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Friday, August 10, 2018

A House in the Sky and Other Uncommon Animal Homes, written by Steve Jenkins and illustrated by Robbin Gourley. Charlesbridge, Penguin Random House, 2018. $19.99 ages 5 and up

"A house can be under the
ground ...
A badger excavates its
burrow with powerful 
claws. It makes a new den
often, and it may sleep in a 
different home every night. 
... or suspended above it.
The reed warbler hangs its 
nest from reeds or grass, 
keeping it safe from danger." 

Steve Jenkins describes twenty creatures in this new book. You might expect the text to feature a selection of birds, and that would be logical. In fact, only one of the featured creatures actually lives in that sky:

"The common swift spends months at a
time in the air, never touching down. It
eats, drinks, and sleeps on the wing."

The others offer great variety and even some surprises. The text is brief, using two fonts, and simply describes the shelter built by the chosen subjects. He includes mammals, fish, water life, birds, insects, and even a reptile. Some will be very familiar to readers while others are less well-known. As you might expect, I was intrigued by the Mexican book beetle.

"The larva of a Mexican book beetle gnaws
through the cover and pages of a book. The
beetle lives inside the book until it becomes an
adult. Then it chews its way out and flies away."

Some animals build their own shelter, while others use what is available to them. They need safety, comfort, and a place to raise a family, just like humans. All are fascinating, and the descriptions provide just enough information to lead to further exploration of the natural world. In final pages, brief paragraphs about each creature from start to finish focus on location, size, and diet.

The gentle watercolor illustrations attract attention and provide context.

Who says you can't learn something new ... every single day?

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