Step-by-Step Advice from the Animal Kingdom
Review posted October 26, 2015.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston, 2015. 32 pages.
Here’s another amazing children’s science book by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page. Again it’s illustrated with Steve Jenkins’ incredibly realistic cut-paper illustrations, which look so life-like.
This book encourages curiosity. There’s a lot of information on each page, with clear illustrations that draw the eye.
The gimmick for this book is the How-to format. The authors cover how animals do various unusual things, but told as a How-to book. Some of the steps won’t be easy for a kid to carry out!
For example, in Step 2 of “How to Build a Nest Like a Wasp,” “You’ll need to find a source of wood, such as an old log or unpainted fence. To make paper pulp, bite off a small piece of wood and chew it thoroughly, mixing it with your saliva.” And in Step 5 of the title piece, “How to Swallow a Pig Like a Python,” you’ll need to “unhinge your jaw (this takes practice). Starting with the head, begin to work the pig down your throat.”
Besides these, the other tasks the authors demonstrate and give step-by-step directions for include:
“How to Trap Fish Like a Humpback Whale”
“How to Sew Like a Tailorbird”
“How to Repel Insects Like a Capuchin”
“How to Woo a Ewe Like a Mountain Sheep”
“How to Crack a Nut Like a Crow”
“How to Build a Dam Like a Beaver”
“How to Disguise Yourself Like an Octopus”
“How to Hunt Like a Reddish Egret”
“How to Build a Nest Like a Wasp”
“How to Spin a Web Like a Spider”
“How to Decorate Like a Bowerbird”
“How to Warn of Danger Like a Vervet Monkey”
“How to Farm Like a Leaf-Cutter Ant”
“How to Catch a Meal Like a Crocodile”
“How to Defend Yourself Like an Armadillo”
“How to Catch an Insect Like an Ant Lion”
“How to Dance Like a Grebe”
All of these activities are given with fairly simple (but sometimes impossible for humans) numbered steps and eye-catching illustrations.
There are more details at the back about all the featured animals.
I think my favorite feature is “How to Crack a Nut Like a Crow,” because crows have clearly adapted their methods.
Crows are intelligent birds, and they have learned to crack nuts by carrying them into the air and dropping them on rocks or pavement. But, some nuts are too tough, and even this treatment won’t break them open. In some places, crows have found a solution.
It’s probably best not to try this technique until you learn how to fly.
1) Find a nut.
A walnut or other tough-shelled nut is a good choice.
2) Select your perch.
Find a spot near a traffic signal above a busy road.
3) Drop your nut.
Choose a place where the nut will get run over by a car or truck.
4) Wait for the light to change.
Don’t try to collect the pieces of your smashed snack until the light has changed and traffic has stopped.
Now you can swoop down, eat your nut, and take off before the light changes again.
All the above is contained on one page, with an illustration for each step and a large picture in the middle. So it’s a nice nonthreatening mix of words and pictures.
Curious kids will get a kick out of imagining how it would be if they could carry out these directions.