As I stated last Friday, Dora and I spent last week looking at mammals. I had chosen two books to accompany our unit, but we also read a third book that I decided to lump in with the unit, as it is a wonderful book and it’s main characters are mammals (I know I am stretching it a bit here, but just roll with me here). The first book we read was About Mammals: A Guide For Children by Cathryn P. Sill. I was very pleasantly surprised by this book. I had been kind of dreading it, assuming it was going to be like all the other supposedly interesting, but actually terribly boring, preschool science books that seem to be in abundance in the preschool book market. Instead, this book was very simply written, yet managed to convey what was really special about mammals. The text actually flows more like a poem than a text book. What we both really loved about this book, however, was the drawings. The drawings in this book are just absolutely superb! They are incredibly realistic depictions of common mammals of the United States shown in evocative scenes.
Next we read, Me . . . Jane. I had purchased this book, because I feel that Jane Goodall played, and continues to play, a major role in our society’s current understanding of animal psychology, conservation, and ecology. At the same time, I had been dreading this book also, just because I find that a lot of Jane Goodall fans tend to be, shall we say, a bit on the extreme side. I was amazed that this book was nothing like that at all. It was truly about Jane Goodall, as a child, with very little of the story being focusing on her work as an adult. Instead, the story focuses on how Jane Goodall became “Jane Goodall”. It is about the life experiences and opportunities that she had as a child that shaped and molded the adult that she became. Her curiosity as a child was a wondrous thing that all children can relate to. The illustrations are child-like ink and watercolors. The pages with text on them have illustrations in the background that resemble nature journal drawings. Dora’s favorite part of the book, however, was being able to see the photograph of Jane’s stuffed chimpanzee, Jubilee, looked when Jane is holding it as a baby, compared to the photograph with her holding it as a child. That chimp saw some serious loving (and honestly looks a bit diseased in the 2nd photo). Finally, we read Hairy Maclary Scattercat, which I had purchased, thinking it was a Halloween book for some odd reason (maybe because the picture on the cover looks Halloweeny? Or maybe because I am beginning to have “senior moments”?). The book is actually about a dog, named Hairy Maclary. For some reason, known only to himself, Hairy Maclary decides that on this particular day, he is going to torture cats, who are just minding their own business, by chasing them. At this point, I will point out that a) Hairy Maclary should be on a leash and b) chasing cats and scaring them is not actually funny. Still, I decided to roll with it a bit and I am glad that I did. In the end, Hairy Maclary gets what’s coming to him, he makes the mistake of trying to chase a cat that is too big, tough, and mean for him. He ends up being chased all the way home by that cat, with his tail between his legs. I hesitated a bit to recommend this book, simply because Hairy Maclary is being a bully, even if he is cute in the way he goes about it, but not only does the ending satisfy my desire for cat-justice everywhere, the vocabulary is this book is so unusual, I just had to recommend it. The text is written at an age-appropriate level, but the author uses the rhythm of the story to introduce children to more advanced vocabulary such as “bumptious”, “bellicose”, and “boisterous”.
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