The huge prehistoric beasts are introduced in jaunty rhymed couplets as "Fuzzy, shaggy, snarly, snaggy, wonderful woolly mammoths!" Verses with refrains detail the lives and habits of the mammoths as they move south for the winter, having "packed their trunks." As mothers protect their young, they move across the steppes and rivers, past storms and predators, to the snow-free south. Then in the spring they start north again. Cyrus's vigorous black line scratchboard, double-page scenes are tinted with watercolor washes that mostly chill us. But the artist's depictions of the lacy bare branches of the landscape's trees and the curly twists of the mammoths' hairy coats are visually striking. Cyrus creates a sequence of esthetic variations as the animals march onward, changing perspective while focusing on bits of action to maintain our interest. The verses become captions for the visual dramas. A note from the author adds additional information about mammoths. 2006, Harcourt, Ages 4 to 8.
Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
PreS-Gr 2-Buoyant language and vivid artwork depict the excitement of the migration of "Massive, hairy,/legendary" woolly mammoths. The words flow smoothly, providing interesting bits of information about the animals within the rhymed framework: "Come colder days, those mammoth herds/migrated south, just like the birds." Occasional humorous phrases ("so mammoths packed their trunks and moved") add a lighthearted touch without detracting from the progression of the journey. Short refrains ("Big and bulky,/huge and hulky,/wide and woolly mammoths!") break up the rhythm neatly and are especially lively when read aloud. Scratchboard-and-watercolor illustrations capture the creatures' majesty and the beautiful landscape of their trek. Thick black lines and stark whites are balanced by the luminous colors of sky, water, and snow. The composition of the spreads is varied to strong effect. A dramatic scene shows two grown males clashing, for example, while a page turn reveals a much less imposing pair of calves play fighting. Other visual highlights depict the prehistoric beasts swimming with "snorkel-trunks up high," plodding past the bones of less-fortunate travelers, and finally emerging into green fields as "They reached the south by winter's end.../then started heading north again!" This successful mixture of rhyme, facts, and illustration, applied to a fascinating subject, will make this picture book a popular choice.-Steven Engelfried, Beaverton City Library, OR Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.