Meet Authors & Illustrators

Steve Jenkins

   Steve Jenkins came to the 20th Anniversary Children's Literature Conference sponsored by the Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, from his home in Boulder, to talk about his factual picturebooks and how he creates his unusual collage illustrations. There has recently been a growth in the publication of non-fiction books in picturebook format; there has also been a marked increase in the use of collage as an illustration medium. Jenkins's work combines these two trends in the more than a dozen books he has illustrated. His art is distinctive in the way he exploits his papers, a material that he employs exclusively to interpret the various birds, mammals, and other creatures that come alive in his books. Although remarkably accurate in their representation of natural history, his images and page designs are simultaneously aesthetically and compellingly attractive.

   Born in North Carolina to a college physics professor father and a home-based mother, Jenkins and his parents and younger brother moved frequently as part of academic life. Wherever they lived, he was a collector of living specimens, lizards, mice, insects, along with rocks and fossils. "My father was a scientist and encouraged my interest in the natural world." But he also liked to draw and paint. Late in high school he began to think that the "kids in sandals" living the Volkswagon bus lifestyle were having much more fun than the science students. So he went on to the School of Design at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, where he received his B.A. and M.A. It is also where he met his wife Robin, his "partner in life and business."

   Together they moved to New York City, where they did commercial design work, including book design. "I sort of backed into children's book writing and illustration," Jenkins notes. "While working on a book design project for Stewart, Tabori & Chang, I suggested to the editor that I also illustrate the books we were designing, and she agreed." Soon after, he submitted a book idea to another publisher, and he was on his way.

   He described his working process. Once he knows what he wants to illustrate, he collects his references. He may visit zoos, or the aquarium. He takes photographs and looks at a lot of books. "I don't do the actual studies there, but I find it useful to get an appreciation of how beautiful and subtle they actually are. I do an outline drawing based on the references and how I want them to look on the page. Then a quick color setting to figure out what paper I'm going to use in the collage. Finally I cut and tear." Jenkins is constantly searching out and collecting all kinds of paper, most of them from other countries which have a tradition of hand made paper, like Japan. The paper has to have the special qualities, such as that printed directly from a piece of wood, or batik. He may have it for a long time until he finally uses it in what he feels is the right place.

   "As a designer you can use many different tools. Cut paper was just one of the many tools I used before I adopted it as my personal form of expression. The conflict I have between the aesthetic and the factual is that same conflict that drove me to be a collage artist in the first place. Otherwise I get much too focused on detail. That's something that happens whenever I do go to a zoo to look at animals. I realize how little of what's actually there I'm able to put on paper. I think it would be just as frustrating if I was painting in a more realistic medium, because there's a richness to reality that you can only approximate, even with photography. So sometimes there's frustration in knowing that there's another level of information, maybe in the way an animal's spot is articulated or the way surface of an animal looks, and I can't express that. It's not a matter of being inaccurate as much as it's being incomplete. Looking Down is an example of that kind of decision: as you zoom out what information do you drop out?"

   "I think that's one of the appeals of this kind of art for kids, that they are filling in part of the information. So not only is it satisfying for me to find a piece of paper that is at the same time a hippopotamus's skin, but I think kids get the same satisfaction from filling in the details and making it into a hippo as well as a piece of paper. That tension in modern art focuses on this ambiguity: something can be paint on a canvas and can also be an image. There's a tension between the two things; it's not that they're trying to fool you that it's not a canvas. Collage works a bit that way."

   But using textured paper and collage creates problems in reproduction. Usually the original art work is put on printing plates and scanned on a drum scanner, which means it has to be wrapped around a drum, where a laser reads and translates it. Obviously collage can't be treated that way because the pieces would just pop off. So it is in the photographs of them, done by a specialized photographer, that these technical areas are addressed. "In the original art," Jenkins notes, "where there's a lot of contrast of texture and color, it gets a little bit lost, a little dark. It's nice to have a few shadows to get a sense of the relief, but not too much." So he is perhaps not completely satisfied with the reproduction of his original art on the printed pages.

   When asked about the difference between illustrating someone else's text versus doing both words and pictures, Jenkins remarked, "I prefer doing both the writing and the illustrating. They are two different things. When I illustrate someone else's work, that can be quite enjoyable, because it's much simpler for me in a way. I'm just the illustrator. What I find when I'm working on my own books is that I'm constantly questioning and second guessing whether I made the right choices, or should I rewrite this? I don't have to worry about that when I do someone else's books; it's a bit of a vacation from that kind of self-examination. But it's more satisfying to have control over what the book says as well as the way it looks. It's something I'm particularly interested in or I wouldn't be doing the books."

   Regarding the work with his wife, Robin Page, Jenkins comments, "I think that the collaboration with my wife, which is a new thing, will be a little less focused on facts and figures. She has a little different approach. I'm more linear, and with the writing I always have to keep cutting away. My tendency is to keep adding information. She comes at it from the other end, keeping things simple and making intuitive connections. She does concept development, designs the pages, and works out how the book flows. When it gets down to the end her work is much more precise. She does her work on the computer and mine is torn and cut. She does the small drawings that are much more literal."

   Jenkins's books have won many awards, including being named Outstanding Science Trade Books, School Library Journal's Best Books of the Year, a notable Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies, ALA Notable Children's Books, an Orbus Pictus Honor Book and the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for nonfiction. Forthcoming books include one on earthworms, a counting book to match Into the A, B, Sea, and a discussion of evolution that may be controversial. But Jenkins states, "The theory of evolution is one of the big ideas of the past 200 years. Learning about evolution will give a child an idea about what science is: observation, critical thinking, testing. Evolution is a simple, elegant theory but there are a lot of misconceptions about it. There's a debate between evolution and creationism. But of course it's not a true debate, because it's a matter of apples and oranges. Creationism is based on faith--it's not science. Evolution is sometimes thought of as a continuum from simplicity to complexity, but complexity is just one option, just one tiny branch on the tree."

   Finally Jenkins sums up the fusion of his two worlds: "I believe that there's a cultural misconception about scientists, reinforced by many books, movies and television shows,that a scientist is cold, logical, unable to see the forest for the trees, the opposite of the artist, who is creative and intuitive; that science is Western and dissects things, while Eastern and artistic thought are holistic, spiritual, non-judgmental. But art and science are not mutually exclusive. I believe that understanding how things work, what they're called, and what they do, increases our sense of awe and reverence. I believe we should teach science as a process, tool, not just a collection of facts. It's a tool that allows children to test their own theories and to trust their own conclusions."

For further information about Steve Jenkins, visit his web site by clicking here.

 

Reviews

Actual Size
Steve Jenkins
   The biggest new name in children's early nonfiction is Steve Jenkins. This collage artist uses few words and fascinating lay-outs to describe absorbing topics. In his latest, Jenkins delivers a book that lives up to its title, presenting animals (or sometimes parts of animals) in life-sized collages and offering measurements and short commentary on each. Jenkins fills one page of this oversized book with a staring giant squid's eye while the facing page gives size and explains how the large eye is needed to see in dim light. On another page, a smidgen of a white shark's teeth fill a page. A crocodile's head stretches over three fold-out pages. While the overall book is ripe for comparisons, Jenkins offers some pages which give immediate contrasts--a gorilla's hand fills a page and a pygmy mouse lemur takes center stage, filling only a small bit of a facing page. Jenkins steers us through the animal world with surprising life-sized illustrations and fascinating visual data that makes sense to young children. He gives more in-depth facts at the book's end. 2004, Houghton Mifflin, $16.00. Ages 3 to 7. Reviewer: Susie Wilde (Children's Literature).

   In his trademark paper collage, Jenkins has explained the concept of size in the animal kingdom to children who will pore over these extraordinary illustrations. From tarantulas to frogs, each page is intriguing in what it reveals. In addition to the accurate size and weight of the animal, the illustration brings it alive before your eyes. Pull-out pages of the saltwater crocodile and Goliath frog are particularly amazing in their scope. As usual, Jenkins includes more detailed information on each of the represented animals in the backmatter. For those little ones hungry for nonfiction, this is a particularly engaging book. 2004, Houghton Mifflin, $16.00. Ages 4 to 8. Reviewer: Joan Kindig, Ph.D. (Children's Literature).

   Pictures of the creatures in our world abound, but visualizing them in their actual size is very difficult. Jenkins has chosen to help us by illustrating eighteen of them to scale. In some cases, like the pigmy shrew or the dwarf goby, they are almost lost on the large white pages. Others, like the brown bear, require a double page just for the head, or for just the eye of the giant squid or the foot of an African elephant. A fold-out page is needed for the head of the saltwater crocodile and the stretched-out Goliath frog. For each creature he gives us the exact height and weight, with a brief sentence or two of introduction. Fuller information on each, with a complete picture, is available at the end of the book. There are no background scenes or contextual objects; all we get here are the subjects on white pages. Jenkins has dipped into his vast store of papers to find just the right colors and textures he feels he needs to recreate each whole or part. All we get of the great white shark are five serrated teeth in pink gums. We cannot fail to be impressed by both the depictions and the masterful technique used to create them. What reader can help but put a hand on top of the gorilla's to compare size? 2004, Houghton Mifflin Company, $16.00. Ages 5 up. Reviewers: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz (Children's Literature).
Best Books:
   Best Children's Books of the Year, 2004; Bank Street College of Education; United States
   Bulletin Blue Ribbons, 2004; Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books; United States
   Capitol Choices, 2005; The Capitol Choices Committee; United States
   The Children's Literature Choice List, 2005; Children's Literature; United States
   Choices, 2005; Cooperative Children's Book Center; United States
   Editors' Choice, 2004; American Library Association Booklist; United States
   Top 10 Sci-Tech Books for Youth, 2004; American Library Association-Booklist; United States
Awards, Honors, Prizes:
   Books of the Year Winner 2004 Ages 2 to 4 United States
   Editors' Choice Top of the List Winner 2004 Youth Nonfiction United States
   Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children Honor Book 2005 United States
State and Provincial Reading Lists:
   2X2 Reading List, 2005; Texas
   Arizona Young Readers' Award, 2006; Nominee; Non-fiction Book; Arizona
   Beehive Award, 2005-2006; Nominee; Informational; Utah
   Black-Eyed Susan Book Award, 2005-2006; Nominee; Picture Book; Maryland
   Kentucky Bluegrass Award, 2006; Nominee; Grades K-2; Kentucky
   Red Clover Award, 2005-2006; Nominee; Vermont
   Virginia Young Readers Program, 2005-2006; Nominee; Primary School Level; Virginia
   Washington Children's Picture Book Award, 2006; Nominee; K-3; Washington
ISBN: 0-618-37594-5

Animals in Flight
Steve Jenkins and Robin Page

   Birds do it; bees do it; a few dinosaurs did it; and only one species of mammal does it. What do they all have in common? The ability to fly. Beginning with insects, the authors present the animals that fly in the order in which they first appeared on earth. They discuss how wings help them fly and the advantages of flying. Various types of gliders, such as the flying squirrel, are presented, along with the reasons they cannot fly. World record flyers, such as the big brown bat, the arctic tern and the monarch butterfly, are listed. A two-page spread provides a very brief look at the evolution of mankind's flying machines. The picture book format makes this a fine introduction for a variety of age groups--the brief, large print text will give preschoolers an understanding of why some animals can fly; school-age children will benefit from the tidbits of information in the small print and the notes at the end. A short bibliography will lead them to further research. The large, main illustrations are done in paper collage and reproduced so well the reader will want to touch them. Some of the sidebar illustrations are computer generated. 2001, Houghton Mifflin, $16.00. Ages 4 to 10. Reviewer: Sharon Salluzzo
ISBN: 0-618-12351-2

Biggest, Strongest, Fastest
Steve Jenkins

   For kids who ask those impossible questions--what animal is the biggest, or smallest, longest or shortest, and so on--Jenkins has created a delightful series of answers using full color cut paper collage illustrations. From the streaking cheetah on the cover to the tiny Etruscan shrew sitting on a teaspoon, readers see the animal and learn salient facts plus a few more delicious tidbits. Cleverly done and sure to appeal to both the littlest and biggest of readers. 1995, Ticknor & Fields, $15.00 and $5.95. Ages 4 up. Reviewer: Marilyn Courtot
Best Books:
   Adventuring with Books: A Booklist for Pre-K--Grade 6, 1997 National Council of Teachers of English; United States
   Children's Catalog, Eighteenth Edition, 2001 H.W. Wilson; United States
   The Children's Literature Choice List, 1996 Children's Literature; United States
   Editors' Choice: Books for Youth, 1995 American Library Association-Booklist; United States
   Outstanding Science Trade Books for Children, 1996 National Science Teachers Association; United States
   Recommended Literature: Kindergarten through Grade Twelve, 2002 California Department of Education; California
   School Library Journal Book Review Stars, May 1995 Cahners; United States
ISBN: 0-395-69701-8
ISBN: 0-395-86136-5

Bugs are Insects Bugs Are Insects
Anne Rockwell
Illustrated by Steve Jenkins

   The basic facts about common insects are available in many books for youngsters. What raises this above the ordinary is not just Rockwell's well-written text in large type, clearly explaining how insects differ from other creatures and each other, and the parts they have in common. What really distinguishes this work are the cut paper creatures that Jenkins creates and places on the pages with only the barest of detail. Included are ladybugs, mosquitoes, crickets, butterflies, bees, grasshoppers, ants and others. These are accurate representations, but produced with a keen esthetic eye. Even as we learn some facts about "bugs," it is hard to keep from carefully examining the ways that the various papers have been shaped, joined and manipulated, and to delight in Jenkins' art process. Part of the "Let's-Read-and-Find-Out" series, this includes suggested activities to find out more, and an index to the insects included. 2001, HarperCollins, $15.95, $15.89, and $4.95. Ages 3 to 6. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
ISBN: 0-06-028568-0
ISBN: 0-06-028569-9

Elephants Swim
Linda Capus Riley
Illustrations by Steve Jenkins

   Elephants swim underwater and use their trunks like snorkels. Sea otters wrap themselves in a cradle of kelp so they won't drift off while sleeping. Hippos can sleep underwater, but they must come to the surface every 5 minutes to breathe. Elephants Swim is a beautiful book for young children. It uses rhymes and full color collages to introduce us to how 16 animals behave in the water. The text is simple, the illustrations are enchanting, and the endnotes give us more details on the behavior of each animal. 1995, Houghton, $14.95. Ages 2 to 5. Reviewer: Dia L. Michels
Best Books:
   Adventuring with Books: A Booklist for Pre-K--Grade 6, 1997 National Council of Teachers of English; United States
   Booklist Book Review Stars, Sept. 1, 1995 United States
   Children's Choices, 1996 International Reading Association; United States
   Outstanding Science Trade Books for Children, 1996 National Science Teachers Association; United States
   Reading Magic Awards, 1995 Parenting; United States
ISBN: 0-395-73654-4

Hottest, Coldest, Highest, Deepest
Steve Jenkins

   Did you know that it hasn't rained in over 400 years in Chile's Atacama Desert, but Tutunendo, Columbia on the same continent has receives an average of 463 inches of rain annually? They are respectively the driest and wettest places in the world. This and information about a dozen tallest, coldest, windiest places on the earth will find a receptive audience in this age of sound bites and factoids. Jenkins' paper collages are a delight and the insets that include maps and drawings are an aid to understanding the measurements and information that he features about our amazing planet earth. 1998, Houghton, $16.00. Ages 5 up. Reviewer: Charles Wyman
Best Books:
   Children's Catalog, Eighteenth Edition, 2001 H.W. Wilson; United States
   The Children's Literature Choice List, 2000 Children's Literature; United States
   Los Angeles' 100 Best Books, 1998 IRA Children's Literature and Reading SIG and the Los Angeles Unified School District; United States
   Recommended Literature: Kindergarten through Grade Twelve, 2002 California Department of Education; California
Awards, Honors, Prizes:
   Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children Honor Book 1999 United States
ISBN: 0-395-89999-0

Into the A, B, Sea Into the A, B, Sea
Deborah Lee Rose
Pictures by Steve Jenkins

   The letters of the alphabet offer a chance to introduce a wide variety of creatures from the sea, each named as involved in an activity, one per double-page. More detailed descriptions of each are given at the end of the book. But more important is the opportunity Jenkins takes to use a wide variety of cut and torn papers to create double-page scenes that combine fishy facts with esthetic elegance. Even the granite-skinned tiger shark looks a bit less frightening in a mottled, blue rice paper sea. Every creation is here to delight us and to be admired. 2000, Scholastic Press, $15.95. Ages 3 to 7. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
Best Books:
   The Best Children's Books of the Year, 2001 Bank Street College of Education; United States
   Children's Catalog, Eighteenth Edition, Supplement, 2002 H.W. Wilson; United States
   The Children's Literature Choice List, 2001 Children's Literature; United States
ISBN: 0-439-09696-0

I See a Kookaburra!: Discovering Animal Habitats Around the World
Steve Jenkins and Robin Page
   Habitats from around the world--eight of them constitute the framework for this delightful picture book. The scene is set and eight animals are part of the collages created from cut and torn paper, but they are not so easy to spot. Jenkins and Page have made this book interactive in that it challenges young readers to find and name the animals before the page is turned and they are revealed. The text is simple and repetitive "In the desert I see... In the forest I see..." Each habitat is named and on the following pages the animals that are hidden are revealed. In addition to a full picture of the animal, there is a line of text that tells a fact about each. To further challenge readers, Jenkins has hidden an ant on each spread for kids to find. The lesson and fun does not stop here. The last pages go through each habitat and provide an introduction and more detailed information about the creatures found in it. The final page presents a world map and identifies the location of the habitats and even suggests books for additional reading. What a great package for school or home. 2005, Houghton Mifflin, $16.00. Ages 4 to 8. Reviewer: Marilyn Courtot (Children's Literature).

   The authors take us to six different habitats in six different parts of the world to show us first, the area, and then eight different creatures who have evolved to survive in each. The desert is in the American Southwest, the tide pool is on the southern coast of England, the jungle is in the Amazon River basin, the savanna is in central Africa, the forest in eastern Australia, and the pond in the American Midwest. Part of the fun is the challenge, after seeing the individual inhabitants depicted on white double pages, to find them hidden in the picture of their habitat, along with the ants, which are found almost "everywhere on earth." The artist continues to use cut and torn papers to create his realistic creatures along with the plants and landscape indigenous to each region. Thoughtful inspection helps us to appreciate his insightful skill even as we respond to the esthetic content. Following the illustrated pages are several pages of additional facts, a map, and a bibliography. 2005, Houghton Mifflin Company, Ages 4 to 8, $16.00. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
Best Books:
   Publishers Weekly Book Review Stars, April 25, 2005 Cahners; United States
ISBN: 0-618-50764-7

Life on Earth the Story of Evolution
Steve Jenkins.
   This scientific book, covers the theory of evolution and its consequences, including mutations and mass extinctions. Beginning with single-celled life, this book follows the development of life into modern times. Furthermore, it details the explorations, studies and conclusions of Charles Darwin. To end his book, Steve Jenkins includes a fascinating timeline of earth's four-and-one-half-billion year history placed on a twenty-four hour clock. An example taken from this clock is that modern humans wouldn't appear until 11:59:58--only two seconds before midnight! Colorful collage illustrations add to the impact of this book. The illustrations, the size and shape of the book, and the understandable language make this book appropriate for reading aloud to preschoolers and early elementary students. However, the subject matter will interest older children as well as adults. 2002, Houghton Mifflin Books, $16.00. Ages 5 up. Reviewer: Paul Mauer (Children's Literature).

   Jenkins presents the "theory" as science sees it today, with pictures and descriptions of the very first forms of life, through the millions of years of changes in those forms, to humans. He describes the discoveries that led Charles Darwin to "natural selection" and gives examples. The text is clear and readable, yet packed with information. Additional facts appear throughout in smaller type. A time line makes clear the short time humans have existed in the long life of the earth. Using only cut and torn papers, Jenkins creates portraits of over a hundred of the living and extinct organisms on earth. Because he sets them, in the main, on white pages, they are sharply defined and easy to study. Indeed, they are visually stimulating as much for his ability to produce such accurate images as for the diversity of the facts displayed. The younger readers will simply enjoy the pictures, while the older will readily absorb the science. A bibliography is included in this stunning volume. 2002, Houghton Mifflin, $16.00. Ages 6 to 12. Reviewers: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz (Children's Literature).

   The opening pages quickly trace evolution from bacteria through plants and mammals to humans with interesting facts and sometimes a telling characteristic to keep young readers awake. The next third deals with the development of the theory of evolution beginning with classification, fossil "appearances," and a beautifully clear explanation of Charles Darwin's natural selection work with sparrows on the Galapagos Islands. In addition, mutations and their relationship to evolution is explained, and a handsome spread of beetles suggests that there are many yet to be discovered; the species constantly mutates and evolves into new shapes and sizes or it is discovered in hitherto unexplored places. The last pages discuss extinction, provide the familiar 24-hour day as a metaphor for known time, and show early humans at the very end, a minute before midnight. Jenkins's signature watercolored, cut-paper illustrations work well here and invite close-up study of the many types of paper, textures, colors, and fine line cuts he has used. Further reading for both adults and children are selected from the last decade. While the ample white space makes this look like an easy book, the concepts within demand some prior knowledge on the part of the reader. Nonetheless, very young elementary school listeners can learn plenty while there is enough encapsulated information to satisfy older readers, as well. 2002, Houghton Mifflin, $16.00. Ages 6 to 12. Reviewer: Susan Hepler, Ph.D. (Children's Literature).
Best Books:
   The Best Children's Books of the Year, 2003 Bank Street College of Education; United States
   Booklist Book Review Stars, Dec. 15, 2002 United States
   Capitol Choices, 2002 The Capitol Choices Committee; United States
   Children's Catalog, Eighteenth Edition, Supplement, 2003 H.W. Wilson; United States
   The Children's Literature Choice List, 2002 Children's Literature; United States
   Editors' Choice: Books for Youth, 2002 American Library Association-Booklist; United States
   Publishers Weekly Book Review Stars, November 11, 2002 Cahners; United States
   School Library Journal Book Review Stars, December 2002 Cahners; United States
   School Library Journal: Best Books, 2002 Cahners; United States
Awards, Honors, Prizes:
   Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children Recommended Title 2003 United States
ISBN: 0-618-16476-6

Looking Down
Steve Jenkins

   Looking Down is a wordless book that puts "things" in perspective. The earth is a tiny blue and white ball against a dark sky, with the moon just in front. The collage art pictures move closer and closer to the earth, giving a view similar to that which the astronauts see, until viewers reach the earth and see a tiny ladybug under a young boy's magnifying glass. 1995, Houghton, $14.95. Ages 4 to 8. Reviewer: Marilyn Courtot
Best Books:
   Adventuring with Books: A Booklist for Pre-K--Grade 6, 1997 National Council of Teachers of English; United States
   Los Angeles' 100 Best Books, 1995 IRA Children's Literature and Reading SIG and the Los Angeles Unified School District; United States
ISBN: 0-395-72665-4

Making Animal Babies
Sneed B. Collard III
Illustrations by Steve Jenkins

   This informative book takes readers through the animal kingdom and explains the myriad ways in which animal babies are created. It starts with simple water organisms that bud or split from the parent, or simply break off on their own. Collard then explains that most animals procreate by sexual reproduction and discusses how the sperm and egg are brought together to make the next generation. The book discusses the mating process, explaining that chameleons show bright colors to attract a partner, walruses fight with their tusks, birds build elaborate structures to impress a partner, and fireflies light up the sky. Spectacular three-dimensional collage illustrations bring the book to life. Especially noteworthy are pictures of a developing chimpanzee embryo and of a cat giving birth. There is a helpful glossary at the end of the book. Making Animal Babies is a follow-up to the acclaimed Animal Dads. 2000, Houghton Mifflin Co., $16.00. Ages 4 to 8. Reviewer: Julie Steinberg
Best Books:
   Capitol Choices, 2000 The Capitol Choices Committee; United States
   Children's Catalog, Eighteenth Edition, 2001 H.W. Wilson; United States
   The Children's Literature Choice List, 2001 Children's Literature; United States
   School Library Journal Book Review Stars, July 2000 Cahners; United States
ISBN: 0-395-95317-0

Next Stop, Neptune: Experiencing the Solar System
Alvin Jenkins
Illustrated by Steve Jenkins
   An actual visit to the moon along with unmanned probes, telescopes, and satellites exploring other planets has given us powerful images of our vast and fascinating universe. Collage expert Steve Jenkins has joined with his father Alvin, a respected physicist, to take readers on a fantastic imaginary journey through space. Beginning with the formation of the solar system and the birth of the sun, the team moves the reader from planet to planet starting with Mercury and journeying to the distant planet of Pluto. At each stop along the way readers learn about the atmosphere, moon(s), physical landscape, and temperature of the planet. The use of comparison and scale allows for the maximum impact when detailing size or distance (traveling 60 miles per hour, it would take 1,500 years to reach Saturn from Earth, if you weigh 80 lbs on Earth, you will weigh 188lbs on Jupiter). It is the strong visual impression that Steve Jenkins make with his collages that make this book exceptional. Using crumbled and wrinkled paper with a variety of textures and hues he creates intricate details like clouds, wisps of smoke, and dry hostile plains to give the most dramatic effect. Mounting his collages on a black background produces an impact that will instill readers with wonder and awe. We are reminded that we are but one of millions of galaxies and cautioned that for the time being space travel will be limited to those planets close to home. Here is a book that will spark interest and keep kids poring over its stunning pages. Let's hope the team of Jenkins and Jenkins will collaborate again. 2004, Houghton Mifflin, $16.00. Ages 7 to 12. Reviewer: Beverley Fahey (Children's Literature).
Best Books:
   Best Children's Books of the Year, 2004 Bank Street College of Education; United States

One Nighttime Sea
Deborah Lee Rose
Pictures by Steve Jenkins
   The creatures in the nighttime sea are counted from one to ten and back again in numbers and words in simple rhymed couplets that bring them to life. One blue whale calf and two humpbacks lead to "Three white belugas come up for air. Four spider crabs pretend they're not there." Then "Seven reef lobsters stretch out their legs. Eight coral polyps explode with new eggs." At the end, day approaches. "Two speedy porpoises wake up to play...and one brand-new seal pup discovers the day." Jenkins's remarkable command of cut paper is clearly displayed in both the visual images and the page designs. He finds just the right papers to produce accurate representations of animal forms engaged in natural actions within their usual environments. The delightful creatures seem not only alive but almost three-dimensional. Added notes give further details on each. 2003, Scholastic Press, $16.95. Ages 3 to 7. Reviewers: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz (Children's Literature).

   From one to ten, then from ten to one, a wide array of sea life is depicted in this ocean counting rhyme. The verse flows through familiar faces, from two humpback whales to nine sea lions, as well as a few more mysterious characters, from nine nudibranchs to three zebra morays. Steve Jenkins' cut paper collages are bursting with life and color and coordinate perfectly with Deborah Lee Rose's verse. The story teaches counting, forwards as well as backwards, and also relays the concept of quantity through the illustrations. Collaborating with marine biologists Catherine Halverson and Brian Gibeson, Deborah Lee Rose also provides useful background information on each sea animal at the end of the book. 2003, Scholastic Press, $16.95. Ages 4 to 8. Reviewer: Jared Reck (Children's Literature).

   A new spin on a counting book, One Nightime Sea, follows animals in their nocturnal habitats. The rhyme is dependably prosodic and yet is embedded with reliable information. In fact, this rhyming, counting book is catalogued in the 513s. Jenkins' illustrations feature his marvelous collage work that somehow manages to capture the personalities of the animals. The front cover-spread of the otter is a good example that makes you want to take this one home. Back matter fills the reader in on the behaviors of these undersea creatures. All in all, here is a counting book that presents information in an appealing way. Note: this book is certainly appropriate for the younger set given the rhyming nature of the text. However, the information provided throughout the text and in the back matter suggests that the 7-10 crowd will enjoy it as well. 2003, Scholastic Press, $16.95. Ages 5 to 10. Reviewer: Joan Kindig, Ph.D. (Children's Literature).
Best Books:
   Best Children's Books of the Year, 2004 Bank Street College of Education; United States
   Children's Catalog, Eighteenth Edition, Supplement, 2004 H.W. Wilson
ISBN: 0-439-33906-5

Rain, Rain, Rain Forest
Brenda Z. Guiberson
Illustrated by Steve Jenkins
   We are taken on a verbal and visual trip deep into the tropical rain forest as the rain falls and days become nights. The way is punctuated by the sounds made by the variety of creatures encountered. Much information about each is seamlessly integrated into the narrative. Among the characters going about their lives are sloths, monkeys, frogs, birds, and insects, all amid the lush trees and foliage. We see the effect of the lack of rain for just a few days; then the relief when rains again. The role of the scientist seeking information on the possibly helpful plants is mentioned. But mainly this is a celebration of the complexity and importance of the rain forest. We also celebrate Jenkins's exploitation of cut papers, which helps us visualize the multiple lives which exist and often interact in this very wet jungle world. Full-page scenes and vignettes combine to tell the ecological story, a tale which doesn't censor scenes like the capture of a monkey by an eagle. Remarkably realistic, the images are composed with a strong sense of esthetic design, delivering a wealth of information in an intriguing medium. 2004, Henry Holt and Company, $16.95. Ages 6 to 9. Reviewers: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz (Children's Literature).

   Using plenty of lush description and onomatopoeic words--such as kwak, crrik, crriks,drip-drips, sloops--Cuiberson conveys a typical day or two in rainforest life. The text covers a fair amount of territory. There is flora such as bromeliads, orchids with roots hanging in the air, moss, and mangoes. There is fauna. A sloth weaves the narrative together as it slowly makes its weekly way to the tree bottom to go to the bathroom, and then slowly makes its way back up the tree again. Capuchin monkeys groom each other in comfort after a harpy eagle carries one off for food. Johnson's signature collage illustrations are, as usual, a marvel of cutting, textures, patterns, and tints. But this medium of necessity cannot work in details that make a young reader totally believe in the information at hand. For instance, a bromeliad is rendered as cut ovals over which a watery oval is pasted down--but the look is definitely not pool-like in the sense of a true bromeliad. While the text mentions orchids with swollen bulbs in which water is stored, the illustrations depict a six-foot-long iguana nibbling an orchid leaf but no bulbs. The text tells readers that a poison-dart frog carries a tadpole baby up the tree on her back in order to deposit it in the bromeliad pool. How? No picture shows us. The sloth's face looks friendly without necessarily looking real. For children who are familiar with some part of the rainforest, this book provides a pleasant and in-depth look at an ecosystem with enough specifics to send others off to the encyclopedia to further investigate. But the illustrations are at odds with the informational text. While this picture storybook gives the reader plenty of rainforest information, no glossary, index, or labels support the learner so this hybrid may fall between the cracks in the curriculum. 2004, Henry Holt, $16.95. Ages 7 to 10. Reviewer: Susan Hepler, Ph.D. (Children's Literature).
Best Books:
   Booklist Book Review Stars, May 1, 2004 United States
   The Children's Literature Choice List, 2005 Children's Literature; United States
   Top 10 Sci-Tech Books for Youth, 2004 American Library Association-Booklist; United States
ISBN: 0805065822

Slap, Squeak, & Scatter
Steve Jenkins

   In this handsome book, Steve Jenkins introduces the reader to creatures exotic (vervet monkeys, barking tree toads, lemurs, flashlight fish) and familiar (beavers, cats, chaffinches, wolves) and describes how they communicate with one another. The striking illustrations are collages of cut and torn paper which perfectly capture each of the subjects. The text is equally impressive. Deceptively simple, it conveys with great clarity a lot of sometimes quite complex information in a few short sentences per page. The choice of facts is fascinating and child-friendly. Who would have thought that the vervet monkey has a different warning cry for eagles, leopards and snakes--and that his fellow monkeys will take a different protective action in response to each? What is your cat really up to when it rubs against your legs? And why would you certainly not want to stand behind a hippo preparing to mark his territory? A superb introduction to the wonders of the world around us, this book may well inspire a future naturalist. 2001, Houghton Mifflin, $16.00. Ages 6 to 10. Reviewer: Barbara Maitland
ISBN: 0-618-03376-9

This Big Sky
Pat Mora
Pictures by Steve Jenkins

   These spare and dramatic poems transport readers to the American Southwest--where the sky often does seem big. Mora introduces a horned lizard and tells about the animals scuttling to get out of the rain and the blackness and quiet of the night. Jenkins' cut paper illustration add just the right touch; the horned lizard looks three dimensional and the night and stormy skies evoke visually the images created by Mora's wonderful words. 1998, Scholastic, $15.95. Ages 5 up. Reviewer: Marilyn Courtot
Best Books:
   Adventuring with Books: A Booklist for Pre-K--Grade 6, 12th Edition, 1999 National Council of Teachers of English; United States
   Children's Catalog, Eighteenth Edition, 2001 H.W. Wilson; United States
   The Children's Literature Choice List, 1999 Children's Literature; United States
   Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People, 1999 National Council for the Social Studies NCSS; United States
   Publishers Weekly Book Review Stars, March 1998 Cahners; United States
State and Provincial Reading Lists:
   Kentucky Bluegrass Award, 1999 Nominee; Kentucky
ISBN: 0-590-37120-7

The Top of the World: Climbing Mount Everest
Steve Jenkins

   Cut paper collage art really works here. The mountain climbers in their gear, including oxygen masks, look strange against the snowy, white-textured background with flakes falling from a dark sky. Readers are introduced to Mount Everest and then Jenkins succinctly relates the preparations and the physical demands that adventurers face when undertaking the ultimate challenge--climbing to the top of the world. It is a challenge beyond most of us, but reading Jenkins' book brings real insight into why and how people climb mountains and Mount Everest in particular. 1999, Houghton, $15.00. Ages 6 to 10. Reviewer: Charles Wyman
Best Books:
   Capitol Choices, 1999 The Capitol Choices Committee; United States
   Children's Catalog, Eighteenth Edition, 2001 H.W. Wilson; United States
   Fanfare Honor List, 1999 Horn Book; United States
   Notable Books for Children, 2000 American Library Association-ALSC; United States
   Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers, 1999 American Library Association-YALSA; United States
   Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers, 2000 American Library Association-YALSA; United States
   School Library Journal Book Review Stars, May 1999 Cahners; United States
   School Library Journal: Best Books, 1999 Cahners; United States
Awards, Honors, Prizes:
   Boston Globe--Horn Book Awards Winner 1999 Nonfiction United States
   Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children Honor Book 2000 United States
State and Provincial Reading Lists:
   Garden State Children's Book Award, 2002 Nominee; Non-Fiction; New Jersey
   Louisiana Young Readers' Choice Award, 2002 Nominee; Louisiana
   Pennsylvania Young Reader's Choice Award, 2001-2002 Nominee; Grades 3-6; Pennslyvania
   Prairie Pasque Award, 2002 Nominee; South Dakota
   Rhode Island Children's Book Award, 2001 Nominee; Rhode Island
   Texas Bluebonnet Award, 2000-2001 Nominee; N/A; Texas
   Utah Children's Book Awards, 2002 Nominee; Informational; Utah
   Virginia Young Readers Program, 2000-2001 Nominee; Elementary; Virginia
ISBN: 0-395-94218-7

What Do You Do When Something Wants to Eat You? What Do You Do When Something Wants to Eat You?
Steve Jenkins

   With delightful collage illustrations, Jenkins presents a variety of animals (14) and their defense mechanisms to avoid becoming another animal's prey. The octopus, for example, squirts black ink, which gives it time to escape. While a puffer fish blows itself up into a spiky balloon that is difficult to swallow, the clown fish heads for the tentacles of the sea anemone which are poisonous to others but not it. Some animals use camouflage while others use speed to escape their enemies. It is a fascinating look at the diversity of nature and survival skills that have evolved to help animals defend themselves. 2001 (orig. 1997), Houghton, $5.95. Ages 5 to 8. Reviewer: Marilyn Courtot
   Experience the roller coaster ride of intrigue and escape as the vibrant pages of this book come to life with each new danger. As the title suggests, this book explores many interesting and unusual ways that equally interesting and unusual animals avoid becoming a predator's dinner. The Basilisk lizard, for example, narrowly escapes the beak of a vicious-looking heron by running across the water's surface. This unique talent has earned it the nickname "Jesus Christ Lizard" in his native South America. Other animals featured in this selection are the puffer fish, the blue-tongued skink, and the hog-nosed snake. The textured, vividly colorful, and eye-catching illustrations compliment the story as each of the fourteen predators face off against their potential prey. Parents will like that the book is educational, and children will find it entertaining. Although intended for children, this book is for anyone from age four to 104 who enjoys learning about animals. 1997, Houghton Mifflin Company, $5.95. Ages 4 to 8. Reviewer: Tina Scott (Children's Literature).
Best Books:
   The Best Children's Books of the Year, 1998 Bank Street College of Education; United States
   Booklist Book Review Stars, December 1, 1997 United States
   Children's Catalog, Eighteenth Edition, 2001 H.W. Wilson; United States
   Editors' Choice: Books for Youth, 1997 American Library Association-Booklist; United States
   Los Angeles' 100 Best Books, 1997 IRA Children's Literature and Reading SIG and the Los Angeles Unified School District; United States
   Outstanding Science Trade Books for Children, 1998 National Science Teachers Association; United States
ISBN: 0-618-15243-1

What Do You Do With a Tail Like This?
Steve Jenkins and Robin Page
   The title question is repeated on double-page spreads for noses, ears, eyes, feet, and mouths. With the question are shown unusual examples of that body part from five different creatures. The reader is encouraged to guess the identity, if not the function, of each before turning the page to see the whole body and learn how that part is used. In each case, the facts are interesting, even if not unusual. But even more attention-grabbing than the provocative questions and answers of the text are the stunning collage illustrations. All kinds of papers are used to create textured, realistic creatures, large and small, from around the world, posed for more than mere scientific appeal. They almost leap off the pages. Following the double pages of illustrations and brief text in large type, there are four pages of small type on which are found further detailed descriptions of each of the twenty-five creatures and their habitats. 2003, Houghton Mifflin, $15.00. Ages 4 to 9. Reviewers: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz (Children's Literature).

   In a fascinating informational question and answer text, the authors ask, "What do you do with" a nose, ears, tail, eyes, feet, or a mouth "like this"? Arrayed around the double-page spreads are Jenkins' collage renderings of five different types of the body part under discussion. Mouth differences are explored, for instance, with a pelican scooping fish, an anteater capturing ants, an archerfish shooting its prey, a snake swallowing an egg, and a mosquito sucking blood. Jenkins uses cut-paper collage to good effect here, delineating the different animals with small touches that make each critter stand out. He doesn't miss the articulated mosquito feelers or the toenails on a chimpanzee, either. Edges manage to capture hair, fur, feathers, carapaces, exoskeletons, and the different textures of an animal's outside with uncannily accurate depictions. This is one of those cases where collage seems just right for the subject and its many nuances. The informational aspect of the book is further enhanced with a substantive paragraph, at the book's conclusion, of information about each of the thirty animals mentioned. This is a perfect choice for talking with preschoolers about similarities and differences and an essential introduction to any second through fourth grade animal units because it teaches readers to be sharper observers of any animal's features and how the animal can use that feature. It is a welcome companion to Jenkins' other thoughtful examination of animal patterns, Slap, Squeak, and Scatter: How Animals Communicate. 2003, Houghton Mifflin, $15.00. Ages 4 to 9. Reviewer: Susan Hepler, Ph.D. (Children's Literature).

   In alternating pages, the tails of animals are displayed and the question is asked, "What do you do with a tail like this?" The following page has the entire animal represented and a brief explanation of how that tail is used by that particular animal. Jenkins and Page go on to explore the ears, noses, eyes, feet, and mouths of some very curious animals throughout this book. The backmatter includes a more detailed explanation of the importance of the body part and animal mentioned (which swayed me toward recommending the book for the 7-10 age group). The collage work is extraordinary and the design of the book is playful and fun. The Question and Answer set-up makes this a highly interactive and satisfying book. 2002, Houghton Mifflin, $15.00. Ages 7 to 10. Reviewer: Joan Kindig, Ph.D. (Children's Literature).
Best Books:
   Best Children's Books of the Year, 2004 Bank Street College of Education; United States
   Booklist Book Review Stars, Feb. 15, 2003 United States
   Capitol Choices, 2004 The Capitol Choices Committee; United States
   Children's Catalog, Eighteenth Edition, Supplement, 2004 H.W. Wilson
   The Children's Literature Choice List, 2004 Children's Literature; United States
   Choices, 2004 Cooperative Children's Book Center; United States
   Kirkus Book Review Stars, January 15, 2003 United States
   Notable Children's Books, 2004 American Library Association-ALSC; United States
   Notable Children's Books in the Language Arts, 2004 NCTE Children's Literature Assembly; United States
   School Library Journal Book Review Stars, March 2003 Cahners; United States
Awards, Honors, Prizes:
   Charlotte Zolotow Award Highly Commended 2004 United States
   Randolph Caldecott Medal Honor Book 2004 United States
State and Provincial Reading Lists:
   Arizona Young Readers' Award, 2006 Nominee; Non-fiction Book; Arizona
   Black-Eyed Susan Book Award, 2004-2005 Nominee; Picture Books; Maryland
   Delaware Diamonds, 2004-2005 Nominee; Grades K-2; Delaware
   North Carolina Children's Book Award, 2005-2006 Nominee; Picture Book; North Carolina
   Red Clover Children's Choice Picture Book Award , 2004-2005 Nominee; Grades K-4; Vermont
   Volunteer State Book Award, 2005-2006 Nominee; Primary Division; Tennessee
   Washington Children's Choice Picture Book Award, 2005 Nominee; Grades K-3; Washington
ISBN: 0-618-25628-8

Wiggling Worms at Work
Wendy Pfeffer
Illustrated by Steve Jenkins
   Here is the scoop on nature's underground gardeners! Without legs, a backbone, or teeth, worms create tunnels in dirt allowing roots and water to move through soil more easily. They perform this essential function through their normal life processes of eating and digesting the soil and plant parts that go through their gizzards and crops. That is how worms produce castings, rich fertilizer to help plants grow. Worms also cover the entrance to their holes with castings (called middens). Moving on bristles lining the underside of their bodies and breathing air through their moist skin, each worm is both male and female (but still needs a mate). After mating, worms grow a cocoon ring around their bodies. When the ring slips off, fertilized eggs are inside. After about three weeks, three to four wormlets hatch out of about 30 eggs. In six weeks, they will be adults. Worms stay underground during the freezing winter and come back out in spring. The last two pages of this book suggest activities for children to observe worms and the work they do. This basic book with simple illustrations is packed with information and is a great classroom or library text. Other titles in the 2nd stage of the "Let's-Read-And-Find-Out Science" series include Ant Cities, Chirping Crickets, and Spinning Spiders. 2004, HarperCollins, $4.99. Ages 5 to 9. Reviewer: Chris Gill (Children's Literature).
ISBN: 0-06-028448-X
ISBN: 0-06-445199-2
ISBN: 0-06-028449-8

 

Updated 07/11/05

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