What Do You Do With a Tail Like This? by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page
Tails with tassels, and tails with stink-um. Tails that sting, and tails that break off and wriggle quite on their own as a major distraction to toothy guys planning to eat a fellow up!
Different kinds of tails on different kinds of animals do fascinating, widely-varied jobs.
Same is true for noses, ears, eyes, mouths, and feet. There are eyes that squirt blood and eyes for spying in the night; mouths that unhinge and mouths that scoop.
Steve Jenkins and Robin Page have teamed up to give us a glimpse of five exceedingly diverse animals in each of these six categories. First, we get stunning close-ups of the five eyes, tails, or what-have-you, so we can start to wonder what special qualities they have. Turn the page, and Jenkins’ fabulous paper collages of the five creatures are strikingly posed, each paired with just one intriguing fact. “If you’re a cricket, you hear with ears that are on you knees.” Beautifully crafted for preschool listeners and up.
The last four pages of the book cover each of the 30 animals in a bit more depth, with a thumbnail picture and a brief paragraph telling more fascinating facts, geared for mid-elementary and older. Did you know that a giant anteater can eat up to 30,000 termites a day?!
As always, this husband-wife team deliver a gorgeous package. This one won a Caldecott Honor.
Secrets of Sound: Studying the Calls and Songs of Whales, Elephants, and Birds, by April Pulley Sayre
Male humpback whales sing highly-patterned songs that can go on for half an hour, while bowhead whales are a bit like the African Gray Parrots of the seas, imitating the sounds of ice cracking or of other whales.
Elephants talk to one another in such low tones, it took lots of work using high tech equipment before scientists proved they were communicating, yet their voices travel across immense distances.
Birds that migrate at night have an entirely different set of calls used during those dark hours of flight than during daylight hours. Almost no one has taken on the task of pairing these familiar birds with their less familiar calls.
Acoustic biologists study sounds made by all sorts of creatures. Currently, bioacousticians study the voices of creatures in deserts, oceans, forests and plains, from the tiny kangaroo rat to enormous whales. This book by award-winning author April Pulley Sayre contains absolutely fascinating information on what we are learning about the surprising, incredible ways animals communicate with one another.
Interestingly, many bioacousticians find their way into this field through their love of music, rather than having science as a starting point. The work they are doing often involves a great deal of listening and distinguishing sounds and patterns. The information gained from this research helps us understand how human activity affects animals in various habitats. It might even help the army break up riots! You’ll have to read to find out how.
Fantastic read for upper-elementary and older, illustrated with lots of great photos and helpful charts. A nice list for further reading and information on how you can become involved right now in research and conservation are included.
Under the Snow, by Melissa Stewart, illustrated by Constance R. Bergum
It’s March, but we still have a blanket of snow on the ground and a thick layer of ice on our lakes and ponds.
When we are out, walking through a snowy wood or around a snow-crusted pond, we might spot a rabbit loping along, or even a fox. But there’s a whole lot of creatures spending these cold months tucked away under the snow and ice. How do they manage?
Peek inside the gap in that stone wall, and you might spy a great pile of ladybugs or a coiled snake. If you had x-ray vision and could see under the ground, you could see a sleepy chipmunk curled up in a snarly bed of leaves and grasses, or a frog buried in the mud, barely breathing.
Melissa Stewart leads us on a captivating tour of the hidden worlds where all sorts of animals, from turtles to butterflies, woodchucks to newts, survive the winter months. A marvelous array is included here, yet each one is given just the briefest introduction before we skip along to the next secret inhabitant. Very engaging for pre-schoolers and up.
Constance Bergum’s beautiful watercolor illustrations cleverly divide the upper and lower worlds, while drawing our attention to the highlighted creature. The dazzling white landscapes, cozy burrows, and murky underwater worlds are really beautiful, and each creature triggers a sense of wonder.
The book ends as the spring thaw changes the environment for all these creatures, and ourselves, too. This is a terrific book. Check it out.
Citizen Scientists: Be Part of Scientific Discovery from Your Own Backyard, by Loree Griffin Burns, with photographs by Ellen Harasimowicz
What’s a citizen scientist? Just an ordinary person — like you and me — who helps scientists research by observing and participating in projects right in his own yard and neighborhood. If you or your kids have a bit of curiosity and persistence, you can be a part of scientific studies, starting now!
Loree Burns leads us through four different projects which make use of citizen scientists — butterfly tagging, bird counting, frog counting, and ladybugging.
Each one is written up in a full chapter, opening with a vivid account of what this particular study involves, then reviewing what scientists are seeking to discover through these observations, describing some particular local-yokels engaged in the study, and giving practical tips for involvement and close-up photgraphs of the creatures involved.
Scads of beautiful photographs accompany these four units, which are about 15 engaging pages long.
Finally, at the end of the book, a full page is devoted to each project, listing books, field guides, and Internet sources where you can find out more and get involved in the projects. There’s also a short list of some dramatically different projects you might choose instead, from plants and fungi based studies, to studies about stars, earthquakes, or even money.
What a memorable and worthwhile way to use some of that time you save by not playing video games 🙂
The Secrets of Animal Flight, written and photographed by Nic Bishop
For centuries, humankind observed the flight of birds and dreamed about how we, too, could fly.
Here, Nic Bishop walks us through some of the principles of flight that allow birds, bats, butterflies, and bees, to swoop and glide and hover. Explanations of airfoils, the properties of feathers, the sequence of forces occuring with downstrokes and upstrokes of wings, take offs and landings, gliding and soaring — and so much more, are each given space here. Bishop engages mid to upper elementary students and older with his text, which will primarily attract those who already have a significant interest in flight.
Besides the physics of flight, Bishop tucks in other fascinating facts about the creatures. For example, we learn how fast bees fly, how heavy a load of pollen and nectar they can carry, how much nectar they require as “gas” for their
Nic Bishop is known for his stunning animal photography, and this book, which is one of his earlier works, features really amazing photos of animals in flight, captured at just the exact moment necessary to illustrate the principle he is discussing.
Later books by Bishop contain less technical information, but for readers who are enamored with flight, this will be just the ticket.
Here are Amazon links for all these books about curious creatures, for insatiably curious readers:
What Do You Do with a Tail Like This?
Secrets of Sound: Studying the Calls and Songs of Whales, Elephants, and Birds (Scientists in the Field Series)
Under the Snow
Citizen Scientists: Be a Part of Scientific Discovery from Your Own Backyard
The Secrets of Animal Flight