Monday, January 26, 2009

Nonfiction Monday - Bees, Snails, & Peacock Tails

Bees, snails, & peacock tails: patterns & shapes . . . naturally, written by Betsy Franco and illustrated by Steve Jenkins explores surprising and hidden shapes and patterns in nature. Poetic text and cut paper collage illustrations serve as a beautiful vehicle for introducing young readers to these concepts. On a page depicting a snake, a spider hanging from a thread, a snail shell, a bee in flight, an ant, and goose silhouetted against the moon, the text begins this way.
In the day
and the night,
on the land
and in flight

tucked in hollows
of trees,
in the tide pools
and seas,

you'll find patterns and shapes—
from the snakes to the bees!
The next page reveals the genius behind a beehive. This is one of my favorite spreads in the book—not only do I love the text, but I could spend hours staring at the bees on the hive. The layers upon layers of paper used to create the illustration are stunning. The text that accompanies it reads:
Study a beehive
and you will see
the mathematical genius of the bee.

The hexagons
you'll find inside
fit side
by side
by side
by side.
*Swoon* Beautiful images and beautiful words—what better tools are there to introduce nonfiction to young readers? None that I can think of. Take a look at these excerpts at the Simon & Schuster web site.

Franco and Jenkins next explore moths, the stunning symmetry of a spider's web, the dazzling feathers of the male peacock, the familiar V of migrating geese, the teamwork and formation of members of an ant colony, the geometry of animal tracks (a mouse in the snow), the shapes on diamondback snakes, the radial symmetry of sea stars, the shape of a puffed-up puffer fish, and the spirals of a snail shell. The text/poem on the shell page is written in the same spiral form displayed by the shell.

The text ends with the same background as the opening spread, though presented at nightfall with some different animals on the page. There are eyes inside a hole in the tree, sea stars on a rock, a moth flitting in the moonlight, and a spider now resting on a completed web. The text reads:
So there you have it . . . .
I think you'll agree

that creatures
on land,
in the air,
in the sea

make patterns and shapes
quite naturally!
The end matter of the book is titled New Angles on Animals and provides a brief bit of information on each of the animals highlighted in the pages of the text.

While I plan on using this book for math this semester to talk about shapes and patterns, I can also see it being used in science to discuss camouflage and other animal adaptations. This is a gorgeous book in both writing and illustration. I highly recommend it.

Book: Bees, snails, & peacock tails: patterns & shapes . . . naturally
Author: Betsy Franco
Illustrator: Steve Jenkins
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Date Published: 2008
40 pages
Source of Book:
Personal copy purchased at a local bookstore.

This post was written for Nonfiction Monday. This week our host is Shirley at SimplyScience Blog. Do stop by and see what others are sharing in the world of nonfiction today.


  1. This looks like a book that my daughter would love. She is very fascinated with patterns, shapes and has been begging to get books about bees.

  2. Onto our "to be read sometime" list it goes! Thanks so much for the suggestion and review. Our little reader is a tad young for it now (14 months), but has been very interested in peacocks lately, so we might take an early peek.

  3. This sounds like a wonderfully illustrated book that would be great for instruction in math and science, as you mention. I think that the patterns and shapes in the images could be imitated by students as an art project.