CM . . .
. Volume IX Number 12. . . . February 14, 2003
Now you see it. Now you don't. Whatever frogs and toads catch for lunch is normally swallowed whole. To get the food down, a meal might take two or three gulps - plus some help from the critter's eyeballs.
Muscles pull on one or both of the eyes, pressing them down hard against the roof of the mouth. That forces the food back and into the animal's throat. No wonder frogs and toads blink wildly as they swallow.
Award-winning author Diane Swanson is a well established voice in the field of nature writing for children. Using a simple but engaging style and attractive design, her books have a consistently high quality of content and presentation. Her "Welcome to the World" series consists of 24 titles covering many animals. The format will be familiar to her young fans: seven short chapters including information on appearance, habitat, adaptations for motion, food, sounds, reproduction and young. Each section is a mere four pages of text and full color photos. The basic details are supplemented by a sidebar of unusual facts, extending the appeal to older readers. The writing in large print is clear and direct, with good sentence variety and vocabulary accessible to the low end of the reading level range. An index makes these books good choices for beginning researchers. Teachers will appreciate them as an example of organization and clear explanations to model for animal reports.
Swanson uses many comparisons to link the nature facts with things familiar to most kids. For example, crocodile "skin is thick and tough, like armor" and "the common caiman...can be as long as an average door." The sidebars will draw the attention of trivia buffs: "tree frogs can walk upside down - even on smooth surfaces" and "alligators are strong enough to crunch an aluminum canoe." There's lots of 'WOW!' factor here. The photos are large, full color close-ups, with captions that add yet one more fact.
Missing is any reference to conservation of the species or threats from environmental problems. However, these books are introductions to the animals, and readers who wish to know more will be motivated to search out that kind of detail for themselves. Kids who are into animals will want to collect this library.
Gillian Richardson is a freelance writer and former teacher-librarian living in BC.
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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.