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Sunday, July 6, 2014

Eye to Eye: How Animals See the World, written and illustrated by Steve Jenkins. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Thomas Allen & Son. 2014. 22.99 ages 8 and up

"The eyes of the garden snail are perched at the end of two long stalks, so it can look in every direction without sticking its head out of its shell. The snail's eyes can resolve images, but they function mainly as light detectors. Sensing the shadow of a bird or other predator can help the snail survive."

I started reading, and could not stop. Who knew that animals' eyes could be so darn interesting? Or is it just that Steve Jenkins knows exactly how to capture attention, fill our heads with new information and stun us with his incredible torn and cut paper collages...AGAIN??

It is as if the animals he is describing are looking directly into your eyes, and you can't get out of their sight. The eyes have it for so many animals...they help with a variety of needs (food), and even wants (a mate). After a quick introduction, Mr. Jenkins invites us in to meet them:

"So turn the page and meet animals with more than 100 eyeballs, eyes that can look in both directions at the same time, eyeballs the size of a basketball, and many more."

He begins by telling us that there are four kinds of eyes: eyespot, pinhole, compound, and camera. Each employs a different way of seeing the world! Then, we meet animals who display each of the four types, starting with the sea slug. In short descriptive paragraphs, accompanied by brilliantly colored and gloriously designed artwork, he offers just enough information to pique our interest, and send some motivated learners off on a search for more. There is lots to learn here, and all of it is quite fascinating for young readers.

Evolution is a component of the book's trajectory. He moves from animals with fairly simple eyespots to the far more complex eyes of the Eurasian buzzard, known to have the sharpest eyesight of any animal on the planet. A timeline follows to clearly identify that evolution. As we have come to expect from his clear, informative and entertaining writing, a most useful list of animal facts (for each animal included) is in the back matter, along with a bibliography and a glossary.

Bravo, Mr. Jenkins!

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