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Friday, January 29, 2010

How Many Ways Can You Catch a Fly? Written and illustrated by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page. Houghton Mifflin, Thomas Allen, 2008. $19.95 ages 6 and up

"Many animals reproduce by laying eggs. Some try to guarantee that they will have surviving offspring by laying thousands - even millions - of eggs. Most of the eggs won't make it, but chances are at least a few will hatch. Other animals produce only a few eggs but take better care of them, sometimes in surprising ways."

Here's Steve Jenkins again...and his wife, Robin Page. It won't take you long to figure out how much I love their work. It is their abiding interest in the world that brings us these wonderful books and they fill such a niche for young, inquisitive research type children. They provide wonderful, brilliant, expressive cut-paper collages and just enough information to answer questions without overwhelming their young readers.

As each new challenge is presented to the animals documented, there is a double page spread answer that tells how different animals solve the problems that face them. This is a book that can easily be read aloud to a group of children or pored over with one or two. Each animal depicted in Jenkins' detailed collages seem ready to tell their own story...they have such character and drama. The text is short, while still being very informative and readers will be left with much new learning when they are done.

A sample of the questions asked: how many ways can you snare a fish?, and how many ways can you eat a clam? A sample of the amazing facts: 'The Mexican burrowing toad digs into the mud with its large back feet, moving in a spiral as it burrows. The toad sucks in air as it digs, inflating its body like a balloon and pushing out the mud walls of its hole.' Who would not be interested in such a thing?

As is characteristic of the books that these brilliant collaborators produce, there is an added wealth in the notes at the back of the book. There, they add other important facts gleaned from their research which they know will be of further interest to those sharing this book. They are, of course, right!

If you want to know more about Steve Jenkins and his work, check out his website.

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