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Thursday, September 17, 2015

Animal Architects: Amazing Animals Who Build Their Homes. Written by Danel Nassar and illustrated by Julio Antonio Blasco. Laurence King Publishing, Raincoast. 2015. 20.95 ages 5 and up

"The ant is a social insect that lives in colonies organized into social classes. Every class specializes in a particular task: the soldiers protect the group; the workers collect food, build homes, and care for babies; and the queens lay the eggs. Leafcutter ants build fabulous nests ... "

Those nests are underground. The author tells us that they 'include gardens, and even rooms for the garbage!' On double-page spreads filled with just the kind of information animal lovers will want to know before they are finished reading, the creators offer both a textual and visual look at the tiny busy insect. The initial paragraph is followed by a description of the home, and the ways in which it is built. On the facing page, there is a detailed, cross-section collage rendering of the home so shrewdly built to house the colony. Finally, a list of the characteristics for the animal is presented, including length, habitat, behavior, feeding and enemies. Then, open the flap to reveal a list of building materials used, with clear captioned descriptions. A signed animal architect project card is also presented.

This is just one of the animal architects included. Don't miss finding out how the caddis fly, the African weaverbird, the monarch butterfly, the termite, the beaver, the gladiator frog, the honeybee, the African tree frog, the spider, the white stork, the chimpanzee, the satin bowerbird, and the hummingbird. Each use their remarkable instincts to build a home that is just right for them. Keen readers will be able to bounce from one favorite to the next, learning so much more than I had anticipated.

The design is admirable, and very accessible. The animals chosen vary for me in familiarity. I knew quite a lot about the beaver, the honeybee and the chimpanzee. I knew little to nothing about the satin bowerbird, the termite, or the gladiator frog. Now, I  know so much more than I knew when I started reading. Isn't there a mini-lesson in that somewhere? It is also a terrific mentor text for showing young researchers a way of organizing what they are learning.


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