Sunday, April 19, 2015

What Came First! Egg: Nature's Perfect Package by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page

Eggs come in a fantastic range of sizes, shapes, and colors. Animals that lay eggs bury them, carry them, guard them, or simply leave them alone.

And each egg contains everything needed to create a new living creature.

If it's an animal, it's a sure thing that there was an egg involved somewhere in its past. Many animals lay them outside their bodies (even the mammalian echidna and platypus), and those who do so need to see that they stay warm or protected while they incubate. Sea turtles swim huge distances to lay eggs in sand with just the right summer temperature.  Bird parents sit on them, (or stand, in the case of the emperor penguin) and mouth brooders like the jawfish go hungry while they hold their eggs safe in their mouths. The spider wasp uses her venom to paralyze a spider and lays her eggs safely inside the quarry, with breakfast handy when they emerge. And, of course, the rest of us mammals keep our eggs on the inside, heated by our internal body heat to just the perfect temperature for maturation before they emerge to engage the weather outside.

It's an amazing and amazingly diverse process that goes on inside that incredible egg, as Steve Jenkins' and Robin Page's latest, Egg: Nature's Perfect Package (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015). Jenkins builds his egg-cellent colorful images using cut- and torn-paper collage showing dozens of detailed animals, their eggs, and their offspring. Eggs as tiny as a single printed period  or up to the bigger-than-a-toaster egg of the extinct elephant bird are pictured in graduated sizes, and one double-page spread shows the stages of  development going on inside until a baby chicken and alligator emerge from their eggs.  There is even an appendix with thumbnail illustrations and information about all 54 egg-laying animals included in Sharon Page's cogent text.

Young readers who think of eggs as just something for breakfast will gain a new appreciation of these miraculous containers of life. As Kirkus Reviews says, "Appealing, accessible and accurate, this is another admirable creation."

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