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Saturday, August 18, 2018

Can an aardvark BARK? Written by Melissa Stewart and illustrated by Steve Jenkins. Beach Lane Books, Simon & Schuster. 2017. $23.99 ages 3 and up

"Can a kangaroo mew?

No, but it can laugh.

An eastern gray kangaroo 
may grunt, cough, or hiss
depending on its mood, But
when a joey spots its mom,
it lets out an excited laughing

Two for the price of one ... I have always admired Steve Jenkins' brilliant science books. In truth, I am in awe of writers and illustrators who focus on subjects that children are completely fascinated by; and have often wondered if he ever gets any sleep. He always has me consider new questions I have never thought to ask. He has written and illustrated a host of books with fascinating titles, and provided me with much learning over the years. Now, his work is paired with Melissa Stewart, no slouch in the world of impressive science titles herself. So, I was pleased to get my hands on this first book the two have done together.

The design is just right for young readers wanting to know about the animal world. Each new double page spread begins with a question about the noises certain animals make.

"Can an aardvark bark? 
No, but it can grunt."

The text at the bottom of this page states:

"An aardvark grunts softly as
it zigzags across African
grasslands at night. When it
sniffs out an ant nest or termite
mound,  it laps up thousands
of insects with its long, sticky

Providing the right amount of information to guarantee a page turn, and then further material on  animals that grunt, children will be intrigued. The next page asks a question about a seal squealing. You guessed it. The seal does not squeal, but it does bark. And so the pattern goes. Barking is followed by roaring, whining, bellowing, growling, laughing, and finally, mewing. Communication is a fascinating subject for young readers to consider. Using this format, they can easily transfer new knowledge to a personal book of what they have learned from their own research. Why not different ways that humans communicate, or additional ways that animals respond to each other?

Melissa Stewart dishes up appeal on every page. Steve Jenkins adds his intricately detailed cut paper collage images to further interest. Pages have plenty of white space to keep attention fully on the animals being described. The text is accessible and sure to encourage wonder. The central question about the porcupine provides a surprise, and then moves readers forward to see the pattern revert to its previous form. A final two page spread asks readers a question about the noises they are capable of making. A list of selected resources and ideas for further reading are added.

If you have not had much experience with either the author or the illustrator, please take some time to visit their websites ... endlessly fascinating stuff.

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