Islands, and the Florida coast.

(Pacific, Atlantic & Indian Oceans)

Leatherback turtles are protected by a
bony plate under their skin, hence the
name "leatherback."  They live in many 
oceans, as far north as Alaska and as 
far south as the Cape of Good Hope, 
and spend most of their lives at sea,
eating mainly jellyfish.

On the open and matching dust jacket and book case, readers gain a preview of the animals' lives examined within the pages of the book.  The main title text placed in the large compass is a stunning display enhanced by the colorful wildlife circling it.  The blue canvas, perhaps representing the oceans of the world, crosses the spine to the back, left, of the jacket and case.  There, another compass holds a single sentence blurb of the book.  Silhouettes of all twenty-four animals encircle this compass.  Flora and fauna frame the ISBN at the bottom.

In turquoise and cream on the opening and closing endpapers, we find a world map providing us with views of the continents and oceans.  A compass is placed in the lower left-hand corner.  Silhouettes of the animals, in several distinct hues, are presented with a dotted line drawn from them to their country of residence.  In a beautiful design with black and gray on cream, the title text and compass stand alone on the title page.  On the verso, dedication, and contents pages, we are treated to more artistic depictions of creatures.

These illustrations by Sandra Morris rendered

in watercolor and salt 

are realistic, many of them highly animated.  We are brought close to the featured creatures.  The canvases on which they are placed blend from one hemisphere to the other hemisphere.  Beneath the larger columns of facts on the left and right sides are small world maps with a red dot indicating the place where the animals are found.  We are also shown their conservation status.  

One of my many favorite illustrations is for the month of February titled:


These illustrations for all the months extend from two-thirds of a page on the left to two-thirds of a page on the right.  In this image, the banner citing Northern Hemisphere---Southern Hemisphere shifts in shades of blue to hues of pink.  It divides the page in half horizontally with a slight rise in the center.  On the top half is a group of four Japanese macaques.  We only see portions of their top halves and faces.  Their eyes are closed as they savor the warmth in a thermal pool.  In the bottom half are three adult flamingoes.  Surrounding their feet is a large group of chicks.  They are all enjoying a lake in Tanzania.

This book, North & South: A Tale Of Two Hemispheres written and illustrated by Sandra Morris, allows readers to expand their world view through the portrayed animals.  They journey beyond their particular community to other places through the seasons and months.  This title has applications in the study of times during the year, animal adaptations, and how to protect animals.  At the close of the book is a two-page glossary, index, and extra information on further reading and how you can help.  I highly recommend this title for both your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about Sandra Morris, please visit the site linked to her name.  Sandra Morris has an account on Instagram.  Sandra Morris, a resident of New Zealand, is interviewed at The Sapling The Mahy Questionaire: Sandra Morris.  

Today, a contractor, working on bringing the roof of my recently acquired pergola to code, removed a large robin's nest.  He set it down on the edge of the fireplace.  Completely intact, it has weathered multiple torrential rains and howling high winds.  Carefully molded to hold eggs and the adult bodies, it is feat of design and development.  In Animal Architects (Beach Lane Books, September 7, 2021) written by Amy Cherrix with illustrations by Chris Sasaki, through astounding information and striking images, we learn of other feats of design and development by our animal companions on this planet.

Did you know the natural
world is a construction zone?
Whether they are large or small,
in the ocean or on land, animals
are amazing architects!

Four pages are devoted to each of eleven captivating and innovative structures.  What will these tell us about the animals who made them?  What can we learn from them?

Beneath the waters of the Coral Sea, small beings have been working for thousands of years to form the Great Barrier Reef.  Can you imagine a size so big; it can be seen in outer space?  Back on land, another tiny being fashions a trap out of silk.  Unsuspecting insects become meals.

There is a male bird who builds a home, then decorates it to attract a mate.  There are birds living in Antarctica who as a pair gather pebbles annually to assemble something special.  Wow!  You'll never guess how many prairie dogs lived in the largest recorded prairie dog town.  

Brick-forming termites, brick by brick, build towers which due to their unique shape are nature's own specialized HVAC systems.  Clever carrier snails use their specifically created type of glue to fool predators by building a body shield.  In mere minutes, a beaver can fell a tree used in construction of a dam.  The next time you are strolling through a field, the object you see is not a tennis ball among the grass, but a carefully constructed suspended home.  Phenomenal minds and phenomenal bodies have built the best.

For each of these eleven beings, author Amy Cherrix creates a conversational, two-part revelation.  Her first few sentences end with an unfinished sentence, a pause.  After the page turn, we discover what the animals have built, or what they intend to do.  It is an enticing cadence.  To heighten the appeal, descriptive adjectives and alliteration supply an added rhythm.  Within each of these two parts, Amy Cherrix includes facts certain to astound readers.    Here are three sentences after the page turn about ants.

Deep in their underground home, the ants dig
a roller-coaster network of tunnels and trails.
Together, these industrious insects can remove
2,205 pounds of earth per year.

That's a ton of dirt!

In a visually stunning array, the matching and open dust jacket and book case feature two themes, one of architectural blueprints and vibrant portraits of flora and fauna on a crisp white canvas.  On both the front, right, and back, left, the text is framed as it would be on a blueprint with stylized lettering.  The animals on the back and front are different and represent six of those showcased in the book.  On the spine a tiny honeybee separates the last name of the author and the illustrator.  On the back the ISBN is placed inside a tree stump.

On the opening and closing endpapers, the blueprint theme is continued, but it is almost like a naturalist's notebook, holding what has been seen or collected.  There we see grasses. seaweed, leaves, flowers, mushrooms, shells, an acorn, a tree ring, and some animals.  On the closing endpapers, part of the arrangement, on the left, is replaced with backmatter text.  Opposite the verso, in blueprint paper, is the title page.  This canvas is white with blue lettering.  Ants are the highlighted individuals, moving among mushrooms, grasses, and twigs.

These images by Chris Sasaki are destined to have readers stopping at page turns.  Rendered digitally, they are full of texture and gorgeous hues on a matte-finished paper.  When he takes us underwater, it is as if we are swimming among the fish.  On land, we wait with the trapdoor spider in darkness.  We feel the deep chill of the Antarctic habitat and the impressive achievement of the beaver.

Chris Sasaki alters his perspectives to draw us deeper into each animal's lives.  He brings us close when necessary or pulls back to give us greater meaning.  Sometimes we are looking down on a scene or given a cross-section.  He, too, switches from double-page pictures to two horizontal panels, top and bottom with text in the middle to emphasize the narrative.  Or perhaps, a single-page illustration might better serve the text.

One of my many favorite illustrations is the double-page picture of a close-up of ants at work.  A pale green background highlights a row of bright flowers and mushrooms stretching from left to right.  Short grass grows along the top of the ground.  Along the bottom, Chris Sasaki gives us an underground view of the roots.  On the right he brings us close to an ant hill with ants carrying dirt up the slope and down into the ground.  We are also shown a cutaway of the ant hill.

Readers will find themselves pausing either for the interesting information or eye-catching images or for both as they read Animal Architects written by Amy Cherrix with illustrations by Chris Sasaki.  At the close of the book is a list of selected sources, books and other media.  You'll want to add this title to both your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about Amy Cherrix and Chris Sasaki and their other work, please access their websites by following the link attached to their names.  Amy Cherrix has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  Chris Sasaki has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  At the publisher's website you can view interior images and the complete jacket and case.

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