Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Science Poetry Pairings - Animal Homes

I love books about animals homes. I’m always amazed at the vast array of shapes, sizes, and locations they come in. Perhaps more impressive though, is how some of these homes are built and how animals manage to survive in some of the harsh environments they find themselves.

Today's book trio is about animal homes in all their varied forms.

Poetry Book
Nest, Nook, & Cranny, written by Susan Blackaby and illustrated by Jamie Hogan, is a collection of 22 poems that explore animals and the homes they make. Arranged by habitat (desert, grassland, shoreline, wetland, and woodland), the poems take an amazing range of forms, including villanelle, triolet, cinquain, sonnet, and more. Readers will find the poems informative and lyrical, the best combination of science and poetry. The book opens with these words in a section entitled "Before You Begin."
habitat - the natural home of an animal or plant 
The poems in this collection are loosely arranged by habitat, but you will find that coyotes, bats, and birds (to name a few) don't give a hoot about labels. Thanks to accommodations or adaptations or both, some creatures can live anyplace. Keep that in mind when the boundaries blur.
My favorite poem from the book reminds me of a creature I stumbled upon more than once as a child while traipsing through the woods and fields around my house.
A doe will pick a thicket
As a place to place her fawn,
Its speckled hide well hidden
In the dappled forest lawn.
A bed safe in the shadows—
Mossy cushion, leafy crest—
A doe will pick a thicket
As a place to make a nest.
Poem ©Susan Blackaby. All rights reserved.

The poems are beautifully accompanied by black-and-white drawings of creatures in their natural habitats. Back matter is extensive and includes a section describing the habitats used to organize the poems, as well as a section of author notes about each poem, the inspiration for them, and information about the forms.

Nonfiction Picture Book
Castles, Caves, and Honeycombs, written by Linda Ashman and illustrated by Lauren Stringer, is a quiet gem of a book. Written in rhyme and accompanied by vibrant acrylic illustrations, this book introduces many of the unique and interesting places that animals make their homes. It begins this way.
Many places make a home--
A heap of twigs.
A honeycomb.
A castle with a tower or two
An aerie with a bird's-eye view.
Can you name the animals introduced in the first few pages? As the text begins, readers find a family of beavers in their lodge, a swarm of bees protecting their honeycomb and its precious contents from a bear, two children playing in a play castle, and an eagle guarding the eaglets in its nest. The illustrations that accompany each line of the poem are bright and warm, depicting each animal in its home and often the habitat that home is found in.

In addition to the homes mentioned above, readers will learn that webs, sand dunes, cocoons, caves, warrens and many other places serve as homes for living things. One of my favorite parts of the text and illustrations shows "a hole beneath the floor." Can you guess what kind of animal might be living in your home? In this case it is a small mouse, munching on the remains of an apple core.

The book ends this way.
A home's a house, a den, a nest.
A place to play,
A place to rest.
A place to share,
A place to hug.
A home is someplace safe and snug.
Text ©Linda Ashman. All rights reserved.

This is an engaging text that will leave readers wanting to know more about the animals and their homes. 

And So They Build, written and illustrated by Bert Kitchen, introduces readers to 12 animal builders, from birds (4 species) to spiders, frogs, fish and more. Each double-page spread includes a full page illustration on the right, and two levels of text on the left. Rendered in watercolor and gouache, the images are highly detailed views of the animal(s) in action in their natural landscape. Only the illustration of cubiterme termite mounds lacks actual images of the builders. (Perhaps they are there but are too small to be seen). The text comes in two forms. First there is large print text that states in simple terms why the animals build and serves as an explanation for the illustration. Below, in smaller print, is a paragraph of information that explains in detail more about the builder and the structure. Here is an excerpt.
A tailorbird will be safer
if she hides her nest
and so she builds . . .
The tailorbird lives in southern China, India, and Southeast Asia, and the female usually nests in a garden or on cultivated land. She chooses one or two large, living leaves on a tree and draws their edges together, using her beak and feet. She makes small holes down the sides with sharp point of her beak. Then she twists spiders’ webs, bark, and plant fibers into threads and pushes them through the holes to hold the leaves together.
Text ©Bert Ktichen. All rights reserved.

The explanation goes on to describe how the stitches are fastened. The illustration shows the bird at work, literally sewing the leaves together. How this feat is accomplished by beak alone is simply amazing.

Anyone interested in animal homes will find much here to love. The illustrations alone are enough to recommend it, but the text provides enough information to arouse the curiosity of young naturalists and interest them in learning more.

Perfect Together
All three of these books beautifully describe a wide range of animal homes and shelters. They can be used across the elementary grades as a terrific source for thinking about where animals live, how they adapt to their environment, and just how ingenious they are.

For additional resources, consider these sites.

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