Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Thinking About Habitats

I’ve been thinking a lot about habitats lately. One of my favorite hiking spots features two very different habitats—a woodland and a pond—and each one has provided a special experience that eventually led to a book.

So today I’m going to share a video about that very special place and a list of some of my favorite children’s book about habitats.

I See a Kookaburra: Discovering Animal Habitats Around the World—Steve Jenkins and Robin Page
Like all of Jenkins’s books, this one offers a combination of glorious cut paper collages and clear, concise text. It also has a fun, interactive game-like quality that invites participation. I See a Kookaburra introduces children to six of the world’s habitats and some of the animals that live in them. As an added challenge, and to make the point that ants live all over the world, one of these insects is hidden in each scene. Rich backmatter with maps rounds out the presentation. School Library Journal calls the book “A first-rate foray into ecology that will encourage readers to explore the world around them,” and I couldn’t agree more.

One Small Place in a Tree—Barbara Brenner
Some habitats are huge—a savanna, a forest, an ocean, but this book celebrates the wonders of a hidden microhabitat—a hole in a tree. As a bear sharpens her claws on a tree trunk, she unknowingly begins a chain of natural events that, over time, form a tree hole home for a menagerie of forest creatures, from salamanders and tree frogs to a family of white-footed mice. Lyrical prose and highly detailed, realistic illustrations bring the world beneath the bark to life for young readers.

The Salamander Room—Anne Mazer (illus Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher)
The Salamander Room is a gentle tale with an important message. A boy finds a salamander in the woods and asks his mom if he can keep it. Instead of saying “no,” she asks him questions that encourage him to think about what the salamander needs to survive and, ultimately, to realize on his own that he cannot create an adequate home for the salamander in his bedroom. Lush, shadowy paintings perfectly capture the mood of the boy’s increasingly elaborate plans for transforming his room into a suitable habitat for the little amphibian.

Redwoods—Jason Chin
Clear, straightforward text provides wonderfully detailed information about redwoods and the microhabitats they support. But the art offers more—pure magic. It gives readers a peek into the imagination of a boy reading a book about towering redwood trees. The journey begins in a New York City subway car, but transports the boy—and the readers—into a redwood forest where climbing gear appears at just the right moment, allowing readers to scale a giant tree and take a look around. It’s not often that a picture book shares fascinating science content and simultaneously promotes curiosity and fosters imagination, but this book does it all.

The Great Kapok Tree: A Tale of the Amazon Rain Forest—Lynne Cherry
In this breathtakingly beautiful picture book, a man falls asleep while chopping down a kapok tree in a Brazilian rainforest. As he naps, a variety of forest creatures and finally a child whisper in his ear, explaining why the trees and the forest is so important. When the man awakens, he gets up and goes home without completing his task. Thus, the book shows readers the lushness and beauty of the forest habitat and explains its importance in a way that will resonate strongly with children. Rich, vivid endpapers include a map of the world's tropical forests and the amazing array of Amazon wildlife.

Song of the Waterboatman and Other Pond Poems—Joyce Sidman (illus Beckie Prange)
This collection, illustrated with striking woodcuts, features science facts combine with vivid poems about pond life through the seasons. Focusing on one pond creature or plant per spread, Sidman employs a variety of age-appropriate poetic forms to bring the habitat and its inhabitants to life for readers. The poems will certainly engage children, and the rich prose sidebars are chockful of background information sprinkled with fascinating tidbits. After reading this elegant, inspiring title, children will be begging for a field trip to the nearest pond, so they can see nature’s wonders for themselves.

Frog in a Bog—John HimmelannThis cleverly conceived circular story begins with a frog jumping off a fern and ends with a frog (presumably the same little critter) jumping back onto a fern. In between, readers follow a chain of events that introduces young readers to wetland inhabitants and clearly explains their interdependence. Accurate, detailed watercolors show the bog and its residents in their true glory, and field guide-like backmater will encourage young explorers to observe and identify at the animals living in nearby wetlands.

Hotel Deep: Light Verse from Dark Water—Kurt Cyrus
Engaging poetic text and lavish, detailed paintings plunge readers into the amazing world below the ocean’s wavy surface. As we follow a lost sardine searching for its companions, we are treated to one glorious underwater scene after another. Some creatures hide and others hunt, simultaneously introducing readers to predator-prey relationships and adding a sense of drama to the book. A thumbnail picture-glossary identifies about two-dozen ocean creatures. This is a great read-aloud title and a perfect choice for introducing a unit on the ocean.

One Night in the Coral Sea—Sneed B. Collard (illus Robin Brickman)
Coral reefs are one of the ocean’s most critical habitats, so it’s great to see a book that gets down to the bottom of it all, describing the lifecycle and behaviors of coral animals in detail. Brickman’s colorful three-dimensional artwork add wonderful textured layers to the coral-reef scenes. Try pairing this book with Colorful Captivating Coral Reefs by Dorothy Hinshaw Patent for even more amazing information about the cast of characters that call coral reefs home.

On Meadowview Street—Henry Cole
In this wonderful story, author-illustrator Henry Cole introduces us to curious, clever Caroline, a young girl who’s destined to become a scientist. Caroline wonders why her new home is on Meadowview Street, when there isn’t a meadow in sight. So when she spots a lone wildflower in her lawn, she asks her dad to mow around it and he does. Soon, her one-flower nature preserve has expanded to include the entire back yard. Then following Caroline’s lead, neighbors transform their yards too. Cole’s spare text and tender, acrylic paintings team up to tell the lovely story blooming with simplicity and energy.

Do you have your own favorite habitat book?


Susan E. Goodman said...

I'm pretty fond of The Red-Eyed Tree Frog by Joy Crowley. It only uses a handful of words to both tell a story and show the jungle world (with a little help from great photos by Nic Bishop) of this little guy.

Gretchen Woelfle said...

Dig Wait Listen: A Desert Toad's Tale by April Pulley Sayre takes us to desert and creatures who live there.

Melissa Stewart said...

Oh, yes, those are both wonderful books. Thanks for the suggestions.

Annalisa said...

"Saving the Baghdad Zoo: A True Story of Hope and Heroes" by Kelly Milner Halls, illustrated by William Sumner.

...because I often think what would happen to the animals at Sea World and Wild Animal Park, if we just let them go?! Really their habitat is the ZOO! And many Zookeepers make it a happy place for those animals to survive and thrive.

Sal's Fiction Addiction said...

I love In the Meadow by Yukiko Kato. The story is quite simply told, and the art holds us in the space shared by the wee girl and her family...beautiful!

Ana Maria Rodriguez said...

Thank you for adding this post to S.T.E.M. Friday today, Melissa. What a treat of habitats, wet habitats. One of my favorite books is about a dry habitat, "Why oh why are deserts dry?" of the Cat in the Hat Knows a lot about that! series.Beautiful rhyme!