Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Cybils Book Review - Nic Bishop Frogs, Round 2

What do you get when you combine a sense of wonder and appreciation for the natural world, sophisticated skills as a photographer, and a talent for making the complex simple and understandable? You get a book by Nic Bishop, and a darn good one at that.
Nic Bishop Frogs provides readers with a thorough introduction to members of the order Anura. Found on every continent, frogs and toads (which are just a type of frog) come in every imaginable size and color. Bishop does an outstanding job presenting this variety in the photographs and text.

Before I go on, I should tell you that absolutely no amount of description can do justice to the eye-popping photographs in this book. Get thee to Nic Bishop Frogs (his web site) to see a few examples of the photos that appear in the book. Then click on over and read about his photography. The photograph of Bishop waist deep in water with a camera on a tripod, holding an umbrella shows you his dedication to getting just the right shot. His description of the process further confirms his genius as a nature photographer. (I also think he must be the most patient man alive!) One of the nice things about the book is that the last two pages before the index are devoted to Bishop's description of his love for his work, the process of photographing frogs, and the interesting experiences he had along the way. Kids will love learning about how he captured the images on film almost as much they will love learning about the frogs.

The text in this book is inherently understandable. Each page has a main idea written in large font, a paragraph of information, and a short section in small font with an additional fact or two.
Here's an example.
Most frogs are found near ponds, swamps, and other wet places.
They need water, but they do not drink it. Instead, they absorb it through their skin, even just sitting on damp ground.
And that's not all. Although frogs have lungs, they breathe through their skin, too.
This page goes on to talk about how a frog's skin must stay moist or it will suffocate. Bishop also explains that frogs must shed their skin every so often, and that once they do, they usually eat it! (Insert squeals of delight and a chorus of "icks" right about here.)

Every page is filled with scientific information, amazing and sometimes quirky facts, and those gorgeous photos. One the page accompanying a photo of a glass frog (one in which you can see through its skin to its internal organs), readers learn that frogs have 159 bones, nearly 50 less than the number found in the human body. Bishop explains that frogs do not have rib bones, and that this explains why frogs are so good at squeezing through "small gaps, like between your fingers when you are trying to hold them."

It is clear that Bishop has his readers carefully in mind. Scientifically, he doesn't talk down to them, but rather helps to make the mystery that is life and science more understandable. The conversational tone hooks readers and keeps them interested. What kid hasn't wanted to hold a frog in his/her hand, only to have it wriggle away?

The text as a whole is thoughtfully laid out and proceeds in an orderly and reasonable fashion through a variety of topics, from where frogs live, to what they look like, how their bodies are constructed and adapted, their eating habits, means of escaping predators (camouflage and those incredible legs and jumping skills), the sounds they make, reproduction, and much more.

I can't sing the praises of this book loudly or strongly enough. It is simply an outstanding marriage of images and text. Any kid (or adult for that matter) interested in animals or the natural world will love this book. I am adding this title post haste to my thematic book list on frog, and since the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) has declared 2008 as the Year of the Frog, I can't think of a more appropriate title.

Book: Nic Bishop Frogs
Nic Bishop
Publisher: Scholastic Nonfiction
Date Published:
48 pages
Source of Book:
Copy received from publisher for Cybils consideration.


  1. Glad you were able to wrestle it away for a review! It looks fabulous.

  2. Awesome pix in this one. Have you seen his book on spiders? Very cool!

  3. So. You were finally able to get it out of Boy's hands. Great review, but actually, the part about how hard it was to pry away from a reader is what sold me!

  4. gosh, I didn't know it was the Year of the Frog! I like frogs. I worry about frogs. I want a frog pond some day...

    Oh well. This looks like a great book!