Bees, Snails, and Peacock Tails: Patterns and Shapes...Naturally


Come explore the hidden shapes and patterns in nature. The peacock's flashy tail is a masterpiece of color and shape. A buzzing beehive is built of tiny hexagons. Even a snake's skin is patterned with diamonds.
Poet Betsy Franco and Caldecott Honor winner Steve Jenkins bring geometry to life in this lively, lyrical look at the shapes and patterns that can be found in the most unexpected places.

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Come explore the hidden shapes and patterns in nature. The peacock's flashy tail is a masterpiece of color and shape. A buzzing beehive is built of tiny hexagons. Even a snake's skin is patterned with diamonds.
Poet Betsy Franco and Caldecott Honor winner Steve Jenkins bring geometry to life in this lively, lyrical look at the shapes and patterns that can be found in the most unexpected places.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

The pair behind Birdsongs tackles another science topic-geometry in the animal world. Whether addressing hexagonal beehive cells or a snail's spiral shell, brisk rhymes draw attention to nature's math, as in this description of moth wings' symmetry: "Notice the colors/ and stunning 'eyes,'/ perfectly matched/ on either side." The layout of text frequently echoes the subject under discussion, e.g., words circle around the sphere of an inflated puffer fish or grow larger and bolder when pointing out, among peacock pairs, "the male's the one with all the flair." Jenkins's cut-paper collages are every bit as stunning here as in his previous books. Striking color combinations make the illustrations pop. This inviting book is bound to spark more careful observation of the shapes and colors in the reader's natural world. Ages 3-7. (Aug.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
The patterns that occur naturally on a variety of creatures are the subject of verses, one per character on a double page. Beehives have hexagons "side/ by side/ by side/ by side." Moths display symmetry in "kaleidoscope shapes in flight." Spiders weave "delicate tapestries." The male peacock is "the one with all the flair." Ants travel in "careful formation." A mouse leaves distinctive paw prints in the snow. Snakes, sea stars, and snails all have their distinctive patterns. For the puffer fish and the snail, the poetic text makes its own special shape. As always, Jenkins' sensitive manipulation of his remarkable cut-paper collages dominates the double pages and partners with the text to provide bits of natural history. The single line of ants increasing in size across from left to right headed for a watermelon slice is just one example of the visual strength of his portrayed patterns. Two pages of "New Angles on the Animals" add factual information. Silhouettes grace the endpapers. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal

K-Gr 3

This poetry picture book about patterns in nature has some spreads on which rhymes sing and artwork thrills-and others that disappoint. The peacock page delights readers with a Jenkins collage at his feathery best and these clever lines: "If you should meet a peacock pair,/the male's the one with all the flair./The female, who is rather plain,/is dazzled by his patterned train." In the spread about symmetry in moths' wing patterns, the insects' furry bodies seem to pop from the paper, but the text's attempt to rhyme "eyes" with "side" and "spring" with "wings" doesn't measure up. A clever spiral poem on the topshell snail is accompanied by a surprisingly flat and listless illustration. Awkward scanning in the rhymes throughout will make the book especially hard to read aloud without practice. Jarring in a book that is scientific in tone despite its poetic format is the statement that sea stars "grow back an arm/if they get into scrapes,/for they take such great pride/in their bright, starry shapes." One or two simple facts about the habits of each animal are included in the end matter. For an excellent poetic book about nature by this duo, try Birdsongs (S & S, 2007).-Ellen Heath, Easton Area Public Library, Easton, PA

Kirkus Reviews
Rhymes and stunning illustrations convey the patterns and shapes of birds, insects, spiders, a snail and one mammal (a mouse). Franco's verses are lively, and Jenkins's hand-made paper illustrations often highlight the shapes through the pictures and through the placement of text, as in the case of the circular shape of the puffer fish, the wedge of the geese and the spiral of the snail. Some of the words (e.g., kaleidoscopic, profound) will require elucidation for the intended audience, and the rhyming format limits the information that can be conveyed, although a section with additional background on each animal is appended. Despite the sketchiness of the information (the pattern or shape the ants make-is it a straight line?-is not clear, for example), this is a lovely book that will work well as a read-aloud, connect with the concepts of shapes and patterns that are frequently part of early childhood curriculum and provide a springboard for discussion. (Informational picture book/poetry. 4-8)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781416903864
  • Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
  • Publication date: 8/26/2008
  • Edition description: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
  • Pages: 40
  • Sales rank: 597,238
  • Age range: 3 - 7 Years
  • Lexile: AD1080L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 10.30 (w) x 10.20 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Betsy Franco is the author of numerous books for children, including Counting Our Way to the 100th Day! and Mathematickles!, both illustrated by Steven Salerno; and Birdsongs, illustrated by Steve Jenkins. She and her husband live in Palo Alto, California. They have three sons — two actors and a sculptor. Visit Betsy's website at

Steven Jenkins has written and illustrated many award-winning children’s books, including Bees, Snails, and Peacock Tails and the 2003 Caldecott Honor recipient, What Do You Do With a Tail Like This? He lives in Boulder, Colorado. Visit him at

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