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The exploration of microhabitats continues in this sixth outing from Fredericks and DiRubbio (Under One Rock, 2001, etc.).
The action begins with a lightning strike and a wind that fells a huge old oak tree. As it decays, it becomes a place for termites, roly-polies, a salamander, a garter snake and a chipmunk to find food and shelter. The majority of the text follows a House-That-Jack-Built pattern with rhyming couplets, to mixed effect. While the repetition will help readers remember the information, that information needs to be worthy of remembering, and not all of this is: "Some daddy longlegs, like alien creatures, / Have thin spindly legs and other strange features." The Field Notes section in the back helps readers fill in the knowledge gaps, but even these are spotty—it states that the daddy longlegs is not a spider but does not say what it is. As in the prior titles, it is DiRubbio's artwork that is the big draw. Amazingly detailed and lifelike illustrations make it seem like the creatures will step right off the pages onto readers' hands. At least two of the featured animals are on each page, allowing kids to get an idea of their relative sizes.
Teachers may find the cool activities and projects listed in the back helpful, but, overall, flaws outweigh utility. (Informational picture book. 4-8)
Posted February 11, 2011
If a tree falls down in the forest and nobody is around to hear it, does it just become a dead log? No, it becomes home to many different creatures! After an opening letter by "Your balled-up buddy, Roly-poly," author Anthony D. Fredericks uses catchy rhymes to describe a great oak tree that is hit by lightning and blown down by the wind, and then after it begins to decay the termites that feed on the rotting wood, a salamander that hides under it, the roly-polies that live in it, the garter snake that slides over it, the red velvet mites that crawl on it, the daddy longlegs that creep around it, and the chipmunk that climbs it. What will the school class see when they walk past the log on a field trip?
The full color, life-like drawings by illustrator Jennifer DiRubbio help to reinforce the many valuable lessons about nature that children can glean from the book which, in addition to the information about the different creatures, include the concept of habitat, the interconnected relationships of different plants and animals, and the earth's way of recycling. The repetitive character of the poetry will be encouraging to beginning readers. At the end, there are two pages of field notes about the tree and animals, and two more pages with suggestions for activities and projects. Similar books by Fredericks are Under One Rock, which I have read and reviewed, In One Tidepool, Around One Cactus, Near One Cattail, and On One Flower. As our friend the roly-poly reminds us in his introduction, "I have lots of weird neighbors, and remember, weird is interesting." This entire book is interesting!