Posts tagged ‘animals’

October 11, 2012

Pass along some warmth, and maybe some knowledge, too

Every time the Wizard of Why asks me about a polar bear, I want to cry. What if there aren’t any left when his son asks him the same question? The idea that I brought a child into a world like that–the idea that he learns every day the world is less perfect than he imagined it, is sometimes hard to take. News stories of bears stranded mid-ocean on small pieces of ice, or mother polar bears eating their cubs pound through my head. I don’t share those. Sometimes I talk to him about the danger they face. I try to balance honesty with his own young developmental stage.

But I do love that he’s asking–always asking–about the world around him. He wants to know how animals do the things they do. And, former science teacher that I am, (or current, if this counts as a job), I want to tell him. Which is why I love getting books like this one.

My son will love it. I know he will ask to read it again and again, as he does with any fact-laden book. But this is not nonfiction in the strictest sense of the word. The facts are laced into poetry and the poetry sewn into a kind of a story.

The question “how do humans keep warm in the winter, Mama?” is repeated, with slight variations, on each of the crisply illustrated pages of this scientific story. “Do they live in a bunch taking turns for their lunch?” the voice asks, while the picture shows us that this is what bees do. Through a series of questions partnered with drawings, children learn how animals stay warm in the winter through adaptations, shelters, and changing habitats.

One of the great twists in this book is that the questions are asked by the animal young of their own mothers–a turtle is imagining a human child with a shell on its back, a bear cub is picturing a sleepy girl who has just finished a full meal. My son will love this as well–he will love the idea that animals are asking questions and it confirms for him that questions are good, that they are part of our natural world, that they are important to us.

Title: A Warm Winter Tail
Author: Carrie A. Pearson
Illustrator: Christina Wild
Genre: Picture Book
Age: 0 – 7

Usually, I like to talk about what you can do with a book other than just reading it. But this book does that for me! There are activities in the back of the book that include more fun facts, more detailed explanations of the winter behavior of the animals in the book, and a matching game. There are also more activities online.

I don’t know how to save the world, but I do know that education is the first step. It may not be sufficient, but it is necessary. Books are an important part of that education. I’m excited to be a stop on the blog tour of A Warm Winter Tail, and I hope you enjoy it too!

January 16, 2012

predictably, the zebra doesn’t make it in “After the Kill”

I’m too much of a wuss to give this one to my son quite yet. I’m not necessarily proud to be part of the modern tradition of shielding children from basically all reality, but here we are. When my son asks about what animals eat, I tell him. But he usually doesn’t believe me. When he asks if the fish we eat are the same kind that swim in the sea, I tell him. But again, he doesn’t believe me. When he asked recently what bird eat, I told him that smaller birds eat seeds and worms and bugs and larger birds ate smaller birds and mammals. This time, not only did he not believe me, he wanted to challenge me. So he asked his dad to get out his iPhone and test his “hypothesis” (yes, he loves that word) that big birds ate worms and small birds ate bird seed. Now, since the best way to prove something to be true is to google it, his search basically answered the question in the way he had hoped.

Which is all to say that I don’t think he’s quite ready for this book. But I will certainly show it to him someday, although if the past is any indication, he simply won’t believe me.

Title: After the Kill
Author: Darrin Lunde
Illustrator: Catherine Stock
 Picture Book, Nonfiction, Science
Ages: I would say 4 or 5 and up, but maybe 3 if you are less of a wimp than I am (and have raised someone less in denial)

Summary and Stuff to do with the kids:

This is a great story about the food chain out in the wilds of Africa. It starts, rather graphically, with a zebra getting killed by a lioness. Vultures, hyenas and jackals also come along for a bite until the male lions scare them away. When the lions are done, more vultures come and then the beetles “swarm inside the skull, squeeze between the teeth, and wiggle inside the ears.” We are not treading lightly here.

The words make no apology for what is going on, which I appreciate. It is life as life is, and as kids do need to understand at some time. And it is animals acting as animals–they are not anthropomorphized or having conversations, which I also appreciate. The illustrations are gorgeously done, which given the subject matter, could be considered a plus or a minus. 🙂

This would be a great book to talk to your kids about where food comes from. Or, if the kids are older, it could easily be used in an elementary science class to talk about the food chain. It’s also a great conversation starter about waste: how much food does the average American family throw away after they make dinner? Well, what about these animals? They killed one zebra and lots of animals got their full of it, eating absolutely everything until the bare bones lay scorching in the sun.

Now tell me: when did your kids figure out what their food really was? Were they in denial for awhile? Was it a one-time revelation, or did it just slowly sink in over time? And would you like a book like this to talk with them?

January 27, 2011

Animals, animals, and more animals

This book has spawned a musical revolution in my house.  My toddler now goes around the house very proudly singing “Old MacDonald” but purposefully mismatching the animal sounds.  (As in, Old MacDonald might have had a cow on his farm, but there is a “quack, quack here”.)  He thinks this is the most hysterical thing anyone’s ever said, and he sings a verse and then waits politely for me to laugh out loud, which of course I do, even if I hadn’t been paying attention and have no idea what he was singing–I can easily assume because that’s what is being sung around our house.  At any rate, he loves it, and I love it, and that’s only the influence of one of the many awesome poems and quotes in this book.

Title: Animals, Animals
Illustrator: Eric Carle
Genre: Picture Book
Age Group: 0 – 7 and much, much older!

Summary and Review: This is one of those picture books you keep for a long time.  It was good for reading to an infant because of the gorgeous pictures and melodic verse.  It’s great for a toddler because of the huge variety in animals as well as the type of verse that describes those animals.  The book is an anthology of famous and not-so-famous animal quotes, poems, and songs.  It has every from a quote from the Bible and the Talmud (the latter is “a handful does not satisfy a lion”), to haikus, silly poems by Ogden Nash (“Tell Me, O Octopus, I begs, / Is those things arms or is they legs? / I marvel at thee Octopus; / If I were thou, I’d call me Us.”)  And of course, a great poem about a farm where the animals all make the wrong sounds, inspiring the musical creativity of my little boy.

In short, I couldn’t imagine a more awesome book.

Follow-up with the kids:

Well, I couldn’t imagine a better one than the version of Old MacDonald my son invented.  So try it yourself and see if it catches on just as quickly in your household!