Thursday, October 09, 2014

You Lookin' at Me? Creature Features by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page

DEAR EGYPTIAN VULTURE: Why no feathers on your face?

Are you sure you want to know? Really?

Okay. I'll tell you.I stick my face into the bodies of the dead animals I eat, and the feathers would get pretty messy.

If the bald-faced truth is what you want, have I got the book for you! Steve Jenkins' and Robin Page's forthcoming curious critter book, Creature Features: Twenty-Five Animals Explain Why They Look the Way They Do (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014), tells it like it is. Here's lookin' at you, Human!

DEAR AXOLOTL: Why do you have feathers growing out of your head?

Those aren't feathers! They're gills. They let me breath underwater.

DEAR GIRAFFE:Why is your tongue purple?

I live in Africa, where the sun is very bright. My tongue, which I use to pluck leaves and grass, is dark purple so that it won't get sunburned. and as you can see, I have a lot of tongue to protect.

While Jenkins' and Page's creatures hold their tongues about how funny we look to them, they are happy to describe the perfectly sensible reasons why they look the way they do. The thorny devil (a spiny Australian desert lizard) sports his spikes to discourage predators from trying to swallow him, but his thorns do double duty, also sluicing rare rainwater toward his mouth. The spicebush swallowtail caterpillar has a faux snake face on his rear end to fend off angry birds who might otherwise slurp him up. The icky-looking pink growths on the star-nosed mole's nose are actually finger-like feelers which help him navigate his dark tunnels. And as most rodent-lovers know, a hamster's fat cheeks are not fat at all; they actually act as grocery sacks to carry his grub until he gets home to unpack it into his pantry.

Authors Jenkins and Page also unpack the mysteries behind the features of such strange creatures such as the pufferfish, the leaf-nosed bat, the frilly lizard, and the colorful mandrill in their latest fact-filled nature science expose'. With the Caldecott-winning Jenkins' full-page, eye-catching cut-and-torn-paper collages of each of 25 wildly different animals from varied climes and habitats and brief question-and-answer text, primary and middle readers alike will find this facebook irresistibly designed and humorously written for curious kids, while slipping in the subliminal message that Mother Nature has good reasons for what she does.

As all good nonfiction authors should, Jenkins and Page include an appendix with a bibliography and double-page spread featuring scale silhouettes of each creature as compared to a human, in the order in which they are presented in the book. For young aspiring graphic design artists, there is even a link to a site showing how Jenkins did his impressive artwork and layout for Creature Features: Twenty-Five Animals Explain Why They Look the Way They Do. "... this is a winning picture book that is sure to inform as well as entertain." says School Library Journal in its starred review.

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