What Do You Do With a Tail Like This?


Written and Illustrated by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page

Houghton Mifflin, 2003

Awards: Caldecott Honor

Animals use their noses, ears, tails, eyes, mouths and feet in very different ways.

The plot in a nutshell:  An examination of animal physiology

On the first double page, we see an elephant trunk, a platypus bill, a hyena’s snout, a star mole’s nose and an alligator’s nose holes. On the next page, full pictures of each animal show us how they use their noses in different ways to dig, smell, breathe, navigate and clean themselves. As the book goes on, it shows us how lots of different animal species use their ears, tails, eyes, feet and mouths to help them find and/or eat food, defeat enemies and thrive in their different environments.

Those eyes are the best eyes for winning staring contests.

Those eyes are the best eyes for winning staring contests.

The husband and wife team of Steve Jenkins and Robin Page have published many books together, all focused on different elements of biology. This one focuses broadly on features that all living things have in common, but then goes into more detail on their diversity. It’s a neat concept that is well explored here. Young readers will enjoy looking at the pictures and guessing the animal species from the glimpse. Older readers will enjoy the last few pages, which feature additional information on each species listed in the book. The illustrations are done in cut paper collage, with really cool textured papers to provide depth and detail for each animal depicted.  I really enjoy their books, because they manage to be educational and entertaining in equal measure.

And what did we learn?  What I take away from this book is that nature prepares each animal for survival and equips them in so many interesting ways.


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