________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 16 . . . . April 3, 2009

cover What Are These Animals Doing? (Looking at Nature).

Bobbie Kalman.
St. Catharines, ON: Crabtree, 2009.
24 pp., pbk. & hc., $7.95 (pbk.), $18.36 (hc.).
ISBN 978-0-7787-3344-7 (pbk.),
ISBN 978-0-7787-3324-9 (RLB).

Subject Heading:
Animal behavior-Juvenile literature.

Preschool-grade 1 / Ages 4-6.

Review by Barbara McMillan.

** /4

cover What Are Natural Structures? (Looking at Nature).

Bobbie Kalman.
St. Catharines, ON: Crabtree, 2009.
24 pp., pbk. & hc., $7.95 (pbk.), $18.36 (hc.).
ISBN 978-0-7787-3343-0 (pbk.),
ISBN 978-0-7787-3323-2 (RLB).

Subject Headings:
Morphology-Juvenile literature.
Landforms-Juvenile literature.

Preschool-grade 1 / Ages 4-6.

Review by Barbara McMillan.

** /4

cover How Does It Move? (Looking at Nature).

Bobbie Kalman.
St. Catharines, ON: Crabtree, 2009.
24 pp., pbk. & hc., $7.95 (pbk.), $18.36 (hc.).
ISBN 978-0-7787-3342-3 (pbk.),
ISBN 978-0-7787-3322-5 (RLB).

Subject Headings:
Animal locomotion-Juvenile literature. Plants-Irritability and movements-Juvenile literature.

Preschool-grade 1 / Ages 4-6.

Review by Barbara McMillan.

** /4

cover What Time Is It? (Looking at Nature).

Bobbie Kalman.
St. Catharines, ON: Crabtree, 2009.
24 pp., pbk. & hc., $7.95 (pbk.), $18.36 (hc.).
ISBN 978-0-7787-3345-4 (pbk.),
ISBN 978-0-7787-3325-6 (RLB).

Subject Headings:
Time-Juvenile literature.
Seasons-Juvenile literature.

Preschool-grade 1 / Ages 4-6.

Review by Barbara McMillan.

** /4

excerpt:

Hop and Leap Some animals take big jumps to get from here to there. Kangaroos, frogs, grasshoppers, and rabbits jump. Animals that jump have strong back legs. Their back legs are longer than their front legs are.

We use different words to describe how animals jump.

Kangaroos bound. To bound is to jump up and forward.

Bunnies hop. To hop is to take small jumps.

Frogs leap. To leap is to take big, quick jumps.

Grasshoppers do no hop. They can leap both very high and very far.

Which of these children are leaping, hopping, or bounding? (From How Does it Move?)

Bobbie Kalman has added four new titles to her “Looking at Nature Series” (see http://www.umanitoba.ca/outreach/cm/vol14/no10/lookingatnature.html for a review of the first eight books in this series). What parents and teachers will find interesting is how well the contents of How Does It Move?, What are Natural Structures?, What are these Animals Doing?, and What Time is It? build upon the vocabulary and concepts introduced in the books that launched the series in 2008. For example, on page 5 of What are Natural Structures?, readers are introduced to the idea that structures not only have shape, but they also have colour and texture. These are three concepts that were first presented in What Shape is It?, What Color is It?, and How Does It Feel?

     How Does It Move? is about the motion of living things, particularly the locomotion of animals. Children who read, listen to, or look at the photographic images that illustrate this book will learn about four-legged creatures like the horse that walks and gallops on hooves, the mountain goat that climbs over rocks on hooves with two toes, and the monkey that uses its long arms to swing from place to place. There are also the insects with three pairs of legs that climb like the caterpillar, leap like the grasshopper, and fly like the butterfly. Similar to the butterfly are the two-legged birds that fly and glide on the wind, the hummingbird that hovers, and the web-footed ducks that can move on water by paddling their feet. These creatures, along with the legless and armless snakes that slither and snails and slugs that slide are some of the terrestrial animals portrayed. The aquatic creatures, like fish and dolphin that spend their entire life in water, move by swimming and occasionally leaping out of the water and into the air. It’s quite clear from the information on the final page, titled “Words to know and Index,” that the development of the language of motion is Kalman’s intent. At the same time, she draws upon foundational information presented in Is It the Same or Different? and Is It Big or Small? Yet, what I find to be best in How Does It Move? is how Kalman helps children to become aware of the fact that they can move in ways that are similar to the motions of many animals, by bounding, climbing, crawling, hopping, leaping, running, sliding, swimming, walking, and maybe, on occasion, even stretching and pulling like the earthworm.

     Given the cover image of snowflakes and a child Alpine skiing, What Time is It? appears to be a book about the four seasons. This inference, however, lasts only to the opening of the book to the title page where the images of three dinosaurs suggest something altogether different. This is a book about time, and, although the majority of pages are given over to seasonal time (summer, autumn, winter, and spring), Kalman also focuses attention on knowing the time of day, telling time, calendar time (days, weeks, months, and year), past time (history), present time, and future time. The list of new vocabulary for Kindergarten and Grade 1 children is considerable, and the concepts represented by this terminology are not easily understood, even with the provided illustrations and text. In the description of autumn, for example, when “leaves change color” and “soon fall off the trees,” readers are asked if “animals know what time it is.” This is followed by two sentences that begin to define hibernation, two sentences that begin to define migration, and the concluding sentence, “The amount of sunlight tells animals when to hibernate or migrate.” Many teachers who teach Grade 1 science and the clusters that focus upon living things and daily and seasonal changes will wish that fewer concepts were more thoroughly addressed.

     What are Natural Structures? is a welcome addition to the growing number of books that help young learners understand what his meant by the term “structure.” Too often the single focus of these books is bridges or buildings or dams or other human-made constructions, and children are not helped to think of living organisms, landforms, and anthills, among other things, as structures. Kalman, however, begins with an answer to the question, “What is a structure?” She tells readers that “a structure is something that is made up of different parts,” that “each part has a purpose,” and she invites them to consider the variety of structures found in the natural world, a number of which are either made by animals or are the animals, themselves. Like the other three books reviewed here, Kalman tends to include too much, and by doing so, she may end up confusing some readers. For example, in her discussion of plants as structures, she describes trees as “the biggest plants” and attempts to distinguish deciduous trees from coniferous trees. Readers are told that the leaves of deciduous trees are “flat and wide,” “change colour in autumn,” and “fall off.” Coniferous trees, in contrast, have cones – a seed-bearing structure that is not discussed, and “their leaves do not fall off in autumn.” It is not until the following page that the leaves of conifers are illustrated and described as “thin like needles.” The illustrations on the page that presents trees as the biggest plants include a drawing of a maple tree in autumn, a photograph of a cut “conifer,” a drawing of a cylinder,” a photograph of an open “pine cone,” and a photograph of a young girl leaning against the trunk of a tree with her left hand on the bark. The subtext, in smaller font, is composed of three questions, “Is a tree trunk smooth or rough?” and “What is the shape of this tree trunk? Is it a cylinder?” One wonders why the focus is on the texture of the bark, rather than the bark as a part of a tree with a specific purpose, why the seed bearing part of a coniferous tree is presented, but not as a structure, and why the seeds of deciduous trees are not also included. There is, in addition, a problem with the information given. Conifers do lose their needles. Most coniferous trees, however, do not lose all of their needles each autumn.

     What are These Animals Doing? is about the physical and behavioral adaptations of animals, or “the things they do to stay alive.” Readers are shown and told about camouflage, mimicry, and the chameleon’s skin that changes colour with changes in the heat and light in the surrounding environment as well as the chameleon’s mood. There is also the male anole and the porcupine fish that make themselves look larger and, thus, more threatening to a predator, and the weevil that makes itself look dead to fool a nearby predator. Kalman writes about male birds and whales that sing and dance to attract a mate, animals that migrate to warmer locations where their needs can be met, and the care given by mammals to their young. The two final sections of the book are titled “Tongue twisters” and “What do you think?” The former focuses on tongues and their use by particular animals for sensing food in the environment, attaining food, cooling off, or preening. The focus of the final section is to elicit explanations for the actions portrayed by animals in six photographic illustrations. Unfortunately, the questions that are provided under each illustration are more human-centred than animal-centred and, although silly, may actually give young children the idea that animals think and act as people do. For example, an upright kangaroo clasps its two forelegs together in a position that is above its shoulders and to the right of its head. The captions asks, “Am I a winner?”

     Perhaps the most identifying characteristic of the four new additions to Kalman’s “Looking at Nature” series is the use of stock colour photographs. A number of these images are stunning in their verisimilitude and, thus, the clarity they bring to the terminology they represent. One only needs to look at the illustrations of the geckos, unicorn mantis, chameleon, wasp hive, and invertebrates to understand how important for learning it is to use images that give the appearance of reality.

Recommended with reservations.

Barbara McMillan is a teacher educator and a professor of science education in the Faculty of Education, the University of Manitoba, in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.
 

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