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Monday, December 9, 2013

The Animal Book, by Steve Jenkins. Houghton MIfflin Books for Children, Thomas Allen & Son, 2013. $24.99 all ages


A termite queen may
produce 1,200 eggs an
hour, laying them around
the clock for 30 years or
more. Over her lifetime,
she'll have hundreds of
millions of offspring."

I have such admiration for Steve Jenkins' work! I have often wondered when he sleeps. He is a prolific author and truly remarkable artist. I have joked when using his books in workshop presentations that he must lie awake at night thinking about new questions to ask concerning the animal world. Hmm...'what do you do with a tail like this?' or how many beetles are there in the world? or 'just a second', what can be done in that tiny amount of time?  What a fascinating man!

He has authored, or co-authored with his wife Robin Page, more than thirty books about the world of nature, and in his introduction to this wonderful new book, he says:

"Reading and writing about animals over the years has introduced me to some extraordinary creatures. And I've learned that many familiar animals have extraordinary abilities. This book brings together more than 300 of these animals - the exotic and the everyday - and describes some of the amazing things they can do."

We should thank our lucky stars for writers whose passion for a subject makes our reading lives so engaging and enlightened. I have been poring over this book since it arrived in the mail, and cannot help but share some of the truly wondrous things I have learned in a very short time. I would love to regale you with these tiny tidbits, but you can read it for yourselves. It is brilliant!

His love for this fascinating world is evident on every page. The images are so authentic, and are organized in a way that will keep readers turning pages and returning to favorite images. The design of each page has been given careful thought and has immediate appeal for anyone sharing this book.
As is the case with exemplary nonfiction, readers of all ages can pick and choose the pages and sections that most interest them. Those sections include family, animal senses, predators, defenses, animal extremes, and the story of life. The title page for family has an image of an ostrich and its egg, with tiny, circular focused images along the bottom to guide readers to the various subject headings comprising it. I went straight to 'bringing up baby' and discovered that:

"A family of shrews makes its way across the forest floor at night. A baby shrew could easily get lost, so the group forms a line. The mother leads and each little shrew holds on to the brother or sister in front with its teeth."

Each section ends with a double page spread that is sure to delight and inform...and perhaps even astonish, and a chart of further information about the topic explored.

He ends his book, as he often does, with 'more animal facts', using thumbnail images and additional information. They are presented in alphabetic order and contain page numbers so that a reader might return to a favorite page easily. Length, habitat, diet and a specific fact makes up the text for each inclusion. As if that weren't enough, he then shares ideas, research, his art, and a timeline for a new book from idea to publication. BRAVO, Steve Jenkins!

Don't miss Steve at work:

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