Saturday, November 6, 2010

HOW TO CLEAN A HIPPOPOTAMUS- Steve Jenkins and Robin Page

When I see the names Steve Jenkins or Robin Page attached to a children's book, I know several things:

1) The book will be jammed full of interesting information, the kind of knockout nonfiction that children revisit again and again.
2) The research will be solid and thoughtful. There will be appendices with additional information.
3) The artwork will be gorgeous torn/cut paper collage. There is often a clever twist in the book design, e.g. the depth meter along the right hand side of each page in DOWN, DOWN, DOWN (one of last year's CYBILS awards finalists).
4) I will find myself asking, "How did they get interested in this topic? And where in the world did they find all this bizarre information?

And yep, all of those things are definitely true with HOW TO CLEAN A HIPPOPOTAMUS one of the the newest books by Colorado author/illustrator husband/wife team, Steve Jenkins and Robin Page. HIPPOPOTAMUS explores the symbiotic partnerships between animal species all over the Earth:
  • Zebras, wildebeests, and ostriches often graze together on the African plains. Zebras have excellent hearing, wildebeests have an acute sense of smell, and ostriches have great eyesight. They work together to help defend themselves against predators.
  • Coyotes and badgers hunt prairie dogs together. The coyote leads the badger to a prairie dog burrow. The badger digs at the front door, and the panicked prairie dogs attempt to flee out the back, where the hungry coyote is waiting. They return to the front, where they are confronted again by Mr. Badger.
  • The clownfish hides from its enemies among the stinging tentacles of a sea anemone. The toxin of the anemone, however, is very poisonous, and the clownfish must build up its immunity to this toxin by gradually brushing against the tentacles. If the clownfish leaves its safe haven for more than 45 minutes, it has to start all over again. And it is not immune to the toxin of all sea anemones, only one.
The artwork in HOW TO CLEAN A HIPPOPOTAMUS is, as expected in a Jenkins and Page offering, is gorgeous cut/torn paper collage. But instead of one or two animals per spread, each page in this book consists of a series of panels, almost like those found in comic books. And the layout is different on each page. I spent at least five minutes exploring each two-page spread, then went back to look at some again. I know the illustrations will hold this same fascination for kids. I'm thinking right now about whether I might have kids use the book as a mentor text for "visual reports" when they do research.

Steve Jenkins has a terrific website. I especially loved the section about how he researches and creates his books. Check that out here.

Another winner by Jenkins and Page!

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