Friday, April 25, 2014

Science Poetry Pairings - Camouflage

When I was young I often wished for clothing that resembled the woods around my home, largely because I wanted to win at hide and seek. I so wanted to be the last person found. Blending in with one's environment can come in handy, particularly when someone wants to make a meal of you. Camouflage is nature's way of hiding animals in plain sight. While those stripes may make a tiger stand out in his/her zoo home, they allow him/her to vanish in that stand of tall grass in the wild.

Whether it's zebra stripes, a body shaped like a stick, or fur that changes color with the seasons, today's book trio highlights the amazing adaptation of camouflage. 

Poetry Book
Where in the Wild?: Camouflaged Creatures Concealed ... and Revealed, written David Schwartz and Yael Schy with photographs by Dwight Kuhn, is a book filled with "eye-tricking photos, poems offering up clues, and information about the organism. The book begins with a brief introduction to camouflage and the book itself. Here is an excerpt.
Imagine that you are an animal in the wild trying to avoid a prowling predator. If it can't find you, it can't eat you.

Now imagine that you are the predator, silently hunting for prey. If you prey does not see you, you can catch it and eat it.
See if you can find the camouflaged animals photographed in their natural habitats. The poems will give you hints. When you think you have found a hidden animal--or if you give up!--open the flap to see "where in the wild" it really is. Then read on to find out more about these amazing animals and their vanishing acts.
What follows are examples of 10 clever uses of camouflage. On the left side of each spread is a poem describing the animal, and in some cases, its location. The outside of the gatefold on the right contains the picture that must be searched. Readers must be keen observes, as some of these animals are hard to find! In the corner of the gatefold is a small circle that says, "Lift to find me!" When the gatefold is opened, the image appears again, this time with everything grayed out except the animal in question. Often times, the appearance of the hidden animal is so startling that the reader must flip back to the original picture to search it out. In addition to the "answer" to photo puzzle, the inside of the gatefold also contains information on the animals subject.

The poems in the book come in a variety of forms, including haiku and concrete. Here is an example.

speckled treasures lie
     bare upon the pebbled bank
          fragile life within
The photograph that accompanies it shows a rocky landscape. Can you guess what is hidden in plain sight?

There is another book that follow on the heels of this one, written in the same form and extending the ideas presented here. It is Where Else in the Wild? More Camouflaged Creatures Concealed...and Revealed. Both of these are great books for looking at animals in plain sight.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the amazing Ruth Heller here. She wrote a series of books that examined camouflage across the animal kingdom. Titles in this series include:
    All of Heller's books were written in verse. On the title page is this opening.
    you take
    a careful look,
    you'll see
    in this book
    and out
    of view—
    Here's an excerpt from HOW TO HIDE A CROCODILE.
    and the
    bear a similarity....
    It he's
    will depend
    how well their colors blend.
    Each page shows the animal in full view, and then again camouflaged in its habitat.

    Nonfiction Picture Book
    Hide and Seek: Nature's Best Vanishing Acts, written by Andrea Helman with photographs by Gavriel Jecan, is a book organized by habitat that highlights the features of the location and describes how a handful of animals in each use camouflage to survive. What's interesting about this book is that readers won't find the answers to what they're looking for until they get to the back of the book! In a section entitled The Back Story, readers see a thumbnail version of the photograph with the animals circled. They will also find a bit more information about each animal photographed.

    Readers will find savanna/grasslands, sea, desert, Arctic, forest and mountains. Here's an excerpt from the mountains section.
    Elliot's Chameleon 
    Motionless, the colorful and crafty chameleon stays still, disappearing into tree bark in the Rwanda mountains. Its bulging eyes rotate in different directions, searching the turf for tasty treats. Aha! It focuses both eyes to judge the distance and position of an insect. Zap! The sticky-tipped tongue shoots out at 20 feet per second. Success! Chameleons are nature's quick change artists, exchanging one color for another to protect themselves from predators and become invisible prey.
    Readers will spend a great deal of time examining the photos in this one, and will learn about a wide range of animals while doing so.

    Perfect Together
    All three of these books, and really any other title about camouflage, are about what you can see. I love that the poems in Schwartz and Yael's book offer up clues to the animals hidden in the photos. I might start with a book by Heller to give students an opportunity to see how animals move from visible to hidden. This might offer clues to finding animals in actual photographs. Once you've had a chance to look these over, ask students to categorize the types of camouflage animals use. Then give them a paper butterfly to decorate and hide in the classroom. See how well they can hide their butterflies in plain sight!

    For additional resources, consider these sites.
    • Let your kids try this camouflage game, where they get to choose an animal and a background. Then they try different fur colors, shadings, and patterns to see which ones work best in different habitats.
    • The camouflage field book lets kids learn about animals hidden in different environments.
    • Seeing Through Camouflage is a game that asks kids to identify the four different types of camouflage and identify animals belonging to each one.
    • Hide & Seek Sea is an illustration that contains 22 animals. Once students find them all, they can click on the animals to see pictures and learn more about them.
    • Nature Works has a great article on deceptive coloration.


    1. These. Are. Awesome.
      Thank you so much for continuing to pull these - the Nephews booklist has so many fab books of poetry and nonfiction on them now!