Essential Literature: What Do You Do With a Tail Like This?

Sep 26, 2013 by     No Comments    Posted under: Book Picks, Early Literacy

What make this particular book “Essential Literature?”  Let me count the ways!

We are drawn at once into this book, which offers a reader the curl-of-a-tail and title that leads the words on a merry chase around the cover. The invitation is to playfully engage with a central question that, in itself, is a rhythmic chant:

What Do You Do With a Tail Like This?”

Say this title over and again with a preschooler as you clap your hands, and you will be ready for diving into a fabulous book!

At its heart, this book is a guessing game about animals and the amazing things they can do. It’s also a book about comparisons, whether similarities (all critters have noses, ears, mouth, eyes and feet) or differences (a gecko can walk on the ceiling, can you?). This wonderful book provides a look at the diversity of all things.

Steve Jenkins–a science guy and a wizard with paper–and Robin Page offer us a series of questions with visual hints.

Some animal parts might be familiar to a child already, such as a monkey’s tail that hangs from a tree, or an elephants nose that squirts water. Others, you will find, are most unusual, like the horned lizard’s eyes that squirt blood, or the archer fish that uses its mouth to shoot insects down with a stream of water.

Little boys and girls who categorize things…or are fascinated with animals…will LOVE this book! And nothing will impress your friends and family like having an unusual (and gross) fact at hand.

Jenkins and Page are masters of fascinating non-fiction for preschoolers and elementary students. The detailed paper cuts are visually stunning and the information is presented in ways that provide drama, intrigue and fun.

The question pages provide time to clap, chant and allow your child to take the lead. Enjoy noticing differences and similarities between the animals, and guessing whose nose that might be. Jenkins points out what each animal does with that body part, and you can find a paragraph on each animal at the back of the book.

With older children, you can extend the conversation by discussing the structure of that hand, mouth, foot or eye and how it helps the animal accomplish their task. 

A picture book focused on animals will excite a child’s curiosity and you can encourage them to look through field guides of insects, birds and mammals like those published by Peterson or National Audubon Society. National Geographic is a great place to look for more animal info.

With younger children, you can talk about the many things their own eyes, ears, nose, mouth and feet do.  This is a great time to talk about the human body and all the wonderful things it does for us.  What do YOU do with a nose like this?  This can lead to games about naming body parts, or even rhyming body parts:

  • I say eye – you say pie. 
  • I say knee – you say tree
  • I say head - you say bed

If you have an iPad, there is a new app by Tiny Bop in their Explorer’s Library called The Human Body that is great for ages 4 and up to explore the workings of the body.  It provides lots of answers to “What can you do with…” questions about our own bodies in a way that is completely interactive and wonderful.

What do you learn from a book like this? You learn that every creature on earth is different, but we have a lot in common.  You also learn that there are many ways of being in this world, and all of them deserve our respect.

You might also discover that learning is really interesting and fun!  Check out some more inspiring nature books by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page.



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