Saturday, November 6, 2010


As I said yesterday, Steve Jenkins and Robin Page write some of my favorite kids' nonfiction. Their books are engaging, factually accurate, and full, full, full of fascinating illustrations. It doesn't surprise me then, that Jenkins and/or Jenkins and Page are the author/illustrators of three books on the CYBILS nonfiction picture book list.

Yesterday, I reviewed HOW DO YOU CLEAN A HIPPOPOTAMUS? Today, it's NEVER SMILE AT A MONKEY a book I would describe as "typical" Steve Jenkins, (if there is such a thing). Each page or two-page spread features one of Jenkins' beautiful cut/torn paper collage illustrations. Somewhere on the page, there's also an admonition, done in a large font. Accompanying that is a paragraph of more detailed explanation. You never smile at a monkey, for example, because they might take the show of teeth as a display of aggression and respond in similar fashion. You should also never bother a blue ringed octopus, collect a cone shell, pet a platypus, or harass a hippopotamus. Using seventeen different examples, Jenkins explains how different animals have adapted for survival in their environment.

Jenkins' newest title, BONES, about "skeletons and how they work" is also nominated for this year's CYBILS. I gotta tell you, I. LOVE. THIS. BOOK. Each two page spread compares a different aspect of the human skeletal system to that of several animals. I loved, loved, loved the foldout spread of the python's ribcage (Jenkins' meticulous attention to detail and accuracy is so evident in this illustration-- this particular python was a six footer with 200 hundred pairs of ribs, but larger pythons can have up to 400 pairs). I also loved the skull page- this foldout featured actual-sized skulls of eleven different species, including a human, a green turtle, a butterfly fish, and a tree shrew. Four pages of appendices are newspaperish articles about bone related topics.

The illustrations in this book are over the top terrific. The background of each page is solid colored, with bones that are mottled whites, grays, and tans. Each page tells how the skeleton compares to actual sized bones. And there's even a bit of humor- check out the page where a rhino skeleton chases a human, or the last page, where a human skeleton is waving goodbye.

This book is my nominee for the Caldecott!

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